‘This is how it will be at the end of the age…’
Five Parables from Matthew’s Gospel (3)
The skeletal remains of an ancient fishing boat recovered by archaeologists from the Sea of Galilee serve as a reminder that fishing was as essential as farming in Palestine in the days of Jesus Christ. As was his way, Jesus made use of vivid images from the everyday life of fisherman in his parables, as we have seen him do with seeds and soil.
In his chapter on the parables, the Evangelist Matthew notes the parable of the dragnet let down into the lake to catch all kinds of fish. The net stands for the Church, whose Gospel message is meant to draw all sorts of men and women to it. Truly, Jesus was a master in drawing on everyday realities to demonstrate the spiritual truths of the Kingdom of God.
All sorts of inedible sea creatures are hauled up indiscriminately by the dragnet. In a similar way, Jesus is telling us, the Church is meant to be a mixed body. That means that people from all walks of life and social conditions are welcome. The invitation of Christ is inclusive, not selective. Indeed, Jesus even – or especially – dealt with those considered unsavory or contemptible by the religious and political elite.
However, like the parable of the Weeds among the Wheat, there is a sting to the parable of the Dragnet. For the time will come, Jesus tells us, when the wheat will be gathered, and the weeds bundled and burned. The catch will be drawn from the net, and the good fish will be sorted out into baskets while the bad will be thrown away.
The harvesters and the fishermen, Jesus tells us, represent the angels who will come at the end of the age to separate the wicked from the righteous. Matthew wants to weigh in forcefully not only that the Gospel is for everyone to hear, but also that everyone who hears will be judged by his or her response. The parables of the Weeds among the Wheat and the Dragnet full of Fish look forward to the Lord’s great declaration which we read in the Church on the Sunday of Last Judgment just before Lent.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…(Matt. 25: 31-32)
Yet ‘gospel’ means good news, and the good news is that the Lord in His mercy gives us time for repentance and the chance to separate ourselves from the unrighteous before the great and final division at the last judgment. And so St. Paul tells us
Therefore come out from them,
and be separate from them, says the Lord (2 Cor. 6:17).