|John A. Conway ’87
Adjunct Professor, Notre Dame Law SchoolToday’s passage takes place in a familiar setting just days following the Resurrection—the Apostles working as fishermen. It was the third time that Jesus appeared to the Apostles, including Simon Peter.
There is a tremendous level of detail by John in this passage. He recounts the location of Jesus’ appearance (the Sea of Galilee), the distance the boats were from shore (100 yards), and even the number of fish Simon Peter caught following Jesus’ suggestion to cast off the right side of the boat (153).
I was struck by the parallelism in this passage with previous accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Jesus began his public life by choosing Simon Peter and others while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Near the end of his public life, Jesus appears to Simon Peter and the others at the Sea of Tiberius as the Apostles cast their nets for fish. But much had changed between when the Apostles were called to follow Jesus and this encounter—one of his last before his ascension.
There is also parallelism in Jesus’ charge to Simon Peter when he asks him three times, “Do you love me?” The repeated question parallels Simon Peter’s denial of Jesus three times on the day of Jesus’ death. But there’s an important distinction and one that brought me great hope as I reflected.
That hope comes from the concrete example of Jesus’ love and forgiveness for his sheep. Despite Simon Peter’s denial just days before, Jesus forgives Simon Peter and affirms his role in the Church as the leader of the flock. It counts among Jesus’s final acts on earth, and it is one of forgiveness and hope.