A few years ago, His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Gokim Tagle himself went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
He led a group of Filipino pilgrims and his homilies at each point of the pilgrimage were documented by Jesuit Communications in the book Via Lucis*.
"One of the first questions I asked our guide when we reached Tiberias was whether we would go to the place where the miraculous catch after the resurrection happened," His Eminence shared. "... as you know, we bishops have our mottos. We have a coat of arms and then our mottos. And my motto is, 'It is the Lord'."
Indeed, one of the points of the pilgrimage was at Mensa Christi, the Table of Christ, a church where there is a large rectangular block of limestone that, according to legend, served as the table where Jesus broke bread with the disciples after his resurrection.
Jesus said to them, Come and have breakfast. None of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21: 12-14).
Mensa Christi: Where Jesus had breakfast and reinstated Peter, telling him to “Feed my lambs, Take care of my sheep, and Feed my sheep.” Photo credit: Margaux Salcedo
Just outside the church is a section of the Sea of Galilee where the miraculous catch after the resurrection happened.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" No, they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the other side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" (John 21: 4-7)
By the Sea of Galilee where Jesus, after the resurrection, showed himself to the disciples as they cast their nets and the Beloved Disciple recognized him and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” Photo credit: Margaux Salcedo
Cardinal Tagle's reflection then was:
I pray that I will be like the beloved disciple. I'm sure there will be a lot of nights when there will be no catch. But I hope love will keep burning, and when there is love, we recognize the Lord and miracles can happen -- in spite of ourselves, in spite of our efforts.
I believe it is that same love that can generate a community, build up a community, and fire up mission.
I did not know that when I chose this passage for my motto. I just loved the passage. I did not know that this choice would lead me to a program of life, a program of mission.
And now we are here, where these words were first uttered.
I ask for prayers not only for myself but for all pastors, priests, and bishops. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, the important thing is that we see the Lord, point people to him, allow him to direct our catch, and feed and tend the sheep that are his own.
As for us, he had this to say:
You also have your missions. I hope they will be guided by this same story -- recognizing the Lord, building unity, and feeding and tending the flock.
*Via Lucis pp. 45-46.