1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin [Didymus], Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish.[1]

2569 The Evangelist has just told of two appearances of Christ to his disciples. Now he mentions a third appearance. If we consider the order and purpose of these appearances, it is evident that the first showed Christ's divine authority by his breathing the Holy Spirit upon them; the second showed that he was the same person as before, since he let them view his wounds; and the third showed the reality of his risen human nature, for he ate with them.

There are two parts in this. The Evangelist first mentions Christ's dealing with a group of the disciples; secondly, with two of them he especially loved (v 15). As to the first, the Evangelist mentions the time and circumstance of his appearance, and then adds a short epilogue, This was now the third time....

2570 The time is After this, after what the Evangelist just narrated. It is significant that he says this for it shows that Christ was not with them continuously, but appeared to them at intervals. The reason for this was that he had not risen with the same life as before, but with a glorious life, as the angels have and the blessed will have: "Except the gods," that is, the angels, "whose dwelling is not with flesh" (Dan 2:11).

2571 The Evangelist seemed to be ending his gospel before, when he wrote, these are written that you may believe.... Why, then, does he add on this appearance? Augustine gives a mystical reason for this, which is that this appearance signifies the glory of the future life, when Christ will appear to us as he is.[2] And so the Evangelist put this appearance after what seemed to be the end of his gospel so that this could be better understood.

2572 The circumstance of his appearance was that Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. It is in the nature and power of a glorified body that it can be seen or not seen, as the person wishes, by non‑glorified bodies. That is why he says, revealed, i.e., Christ made himself visible. In the same way he is said to appear, which means the same thing as to reveal, "appearing to them during forty days" (Acts 1:3). As Ambrose says, that appears in whose power it is to be seen or not seen.[3]

2573 The place is by the Sea of Tiberias, which is the Sea of Galilee. It is called the Sea of Tiberias after the city of Tiberias, which was built in honor of Tiberius Caesar. The Evangelist mentions this, first, to show that our Lord had kept the promise made to the disciples, "he is going before you to Galilee" (Mt 28:7). Secondly, he wanted to show that our Lord had banished the very great fear from the hearts of his disciples, so that they no longer remained shut up in their house, but even traveled as far as Galilee.

2574 In describing this appearance, he first mentions the persons to whom Christ appeared; what they were doing; and thirdly, the circumstances of this appearance.

2575 Christ appeared to seven persons. The Evangelist says that there were together Simon Peter, who had denied him, Thomas called the Twin, who was not present at the first appearance, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, who is thought to be the brother of Philip, the sons of Zebedee, that is, James and John, and two others of his disciples not explicitly named. In the mystical sense, this number signifies the state and appearance of future glory, which will be after the seventh age, that is, in the eighth, which is the age of those who arise: "From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me" (Is 66:23).

2576 They were fishing, and so we first see Peter asking about this; the willingness of the others to go with him; and then their efforts.

2577 Peter asks them to go fishing, saying, I am going fishing. In the mystical interpretation, this signifies the work of preaching: "I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19). So when Peter said, I am going fishing, the mystical sense is that he is taking the others to share in his concerns and preaching: "So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you" (Ex 18:22).

2578 Their actual fishing seems to go against Luke (9:62): "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." And it is clear that Peter had given up his work as fisherman. Why then did he return to it and look back? I answer, with Augustine, that if he had returned to this work of fishing before Christ's resurrection and before seeing Christ's wounds, we would think that he was acting out of despair. But now, even after Christ returned from the grave, after they had seen his wounds, and had received the Holy Spirit by Christ's breathing on them, they became what they were before, fishers of fish [not of men]. [4] We can learn from this that a preacher can use his abilities to earn the necessaries of life and still preserve the integrity of his apostolate, if he has no other means of sustenance. For if St. Paul learned an art he did not previously have in order to obtain the food he needed, so as to avoid being a burden to others, Peter could all the more do this by using his own skill.

2579 Augustine says that a preacher can do this when he cannot gain a living in any other way. But in this case Peter did have another way, for our Lord promised: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well," that is, what is necessary for life (Mt 6:33). The answer is that it is true that these things will be added, with our cooperation. So our Lord did keep his promise here, with the cooperation of Peter. For who else but our Lord caused the fish that were caught to be within the range of their net?

2580 Gregory remarks that there are two kinds of work.[5] One absorbs the mind, and hinders our spiritual concerns, as tax collecting. No one should return to such work, even to provide food. So we do not read that Matthew returned to his tax collecting post. There is another kind of work which can be done without sin and without absorbing the mind, such as fishing and things like that. And it was not a sin for Peter to return to this kind of work after his conversion.

2581 The others agree to this, We will go with you. This sets an example for preachers and prelates to encourage each other in their work of turning people to God: "A brother helped is like a strong city" (Prv 18:19); "He was like a young cedar on Lebanon; and they surrounded him like the trunks of palm trees" (Sir 50:12).

2582 Next, we see that they were working at this, They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. Here he touches on three things that preachers ought to do. First, they should leave those places which are sunk in sin: "Come out from them," the Chaldaeans, "and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; and I will welcome you" (2 Cor 6:17). And they should go out from their carnal affections: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house" (Gen 12:1). And also leave the quiet of contemplation: "Let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages; let us go out early to the vineyards" (Song 7:11). Secondly, preachers should get into the ship, that is, go forward in charity within the unity of the Church, which is called a ship: "In the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water" (1 Pet 3:20). They should also board the ship of the cross by depriving the flesh: "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14); "Blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes" (Wis 14:7).

Thirdly, preachers should have total confidence in the help of Christ. All that night they caught nothing, because as long as God's help and the interior Preacher are not there, the words of the preacher have no effect. But when the light comes, enlightening hearts, the preacher makes a catch: "Send out your light and your truth" (Ps 42:3). Here, night indicates the lack of divine help: "Night comes, when no one can work" (9:4). Or, one could say, that night, during the time of the Old Testament, they caught nothing, because they could not bring the Gentiles to the faith: "The night has passed" [Rom 13:12]. According to Augustine, they were fishing at night because they were still afraid.[6]

2583 Now we see the way and stages in which Jesus appeared: first, he allows himself to be seen; secondly he is recognized; and thirdly, he eats with the disciples.

2584 The Evangelist says that the day was breaking, it was morning. In the mystical interpretation, morning or the break of day indicates the glory of the resurrection: "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps 30:5); "In the morning I will stand before you, and will see you" [Ps 5:5].

