“The stranger on the beach”
After all the drama of Good Friday and the confusing days since then, after all the fear and desolation, the disciples receive mysterious messages about returning to Galilee – back home where they first met Jesus. It’s possible that the scene of today’s gospel was the very spot where that happened a few years before.
It was an attempt at “business as usual” – fishing again in the darkness of night.
Disappointment – no fish – so that by now they were not only failed disciples but failed fishermen too. More disorientation and misery for them.
As the sun rises they see a figure on the beach – they do not recognise who it is.
This stranger tells them to let down their nets on the right side of the boat.
Now – rather strangely – although they don’t know who the stranger is – they take his advice.
The result is a rich harvest of fish, beyond their wildest expectations.
Immediately John says, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumps into the sea to get to Jesus.
Reflecting on this gospel we might discover something we have experienced too in our own lives.
We experience times when we can be disorientated – mesmerised by events, unable to know what to do next, how to move on.
Then from some source or another we catch a sense of direction – an idea comes to us – we have a hunch how to move forward. This suggestion and hint can come from a friend, it could be some wisdom we remember from the past, some experience handed down in the Christian tradition – and in our relief we see the way ahead, a path opens up and we move out of the darkness. At the time, we may not have put two and two together but later we find ourselves realising “It is the Lord!” We recognise the voice of the Stranger on the beach coming to us through these various sources.
We begin to realise that all manner of influences are, in the end, “the voice of the Lord.”
It could be the words we read or hear, the experience of music or a work of art – even the memory of someone who has travelled the road before us – but all of them are channels through which Jesus calls out to us from the beach.
The effect of all these is the same, we are inspired and enabled to put down our nets again and harvest grace for our needs at the time.
The risen Lord calls out to us all through our life and particularly when we are floundering in the deep end.
If this is so, at the very end of our journey, when we are faced with the final mystery of death and our life is failing, we may once again hear the strange voice cry out to us from the shore calling us to explore the depths beneath us … and maybe like John we shall realise “it is the Lord!” and like Peter have the courage and the desire to plunge into the deeps of death to get to Jesus.
Simon Holden CR