In today’s Gospel, we find Peter and some of the other disciples fishing. Now, these were experienced fishermen. They knew something about their craft. For them to catch nothing was certainly not what they had expected. And that’s when Jesus came along. “Cast the net over the right side of the boat.” Tradition tells us that Jesus was probably a carpenter, yet here he was telling experienced fishermen how to fish! How would we react if someone came into our workplace and told us how to do our job? Would we take their advice? Or would we tell them to get lost, that we knew what we were doing?
Luckily, the disciples took Jesus’ advice and ended up catching so many fish they were unable to pull them in. Only then did “the disciple whom Jesus loved” recognize him. “It is the Lord.”
But that’s not the end of the story. Now Jesus would tell the disciples how to be good stewards of the fish they had caught. “Feed my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep.” Was Jesus thinking of the fish when he said these words? Three times Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, just as Peter had denied Jesus three times. Each time Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Peter assured him that he did. But that wasn’t enough. Now that Peter had caught more fish than his boat could hold, Jesus would tell him what he must do to prove his love. He must use the fish to feed others.
This week’s Gospel can be seen as a study in stewardship. The number of billionaires in the world continues to grow, but how they use those billions of dollars differs greatly. Some focus on increasing their wealth while others focus on the needs of others.
Today we hear Jesus ask, “Simon … do you love me?” How often does Jesus ask us the same question? And when he does, how do we respond? What do we do with the results of our labor? With our paycheck or our bonus? Our knowledge and our skills? Do we use them to feed God’s sheep? Or to go out and buy a bigger boat?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.