On the Occurrences that Took Place after Our Lord Appeared at the Lake of Genesareth.
To-day, my soul, fix your attention again on the miraculous draught of fishes; realize the astonishment of the apostles when they suddenly felt their nets become heavy, and on drawing them out of the water found that they contained such a multitude of fishes that there was every reason to fear that the meshes would break under the weight. Then indeed their eyes were opened, and they knew at once who was the mysterious Stranger standing upon the shore, who had commanded them to let down their nets for this unwonted harvest.
1st. Consider the mystic meaning of this draught of fishes. The apostles are fishermen, and this their successors must ever be in their character of preachers and teachers. The net they cast is the holy Gospel, and every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. This net is cast on the right side of the ship when the true doctrines of the Catholic Church are published with a sincere intention and a pure heart. The Fathers of the Church attach a mystic interpretation to the number of fishes taken—which St. John asserts to have been a hundred and fifty-three. The total number of the fishes, they declare, signifies the whole number of the redeemed who are enclosed in the Catholic Church as in a net, and are divided into larger or smaller groups according to their state and calling. Thus a hundred is supposed to represent the number of the married, fifty that of persons living a life of continence in the world, and the smallest number, three, to denote those who are entirely and exclusively consecrated to God by the vow of virginity. You, O reader, take heed therefore and see that when the net is drawn up to the shore you are found to be one of the good, not one of the bad fishes it contains.
2d. Consider St. Peter’s conduct on the occasion of this miracle. As soon as John said: “It is the Lord,” his eager, impetuous nature could not wait until the boat was brought to land. He girt his fisher’s coat about him, being careful to observe, as St. Chrysostom bids us remark, the reverence due to the person of his Master; then his ardent temperament urges him to cast himself into the water; he cannot wait until the ship brings him to Jesus’ feet, he swims to shore to reach Him sooner. You also, my soul, without acting rashly and precipitately, so as to neglect the respect due to your Master, but with moderate and well-ordered zeal, should strive to reach your Lord as soon as possible, to arrive at the shore of eternal felicity where He is waiting for you, without being detained in the purgatorial fire. If such be your desire and your aim, cast yourself with St. Peter into the sea, into the bitter, storm-tossed waters of compunction, of penance, of mortification, of self-denial. If you swim through this sea with fortitude and perseverance, strengthened as St. Peter was by the ardor of love, you will attain the shores of the heavenly country more quickly than by the ordinary way.
3d. Consider the mysterious food which the apostles found prepared for them on the bank of the lake. When they got out of the ship we are told they saw hot coals lying there and a fish on it and bread. Thus after His resurrection our Lord shows Himself to be the self-same wonder-working Father and Provider, who supplies His children with food without any man giving to Him. The aliments prepared in this mysterious manner have a deep signification. If it be considered that Christ Himself is wont to be represented under the figure of a fish, who can fail to see in the fish laid on the fire with bread, an image of our Lord in His Passion, the hot coals symbolizing the glowing fire of charity on which His sacred body was laid for our sakes, and on arising from which He gave Himself to the Church as the Bread of Life. At the same time learn from this incident that our Lord, whilst you toil and spend your strength in His service, is meanwhile preparing for you a spiritual banquet for your refreshment at the end of your labors. Wherefore let no work which you perform in the service of God here below, no labor however arduous, seem too hard for your strength, for your Lord has already prepared for you a place at His table above, the table of celestial bliss which you will enjoy not for a short season but to all eternity.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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