2585 Before his passion, on the occasion of a similar miracle, Jesus did not stand on the shore, but was in a boat. Why, after the passion, does he stand on the shore? The reason is that the sea signifies the troubles and tribulations of this present life, but all these end at the shore [of eternal life]. So, before his passion, Christ stood on the sea, because he had a body subject to death; but after the resurrection, he had surmounted the corruption of the flesh and stood upon the shore.

2586 The disciples did not know that it was Jesus because of their own ignorance. We can see from this that on this turbulent sea of the present, we cannot know the hidden things of Christ: "The eye has not seen, O God, besides you, what things you have prepared for those who wait for you" [Is 64:4].

2587 Next, Jesus brings them to recognize him. First, the Evangelist shows how they came to recognize him; and who was the first to do so.

2588 The Evangelist does three things regarding the first. First, he shows our Lord asking for food, Children, have you any fish? The disciples did not think it was Christ asking, but someone who wanted to buy fish, for he spoke like a customer. In the mystical interpretation, Christ asks us for food to refresh himself. And we do this for him by obeying the commandments "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work" (4:34). They answered him, No, that is, not of themselves: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it" (Rom 7: 18).

2589 Secondly, the Evangelist mentions Christ's order, Cast the net on the right side of the boat. In Luke (5:4) there is a similar incident, but there Christ did not tell them to cast their nets to the right side, as he does here. The reason for this is that the fishing mentioned by John signifies that fishing by which the predestined are taken to eternal life, and it is only those children on the right who are brought there: "The Lord knows the ways that are on the right; those on the left are perverse" [Prv 4:27]; "The right hand of the Lord does valiantly!" (Ps 118:16). The fishing mentioned in Luke signified the call into the Church, and so the net is cast to all sides because people are caught and brought to Christ from all over: "Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame" (Lk 14:21).

2590 The obedience of the disciples is shown when the Evangelist says, So they cast it, the net; and the effect of this obedience, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish, that is, for the great number of those who would be saved: "By your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice" (Gen 22:18); "Behold, a great multitude which no man could number" (Rev 7:9). This fishing differs from that mentioned by Luke because there (Lk 5:6) the nets broke; and in a like way the Church is rent by disagreements and heresies. But in the fishing mentioned by John the net does not break because there will be no lack of unity in the future life. Again, in the incident mentioned by Luke, the fish were taken into the boat. But here in John's incident, the fish are brought to the shore, because the saints destined for glory are hidden from us: "In the covert of your presence you hide them from the plots of men" (Ps 31:20). [Augustine remarks that when on the sea of this life the elect are not known to us, they are hidden from us; they become known to us only when we arrive at the shore, at eternal life.][7]


7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards [two hundred cubits] off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw [hot coals] a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty‑three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them. "Come and [dine] have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.[8]

2591 The Evangelist, having shown how the taking of the great number of fish lead the disciples to recognize Christ, now mentions the order in those recognizing him. First, he mentions John; then Peter; and then actions of the other disciples.

2592 John, being quick in understanding, recognized Christ at once. So he said to Peter, whom he loved more than the others, and also because Peter was above the others in rank, It is the Lord! John was convinced of this by the catch of the fish: "Thou dost rule the raging of the sea" (Ps 88:8); "Whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth in the seas and all deeps" (Ps 134:6). He said, It is the Lord! because they usually called him this: "You call me teacher and Lord" (13:13).

2593 Peter is seen as passionately devoted to Christ. His devotion is clear, first of all, by his quickness to act: When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat. As soon as he heard it was the Lord, Peter went without delay.

Secondly, we see his devotion for Christ, for out of modesty he did not want to appear naked, but put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, because it was hot and it made working easier. We can learn from this that those coming to Christ ought to put off the old man and put on the new, which has been created for God in faith: "He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life" (Rev 3:5).

Thirdly, his devotion is shown by his lack of fear: for because of his great love he was unwilling to stay in the boat, which was moving too slowly, and so he sprang into the sea, to reach Christ more quickly.

2594 In the mystical interpretation, the sea signifies the troubles of this present world. Those who desire to come to Christ cast themselves into the sea, and do not refuse the tribulations of this world: "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22); "My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials" (Sir 2:1). Now Peter did cast himself into the sea and he reached Christ unharmed because the servant of Christ is kept safe and unharmed in the midst of tribulations: "You have given a path in the sea, and a safe way through the waves" [Wis 14:3]. As Chrysostom says, this incident very well brings out the difference between John and Peter: for John is seen to be greater in understanding, while Peter is more ardent in his affections.[9]

2595 The other disciples remained on the boat. First, the Evangelist mentions what they did, the other disciples came in the boat, because they were not as ardent as Peter. The boat signifies the Church: "The hope of the world took refuge on a raft, and guided by your hand left to the world the seed of a new generation" (Wis 14:6). This text refers to the Church as we see from 1 Peter (3:20).

The other disciples came in the boat, that is, protected by the society of the Church, which is as formidable as an army prepared for battle: "In the covert of your presence you hide them from the plots of men" (Ps 31:20).

2596 Secondly, the Evangelist gives the reason why they did this, for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits off. This could be the reason why Peter sprang into the sea, because the land was near; and it could explain why the others arrived so quickly. Indeed, they were not far away, because the Church is not far from the land of the living, for the Church is "none other than the house of God, and ... the gate of heaven" (Gen 28:17); and the saints think about this land every day: "We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen" (2 Cor 4:18); "Our commonwealth is in heaven" (Phil 3:20).

He says, two hundred cubits, which signifies the same thing as the two boats mentioned by Luke (5:2), that is, the two peoples from which the elect are drawn to eternal life: "That he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross" (Eph 2:15). The net by which the fish are taken is the teaching of the faith, by which God draws us by inspiring us from within: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (6:44). The apostles also draw us by their exhortations.

2597 Next, the Evangelist tells how Christ affectionately prepared a meal for his disciples. He mentions its preparation; Christ's invitation; and the meal itself. In the preparation of the meal we see what was contributed by Christ, and what was brought by the disciples.

2598 Christ prepared three things. The Evangelist continues, When they got out on land, they saw hot coals there, with fish lying on it, and bread, which Christ by his power had created from nothing, or had formed from some nearby matter. In a previous miracle (6:11), Jesus fed the people with bread he had multiplied from previously existing bread. Now, after his passion, he creates or newly forms things, because it is no longer the time to show weakness but his power. For what he did before his passion in the multiplication of the bread was done in condescension, because if he wanted, he could have created it from nothing or newly formed it.

