Fish for breakfast and the practicality of love


Today’s Gospel story is one of my favorites (John 21:1-14). The Apostles have returned to Galilee and decide to go fishing. I’ve heard some homilists criticize them for returning to their former way of life, but it seems to me that they’re just getting some food to eat. These guys didn’t have congregations to support them yet, so they needed to provide for themselves. After all, we know that St. Paul continued to work as a tentmaker while he preached the Gospel.

I was happy to find that St. John Chrysostom agreed with me in his commentary on this Gospel passage: “As our Lord was not with them regularly, and the Spirit was not given them, and they had received no commission, and had nothing to do, they followed the trade of fishermen.” Seems straightforward enough!

What I love most about this Gospel is the stunning practicality of Jesus’ love for His Apostles.

First, we begin with a repeat of the miracle He performed when He first called Peter. Jesus appears on the shore after the Apostles have fished all night without catching anything. They don’t know it is Him at first – either because of the darkness, or the foggy dawn, or perhaps because He has prevented them from recognizing Him. When He repeats the miracle, however, John knows Him immediately. Peter, in his typical rash excitement, jumps in the water to meet the Lord he loves.

The Apostles have been fishing all night. So what did they need at that moment? Breakfast.

Verse 12 is, to me, one of the most tender verses of the New Testament. “Come, have breakfast.” The Savior of the world, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Messiah, has made them breakfast.

It is another reminder of the concreteness of the Resurrection, because a ghost or a spiritual experience of faith cannot cook you breakfast. But it’s also a reminder of the practicality of love.

Christ shows us how to love. With our very lives, yes. Being willing to sacrifice everything for others, yes. But much more often, love will look much more mundane and ordinary. It will look like breakfast.

So often I spiritualize everything about my faith and the Gospel story. I think of the Apostles not as human beings, but as a collection of virtues and vices, lessons and reminders. I spiritualize their relationship with Jesus and forget the humanity of it all. Do not forget that in the beauty of the Incarnation, God chose to enter the normalcy of human life. Sometimes love looks very lofty and spiritual. And other times it looks very ordinary, like a charcoal fire with some grilled fish.

How is Christ showing you He loves you today? Maybe it is an unexpected phone call from an old friend. Maybe it is green lights when we need them most. Maybe it is simply the strength to open our eyes and get out of bed. Don’t forget to thank Him. And don’t forget to be a practical instrument of His love for others in your life today. Because our relationship with Christ isn’t just about hours of whispered prayers in picture-perfect Adoration chapels. It’s also about spending time with someone who needs our company, helping a coworker meet a deadline, volunteering to help that parishioner, or folding that tenth load of laundry.

Come, have breakfast.


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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