Today, we celebrate the Third Sunday of Easter. The Gospel reading (Jn 21:1-19) recounts one of the disciples’ encounters with the Risen Jesus. Going fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Peter and six others worked all night but caught nothing. Coming to shore at dawn, Our Lord surprised them, calling from the beach to ask if they had caught any fish. After the disciples’ reply, Jesus told them to fish with the net from the right side of the boat, which was the opposite of what professional fishermen had been doing for generations.
Hauling up an enormous catch, the disciples struggled to drag the net to shore. That the scripture notes 153 fish in the net is interesting, because that represents the number of species known in the Sea of Galilee at the time. This could suggest that Jesus signified again, through this miracle, that He came to gather all nations to Himself.
“The disciple whom Jesus loved,” the Apostle John the Evangelist, suddenly recognized Jesus. Then Peter jumped out of the boat and swam to meet Him, followed by the rest. Together again, they gathered around a fire and broke bread once more.
During this encounter, Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved Him. Much like the way Peter had denied Him three times beside a fire early on Good Friday, here, he renewed his commitment to Our Lord and His ministry. Jesus then alluded to Peter’s coming martyrdom and called him to follow the path that He had laid. Jesus continued to bless him in preparation for his ministry as the first pope. In this way, the Early Church, under the leadership of those first bishops, was strengthened to proclaim the Good News in word and in deed for generations to come.
The Catechism teaches us:
553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.