• Stephen Hill

The sacrament of the secular

“After this, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got to the land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”

Gospel of JOHN 21: 1-15

Simon Peter’s fishing expedition highlights something that is innate to sonship. Many commentators say that Peter acted out of unbelief, hopelessness and resignation that the dream of building the kingdom with Jesus was forever finished. I do not see it like that anymore and I want to offer an alternative view on this scenario.

It is true that their first attempts at fishing were fruitless. They fished throughout the night but caught nothing; then the resurrected Jesus appears to them. Jesus appears to them within the ordinary. Again, like Mary in the garden, at first they did not recognise Him. Mary Magdalene mistook Him for the gardener; here He appears as a fisherman.

Resurrection life is transforming the ordinary. The mundane is shot through with eternal life.

If we, as Christians, begin to realise that resurrection life is resident within us, it will transform everything. Resurrection life cannot always be felt, however, emotionally or physically. Mostly, it takes faith to believe that we have the life of God within us.

One of the huge dichotomies that exists in Christianity today (and has done so for millennia) is the sacred-secular split. In resurrection life, there is no such thing. The question I want to ask is this: Did Simon Peter remain as a fisherman while also functioning as an apostle? Did he set up a ministry, or did he become the ministry?

Somehow, I don’t think that Peter rented out office space in Jerusalem with the nameplate “Simon Peter – Apostle” on it. I am being a little facetious but I am using it to make my point.

How about, when Simon Peter announced that he was going fishing, he was going to what his true calling was. Maybe Peter returned to fishing in order to become a fisher of men. Maybe Peter’s apostleship is woven throughout his fishing. Is that possible?

Many scholars now take the view that Paul established a full-time business making tents in Corinth, and worked in his shop for 12-14 hours a day, and that many of his converts were customers and business associates. This now makes perfect sense to me.

Resurrection life is not a departure from normal life. Rather, it transforms it! It is the glorious freedom of…………going fishing!

What we thought of as ‘secular’ is actually a sacrament; it is a natural activity which imparts spiritual graces.

Life, in all its joy and sorrow, its excitement and mundaneness, is shot through with heavenly, spiritual substance. The death and resurrection of Jesus announces the collapse of another historic dualism. This dualism still plagues the Church, but let it be stated unequivocally: There is no sacred-secular divide!!

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