After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When I was wondering what passage of scripture to use for this Theological Reflection, this passage from John 21 came to mind as it is one of my favourite pieces of scripture to pray with – but I kept asking myself if this was a suitable text to describe my relationship with God. After this initial moment of doubting, it soon became apparent that this text is appropriate for so many reasons. I would say that my family upbringing was very much centred on a life of faith and I see this shown indirectly from this passage by the fact that we know that the apostles have spent three years or so with Jesus. However, when the grief and disappointment of the Crucifixion of Jesus settles down, the disciples go back to what they are used. It is in the desolation and quietness of Tiberius that perhaps they question what has happened, what does it mean for the present or even for the future. Similarly, when I was at university, away from the comfort of a strong faith setting of a family, surrounded by the allures of university life, which whilst it may have been fun and entertaining, was not ultimately not fulfilling. The important aspect for me is that Peter sets out to go fishing but is joined by those who shared his journey with Jesus. It has been easier for me to acknowledge the presence of God when among my family and friends of faith and also in quiet surroundings that the night of fishing for the apostles would provide – although this is how I have imagined this scene when praying with it.
The first awareness that I can relate to in my relationship with God is the first interaction between Jesus and the disciples – he calls them children which makes me realise how intimate I should be with God. There is an air of mystery over who this man may be, as if a mist prevents me from recognising God in my life. This is unfolded for me when I can accept that God comes to me in many and different forms – in the caring neighbour to the disgruntled stranger. My relationship calls for a deep trust – I see this is reflected in that there would be no apparent reason for the apostles to cast the net out after a night of not catching anything but with trust can come a marvellous result.
It is when Jesus is recognised that can lead unto a deeper understanding of my relationship with God. It is the beloved disciple who declares that it is the Lord, yet it is Peter who is spontaneous in his response to going to meet Jesus whereby he jumps into the water. For me, there are times when I wish to respond with my whole heart to the presence of God in my life. Yet there are also times when perhaps I am more sedate and I trust that I will get to be with God and know him more if I allow myself to proceed at a slower pace and not to be in a rush. It is also reflective of the point that sometimes I try to go and know God on my own – this leads me to journey through waters that have a greater risk, as Peter did. The other way is whereby I am in the boat as the beloved disciple was with the rest of the apostles. There is security and safety in numbers with the added comfort of being in the boat which is a great symbol for the Church. It is in the Church that I am able to strengthen my relationship with God.
Before Peter leaves the boat, there is the disclosure that Peter clothes himself as was naked and then jumps into the water. For me this points to the fact that sometimes I may be embarrassed by my nakedness before God; whereas the truth is that God accepts me in whatever way I come to him – this can be and has been a strain for me to cope with. The next insight I can give is that my relationship with God is not a one off event – it is something that is ongoing with some of the same things but also with some different aspects. I say this because when I think of Jesus standing by the charcoal fire and Peter comes to see him I am reminded of Peter standing at the fire where he disowns Jesus. In the good and the bad events of life, God is always there, bringing the warmth and comfort of the fire.
A powerful message for me after this is when Jesus asks the apostles to bring some of the fish they have caught, even though he already has fish on the fire. This speaks to me that in my relationship with God it is a two way process. Although all that I have has been given to me by God, he still beckons me to use my gifts in life along with those that others may bring to any given experience. It is very much a moment where God seeks to empower me with confidence in my own abilities. The end of this scripture passage sees the community gathered around the fire, eating bread and fish together. This, for me, speaks of the importance of community and communal celebration in my relationship with God. It is in these environments that we are comfortable in our relationships with God for we need not or dare not ask who brings us together for we know it to be the Lord.
For me then, this passage leaves me with a strong appreciation for my relationship with God – I am able to identify with God in so many ways and this may be due to my continuing questioning of what I am faced with, especially if the mist descends. For me though, it is important that I can relate to God in so many ways as it means then that I can be open to relating to people in different ways. I would have a deep love and reverence for Eucharistic Adoration but I am also aware of my strong links with my father and this gives me an insight into my connection with God the Father. I also am very prone to reflection over the many questions and this can give rise then to looking for the action of the Holy Spirit in my life and sometimes this means the most to me in times of difficulty or confusion. It is through all of this then that I can hear the words of St Vincent resound: “Help me to use your gifts and improve myself so as to become totally, your living image: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an image of your infinite qualities and perfection” (OOCC X 749 – in Pallottine prayer book, p.37)