Frassati Reflection: Empty Nets

So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
—John 21:3–7

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_on_Lake_Tiberias_-_adjustedThe disciples do not recognize Jesus until after they bring in a full net of fish and they realize He has performed a miracle before their eyes. Often we do not recognize Jesus working in our own lives until we see the fruits of His presence. When we accomplish things we know we could never have done on our own, when we grow through a difficult experience and become stronger because of it, when we become aware of our own unique gifts, we sense Jesus’s presence more clearly.

Without Jesus, we will just keep on pulling up empty nets. Only through Him can we find nourishment—no matter how hard we labor to find fulfillment, our efforts will be fruitless. And just because we don’t see Jesus in our lives doesn’t mean He isn’t there—sometimes we just don’t notice Him until we feel the weight of a heavy net and realize Who is behind it. While we wait in hunger for that moment, we can call out for help and keep on trying until He steps in. When He does, how will we respond? When we can pinpoint where Jesus is on the shore, watching and providing for us, will we follow Peter’s example? Will we immediately jump into the sea? Will we trust Him to lead us through the unknown? Will we seek closeness with Him above all else, taking the leap instead of staying warm and dry in the boat?

The Easter season is a time to experience the abundance that the Lord wants to provide for us, to accept His gifts with open hands and to step out and follow Him—beyond our comfort zones, beyond our own limited imaginations, beyond the material attachments that hold us back. He’s asking us to take the leap and let Him take control.

The Lord asks us to set out for him. He asks us to become fishers for him. He asks us to trust him and act according to the guidance of his Word….But then something remarkable happens. When the disciples return Jesus does not need their fish. He has already prepared breakfast, and now invites the disciples to eat it; he is the host who provides them with food. The gift is mysterious but nevertheless not hard to decipher. The bread is he himself: I am the bread of life. He is the grain of wheat that dies and now bears fruit a hundredfold and is abundant for everyone until the end of time….Only love can bring about the true multiplication of bread. Material gifts, what is quantitative, always diminish through being divided. Love however increases the more it gives itself. Jesus is the bread, and he is also the fish that for our sake has gone down into the water of death to look for us there and to find us. This is the lesson on the breakfast to which Jesus invites his own on the borderline of time and eternity, the Eucharist. Come and eat, he says to us and thus enables us already to cross the boundary of time and death.
—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)


Image: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Appearance on Lake Tiberius / PD-US

P.S. Unrelated side note: It’s been a good week for full nets at two of my favorite Catholic universities 😏

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😎


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