3 Sunday of Easter C
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19 or Jn 21:1-14
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
After his resurrection, Jesus did not just appear to the apostles without reason. Each of his appearances served some purpose. Each time he appeared to the apostles, he gave them a particular task to do. According to the Gospel today, this is the third time Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection from the dead.
In their quandary mixed with joy and sadness: sad because of the crucifixion of their master, joyful because of his resurrection, worrisome because the presence of their master was no longer on a regular basis as before, but now he appeared and then disappeared.
In that quandary not to know what to do, they decided to go fishing for relaxation. Entering the boat, they lowered the net all night long without catching anything. Even though as fishermen, today they failed. If we put ourselves in their situation, how frustrated we would feel.
In their discouragement, Jesus appeared to them. He pretended to ask: Children, have you caught anything to eat? (Jn 21:5). They responded in unison: Not a thing (Jn 21:5). According to the stranger’s suggestion, they lowered the net over the right side of the boat. The result was their net was full of fish.
With that catch of fish, the beloved disciple of Jesus recognized the stranger as their master. When Peter heard it was the Lord, he jumped into the water toward Jesus. In this situation, when the Apostles did not recognize Jesus at first in today’s Gospel and in the Gospel of Saint Luke (Lk 24:37) was similar to the situations when Mary of Magdala and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus also did not recognize Jesus at first (Jn 20:14; Lk 24:16).
Why is that so? The reason was the apostles did not expect Jesus to rise even with Jesus’ prediction about his resurrection. Secondly, according to the Gospel of Mark when Jesus appeared to the apostles, he was revealed to them completely changed in appearance (Mk 16:12). A changed appearance was not because Jesus lost his weight and strength due to his being tortured and lying in the tomb for three days without food and drink. Saint Paul interpreted Jesus’ resurrected body different from his body before his death as follows: A natural body is put down and a spiritual body comes up (1Cor 15:44).
The apostles realized their catch of fish was the result of God’s power, not from their professional career of fishing. Their catch was counted 153 fish. Why did the Gospel not record 150 fish, easier to remember instead of 153? According to Saint Jerome, a scripture scholar, the number 153 meant that Greek biologists on fish at that time classified 153 kinds of fish . Therefore, the number 153 meant the apostles caught many fish, not necessarily to be 153 of them. If the number 153 meant so, then the apostles had to go to the whole world to preach the gospel of salvation to all nations.
Thus, the number 153 is a symbol of a great crowd of catechumen, converted to the faith later on. According to the Acts of the Apostles, they received some three thousand men converted to the faith in one day at one time (Acts 2:41). Another message of this catch of fish was the apostles had to put faith and trust in Jesus, even in an adverse situation.
They had to depend on God’s grace and his power. They had to realize that even though they were professional fishermen, it was not necessary that they had to catch fish. They had to realize that the instrument God used to do his work of salvation did not depend on human ingenuity and knowledge, but on their cooperation with God’s grace. The power of the risen Lord transformed them. Before that, the apostles were timid like chicken. That is why they were in hiding when Jesus was persecuted and crucified to the cross.
At the courtyard, a servant girl asked if he was with Jesus (Mt 26:69; Mk 14:66-68; Lk 22:56-57; Jn 18:25), Peter denied the Lord three times. After they saw the risen Lord, they were no longer afraid and hiding. The Acts of the Apostles today tells us the apostles
responded to the Sanhedrin: Better for us to obey God than men (Acts 5:29). As witnesses, the apostles had to speak the message, even though it was unwelcome and dangerous to their lives.
Through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, each one of us, not just the clergy, is called to live and bear witness to Christ in the family, neighborhood and community. There are many ways to bear witness to the faith: by prayers, and good examples, by ways of living one’s faith, by acts of charities and by preaching the Gospel by what we say and do. God is always present in our midst even if we do not feel his presence.
So today we need to ask God to help us experience his presence and to realize that God is present with us in all the circumstances of our lives even if we are not aware of it.
Prayer for trust and faith in God’s power:
Oh risen Lord, Jesus!
You are the almighty and powerful God.
Teach me to depend on you
in all the circumstances of my life:
in sickness and in health,
in success and in failure,
in good times and in bad.
Let us never lose our faith and trust in you. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
 Karris, R. J. (Ed) The College Bible Commentary, New Testament. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992. p. 1018.