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Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the appearance of the risen Jesus to seven disciples by the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Peter and six other Apostles were in a boat on the sea. Seeing Peter and the disciples in a boat, we are meant to think of the Church, and the peculiar number of seven—evocative of completion or fulfillment—is meant to make us consider the eschatological Church, the community of Jesus approaching the end of its journey.

On the shore (though they don’t recognize him at first) is the Lord Jesus. At his command, they lower their nets and bring in an extraordinary catch. Well, this is the work of the Church until the end of the age: to gather in souls and to bring them to Christ.

When they empty their nets they discover 153 large fish. Many theories as to the meaning of this figure have been proposed. My favorite is the one put forward by St. Augustine. According to the science of that time, Augustine argued, there were 153 species of fish in the sea, and therefore, this extraordinary number is meant to signal the universality of the Church’s salvific mission.