Living and Leading in the Deep – Receiving the Promised 153 Fish

September 24, 2023

Receiving the Promised 153 Fish

I remember the day so clearly when Jesus promised 153 fish would come on shore. It was early morning in April 2022, and I was sitting on a couch in an airbnb in San Diego.  Our family was there for vacation over our kids’ Easter break.  I entered prayer that morning as I had many mornings before this one feeling tired. 

My personal life was in the middle of many transitions and losses.  Daily I was slogging through grief.  Our team’s discernment was in process, and all of us were feeling the drastic swings in a day of consolation and desolation.  Each time we stepped forward thinking we had clarity it seemed desolation would whack us in the face.  Desolation reared its head at this season often as overwhelming confusion, stuckness, heaviness like moving through mud, or extreme doubt of the call.  

This morning as I entered prayer, I could feel the onset of the false spirit almost immediately trying to wrap itself around me like a warm blanket that had no intention of actually offering me comfort.  It was there to be a thief and steal hope, joy, peace, courage, or clarity.

I began begging the Holy Spirit for help and adamantly telling the false spirit to get behind me and leave me alone. I frantically searched for the firm ground of consolation as I attempted to fight through the extreme voices of doubt that were loud and clangy.   All signs of how the false spirit shows up and tries to make a muck of things and keep us from stepping forward. The Holy Spirit flooded me with insights from Ignatian wisdom.  This is the of the false spirit that mirrors that loud and splattering sound of water hitting rock (Rule #7 in the Second Week Rules of Discernment).  Stand firm against the false spirit and he will crumble quickly (Rule #14 in the First Set of Rules of Discernment).  Stay in prayer and remain even longer (Rule #6 in the First Set of Rules of Discernment). 

The Holy Spirit helped me take action, and the false spirit was pushed away.  An interior calm came over me, and I was finally able to settle into my prayer.  I opened the daily Gospel to pray with, and found that it was one of the Resurrection stories as we were still in the first few days of the Easter season.  I read John 21: 1-14, where Jesus appears to the disciples on shore, and I was immediately drawn to the number 153. Peter had gone back fishing and to what was known and familiar to him.  The Risen Christ invited him to cast anew, to put out on the right side, and when Peter did, he hauled in 153 fish.  

It was a moment of prayer that shifted everything inside of me.  That day, I had my own encounter with the Risen Christ on the shore.  I knew I was being invited to cast anew.  Christ showed me that if I, and we, said “yes” to the new way of “fishing” in ministry that our nets would be full.  Christ made me the promise of 153 fish.  

With trepidation, I  began taking steps to “cast anew”.  As a team, we also began “casting anew” with more intention.  In May 2022, we invited people to come discern with us.  And guess what?  “Fish” in the form of “yeses” came in.  In July, August, and September of 2022, we held listening sessions to hear from many of you what you desired.  “Fish” appeared in the form of your presence, hearing the desires of your heart, and your affirmation and encouragement to keep stepping forward.  In September 2022, our team met to synthesize and discern what we heard.  “Fish” came on September 12, 2022 in the form of Jenéne Francis holding space for us, in clarity of the birth of Ignatian Ministries, in the confirmation of our name, and in the naming of it being a nonprofit.  In October 2022, “fish” showed up via Lindsey Binion who brought us our logo.  In November 2022,  a “fish” appeared through the presence of Ethan Bush, a nonprofit consultant who walked us through the creation process.  In February 2023, “fish” appeared through creating an LLC called Ignatian Ministries.  In May 2023, “fish” appeared by being able to apply for nonprofit status for that LLC.  On July 1, 2023, “fish” appeared by all operations being set up for Ignatian Ministries.  In July, “fish” appeared by people saying “yes” to being on our launch team. On August 15, 2023, “fish” showed up in the form of bringing Ignatian Ministries to birth. 

In the 43 days since launching Ignatian Ministries, more fish have come ashore in the form of excitement from you, collectives, community, retreatants, donations and so much. “153 fish” were promised as a way to encourage us all to step forward and follow the unfolding call.  Oh how God has kept this promise to us!  I feel like Peter who finally understood that morning fishing in the Gospel that he was standing in front of the Risen Christ and that his life would never be the same. 

Deena, Kathy, and I began thanking Christ at the close of each week for the fish He brought ashore.  What’s now called #fridayfish in our team includes us each listing prayers of gratitude to God for the “fish” brought in this week.  Each time I write my own or read Deena’s and Kathy’s #fridayfish I feel moved by awe at what Christ is doing.  Like Peter who was brought from the familiar to the courage to cast anew, I find myself each Friday in awe and moved to proclaim, “It is the Lord!” 

This post is the last Into the Deep post that will be published on my website.  Starting October 9th, Into the Deep will begin publishing over at Ignatian Ministries.  While there is a sadness in me closing this out on my website, I know that it is time to “cast anew” and trust that God will continue to provide “153 fish” in surprising, awe-filled ways.  Into the Deep, like my entire ministry, outgrew housing it under my name.  It belongs over at Ignatian Ministries where a wider net can be cast to include more writers and you each can have more resources to serve and accompany each of you.  

If you have not already, be sure to sign up for the Ignatian Ministries email list here so you can still receive the incredible wisdom and nourishment of our Into the Deep writers.  

Going Deeper:

  • As mentioned by Becky, be sure to sign up for the Ignatian Ministries email list here so you can still receive the incredible wisdom and nourishment of our Into the Deep writers.  

Photo by Richard Sagredo on Unsplash

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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