2599 We can understand from this that Christ prepares a spiritual meal or banquet. If we take this present meal symbolically for the Church's meal, Christ also prepares these three things. First the hot coals of charity: "You will heap coals of fire on his head" (Prv 25:22); "Fill your hands with burning coals" (Ez 10:2). Christ carried these burning coals from heaven to earth: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another" (13:34); "I came to cast fire upon the earth" (Lk 12:49). Also, Christ prepares the fish laid over the coals, which is Christ himself: for the cooking fish outspread over the hot coals is the suffering Christ who is spread over the hot coals when because of the fire of his love for us he is immolated on the cross: "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph 5:2); "Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph 5:1).

He also prepares the bread which nourishes us, and this bread is himself. Christ is called a fish insofar as his divinity is hidden, for it is characteristic of fish to remain hidden in the water: "Truly, you are a God who hides yourself" (Is 45:15). While insofar as Christ nourishes us by his teaching, and even gives us his body for food, he is truly bread: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven" (6:51); "The bread will be rich and abundant" [Is 30:23]. The ministers of the Church should also bring something to this meal; but whatever it is, it has come from God.

2600 The Evangelist now mentions what was brought by the disciples: first, we see the Lord's command; and then one of the disciples acts on it.

2601 Our Lord tells them to bring some of the fish they have caught. It was like saying: I have given you the gift of charity, I have roasted my body upon the cross and given you the bread of my teaching, which perfects and strengthens the Church. Now it is your task to catch others. These are the ones who will be converted by the preaching of the apostles: "Bring to the Lord, O children of God" [Ps 29:1]; "And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord" (Is 66:20).

2602 If this meal is understood to be a moral meal, then Christ first prepares as food for the soul the burning coals of charity: "God's love has been poured into our hearts" (Rom 5:5); "I came to cast fire upon the earth" (Lk 12:49). Then he prepares the fish, that is, a hidden faith, since it is concerned with things that are not evident (Heb 10:1); and also the bread, that is, solid teaching: "Solid food is for the mature" (Heb 5:14). Our contribution to this meal is to make good use of the grace given to us: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain" (1 Cor 15:10). Thus our Lord asks us to bring the fish, bring your good works, which have been granted to you to accomplish: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Mt 5:16).

2603 The Evangelist mentions that this was done by one of the disciples, Peter, who was more ardent than the others, So Simon Peter went aboard; he also went up to the helm of the Church: "I will climb the state of perfection" [Song 7:8]; "In his heart he is set to ascend" [Ps 64:6]. And hauled the net ashore, because the holy Church has been entrusted to him, and it was said to him in particular, "Feed my lambs" (21:15). Peter now foreshadows this by his action in drawing the fish to the solid land, because he will show the solidity of the eternal homeland to the faithful.

2604 He said, full of large fish, because "those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified" (Rom 8:30); "Men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and proclaiming prophecies; leaders of the people in their deliberations" (Si 44:3). At the other catch of fish (Lk 5:4) the number of fish taken was not mentioned, but it is here; here there were a hundred and fifty‑three. The reason for this is that those called to the Church of the present time include both those who are good and bad: "The number of fools is infinite" [Eccl 1:15]. Thus in Genesis (22:17), when Abraham is told of his calling, we read, "I will multiply your descendants as the sand which is on the seashore," which refers to the bad. While referring to the good, God says, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them .... So shall your descendants be" (Gen 15:5); for God especially counts the good, "He tells the number of the stars" [Ps 147:4].

2605 Does this mean that no more than a hundred and fifty‑three will be saved? No indeed! There will be more, but this number indicates a mystery. For no one can reach the homeland without observing the commandments of the decalogue; and the commandments can only be kept with the help of the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit: "The spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude; the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and you will be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord" [Is 11:2]. Further, the first recorded instance of sanctification occurred on the seventh day: "God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it" (Gen 2:3). Adding ten and seven gives seventeen. Now if we add the cardinal numbers successively ‑ one plus two gives three, plus three gives six, plus four gives ten, plus five gives fifteen, plus six gives twenty‑one, and so on in this way till we have reached the number seventeen ‑ we arrive at the number one hundred and fifty‑three.

Or, in another way: Christ now was appearing to seven disciples. If we multiply this seven by seven (the gifts of the Holy Spirit) we get forty‑nine. Now if we add one to indicate that perfection of unity which is characteristic of the children of God who act by the Spirit of God, we get fifty. If we triple this, and also add three, to indicate our faith in the Trinity (which we profess with our heart, our words and our actions), we get a hundred and fifty‑three. Thus, those who are perfected by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and united by their faith in the Trinity, come to the Father.

2606 The Evangelist continues, and although there were so many, the net was not torn. In the incident related by Luke (Lk 5:6) the net broke because in the present Church [in this world], which the net signifies, there are many rips of schisms, heresies and seditions. But the Church is not entirely torn apart because "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). But in the future, in our homeland, heaven, which is signified by the net which was not torn, that is, in that peace which will be in the saints, there will be no schisms: "He makes peace in your borders" (Ps 147:14).

2607 When the Evangelist says, Jesus said to them, Come and dine, we see his invitation to the meal he had prepared. First, we see Christ's invitation; then the attitude of the disciples.

2608 Christ invites us to dine with him by inspiring us himself from within, saying, Come and dine: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you" [Mt 11:28]; "Eat, O friends, and drink; drink deeply, O lovers!" (Song 5:1). He also invites us to dine by encouraging and teaching us from without through others: "A man once gave a great banquet ... he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, Come" (Lk 14:16).

2609 The Evangelist gives their attitude when he says, Now none of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? According to Augustine, this indicates the disciples' certainty about Christ's resurrection; they were so certain that it was Christ that none of them presumed to doubt that it was he.[10] And because a question indicates a doubt, no one presumed to ask, Who are you? "In that day you will ask nothing of me" (16:23). For Chrysostom, it indicates a reverence of the disciples for Christ which was greater than usual.[11] They would have liked to have questioned him; but Christ appeared to them in such grandeur and glory that they did not dare to question him because of their amazement and respect. It was this that particularly stopped them from questioning him, for they knew it was the Lord.

2610 Next, Jesus came and took bread and gave it to them, and we see the meal they had, with Jesus eating with them: "You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing" (Ps 145:16). For he is the one who gives nourishment at the appropriate times.

2611 But did Christ really eat with them? We should say that he did, although it does not say this here. Luke (24:43) explicitly says that he ate with them, and in Acts [1:4] we read that "while eating with them, he charged them not to leave Jerusalem."

2612 But did he truly eat? We should say to this that a thing is said to be true in two ways: true with the truth of signification, and true with the truth of its species. A thing is true in the first way when it corresponds to what is signified. For example, if I want to signify something by speech, and what I signify by it is true and agrees with the thing signified, my speech is true with the truth of signification, although not [necessarily] true with the truth of the species. When Christ said "I am the true vine" (15:1), that was true, although he is not a true vine in the sense that he has the species or nature of a vine, but he is a vine considering what vine signifies. On the other hand, something is said to be true with the truth of its species or kind, when it has what belongs to the truth of its species. These things are the principles of the species, not their subsequent effects. Thus the utterance, "Man is an animal" is true in the first way, with the truth of signification, because it signifies what is true. But is not true with the truth of species unless it is spoken by the mouth of a [human] animal using its normal organs of speech. Its truth does not depend on the effects of the speaking, for example, that it be heard by someone. So, applied to the act of eating: some cases are true only with the truth of signification, as the eating ascribed to an angel, because an angel does not have the organs for eating. But what is signified by their eating is true, that is, the desire they have for our salvation. But Christ's act of eating after the resurrection was true both with the truth of signification, because he did it to show that he had a human nature, which he did in truth have, and his eating was true according to its species, because he had the organs used for eating. However, the effects consequent on eating were not present, since the food was not transformed into his substance, since he had a glorified and incorruptible body. It was dissolved into pre‑existing matter by the divine power. However, this effect does not alter the truth of the species, as was said.[12]

2613 The Evangelist summarizes the appearances by saying, This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples. According to Augustine, if this third time refers to the number of times, it is not true.[13] For as was said, on the first day Christ appeared five times, again on the eighth day when Thomas was present, again by the Sea as recorded here, again on the mountain in Galilee (Mt 28:16), again when they were at table (Mk 16:14), and again on the day of his ascension, when "as they were looking on, he was lifted up" (Acts 1:9). Further, he appeared to them many other times during the forty days, but these are not recorded (Acts 1:3).

Thus the third time must refer to the days on which Christ appeared. The first day he appeared was the day of the resurrection; the second day was eight days after the resurrection, eight days later (20:26); and the third day was the appearance by the lake mentioned here. Or, one could say, this statement can be true even if it is refereed to the number of times: for the only times we read that he appeared to a number of the disciples gathered together was on the first day in the evening, when the doors were shut; secondly, eight days later, when the disciples were gathered together; and thirdly, here at the Sea. Thus, he explicitly says, this was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples.


15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon, Son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep" [Feed my lambs]. 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."[14]

2614 The Evangelist just showed what the Lord did for the disciples in general; here he shows him dealing with his two especially loved disciples: first, what he did for Peter; and how he dealt with John (v 20). He does two things with the first: first, he lays on Peter the pastoral office; secondly, he predicts that he will be martyred (v18).

He imposes the pastoral office on Peter only after an examination. Thus, those who are to be raised to this office are first examined, "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands" (1 Tim 5:22). Christ examined him three times, and so this part is divided into three parts. In the first part we see our Lord's question (v 15); Peter's answer; and the imposition of the office (v 15). Looking at the first, we can consider three things: the time of the examination; the tenor of the conversation; and on what Peter was examined.

2615 The order of this event is given as When they had finished the meal. This signifies the spiritual meal by which the soul is refreshed with spiritual gifts, even when it is united to the body: "I will come in to him and eat with him" (Rev 3:20). Therefore it is appropriate that one who is raised to this office be already refreshed with this joyous meal. Otherwise, how could he refresh the hungry ones that come to him: "I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance" (Jer 31:14), with that abundance mentioned in Psalm 63 (v 5): "My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat."

2616 The tenor of the conversation is seen when he says, Jesus said to Simon Peter. Three things are given here which are necessary for a prelate. First, obedience, when he says, Simon, which means obedient. A prelate needs to be obedient because one who does not know how to obey superiors does not know how to govern inferiors: "An obedient man will speak of victory" [Prv 21:28]. Secondly, a prelate needs knowledge, indicated by Peter, which means understanding. A prelate needs understanding for he is the appointed watchman, and one who is blind is a poor watchman: "His watchmen are blind" (Is 56:10); "Because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me" (Hos 4:6). Thirdly, a prelate needs grace, for he says son of John. Prelates need grace because if they do not have grace they do not have anything: "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor 15:10); "And when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship" (Gal 2:9).

2617 The questions are about love; and Jesus asks, Do you love me more than these? This was a suitable question, for Peter had previously fallen, as we saw before, and it was not appropriate that he be preferred to the others until his sin was forgiven ‑ which is only brought about by charity: "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8); "Love covers all offenses" (Prv 10:12). So it was fitting that his charity be made known by this questioning, not indeed to him who looks into the depths of our hearts, but to others. So Christ said, but not as one who did not already know, Do you love me more than these? Now we read that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). Thus it was that when our Lord was about to die, Peter was afraid and denied him; but the risen Lord restored love and banished his fear. So Peter, who before had denied Christ because he was afraid to die, now, after our Lord has arisen, feared nothing. Why should he be afraid, since he now realized that death had died?

2618 This questioning was also appropriate for the office, since many who assume a pastoral office use it as self‑lovers: "In the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self" (1 Tim 3:1). One who does not love the Lord is not a fit prelate. A fit prelate is one who does not seek his own advantage, but that of Christ's; and he does this through love: "The love of Christ controls us" (2 Cor 5:14). Love also becomes this office because it benefits others: for it is due to the abundance of love that those who love Jesus will at times give up the quiet of their own contemplation to help their neighbor. Although the: Apostle said, "I am sure that neither death nor life ... will be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom 8:39), he added, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren" (Rom 9:3). Thus a prelate should be questioned about his love.

2619 He adds, more than these, for even as the Philosopher says in his Politics, it is the natural order of things that the one who cares for and governs others should be better.[15] Thus he says that just as the soul is to the body that it rules, and reason is to our lower powers, so man is related to the irrational animals. And there ought to be a similar relation between prelates and their subjects. Thus, according to Gregory, the life of a pastor should be such that he is related to his subjects as a shepherd to his sheep.[16] So Christ says, more than these, because the more Peter loves the better he is: "Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people" (1 Sam 10:24).

