The Net In The Sea
Reflection on Mt. 13:47-50
A Pharisee stands on the edge of the crowd. He has persuaded himself that he is an objective observer. What has really brought him here, though, is a mixture of curiosity and fear, and because of this, a determination to prove this itinerant Rabbi wrong. His own adherence to Pharisaical tradition depends on this. And so he observes.
“Look at this crowd,” he thinks. “Simple, uneducated men and public sinners! Are these the kind of people who come to hear him speak?” The Pharisee is, of course, discounting himself…and that centurion over there…and the handful of wealthy people…and that other Pharisee who seems to listen with great interest.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,” Jesus is saying, “which collects fish of every kind.”
“Well, every kind is here,” the Pharisee mutters to himself. “A crowd which shouldn’t tread the outer court of the Temple, let alone be a part of the Kingdom of heaven.”
If you stop to think about it, it is true that among the crowds that flocked to Jesus were plenty of “unsavory” characters. Yet, isn’t it reassuring that even known sinners felt they could come to Jesus? For, whom does God call to Himself? The perfect? The righteous? No, as Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mt. 9:13). That is good news for all of us.
I think of a pilgrimage to Rome I made a number of years ago. Our group was motley: friars, sisters, laity; older and younger people; married, single; those with good jobs and roofs over their heads and a few homeless. I remember looking at our group with wonder. Only God could have brought us together. We had our challenges. Some of our members tended to wander off on their own. It was hard to get us all moving. One day we were so late to a conference we were attending that, in a stadium that seated 25,000, we couldn’t find seats for 20 together. But undoubtedly, God was at work. On the final leg of the trip, which went a day longer than planned because our original return flight was cancelled, we got stuck in traffic on the highway. Tired and ready to be home, it was easy to give in to frustration. At that point one of the homeless men piped up. “Nothing good comes easy,” he said placidly, taking it all in stride. Yes, I was reminded, it is good we are all together on this journey—struggling and helping each other along the way.
On this pilgrimage through life, we need not worry about the sorting out of the bad fish—God will take care of that at the end of time. “The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous,” as good fish are put into buckets and bad thrown away. Rather, we can focus on striving to be saints and pray that the buckets may be filled to overflowing with all kinds. As part of the Church that “gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 827) we can rejoice in the universality of the call to belong to Christ, leaning on and helping each other along the way.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God. (Jn. 1:12)
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR