There is an interesting phrase that fisherman use when they catch nothing in their nets: “waterhaul”. And interestingly enough, it is the same term that is used no matter where you are on the coast of Canada in a fishing community. To bring in an empty net was a “waterhaul”. So when we consider the Gospel this week (John 21:1-20), we go back to Galilee, back to when Jesus first found his disciples and called them to follow him and what where they doing? Fishing! And apparently, they were not doing very well at it.
This is a story of going back so that the community could go forward. This is a story about going back to that night when Peter made the bold promises of never leaving or forsaking Jesus even though others would – Peter would remain. But then he failed. He denied Jesus around that charcoal fire.
I link that to the life of the Church today. There are times when we as individuals and as communities of faith and mission have fallen short and fallen down and failed to listen and to do as God has asked. We did not heed the warning to not act precipitously and in doing so, have ended up in Peter’s situation. He has always wanted to be bold. He was the one who spoke up and proclaimed Jesus as Messiah first. He was the one who would not let Jesus wash his feet until he found out that he needed to have his feet washed. Peter tried to kill someone when they came to take Jesus away but failed. And most of all, when he could have stood up, he didn’t... and this is the man who is going to lead the Church?
What I find powerful is that Jesus restored him and Peter went on led a very powerful ministry amongst the Jewish people. He had to be shown how to love Jesus not just push a button and like him. That is why we celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays: so that we can eat and drink together so that in turn we can be empowered to go out and raise the dead. Who would you take with you to the local cemetery to raise a dead person? That at the core of Christian ministry is what we are doing – raising the dead. Can you do it yourself? Of course not. It is about people meeting and beginning to see and know the person of Jesus Christ for themselves, instead of believing what the world thinks about Jesus and of him. It is why we eat together – so that we can proclaim the Lord’s death in real terms until he comes again. We preach the Gospel by taking Christ in through bread and wine and sharing his presence with those whom we meet and share every single day.
Our mistakes are not fatal unless we choose to live with them only, failing to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our deaths are not final unless we choose to abandon hope and community, God and neigbour
The Church is the community of the Net. We bring them in and Jesus makes them clean. But we must go out and catch them. As I have so often heard, the Faith is caught, not taught. Let us eat and then rise and go. There is fishing to be done. Christ is waiting.