2620 But in selecting someone [to rule] is it always necessary to choose the one who is unconditionally better, even if the laws say that it is enough to choose one who is merely good? To answer this two distinctions must be made. Some things are sufficient according to human judgment which are still not sufficient according to the divine judgment. According to human judgment, if a person cannot be reproached for something, this is sufficient for his election to stand. For it is obvious that it would be difficult to have elections if they could be nullified because someone was found who was better than the one actually chosen. So, according to our human judgment, it is sufficient if an election is honest and a suitable person is chosen.

But, so far as concerns the divine judgment, and our own conscience, it is necessary to choose that person who is better. Now a person can be unconditionally better; and this is the way a holier person is said to be better, for holiness makes one good. Yet such a person might not be better for the Church. For this purpose, that person would be better who is better educated, more competent, more discerning, and chosen more unanimously. But if other things are equal, such as the benefit and welfare of the Church, one would sin if he were to choose a person who was less unconditionally good than another. There has to be a reason for such a choice. This is either the honor of God and the benefit of the Church, or some private motive. If the motive is the honor of God and the benefit to the Church, these goods will be regarded as linked to the one chosen, and will make him the better person, in these respects. If there is some private motive for the choice, such as some carnal love, the expectation of ecclesiastical advancement, or temporal advantage, the election is a fraud and there has been partiality.

2621 Now we see Peter's answer, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. This is a clear sign that he had retracted his previous denial. And it shows that if the predestined fall, they are always better after they are corrected. Before his denial, Peter thought that he was better than the other apostles, saying, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away" (Mt 26:33). And when Jesus said to him, "You will deny me three times," Peter went against this and even boasted that "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you" (Mt 26:35). But now, Peter, having been conquered by his own weakness, does not presume to state his love unless it is attested to and confirmed by the Lord. He humbles himself before Christ, saying, You know that I love you: "My witness is in heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high" (Job 16:19). He also humbles himself in respect to the apostles, for he does not say that he loves Jesus more than they do, but simply, I love you. This teaches us not to rank ourselves before others, but others before ourselves: "In humility count others better than yourselves" (Phil 2:3).

2622 We can also notice, as Augustine points out, that when our Lord asks, Do you love (diligis) me, Peter does not answer with the same word, but says I love (amo) you, as if they were the same.[17] And they are the same in reality, but there is some difference in meaning: Love (amor) is a movement of our appetitive power, and if this is regulated by our reason it is the will's act of love, which is called "direction" (dilectio) ‑ because it presupposes an act of election, choice (electio). This is why the brute animals are not said to love (diligere). For if the appetitive movement is not regulated by reason, it is called amor.

2623 After this examination, Christ assigns Peter his office, saying, Feed my lambs, that is, my faithful, which I, the Lamb, call lambs: "Behold, the Lamb of God" (1:29). Thus, one should not be called a Christian who says he is not under the care of that shepherd, that is, Peter: "They shall all have one shepherd" (Ez 37:24); "They shall appoint for themselves one head" (Hos 1:11). It was appropriate that this office be assigned to Peter, the others being passed over, because, according to Chrysostom, he was the extraordinary apostle, the voice of the disciples, and the head of the group.[18]

2624 Now we have the second examination. In order to avoid a lot of repetition, note that Christ says three times, Feed my lambs, because Peter ought to feed them three ways. First, they are to be fed by being taught: "And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer 3:15). Secondly, they are to be fed by example: "Set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim 4:12); "Upon the mountain heights of Israel," that is, in the excellence of great men, "shall be their pasture" (Ez 34:14). Thirdly, they are to be fed by being offered temporal help: "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?" (Ez 34:2).

2625 The third time Christ says to him, Feed my sheep. This is because there are three types of people in the Church: beginners, those who have made some progress, and the perfect. The first two types are the lambs, since they are still imperfect. The others, since they are perfect, are called sheep: "The mountains," that is, the perfect, "skipped like rams," and "the hills," the others, "like lambs" (Ps 114:4). And so all prelates ought to guard their charges as Christ's sheep and not their own. But alas! As Augustine says in his Easter Sermon: "We witness the appearance of certain unfaithful servants who have abandoned Christ's flock and by their thefts have made gold their flock. You hear them say, 'These are my sheep. What do you want with my sheep? I will not let you come to my sheep.' But if we say "my sheep," and others talk about their sheep, then Christ has lost his own sheep."[19]

2626 Note also that just as Peter was assigned his office three times, so he was examined three times. This was because he had denied Christ three times. As Augustine says: "A threefold profession was required so that Peter's tongue might show as much love as it had shown of fear, and that life gained would wrest more words than the threat of death."[20] Another reason for this was because Peter was obligated to love Christ for three things. First, because his sin was forgiven, for the one who is forgiven more loves the more (cf. Lk 7:43). Secondly, because he was promised a great honor: "On this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18). Thirdly, because of the office entrusted to him, as right here, when Christ entrusts the care of the Church to him, Feed. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart," so that you will direct your entire intention to God, "and with all your soul," so that your entire will might rest in God through love, "and with all your might," so that the performance of all your actions will serve God.

2627 Peter became sad because asked three times. As was seen, he was rebuked by our Lord before the passion when he so quickly asserted that he loved him. Now, seeing that he is questioned so many times about his love, he is afraid he will be rebuked again and becomes sad. Thus he says, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. He is saying in effect: I do love you; at least I think I do. But you know all things, and perhaps you know of something else that will happen. And so the final commitment of the Church is given to the humbled Peter. According to one of the Greek doctors, this is also the reason why catechumens are questioned three times during their baptism.[21]


18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19a (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.)

2628 Above, our Lord entrusted the office of shepherd to Peter. Now he foretells his martyrdom. This was pertinent because a good shepherd should lay down his life for his sheep (10:11). It was not granted to the young Peter to lay down his life for Christ; but rather to the old Peter to lay down his life for his sheep. This is what Christ foretold to him. Christ first tells of Peter's past life; then he predicts the end of his future life (v 18). Thirdly, the Evangelist explains our Lord's words (v 19).

