There is a bit of irony in the story of the disciples going fishing after the resurrection. After the intense drama of the passion and first appearances of the risen Christ, Peter decides to go fishing. For most of us, fishing is something we might do on vacation or in order to relax. We haven’t forgotten that this is how the disciples made a living, but you still get the impression that they wanted to take a break. Work can be like a break, a different kind of activity that stimulates the mind and the senses when we want to change our focus. I wonder if St. Peter was looking for some way to distract himself or recover some kind of routine or stability.
The fathers of the Church are quick to defend the instinct of St. Peter and the inherent goodness and importance of human work. At the same time, we cannot help to wonder if there is some kind of disappointment for St. John as he follows St. Peter to their former profession. Maybe they both hoped that if they went back to where they first experienced the call of Christ they would hear Him again. Their hearts certainly were not in the task they were performing: St. John was actively looking for Jesus and St. Peter was ready to drop everything at the first sign of Jesus. This way of working stands in such stark contrast with the disease of work addiction we find in the modern world. Christians should understand that their work is only fruitful – even their daily jobs and menial tasks – because of God. We have to progressively stop looking at our acquired wealth as something that belongs to us to in order to fulfill our selfish desires. God has entrusted us even with the wealth we feel is exclusively ours to do with as we please. If we try to do what we think is right and just with what God has entrusted to us, we are good stewards. Our capacity to judge the effectiveness of our stewardship is quite limited, especially if we are turned exclusively to efficiency and getting results. God gives the increase to our stewardship – we do not always see or notice that increase.
“We may ask why Peter, who was a fisherman before his conversion, returned to fishing, when it is said, “No one putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”1
“We must remember then that they were not forbidden by their apostleship from earning their livelihood by a lawful use of their skills, provided they had no other means of living.… For if the blessed Paul did not use that power that he had with the rest of the preachers of the gospel, as they did, but went to warfare using his own resources in case the Gentiles, who were aliens from the name of Christ, might be offended at an apparently minor doctrine; if, educated in another way, he learned a craft he never knew before so that, while the teacher worked with his own hands, the hearer might not be burdened—how much more might Peter, who had been a fisherman, work at what he knew if he had nothing else to live on at the time? But how is it that he had nothing, someone will ask, when our Lord promises, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”? Our Lord, we answer, fulfilled this promise by bringing them the fishes to catch, for who else brought them? He did not bring on them that poverty that obliged them to go fishing, except in order to exhibit a miracle.”2
“Our Lord, we answer, fulfilled this promise by bringing them the fishes to catch, for who else brought them? He did not bring on them that poverty that obliged them to go fishing, except in order to exhibit a miracle.”3
“After his resurrection, Jesus was standing on the shore; his disciples were in the ship. When the others did not know him, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” For virginity is the first to recognize a virgin body. Jesus was the same as he was before, yet he was not seen alike by all as the same. And immediately it is added, “And no one dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ for they knew that he was the Lord.” No one dared because they knew that he was God. They ate with him at dinner because they saw he was a man and had flesh. It was not that he was one person as God, another as man: but, being one and the same Son of God, he was known as man, adored as God.”4