Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.
It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.
As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.
After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
‘I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’
This Sunday’s gospel reading speaks about the Church in a symbolic way. Two different symbols are used: fishing and shepherding. While the second symbol is clearly a Johannine, symbol, the first one comes from Luke.
The Servant of God Joseph De Piro also spoke of the Society in a symbolic way.
Thoughts, ideas, plans
In July 1902 De Piro concluded his third year theology in Rome, but could stay in Malta, as he would have liked to. Instead it was necessary for him to spend some months in Davos, Switzerland, to recover his health. There he wrote some very meaningful words: “amidst the icy Alpine mountains, so far from the land where I hoped to realise my dreams,” he could not do anything about his “plans I have matured in me for so long,” “I was left with nothing but prayer – my most intimate friend. And I prayed, prayed and prayed.” During the eighteen months he spent in Davos, the Society was only a concept, an idea, a plan.
On his return from Davos in1904, De Piro immediately started to invite other priests to join him in the foundation of the Society. Mgr E. Vassallo, the Director of St Joseph’s Orphanage, Santa Venera, offered to help him. He asked De Piro to put his ‘ideas’ into writing. De Piro tried to do this three times, but was unsuccessful; at one moment this seemed impossible and he seemed to give up. An entry for the 22 February 1905 tells us that he meditated that ‘The good thought (idea) is a seed that the Saviour plants in our heart.’
A seed that is thrown into the ground
About fifteen years later, on 9 April 1920, in a letter to Mgr Peter La Fountaine, he wrote about their meeting at Fra Diegu Orphanage on 2 November 1909. Here he wrote that “… the seed had been planted.”
The soil at the Grotto in Bethlehem
On 12t June 1910 Joseph De Piro invited Archbishop Peter Pace to open and bless the first house of the Society in Mdina. On this occasion the Founder compared this House, the soil where the seed was being sown and starting to sprout, to the Grotto in Bethlehem.
The seed grew into a tree. It became timber for a small boat
On 10 March 1919 De Piro wrote a draft of a letter to Mgr Angelo Portelli, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Malta. Portelli needed to send this letter to Cardinal Van Rossum, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation of Propaganda Fide. When he was speaking about the development of the Society, the Founder wrote: “The progress has been very hard and slow, worse than expected, but at times the seas were so strong that they seemed drown the small boat ….”
And a ship
When the number of members grew, the Founder planned their formation. He opened the St Mary Aspirandate at the Oratory, Birkirkara. One of the youths who lived there, Michael Vella Haber, said that once De Piro shared with them a dream. De Piro dreamt that he was on a shop sailing the sea, when they developed trouble in the engine. De Piro proceeded to the engine room to try to fix the issue. On the way he met a young woman who offered to help. She fixed the engine and the ship continued on its way. De Piro said that the ship was the Society.