Last Sunday's Gospel reading struck me in an unusual way. As a reminder (John 21:1-14):
"So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." So He said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
For some reason, the image of Peter fishing and catching nothing, because the Lord was not there, immediately put me in mind of the modernization of the Church and the apparent decline of the Church in the wake of Vatican II. This was inevitable, considering the second part of the Gospel:
"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs.""
Now, one interesting question is what Jesus meant by "these." Did he mean the other disciples, or did he mean the fish? For certainly, as "fishers of men," Peter is called to gather men, much as in the shepherd motif he is called to feed his sheep.
If Christ was referring to the fish, themselves representing the "flock" or the faithful, then it would be interesting that Jesus calls Peter to love him more than his flock. And yet, in loving Christ, he is to serve the flock, whom he loves less. It is a strange, elliptical scripture, if my exegesis is correct.
But getting back to the haul of fish, it seems clear to me that despite whatever lures, and whatever teeming waters the Church fishes in, it will catch nothing if Jesus is not with the Church. Like the tree known by the fruit it bears, one might tell the pastor by his congregation.
The cheapening of the Church to a dim community social club (in many places), the "flattening" of the liturgy to emphasize the horizontal in favor of the vertical, has not universally led to poor catches. In some American parishes, the parking lots are packed, and the pews overflowing, despite the lack of a discernable tabernacle or recognizable liturgy. Certainly Pentacostalism and the Evangelic movement have achieved apparent success with their megachurches and network marketing. Their nets seem to be full to capacity. It seems a win/win situation for the congregational pastor and his flock - the flock is entertained and their needs for community met, while the pastor achieves glory and wealth.
And this seems to be a great contrast with the "charismatic" or "progressive" Catholics, for while the congregation may bear great similarity in size, wealth, and happiness to the protestant Evangilicals, they bear no fruit. Vocations are dim if present at all.
So, back to the sheep and the fish. Christ's presence captures the fish, otherwise the nets are full. But Peter is called to love Christ more than the fish, and in loving Christ, to be obedient and feed His sheep. Is this just a case of mixed metaphors? Am I just missing something obvious? Help me out here.