With Jesus at the center of our lives, unimaginable things are possible. That is the message of our readings on this Friday of Easter week. Today’s gospel begins in a most ordinary way. These disciples, who are fishermen and have to support themselves, go to work; however, after a whole night of fishing, they’ve come up with nothing but an empty net. Just after dawn, the risen Christ appears to them, but none of the disciples recognizes him, a fact that makes us wonder how many times Jesus has been among us—in a family member or friend, in the face of a stranger, in the plea of a person in need—and we didn’t realize it. Still, even though they do not know it is Jesus, they follow his advice to cast their net on the opposite side of the boat; when they do, their net overflows with an abundance of fish. Something unimaginable happens and their eyes are opened to Christ in their midst. The gospel story ends with an unmistakable allusion to the Last Supper because here, again, Jesus, the host, prepares a meal for them, this time with bread and some of the fish they just caught. In the early church, a fish was a symbol for both Christ and the Eucharist. The first Christians knew—and we do too—that the risen Christ is the bread of life and if we feed on him unimaginable things can happen in the most ordinary circumstances of our lives.
Proof of that is the riveting story recounted from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John are brought before the Jewish leaders who ask them to explain how they were able to heal a man who had been crippled from birth. Peter boldly declares that “it was done in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead.” Empowered by the Spirit and transformed by the risen Christ, they did what Jesus did so many times in his ministry.
We may not, like Peter and John, heal the lame, but we can bring healing and hope to every neighbor who comes our way when we love, extend kindness, listen, are patient and compassionate, and share what we have with them. When we do, unimaginable things continue to happen in a world that desperately needs the hope that Easter brings.
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist family.