Simon Peter said unto them, I am going fishing. They said unto him, We also will go with you. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
Read Chapter 21
Cornelius a Lapide
Simon Peter saith unto them, &c. Different writers give different reasons for this fishing. S. Chrysostom says, "Because the Lord was not always with them, neither had any (ministry) been committed to them, they employed themselves in fishing." S. Gregory (Hom24.) says, "An employment which was without sin before their conversion was blameless after their conversion. Therefore Peter returned to his fishing, but Matthew did not return to his receipt of custom. For there are many employments which it is impossible, or scarcely possible, to follow without sin. To such a man must not return after he is converted." Let us add, that this fishing took place before Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Ghost, by whom they were bidden to preach the Gospel. Wherefore, because the Apostles had nothing to occupy them at this time in the way of preaching, and they were at once poor and fishermen, they properly went back to their fishing, in order to supply themselves with sustenance. But after the advent of the Holy Spirit we do not read that they employed themselves in fishing, for they were wholly occupied in preaching the Gospel, and in guiding the faithful in the way of all perfection. Whilst the faithful, being studious of evangelical poverty, brought all their property to the feet of the Apostles, that they might distribute it amongst themselves and the rest of the believers. At any time, however, of necessity or want, they might lawfully have returned to their fishing, just as Paul returned to his tent-making, that he might not be burdensome to others for his livelihood. For this indeed is a matter of greater perfection, and therefore an evangelical counsel, that one should preach the Gospel free of charge (to the hearers), and provide for his own sustenance by the labour of his hands. Lastly, the disciples went a-fishing to avoid idleness, and as a relaxation. Cassian relates the following story concerning a certain hunter who went to visit S. John , whom he found employed in gently stroking a partridge. Being surprised at this sight, S. John asked him, "What is that in your hand? "A bow," he replied. "Why do you not keep it always bent?" He answered, "It would be inexpedient to do Song of Solomon , lest by the continual curvature the strength of the bow should be destroyed, and it should come to pass that when I am shooting a strong arrow at some quarry, the stiffness of the bow being lost through its constant tension, it should not be able to discharge a powerful shaft." "In like manner," replied the Blessed John , "let not this brief relaxation of my mind offend you, 0 my young friend; for unless I afforded some moderate relief to its excessive tension it would lose its vigour, and would not be able to obey when need should call upon it to make some strenuous effort."
Night: For night is the most suitable time for fishing. For during the day the fish hide themselves in the depths of the sea.
Mystically, Theophylact says, by night, that Isaiah , before the presence of Christ the Sun, the prophets caught nothing, because although they attempted to correct but a single nation, it was continually falling into idolatry.
They took nothing: because they were fishing without Jesus, that they might learn that all their success in fishing for souls depended wholly upon Christ, and therefore that they ought to seek for success from Him, according to the words of the Psalmist, "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it."