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A Fish Tale

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Our parish is blessed with priests who are great preachers and today was no exception. Father took the above Gospel and reminded us that the Kingdom of Heaven envelops all of us—saints and sinners and everything in between. At the final judgment the angels will sort the good fish from the bad. In the meantime, we are all swimming together. Please also note that the fish are not sorting themselves out. It is not my job to make any decisions about who belongs in the saint bucket and who belongs in the sinner bucket. It is my job to seek holiness and leave the sorting to God.

Father continues that same theme that has been confronting me recently. We are not rounded up in the net in a random fashion. God has put us in this place and this time for a reason. We may not know the reason, but we can rest assured there is a plan. By our words and deeds we are supposed to help build the defenses against evil and help our neighbors swim with us towards Heaven.

Now this is fine as an abstract thought, but what does it mean in the concrete day-to-day world? First of all, it means keeping our eyes on the ultimate prize. While the waters of this earthly life may feel great, they will not sustain us for eternity. No earthly pleasure is worth our eternal salvation. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Mt. 16:26) Therefore, every decision, whether it is professional, family, political, or recreational, must be governed by whether or not it is good for the soul. Is it consistent with Church teachings?

In addition to caring for our own souls, we have an obligation to be mindful of the souls around us. Remembering that the good and the evil are all rounded up together, there are some really difficult folks muddying up the waters around me. I can see what they are doing and I don’t like it one bit. But if I just turn my back on them and remain satisfied that I am not doing what they are doing, I have failed in my mission. I have a responsibility first to pray for the conversion of all those who are living contrary to God’s law. Those advocating abortion, those who promote an unchaste lifestyle, those who worship materialism, those who preach moral relativism all need my prayers. And if the truth be told, I am muddying the waters with my own failings. If I trust God’s mercy will save me from my own sins, I must also trust that his mercy is also available to everyone else no matter how great their offenses. They only need the grace to accept this mercy and repent. So I have a responsibility to pray that they receive that grace.

One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to instruct the ignorant. That means I cannot allow myself to be ignorant. I must continue to study and pray and deepen my faith. I must also teach. I teach by example. My life must reflect God’s will. I will not inspire others to holiness if I do not model holiness. I also teach by accurately stating the Truth. It is very uncomfortable in our politically correct culture to speak out for absolute truth. But that is what we are each called to do. Life is sacred from conception to natural death. Marriage is only between one man and one woman and is a lifelong commitment. Getting to Heaven is more important than earthly fame and fortune. With charity and compassion, I am called to preach the truth of the Gospel: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6)

So I am going to keep swimming along trying to stay mindful of the Kingdom of Heaven. One of these days this net is going to be pulled ashore. My prayer is that both I and those whose lives I have touched will be judged keepers.


Anonymous said…
These are beautiful words indeed.

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