Meaning beyond the numbers… 10Apr2016

Divine Mercy image (3) (2)Do not fear, My child; but remain faithful only to My grace…                        

In one moment, I can give you more than you are able to desire.”

Words of Jesus to Faustina, from her Diary: par. 1166 & 1169


Scripture scholars tell us that John puts details in his Gospel writings for a purpose. For example, only in his rendition of the crucifixion is the wine given to Jesus with a sponge on a hyssop branch. Hyssop is mentioned a half dozen times in the old testament, usually with sprinkling of blood. In the book of Exodus, the night of the Passover, the Hebrews used hyssop to splash the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels at the first Passover. John saw the connection between the old and the new liberation.

In today’s Gospel, Peter and the others are instructed to cast the net over the right side. When they do, they catch not a large number of fish but exactly 153 large fish. Some Church Fathers see meaning in these details that John gives us.

For St. Gregory, Jesus standing on the shore as opposed to walking on water represents the stability of eternal life as opposed to the tumultuous waves of our present life.

St. Augustine notices that the number, 153, is the sum of all numbers from 1 to 17 and that 17 is 10 + 7 which, in turn, is the joining of the Law—10 commandments—with Grace—7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. He also sees the shore as the end of the world, the end of time, and Jesus gathering in the faithful to His Kingdom, when He will separate the good from the bad—those on His right and those on His left. Hence, the significance of casting over the right side.

There is an unfortunate modernization in our current translation that hides another point. Our 100 yards was two hundred cubits in John’s original Greek version. St. Bede sees this 200 (100+100) as those who live a twofold Grace: love of God and love of neighbor. Augustine sees it as two groups: circumcised and uncircumcised, salvation for all. The fish are large because they represent the souls who will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Deacon Richard


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