2629 Peter's past life showed certain shortcomings, for as a young man he was too presumptuous and self‑willed. But this is characteristic of the young, as the Philosopher says in his Rhetoric.[22] Thus we read in Ecclesiastes (11:9) a kind of reproach: "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes." Our Lord refers to this trait of Peter and says, When you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would. He says, you girded yourself, that is, you restrained yourself from certain unlawful and superfluous things, but walked where you would, not allowing yourself to be kept in check by anyone. That is why you always wanted to be in danger for my sake. But it was not granted to you that you suffer for me when young, but when you are old I will fulfill your desire because you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you. What a wondrous prediction! It gives both the time and the suffering. From the time these words were spoken until Peter's death, about thirty‑seven years went by. We can see from this that Peter was quite old.

2630 According to Chrysostom, he says, when you are old, because human affairs are different than divine affairs: in human affairs the young are useful, and the old are not of much use; but in divine matters virtue is not taken away by old age, rather it sometimes becomes even stronger: "My old age is exalted in abundant mercy" [Ps 92:10]; "As the days of your youth, so shall your old age be" [Deut 33:25].[23] But this is to be understood only of those who have practiced virtue in their youth, as Cicero says.[24] For those who have passed their youth in idleness will become of little or no value when old. This also teaches us that we rarely find rulers and teachers who are useful to the Church dying young, as Origen remarks in his explanation of Matthew (25:19): "Now after a long time the master of those servants came."[25] He gives Paul as an example. In Acts (7:58) Paul is seen as "a young man," but in Philemon (1:9) he is "an old man." The reason for this is that people of this caliber are so rare, that when they are found, the Lord preserves them to a ripe old age.

2631 He mentions the way he will suffer when he says, you will stretch out your hands, for Peter was crucified. Yet he was crucified using ropes, not nails, so he would not die so quickly. This is the girding spoken of by Christ.

Three things can be considered in the sufferings of the saints. First, there is a natural affection: there is such a natural love between the soul and the body that the soul never desires to be separated from the body, nor the body from the soul: "For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed" (2 Cor 5:4); "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death" (Mt 26:38). This is why Christ says, where you do not wish to go, that is, by the impulse of nature, which is so rooted in nature that even old age could not destroy it in Peter. Yet, the desire due to grace weakens this: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ" (Phil 1:23); "We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). Secondly, the intentions of the persecutors and the saints are different, and carry you where you do not wish to go. Thirdly, we see that we should be prepared to suffer, but not to kill ourselves. Thus Christ says, you will stretch out your hands. This clearly was the case with Peter: for when the people wanted to rebel against Nero and deliver Peter, he forbade it: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example" (1 Pet 2:21).

2632 The words another will gird you rightly come before and carry you, the thought being that another will gird you because he will carry you where you do not wish to go. Lest one think this statement was lightly written, it was written after the death of Peter. Peter was killed during Nero's lifetime; and John wrote this Gospel after he returned from the exile to which he had been banished during the reign of Domitian, there being several other emperors between Nero and Domitian.

2633 John mentions this as something in the future, saying, This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God, for the death of the saints gives glory to Christ: "Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death" (Phil 1:20); "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief ... yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God" (1 Pet 4:15). Indeed, the greatness of the Lord is shown by the fact that the saints brave death for his truth and faith.


19b And after this he said to him, "Follow me." 20 Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If [So] it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" 23 The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If [So] it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"[26]

2634 After the Evangelist showed what our Lord had in mind for Peter, he now tells about John. First, we see the commendation of the disciple, John; secondly, his gospel is commended (v 25). In regard to the first, we see the occasion for John's commendation; and then the commendation itself, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

2635 The occasion for John's commendation was Christ's invitation to Peter to follow him. And after he said this to him, that is, after Christ told Peter about his office and martyrdom, he said to him, Jesus said to Peter, Follow me. For Augustine, this means follow me in martyrdom, by suffering for me; for it is not enough just to suffer in some way, but this must be done by following Christ, that is, by suffering for his sake: "Blessed are you when men hate you ... on account of the Son of man" (Lk 6:22); "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1 Pet 2:21).[27]

2636 Many others who were present would also suffer for Christ, especially James, who was the first to be killed: "He killed James the brother of John with the sword" (Acts 12:2). Why then does Christ say to Peter in particular, Follow me? The reason, according to Augustine, was that Peter not only suffered death for Christ, but also followed Christ even in the kind of death, that is, death by the cross: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).[28] Or, according to Chrysostom, in saying Follow me, Christ means in your office as prelate, leader.[29] He was saying in effect: As I have the care of the Church, received from my Father ‑ "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage" (Ps 2:8) ‑ so will you be, in my place, over the whole Church.

2637 But after Christ's ascension, why did James hold first place in Jerusalem? We can say that James had a special jurisdiction over that place, but Peter had the universal authority over the whole Church of believers.

2638 Now we see that John is commended: first, as to his past; then with respect to his future (v 21). John is commended on three points in his past.

2639 First, John had the privilege of having Christ's special love. The Evangelist says, Peter turned, for he had begun to follow Jesus even bodily, and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved. Here we see that Peter, already made a shepherd, was intent on the care of others: "And when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32). Now Jesus loved John without excluding the others, for above he said, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you" (15:9). But he loved John above the others with a special love. There were three reasons for this. First, because of his penetrating understanding: for teachers especially love their intelligent students: "A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor" (Prv 14:35). Secondly, because of his purity, for he was a virgin: "He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend" (Prv 22:11). Thirdly, because of his youth, for we have tender feelings for the young and the weak, and act with friendship towards them. And this is the way Christ acted with the youthful John: "When Israel was a child, I loved him" (Hos 11:1). We can see from this that God especially loves those who serve him from their youth: "My soul desires the first ripe figs" [Mic 7:1].

2640 But this seems to go against Proverbs (8:17): "I love those who love me." Peter loved Christ more than the others: "Do you love me more than these?" (21:15). Therefore, Christ should have loved Peter more than John. I answer: it could be said that John, because he was more loved, was happier; while

Peter, because he loved more, was better. But this would be a violation of justice. Consequently, this refers to a mystery: that is, Peter and John stand for two kinds of life, the active and the contemplative, and the end and object of each is Christ. The active life, which Peter signifies, loves God more than the contemplative life (which is signified by John) because it feels more keenly the difficulties of this present life, and more intensely desires to be freed from them and to go to God. But God loves the contemplative life more, because he preserves it longer: it does not come to an end with death, as does the active life: "The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob" (Ps 87:2).

