First, a fun "fact" about today's Gospel reading sometimes referred to as the story of the "Last Breakfast." A commentary I once saw on this reading said that the number of fish that the disciples caught, 153, represented the 153 questions that had been asked of Jesus in St. John's Gospel. I will readily admit that I have never gone through the Gospel to count the questions. The commentator remarked that after catching 153 fish, no one asked anymore questions. Someday when I have nothing else to do, I will have to count the questions.
Chapter twenty-one of St. John's Gospel is, according to the scripture scholars, a later addition to the Gospel. They point to the fact that the last verses of chapter twenty seem to be a conclusion: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31) The addition of chapter twenty-one at a later date seems to be an attempt to "wake up" the community to the fact that (apparently) they had strayed from the mission or commission that Jesus had given them. All of the Gospels conclude with a "sending," a commission to go into the world and preach: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (John 20:21b-23) The synoptic Gospels give this commission at the time of the Ascension, telling the disciples to go into the whole world to preach and to baptize. However, chapter twenty-one begins with Peter and some of the disciples going fishing! Fishing on the Sea of Galilee was their former way of life. Jesus' appearance on the seashore is a gentle reminder that they are supposed to be doing something else. Scholars suggest that this was the evangelist's way of commenting on those in the community who had failed to obey that commission.
Chapter twenty-one also includes the threefold question of Jesus to Peter, "Do you love me?" Scholars also point to the fact that throughout the Gospel of John, Peter has always come off second best to the Beloved Disciple. They ask whether this scene, added on at a later date, might not be the sacred writer's way of rehabilitating Peter's image. This Gospel springs out of the community of Ephesus; however, by the time it was completed, it had become evident that the community of Jerusalem, Peter's community, could claim to be authority within the Church. Ephesus and the Beloved Disciple would be subject to Peter.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator