Acts of the Apostles 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to him, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, “By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them. “Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”

John 21:1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We’ll come with you.” They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise it was Jesus. Jesus called out, “Have you caught anything, friends?” And when they answered, “No”, he said, “Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.” So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord”. At these words “It is the Lord”, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples were bold enough to ask, “Who are you?”; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

The gospel according to John is the hardest gospel to read, because it is rich with symbolism. It was written much later than the other three synoptic gospels, so it is more than a mere retelling of the story of Jesus Christ. Rather, according to what the author writes in various parts of the gospel, this gospel is to explain the message and life of Jesus Christ.

In this one gospel passage alone, there is so much symbolism that it is difficult to reflect on all of them, so I’m just going to focus on one. One five three, to be exact.

The number 153. Why is it significant? Is it just some arbitrary number that John used? No number that John used in the entire gospel is arbitrary. I can give you other examples if you want. But the number 153 is significant because the Greeks had identified that there were exactly 153 species of fish in the sea (although modern marine biology puts the figure as something over 29,000). The important thing is that the Greeks, then the major world power, identified the number as 153.

For the disciples to have caught 153 fish means that through Jesus, they had caught all kinds of fish in the world. Remember that at the call of the disciples, Jesus had told them, “From now on, it is men that you will catch.” By this story, the author of the gospel means that through Jesus, the disciples will catch all kinds of men in the world.

In addition, we see that it is Peter who drags the net to shore, to Jesus. By this, the author means that through Peter (and his direct successors which are our popes), all kinds of people will be brought to Jesus.

Why is this important? Because it is the basic call of all Christians - to bring all men to Jesus. This is important because we are called to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all men, not just those who believe in Jesus, for Jesus Christ died for all men for all time. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, he died for you.

This is brought out even more in the first reading, when Peter proclaims the salvation of all men through Jesus to the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection. The good news has to be proclaimed to all men, to those who believe and those who do not believe. And through our pope, all kinds of people - Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, Jews, people of all religions, good people, bad people, saintly people, sinful people, rich people, poor people, people of all kinds - all will be brought to Jesus.

Dear Lord, we ask for the grace to better understand the encyclical Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions) may be accepted by all Catholics, properly reflected on, and that your message of salvation for all people through Christ may be brought to all people. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Nostra Aetate.

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