Cast your net off to the starboard side. (John 21:6)
Of all the stories told in Sacred Scripture, I am convinced no one can tell a fish story like St. John (Jn. 21:11). Perhaps I enjoy him so much is because he brings back a childhood ritual planted firmly in my memory—that of my mother telling stories to my brother and me. Usually, before beginning, she would ask what our preference was. My brother would respond with rugged regularity, “Tell us about the boy who liked pancakes!” Countering his preference, I would say emphatically, “No, tell us a new story!”
Now my mother was an excellent storyteller, but at these times I would stare at my brother in disbelief, not only because we had to listen to the same story over and over, but because each time she told it his eyes would open wider and wider as she came to the end announcing the number of pancakes consumed by the young hero who “ate a hundred and sixty-three!” Annoyed, I would say to myself, “Can’t he tell she says the same number every time?” No—somehow the compelling way she presented this statistic convinced him that the little boy’s eating prowess did, indeed, increase phenomenally with each telling.
That is why St. John’s fish story never fails to amuse me. I can hear him say to his audience, “And the apostles caught one hundred and fifty-three!” Both of these stories tell an old truth about human nature: never underestimate the power of imagination in our lives. We might want to ask ourselves: what is there in our lives that needs to be looked at in a fresh, more imaginative way? What familiar things are there in our own lives that, if looked at more carefully, are truly amazing? What sacred beliefs do we hold that need to be resurrected from hard-encrusted shells and done away with or renewed with a new emphasis or new meanings?
Simon Peter went aboard and hauled ashore the net loaded with sizable fish . (Jonn. 21:11)
—Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.|