Some years ago several scripture scholars were invited to China
to present a two week seminar on the Gospels. In the final session
the participants were asked which of the Gospel stories most touched or inspired
them. The scripture scholars expected responses listing Jesus' birth,
one of the miracle stories, or the resurrection. Instead the overwhelming
choice was today's gospel passage from John. The Chinese students were
deeply moved by the scene in which Jesus, the leader, the teacher, is humbly
serving breakfast to his disciples.
This passage has always fascinated and delighted me as well.
And I've often wondered why John added this story, when it seemed to
me that he had finished his gospel in the previous chapter. Perhaps
John's reason is simply to reaffirm that our vocation is to follow Jesus
by humbly serving one another as he did.
Speaking of humility, I once heard of a man who served his parish
in hidden ways for years. He painted, raked leaves, changed screens
and storm windows, and did tuck-pointing. He repeatedly told the pastor
that if he were ever acknowledged publicly, that he would cease his volunteer
services. But after 20 years of service, the pastor and parish council
brought him up to the altar after the noon Mass one Sunday and presented
him with a citation and beautiful medal which read: "To the humblest man
in our parish." However, they took it away from him on the following
Monday, because he wore it.
To get serious again, let me say that I'm also deeply moved by
the humility of the disciples. These were professional fishermen
who had labored in vain from dusk till dawn. Yet when a familiar voice
tells them to cast their nets over the right side of the boat, they don't
hesitate. And behold! John states that Peter and his pals haul in the
nets filled with fish -- 153 of them with their silver scales flashing in
the morning sunlight. St. Jerome explains that there are 153 different
kinds of fish. He sees John as using this as a symbol meaning that
all nations of the world are welcome into the unbreakable net of the Church.
No one is excluded. All are welcome.
So I pray: Dear Lord, I know that you come to us in the incarnation
of caring people. Help me to be that for others today. Grant
me the grace to lower my nets of fear, resistance, or stubbornness and allow
you to 'serve me' with the gifts you've prepared for my nourishment, thus
enabling me to fulfill YOUR will today, not mine. Amen.
Ministry Office Guestbook