Parable of Reward and Retribution

Matthew 13: 47-53
Ex 40:16-21.34-38 / Ps 84:3-6a,8a,11

… the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea.
(Matthew 13:47)

Ignore His Word and you will end
In anguish and tormenting fire;
Do take the time to read, my friend,
Your Bible, to guide and inspire.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And He replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Mt.13:47-53)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. It has no parallel in any of the other three Gospels. It relates the last lesson that our Lord taught in this chapter of St. Matthew’s account, which started with the Parable of the Sower. It was as if Jesus started His ‘lecture’ with planting, and ended it with a ‘harvesting’: “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them (the wicked) into the furnace of fire . . .

Jesus used this illustration of a fishing equipment for the benefit of His listeners, most of whom were probably fishermen living along the coast of the Lake of Galilee . A dragnet is similar to what trawl fishermen use, which is dragged by a boat. It catches all kinds of fish along its path, including flotsam, seaweeds, etc. God’s kingdom, represented by the Church is like a dragnet, open to all, regardless of religious persuasion or moral condition. It does not discriminate. It gives everyone a chance to believe, repent and be converted.

Today, it is a sad commentary of modern thinking that most people (Christians included) do not believe that there is really a place of eternal torment called hell. The common reasoning is that ultimate damnation could never be allowed by a loving, compassionate Creator. But the Bible has consistently described God as a God of mercy and love as well as a God of justice and retribution. In the end, only the good fish will be collected for the kingdom of heaven, but the bad ones will be thrown into the furnace of hell. Time and again, in all the four Gospel accounts, our Lord Jesus made this clear. And all the teachings of Jesus are eternal and true.

Every “scribe” chosen by the Lord must understand both the Old Testament of the Bible and the teachings of the New in order to share them with other people, most especially those who do not believe in the existence of hell. Having been ‘caught’ in the net of God’s kingdom, we must become His nets in turn, striving to ensnare other souls with His Word. Through regular formation activities in our brotherhood, we have come to realize that it is not enough to be model fathers to our children and good husbands to our wives; we must also strive to become diligent shepherds not only to our community of believers but more especially to non-believers as well. Now that we have been ‘awakened’ by the Gospel truths handed down by our Lord to His first priests (the apostles), we also bear the responsibility of handing them down to others by way of modeling His values in our lives and proclaiming them to those who care to listen. As St. Peter said, quoting old Scripture, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

As You have renewed our lives in the Spirit, Lord, so employ us to bring Your light to others, so that their lives may also be renewed. Amen.

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