Homily for Sunday, August 8, 2010

There are 153 Fishes in One Rosary – by Pamela Lee
             An old chum of mine once said that if a Biblical basis for the Rosary could be found, he’d pray it.  That was quite a challenge.  I knew there was a Biblical basis for the Hail Mary.  The angel Gabriel spoke the words in Luke 1:28, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women.”  Then, in Luke 1:42, Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, added, “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”  The rest of the prayer is not Biblical, but the first portion is undeniably recorded bySt. Luke.

             However, the challenge was not given to me to find a Biblical basis for the Hail Mary.  It was for the entire Rosary.  Having read the New Testament several times, I wondered if this might be a futile task.  I couldn’t recall any mention of the Rosary, or any type of prayer similar to it.  All I could recall was St. Luke saying we should “pray without ceasing.”  One could pray the Rosary all day if he wanted to.  Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, the children who saw Our Lady of Fatima, prayed six or seven Rosaries daily according to some of their biographers.

             At any rate, I wasn’t about to let this challenge slide by the wayside.  Something told me that since the Rosary was a gift from Mary to St. Dominic and was not a man-made devotion, there was a good chance that somewhere between the black covers of my Bible, there could very well be an allusion to it.

            Several months later, between Easter and the Ascension, a portion of the last chapter of St. John’s Gospel was read at Sunday Mass.  This was the story about how St. Peter and several of his disciples were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias.  They had fished for an entire night and had not caught so much as one sardine.  The following morning, there was a man on shore who called out to them and asked if they had caught any fish.  They said no.  The men then said to cast the net off the starboard side of the ship.  They followed his instructions.  Suddenly, the net groaned as a great multitude of fishes swam into it.  When the disciples recognized this man as Jesus, they rushed to shore, dragging the net filled with fishes behind them.  After their arrival, they deposited the fishes on land.  There were exactly 153 of them.

             The rest of that Sunday, I kept wondering why St. John made such a point of telling us there were exactly 153 fishes.  Why not a round number like 150?  Then I remembered the challenge given to me to find a Biblical basis for the Rosary.  I thought how like the Rosary is this net, only instead of being used to catch fish, it is used to catch souls.  Not only is there a similarity in the net, but there are exactly 153 Hail Marys in the fifteen decade Rosary!  Undoubtedly, this beautiful story about the miraculous catch of fish was just the passage I needed.  One of its interpretations could surely be related to this heavenly devotion, the Rosary, Mary’s gift to fishers of men.



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