In the 21st Chapter of St. John we find the account of Our Lord’s appearance on the shore after His resurrection; the third appearance of Our Lord according to the apostle. We find St. Peter, who no doubt loved Our Lord, returning to fishing after the stupendous events of the previous days. A natural leader, a number of the other disciples readily followed him ‘a-fishing’. It could be surmised, (speculatively of course), that the return to ordinary life was indicative of a will that was not entirely given over to the service of Christ despite the effusions of St. Peter’s heart. It may have been a rather torturous position that St. Peter found himself in; knowing Christ was the Messiah, loving Him above all things, having been tasked with leading the flock, but not having the will to stick with Our Lord through His passion, and now that Christ is risen, lacking self-confidence and even direction.
It would seem that there were at least two separate boats for the fishing venture St. Peter and his friends were on when they discovered Our Lord on the shore (the shore symbolizing eternity). They had ‘tarried all night’ and not caught a thing. Symbolically they had brought forth no spiritual fruit for they labored alone, not in Christ. When the Man on the shore, still unknown to the disciples and St. Peter, commands them to ‘cast the nets on the right side,’ they obey and cognition dawns on the other son of Mary, St. John, that it is Jesus Christ. The perfect admixture of grace, obedience, suffering, experience, temperament and timing, move St. Peter to gird himself, abandon everything and cast himself into the sea and thereby reach the shore wherein Our Lord awaited him.
When St. Peter ‘girds himself,’ he binds himself to Christ and to Christ through Mary as we shall see. Following the indication of the adopted son of Mary, St. John, who being a son of Mary, was able to follow Jesus Christ all the way through His cross and suffering not turning away either due to repugnance, fear or self-interest. How was St. John able to do this whereas none of his colleagues were able to do so? His devotion to the Blessed Mother had extinguished his self-interest and therefore he was prepared to bear all for the love of God.
Recognizing the error of his ways and that he should follow St. John’s example, St. Peter wastes no more time and casts himself entirely into the sea (mare), or figuratively, Mary. It is through Mary, Mare, that he passes and in a sense, it is Mary that carries him to the shore where Our Lord awaits him.
Our Lord, Our Gentle Shepherd, does not rebuke him for his denials but restores him. St. Peter had discovered the key to grace, the ‘weak side’ of Our Lord as St. Louis puts it, in that he passed through Mary to get to Christ. St. Peter finds mercy and direction but also a holy uncertainty since his life is no longer his own. Truly none of our lives are as much our own as we like to think. We are such, frail, contingent beings. ‘Another will gird thee, and lead thee wither thou wouldst not.’ The three manifestations of Christ are His Nativity, His Resurrection and the Judgement. This being Our Lord’s ‘third appearance’ it would correlate to ‘judgement’. What a desirable judgement the disciple who passes through Mary receives!
As is noted by others, the 153 fish could represent the 153 Ave’s of the full Rosary. ‘Although there were so many fishes, the net was not broken’. We, in our sloth, weakness, dullness etc., think the 153 Ave’s far too burdensome, but although the net is stretched, it will not break. The devil frequently makes the 5 decades per day seem burdensome. Pay him no mind! Pray all 15 mysteries.