2641 Some try to solve this problem using the literal sense. They distinguish two kinds of love in Christ, according to his two wills, his human and divine will. They say that Christ loved Peter more with his divine love, but he loved John more with his human love. The objection to this is that Christ's human will was entirely conformed to his divine will; and so the more he loved one with his divine will, so also he loved that one more with his human will. Therefore, we should say that he loves that one the more to whom he wills more good. He loved Peter more in the sense that he made Peter love him [Christ] more; Christ loved John more in another sense, that is, by giving him a keener understanding. "The Lord will fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding" [Sir 15:3]. Accordingly, Peter is better because charity is better than knowledge (cf. 1 Cor 13:8); but John is better in keenness of understanding. However, only God can weigh their merits: "The Lord weighs the spirit" (Prv 16:2).

And so others say, and this is better, that Peter loved Christ more in his members; and in this way he was also more loved by Christ. For this reason the Church was entrusted to him. But John loved Christ more in Himself, and in this way was more loved by Christ, who entrusted his mother to John's care. Or, one could say that Peter loved Christ more readily and fervently. While John was more loved by being given tokens of intimate friendship, which Christ gave him on account of his youth and purity.

2642 John adds, who had lain close to his breast at the supper, which commends him to us on the second point, his special intimacy with Christ. This was just explained.

2643 Thirdly, John is commended on account of the special confidence he had in Christ, so that he could question Christ with more assurance than all the others. Thus he adds that this disciple had said, Lord, who is it that is going to betray you? This was also explained before (13:25).

John is recalling his own privileges in order to exalt Peter. One might suppose that because Peter had denied Christ he would not be allowed back to his former intimacy. To reject this, John shows that he was admitted to a greater intimacy. The one who did not dare to question Christ at the supper, but asked John to do it, was made head over his brethren after the passion, and is now questioning Christ not only for himself, but also for John. We can understand from this that those who fall into sin sometimes rise in greater grace: "For just as you purposed to go astray from God, return with tenfold zeal to seek him" (Bar 4:28).

2644 And so the Evangelist immediately shows Peter asking a question, When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, Lord, what about this man? This concerns the future of John. First, we have Peter's question; Christ's answer; and then the interpretation of the answer (v 23).

2645 Regarding the first point, note that when our Lord said to Peter, "Follow me" (v 19), Peter did begin to follow him with bodily steps, and so did John. When Peter noticed John following he asked Christ about him, saying, Lord, what about this man? This was like saying: I am following you in your suffering. But this man, will he die also? John would have asked the same question had he dared.

But according to Chrysostom, Peter was questioning about the leadership [of the Church], not about John's martyrdom.[30] For Peter loved John more than all the other disciples, and they are always found together in the Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. So Peter wanted to have John as his companion in the work of preaching. Peter says, Lord, what about this man? as if to say, "Let him come with me."

2646 Christ's answer is given, So it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Notice that the Greek text does not have "So" but If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Yet the difference is not too important, for whatever the expression, the meaning understood by the apostles from the beginning was that John was not going to die. So it is my will that he remain until I come, was [for them] the same as saying, John will not die until I come.

But this interpretation is rejected by what follows: yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, So it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?

2647 Those who defend the first interpretation, claim that John added this not to exclude the first interpretation but to show that our Lord did not convey that meaning by these words, but only by the words, So it is my will that he remain. This is the reason they say that John has not yet died.

There are various opinions about John's burial. All say that it is true that he was buried in a tomb which still exists. But some say he entered his tomb while still alive, and then left it by divine power, transported to the region of Enoch and Elias, and he is being kept there until the end of the world. According to this, the meaning is: So it is my will that he remain alive until the end of the world; and then, under the Antichrist, he will be martyred along with those other two. For it is not right that he should not die, for whatever is born dies: "It is appointed for men to die once" (Heb 9:27).

Others say he entered his tomb at Ephesus alive, and he remains there still alive, but sleeping, until the Lord comes. They base their theory on the fact that the soil there moves up and down in rhythm with John's breathing. Augustine rejects this by saying that it is not as good to be alive and sleeping as to be alive and blessed.[31] Why then would Christ reward the disciple he loved above the others with a long sleep and deprive him of that great good for the sake of which the apostle wanted to be dissolved and to be with Christ (Phil 1:23). Thus, we should not believe this. Rather, we should say that he died and arose with his body indicated by the fact that his body cannot be found ‑ and remains happy with Christ, as Christ invited him: "He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming soon" (Rev 22:20).

2648 Augustine explains this passage mystically.[32] Then the word remain means "continue on," or "persist," as in "Remain in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high" [Lk 24:49]. Consequently, our Lord is saying about John, that is, about the contemplative life, So it is my will that he remain, that is, continue on, until I come, either at the end of the world, or at the death of any contemplative; for the contemplative life although begun here is not completed here. It remains incomplete and continues on till Christ comes to complete it: "Then they were ... told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete" (Rev 6:11); "Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:42); "Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor" (Prv 3:16). Meanwhile, the active life, completed and vivified by the example of Christ's passion, follows him by suffering for him.

2649 Chrysostom understands it this way: So it is my will that he remain, that is, to remain in Judea, and to preach on this earth; and I want you [Peter] to follow me by having a concern for the entire world, and by suffering for me; and John is to remain until I come, to destroy the Jewish nation.[33] What is that to you? means "These things are for me to decide." For we do see from history that John did not leave Judea until Vespasian came to Judea and took Jerusalem; then John set out for Asia.

2650 Then there is the interpretation of Jerome: Follow me! Peter, by your martyrdom; and so, now speaking about John, it is my will that he remain, without the sufferings of martyrdom and death, until I come, to call him to myself ‑ "I will come again and take you to myself" (14:3) ‑ what is that, this privilege, to you? And so in the stories about blessed John it is said that when he was ninety years old our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him and invited him to his banquet.

2651 Then the Evangelist shows how the disciples understood these words of our Lord. They thought that John would not die. The saying spread abroad among the brethren, the disciples ‑ "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Ps 133:1) ‑ that this disciple, John, was not to die. But he corrects this error, saying, Yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die: "Are you also still without understanding?" (Mt 15:16). The rest has been explained.


24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.[34]

2652 Now we have the last part of this Gospel, which is a kind of epilogue. First, the Gospel is commended; and then the vastness of the subject treated (v 25). The Gospel is commended because of two things: its author, and its truth. Three things are mentioned about the author.

