Reflection on the Daily Readings for 4/17/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Easter Friday. Acts 4:1-12. Psalm 118:1-2,4.22-24.25-27. John
21:1-14. Lectionary # 265.
One of the most fascinating resurrection appearances is today’s from
John 21 where the number of fish totals 153 in this most outstanding catch
of the apostles. If you have time to explore various commentaries on the
number 153, you will find that the exegetes have their own “fish stories”!
Probably numbering as much as the catch itself. You and I have heard some
of these interpretations and each time we do, we can smile. The important
message is that the Lord appears on the shore, gives a command to the
apostles, seven in number who are fishing. They cast their nets to the
right and pull in such a large catch that they fear the nets will break;
they do not and then they count up to 153. Wow! That is some fish story.
Only seven of the eleven (no pun meant) are said to be in the boat,
but the Fourth Evangelist has a thing about naming some persons while
keeping the names of others in pectore (in his heart). Simon Peter is
there, Thomas,too, then there are the sons of Zebedee whom we know to be
James and John; there is the disciple whom Jesus loved (the Beloved
Disciple) and two who are unnamed. Throw in Nathaniel,too. We could imagine
the Beloved Disciple to be John of Zebedee but the exegetes say no to that.
So he must be among the two unnamed. Or are there eight to be counted in
this boat? Seven makes more sense since there is a love for seven in the
Hebrew inspired writers of the Bible. Most of them also are writers of the
New Testament, that is, they are Jews who became Jesus’ followers who
followers of his original apostles.
What does make sense is that the disciple whom Jesus loves is again,
on this third appearance of Jesus after his resurrection (in John’s
Gospel), is again the one who says “It is the Lord!” He is the leader in
faith commitment to Jesus and also to the commandment of love due to his
intimate friendship with the Lord. Thus he is the witness of the Fourth
Gospel mentioned in chapter 19 and probably the one who first remembered
what is handed on to a skillful writer and evangelist who depended on
others having started this Gospel.
People who are especially close to Jesus are unnamed, for example,
Mary, the mother of Jesus is never mentioned as Mary but only as the mother
of Jesus or Woman. The Beloved Disciple is never mentioned by name even
though Tradition gives him the name of John. Some make distinctions between
John the Divine and John the Evangelist,but this is not historically
certain and neither titles are applied to the John of the Fourth Gospel
directly in the text but only in the tradition after the text. This
detective like work that is done on the Gospels leads us to suspect that
exegetes, who are the detectives of the Bible, must love to read detective
stories. The famous now deceased Raymond E.Brown liked detective stories!
The message of verse 7 is striking and probably the one we should
meditate upon when we read this resurrection story. It reads, “Then the
disciple whom Jesus loved cried out to Peter, ‘it is the Lord.'” From
chapter thirteen on we realize that the Beloved Disciple is the witness to
the events and words connected with Jesus in this Gospel. He it is who
lives out his faith in Jesus with a permanency not seen in the other
apostles and his love is attested to in the sacred pages of this remarkable
Gospel. Thus it is he who witnesses for us what our faith in Jesus should
be and how this leads us to love of Jesus in such an intimate way that we,
took can say about many events and words that we hear in the Gospels, “It
is the Lord.” Amen.