IT’S amazing what spectacles can do. 

I remember a vacation trip I took with friends.  We were driving through the French countryside.  Suddenly, our Mexican friend all excited pointed to some cows, saying “Look at those huge pigs!” 

Needless to say, we laughed and said “Pepe, those are not pigs, those are cows.”  The incident as well as his recent complaints about having splitting headaches showed us that he needed eyeglasses. 

Indeed, once he had the proper spectacles fitted everything in the house became a source of his admiration, even pictures that had been decorating the house for years, met with his excitement, “Look at those beautiful icons!”.  Eyeglasses had given Pepe a new vision. 

In today’s Gospel, the Risen Lord gives Peter a new vision of life.

The disciples are once again at the lake fishing.  They “went out, got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing”. Is John telling us that their hard work had little hope of producing much? But, “At the breaking of the day” – a reference to the resurrection, maybe? – they went out once more and, at Jesus’ word, cast out their nets. This time they caught 153 fish (a reference to Christ?).

St Augustine, using Kabbalist thinking, explains the significance of this number and links it to the story of creation, where after each day God says, “he saw that it was good”, and on the last day “it was very good!”

Kabbalism is a Jewish mystic school of thought, where words correspond to numbers. The word “good” is 17.  If 17 is good, they will say, the way to reach 17 must be good also. In other words, you cannot make a mess and have a good result.  Therefore, the numbers 1,2,3… until 17 all lead to good, the sum of these is 153 (1+2+3….+15+16+17). 

St John uses 153 fish to point to the Risen Lord and our Resurrection.  Just as the disciples at Jesus’ word “Cast out the net on the right side of the boat…and… were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish…” so can we Christians do what Jesus tells us – looking forward to the resurrection and expect much fruit – 153 fish.. 

Our Christian joy springs from the life of the Risen Lord. In this glory, we will see that “all was indeed good”. The ups and downs, the hurts, pains and sorrows of life have steered us to this moment of glory, so that with even greater excitement than my friend Pepe, we can say “Look at these events of my life!”  We will see that “all was indeed very good!”, or in the words of the English mystic Julian of Norwich, “all shall be well”!

Furthermore, today’s Gospel gives us yet another perspective on life.

When Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?”, we recall how Peter denied the Lord three times. This sin makes Peter weep bitterly.  Sin indeed often causes us to feel ashamed and bad about ourselves for we are called to be holy and pure.

Getting rid of sin then becomes the focus of our Christian life.  The sacrament of confession is thus often abused, being a washing machine to make us clean so that we can feel good about ourselves.  This is far from what Jesus came for.

When Jesus meets Peter and asks him “Do you love me?”, Jesus let his light shine into Peter’s sin and darkness to deliver him from the false piety that comes from guilt and shame.

Of course, we should say with St Paul “I do the things I do not want to do, and the things I do not want to do, I do.” 

However, Jesus does not ask Peter about his sin but “Do you love me?”  thereby teaching Peter to have a positive focus which makes him say “You know I love you, Lord!”  

This same response should guide our Christian life and how to approach the sacrament of reconciliation.

Let us thank the Risen Lord for this new vision by which he delivers us and sets us free! 

 

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Fr Guido Gockel MHM

A member of St Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill, headquartered near London, Father Guido was ordained a priest in 1969. Shortly after ordination, he was sent to Malaysia (Sarawak) where he served as a missionary for 18 years. 

While on a vacation to Sabah, he was introduced to a group of young people who had become involved in the Charismatic Movement (CCR). This experience helped him to be instrumental in introducing CCR to Miri, Sarawak, where he was assigned to a mission outpost. 

Since his first missionary stint of seven years in the early 70’s, he has been back to Malaysia three more postings,  and numerous short visits. He has acquired a basic knowledge of “Melayu pasar” and other languages of Sarawak

Catholic Sabah has the privilege of being acquainted with Fr Guido, who has been generous in giving his time to write for a year under the column titled “I’m on My Way” since the launching of the Catholic Sabah online portal in 2020.

With a little encouragement, Fr Guido has agreed to continue to write, and thus Catholic Sabah decided to upload his writings, once every month, in both English and Bahasa Melayu. Father is open to questions, to offer further discussion/explanation. He can be reached through email or whatsapp @ frguidomhm@gmail.com.