2653 First, there is the authority of the author, because This is the disciple ‑ understanding what was mentioned before who was loved above the others, intimate with Christ, able to question him with confidence, and to whom it was granted to remain until Christ came. All these things refer to the authority of the author.

John is said to have been loved more than the others because of his unique charity: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (13:35). None of the other apostles speak so much of love for others as does John in his letters. We also read that as an old man he was carried to the church by his followers to teach the faithful. He taught only one thing: "Little children, love one another." This is the perfection of the Christian life.

2654 Secondly, John's office is mentioned, which was to give testimony, for he says, who is bearing witness to these things. This is the special office of apostles: "You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8); "You are my witnesses!" (Is 44:8).

2655 Thirdly, he refers to his zeal when he says, and who has written these things. As an apostle he testified to the actions of Christ to those who were present; and in his zeal he recorded these actions in writing for those who were not with him and were to come after him: "Take a large tablet and write upon it in common characters" (Is 8:1); "The wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure; and he who has little business may become wise" (Sir 38:24). For it was granted to John to live until the time when the Church was at peace; and this is the time when he wrote all these things. John mentions such things so that we will not think that his gospel has less authority than the other three, seeing that he wrote after the death of all the other apostles, and the other gospels, especially that of Matthew, had been approved by them.

2656 Now John states that his Gospel is true, and he speaks in the person of the entire Church which received it: "My mouth will utter truth" (Prv 8:7). We should note that although many have written about Catholic truth, there is a difference among them: those who wrote the canonical scriptures, such as the evangelists and apostles and the like, so constantly and firmly affirm this truth that it cannot be doubted. Thus John says, we know that his testimony is true: "If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:9). The reason for this is that only the canonical scriptures are the standard of faith. The others have set forth this truth but in such a way that they do not want to be believed except in those things in which they say what is true.

2657 Now John states the incompleteness of his Gospel as compared with the reality, because Christ not only did these things but there are also many other things which Jesus did.

2658 His statement, were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written, can be understood in two ways. First, the word contain can refer to the capacity of our minds to understand. So the meaning is: So much could be said about Christ that the world could not understand all that could be written: "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," that is, understand them (16:12). We could also regard this statement as a deliberate exaggeration; and it then indicates the abundance of Christ's works.

2659 How reconcile this? He had just said, we know that his testimony is true, and then immediately resorts to hyperbole, exceeding the truth. According to Augustine, Scripture does use figures of speech, such as "I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne" [Is 6:1], and such statements are not false.[35] This is so when hyperbole is used. The desire of the speaker is not that we accept the literal meaning of the words, but what they were intended to mean, that is, the great number of Christ's works. Hyperbole is not used to explain what is obscure or doubtful, but to exaggerate or minimize what is obvious. For example, to emphasize how plentiful something is, one can say that there is enough for a hundred or a thousand people. And to minimize something, one could say that there is hardly enough for three. This is not speaking falsely, because it is so obvious that the words contort the reality that they show that one does not intend to lie, but to indicate that something is great or small.

2660 Or, this statement could be understood to refer to the power of Christ, who performed these signs; and the emphasis is on every one of them. For to write about each and every word and deed of Christ is to reveal the power of every word and deed. Now the words and deeds of Christ are also those of God. Thus, if one tried to write and tell of the nature of every one, he could not do so; indeed, the entire world could not do this. This is because even an infinite number of human words cannot equal one word of God. From the beginning of the Church Christ has been written about; but this is still not equal to the subject. Indeed, even if the world lasted a hundred thousand years, and books written about Christ, his words and deeds could not be completely revealed: "Of making many books there is no end" (Eccl 12:12); The works of God "are multiplied above number" [Ps 50:5].

[1] St. Thomas refers to Jn 21:6 in the Summa Theologiae: III, q. 44, a. 4, ad 1.

[2] Tract. in Io., 122, ch. 1, col. 1959; cf. Catena Aurea, 20:1-11.

[3] Ambrose.

[4] Tract. in Io., 122, ch. 2, col. 1959-60; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:1-11.

[5] XL homiliae in Evangelista; PL 76; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:1-11.

[6] Augustine.

[7] Tract. in Io., 122, ch. 7, col. 1962; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:1-11.

[8] St. Thomas refers to Jn 21:12 in the Summa Theologiae: III, q. 53, a. 2, obj. 3.

[9] In Ioannem hom., 87, ch. 2; PG 59, col. 475; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:1-11.

[10] Tract. in Io., 123, ch. 1, col. 1965; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:1-11.

[11] In Ioannem hom., 87, ch. 2; PG 59, col. 475; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:1-11.

[12] summa

[13] Tract. in Io., 123, ch. 3, col. 1966; also De consensus evangelistarum, 3, ch. 26; PL 34; cf. Catena Aurea,

[14] St. Thomas refers to Jn 21:17 in the Summa Theologiae: III, q. 7, a. 3, s. c.

[15] Aristotle, Politics.

[16] Gregory.

[17] Tract. in Io., 123, ch. 5, col. 1968; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:15-17.

[18] In Ioannem hom., 88, ch. 1; PG 59, col. 478; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:15-17.

[19]Serm. Pasch.; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:15-17.

[20] Tract. in Io., 123, ch. 5, col. 1967; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:15-17.

[21] Greek Doctor.

[22] Aristotle, Rhetoric.

[23] In Ioannem hom., 88; PG 59, col. 479; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:18-19.

[24] Cicero.

[25] Origen, Explanation of Matthew.

[26] St. Thomas refers to Jn 21:21 in the Summa Theologiae: III, q. 83, a. 4, ad 2.

[27] Tract. in Io., 124, ch. 1, col. 1969; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:19-23.

[28] Ibid., col. 1970; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:19-23.

[29] In Ioannem hom., 88, ch. 1; PG 59, col. 480.

[30] In Ioannem hom., 88, ch. 2; PG 59, col. 480; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:19-23.

[31] Tract. in Io., 124, ch. 2, col. 1970; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:19-23.

[32] Ibid.; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:19-23.

[33] In Ioannem hom., 88, ch. 2; PG 59, col. 480.

[34] St. Thomas refers to Jn 21:25 in the Summa Theologiae: III, q. 42, a. 4; q. 83, a. 4, ad 2.

[35] Tract. in Io., 124, ch. 8, col. 1976; cf. Catena Aurea, 21:24-25.