Fishing All Night and Catching Nothing
3rd Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2022
"Cast the net over the right side of the boat and
you will find something."
Once, many years ago now, I journeyed to the Sea of Galilee and got on a traditional fishing boat much as Peter, James and John would have used (see picture of this boat at left). And during our time at sea, we naturally went fishing. The guide was casting his net over the side of the boat to show us how this was done at the time of Christ. Of course, he caught nothing! I remember that we fellow pilgrims, remembering this Sunday’s gospel (John 21:1-19), helpfully suggested he might try the other side where we were sure he would catch something! (apparently he had heard this joke before).
Perhaps it is significant that in the Gospels, the disciples never catch any fish on their own. Certainly they must have been good fisherman, since they had their own business. Yet, again and again, they need Christ’s help to find the fish. This was true on the day when Christ first called them to be followers of his. Then, three years later, when Jesus, risen from the dead, is standing on the shore and observing his followers, once again we find them fishing all night and catching nothing.
So often, we too can feel that our lives are one exercise in futility after another, and without Christ, what comes of our life in the end? What ultimately gives meaning to our lives, if not knowing that we are loved and have given love? Most importantly, we know there is a God and that he really loves us. Once we understand what Christ is offering us in the Gospels, then every moment of our lives has meaning because we can do everything for Christ, and he helps us to avoid fishing expeditions that result in no catch of fish. With God, everything in our lives becomes fruitful when it is united to his will for us, and this makes all the difference.
The Lord will help us to avoid a life that essentially consists of “fishing all night and catching nothing,” or in other words, having lived a selfish life that bears little or no fruit, starting by paying attention to our words and deeds. All that God asks of us is that we use the opportunities that he gives us, both great and small, to glorify him. Some are called, of course, to be professional fishermen – that includes us priests, religious, teachers, and workers in the church in all ways, but it really includes all of us. Christ isn't asking most of us to change our occupation, but he does ask us to change our outlook about what we do.
Everything I do throughout the day should serve to glorify God. This is the way that Christ invites us to haul in a great catch of fish for this world and in the world to come.