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. (Matthew 13:47-50)
For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. (James 2:10)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." (Matthew 9:37-38)
The parable of the dragnet can be a very sobering one, especially if we have a misguided or incorrect view of the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father. When we think about the fact that his angels will one day separate the good from the bad, it may cause us to get somewhat concerned about ourselves! When we contemplate how God the Father will judge us, we must surely pause for a moment and take stock of how we’re doing. Still, we want to be sure we’re using the right understanding of the nature and character of our Heavenly Father and the right measuring tools when we look at our lives!
If we read this parable in a legal way, we can end up seeing God the Father as an accountant who balances our spiritual ledger: If the sum of our good deeds is greater than the sum of our bad deeds, we’re safe. Otherwise, lookout! The problem with this approach, however, is that if we break even one commandment, we’ve broken all of them (James 2:10). If God the Father evaluated us according to our sins, none of us would make it! That’s why we should be very grateful that he uses a different standard to judge us—the standard of his love and mercy.
Our Heavenly Father does not want us paralyzed with fear at the thought of his judgment. And he doesn’t want us being fearful about whether we will be able to maintain the salvation his Son has won for us on the Cross. It’s his to give, and he has graciously given it to us! His Son has already overcome sin, and his forgiveness extends to all of us who have put our faith in him.
God has much more important things he wants us to spend our time and energy on—things like serving him and building his kingdom. Jesus once told his disciples that the harvest is ready, but the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37-38). He doesn’t want us to be so preoccupied with our own spiritual state that it paralyzes us, and we don’t go out and share the good news of his kingdom.
So in your prayers, praise your Heavenly Father for his love and mercy. He’s not some harsh cop in the sky or some harsh judge. He is the kindest, most generous, and most loving Father there is. Also in your prayer, ask him how you can join his angels in tending to that dragnet. Let the power of his salvation fill you with gratitude, but let it also move you into the world, confident that with Christ in you, you can move mountains.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and forgiveness! As I meditate on your love for me, I am amazed that your love is so great that you were willing to send your beloved Son to die on the cross for my sins. Help me to know and experience your love and mercy in a deeper way. By your Spirit, show me how I can spread the good news so that even more people can come to know your love for them and love you in return.”
Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/ ), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism , (http://www2.wau.org/partners/ ), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us . Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ) for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. What is your reaction to the parable of the dragnet?
2. In the article, we hear these words: “Our Heavenly Father does not want us paralyzed with fear at the thought of his judgment.” Do you agree with these words? Why or why not?
3. Why can an out of balance fear of God the Father prevent us from being a witness to others of our Christian faith?
4. In what way is your view of your Heavenly Father influenced by your own earthly father?
5. What is your reaction to these words from the article on the nature of our Heavenly Father? “He’s not some harsh cop in the sky or some harsh judge. He is the kindest, most generous, and most loving Father there is.”
6. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that each of you would have a deeper knowledge and experience of the great love of your Father in Heaven. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.