THE CATCH AND THE SEPARATION

Thursday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time

            It is just but natural for Jesus to use illustrations from fishing when he is speaking to fishermen. It is as if he were saying, “Look how your daily work speaks to you of the things of heaven.”

            One way of fishing in Jesus’ time and place was with the dragnet –which is referred to in today’s gospel parable. A dragnet is usually spread out between two boats that drag it toward the shoreline. By the time the boats reach the shoreline, the dragnet would be filled with all sorts of fish and other things that it sweeps.

            Once the dragnet is drawn to land, the catch is separated. The useless materials are flung away, and the good ones are put into containers.

            Today’s gospel parable has two great lessons for us:1. It is the nature of the dragnet that it does not, and cannot, discriminate. It is bound to catch or draw in all kinds of things in its course through the water. Its contents are bound to be a mixture. 2. The separation of the good catch from the bad will certainly come. The good and the bad will be sent to their respective destinations. That separation, however, is not our work but God’s.

            One important application of the first lesson is this: The Church, which is the instrument of God’s kingdom on earth, cannot be discriminative. The Church is bound to be a mixture of all kinds of people –good and bad, saints and sinners, useful and useless. As William Barclay puts it, “The Church must be open to all…must be inclusive. As long as it is a human institution it is bound to be a mixture.”

            This also applies to us as individuals: It is our duty to gather in all who will come, and not to judge or separate. Judgment is not ours to pass. We are to leave that to God.

            The task of separating the good from the bad should be reserved to God, who will set things right in his own time. “In his time, he makes all things beautiful… in his time.” In the meantime, patience and tolerance must prevail. We have to show our faith in God who alone knows the human heart.

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