WE WERE already on our way back from a night of fruitless fishing. It was one of those nights when our nets had caught nothing but trash. It must have been also because we were all indisposed, still in a deep state of trauma and grief from what had happened in Jerusalem these past few days. We had not been talking much since we returned to Galilee. It was a relief to be in the company of my family in Capernaum again, even if I tended to be irritable. Like the other guys, I still could not get over what had happened in that upper room on that Sunday evening when we all had a vision of him in our company, saying hello, breathing on us, healing our relationship with each other.
We were all in a kind of emotional state that made us touchy and quick at snapping at each other. Our friendship had been badly wounded by all the blame-game that made me sink more deeply in guilt, made Thomas stage a walkout, and pushed two others to defect and decide to seek refuge among relatives at Emmaus.
The strange thing was, they all came back anyway to rejoin us. The two guys even spoke about encountering him in a stranger, a fellow traveler, who opened the Scriptures to them and made them understand why things had happened the way they did, and how he finally revealed himself to them through the breaking of the bread. It always had to do with the breaking of the bread; that was the same situation in which he appeared to us—with the same marks of the wounds that he deliberately showed us, with a smile on his face that gave us peace and joy.
He had spoken about sending us for a mission of binding and loosing; and then he disappeared. And that reminded me that we had been away from fishing for too long and our nets needed a lot of binding and loosing. So, we decided to return to Galilee.
We had actually been told much earlier by the women in our group that he was going to meet with us in Galilee. I must admit that I had dismissed it all as empty chatter, that perhaps the Magdalene had slid back to her old mental state that made her see all sorts of things, including angels supposedly telling them to instruct us to meet with him in Galilee. But good heavens, where in the big province of Galilee did he want us to meet with him?
My train of thoughts was suddenly interrupted by an old man by the sea. His voice was loud and clear in the quiet of the dawn: “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” I got irritated because I knew immediately that it was one of those old beggars who was expecting us to give him some fish after doing us the little service of building us some fire as soon as we arrived, so that we could grill some of our fish for breakfast. My stomach actually grumbled when I thought of freshly grilled fish. Honestly, I was hungry. But there was not a single fish on our boat, not even for breakfast.
And so, I shouted back angrily, “Nothing! Bad day for fishing! Come back another time!” What I really wanted to tell him was, “Get lost, old man. Shut up or you shoo the fish away. You are driving away our luck, begging so early in the morning.” But the old man persisted and told us to try casting our nets on the starboard side. I thought perhaps he was trying to give us a good luck tip so that if we caught something, we’d be obliged to give him some of it. John looked at me and said, “No harm trying again for luck, Simon.”
With a heavy heart I tried again. And as I did, the scene suddenly recreated itself in my memory. It was like a déjà vu—that day when we met him for the first time, when we also had caught nothing. He had asked to sit in my boat while I was soaked in the lake water near the shore fixing our nets. I had pretended to be busy when I was actually drawn by his words, the stories and parables, and even some jokes. It was after that that he said to me, “Why not go out into the deep to catch something? I remember John saying the same thing, “No harm trying again for luck, Simon.”
Before I even threw the nets into the water, I was already sure who this man was. And so, when we started pulling the nets that were so heavy and so full of fish that they were almost breaking, the scene flashed back again. I remember falling on my knees and telling him, “Leave me Lord, I am a sinner.” Here I am now feeling the same way all over again.
How could I even face him again after denying him? And so, when John cried out what I already knew, IT IS THE LORD, almost by reflex, I suddenly realized I was just in my underwear. I put on my clothes and, not knowing at all what to do next, I jumped into the water, wanting to disappear, to hide myself in shame.
But I felt like I was being pulled ashore by the boat full of fish that was now being moored by the sons of Zebedee. When we got to the shore, we saw the old man already grilling some fish and warming some bread in the fire. He who was asking to be fed was now going to feed us. He looked at me and smiled and said, “Bring me some of the fish you have just caught.” And I was too stunned to even say anything. It was John who quickly acted on his request.
He looked up again and nodded at me, asking me to sit beside him saying, “Come and have breakfast.” After he took the bread, blessed and broke it, he handed me a morsel. I was in tears as I ate the bread, with my eyes fixed on him.
It was after that that he began to ask if I loved him. I kept answering, “We’re friends, aren’t we?” Then he reminded me to look after the little ones and to keep the whole flock together. When he asked me a third time, he seemed to have understood that I meant that, much as I wanted to say how much I loved him, I could only love him in my wretched and inconsistent way of loving. He did not seem to mind. I had no doubt by now that I was before my Risen Lord, who was also raising me back to life.