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home : opinion : word of faith

7/27/2017 9:00:00 AM
WORD OF FAITH
Are we good or bad fish?
BY SISTER ANNA MARIE MCGUAN, RSM


FROM A READING FOR JULY 30, 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
'Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?...' -- 1 Kgs 3:9


Like last Sunday, this Sunday we hear three metaphors for the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus and St. Matthew take great pains to describe this multi-faceted reality: It is interior and, at the same time, outside of us; we receive it now, but we also enter it fully only when we die; it is extremely valuable, but very hidden.

This Sunday, we hear (Mt 13:44-52) the comparisons with the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in a field. We learned last week of the hiddenness of the kingdom of heaven; now, we hear about its tremendous value.

In the case of the treasure hidden in the field, the person purchases everything around the treasure to get to the treasure. Perhaps the man didn't really care for the field, but purchased it to get what he did care for a great deal: the treasure.

At times, we are asked to do things that we may not want to do: have an honest conversation with someone, forgive someone or give up a grudge, for example. We do the thing because of the end we are shooting for: the kingdom of heaven, the treasure.

That goal gives reason to all my acts: I do the right thing, even if I find it distasteful, because it will get me what I ultimately want, which is God Himself.

Undervaluing faith
In the case of the pearl of great price, Jesus tells us that the merchant had to sell everything to purchase the pearl. That also implies the contrary: that someone else was willing to sell the pearl, and others had not recognized its value.

Christianity can be looked down upon or undervalued by people, but that does not change the fact that it is a most valuable pearl, a truly beautiful object.

Once we understand the gift of God's revelation -- what it actually means that He loves me, and nothing can change that love -- we cling to the "pearl" with fierce and ardent love. There is nothing that could convince me to give up my faith: no person or idea, no threat, no novelty. The greatest example of this, of course, is Christian martyrdom.

The final parable refers to the final judgment. The net cast into the sea brings in fish of every kind. Some are good; some are bad. The good are kept; the bad are discarded.

Where we're going
Note that this final placement of human persons will occur independent of our desiring it. Jesus tells us that the final judgment will happen, but does not say who will get which reward.

We can never be absolutely certain whether we are good or bad fish. We can never presume upon God's mercy and clemency; but we can pray, and should pray daily, for the grace of final perseverance: to obtain the blessed reward of dwelling in God's presence forever in heaven.

Like for Solomon in Sunday's first reading (1 Kgs 3:5,7-12), the gift of wisdom allows us to order all things rightly, according to God's view of things. With wisdom, we know how to govern ourselves in order to achieve our final end: union with God.

Wisdom is tied to the grace of final perseverance. This would be impossible without the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul reminds us (Rom 8:28-30). The Holy Spirit is the one who guides us in wisdom, for we are called according to God's purpose, in order to make us more like Jesus.

Then, we have nothing to fear at the final judgment. We have been with God all our lives, and will be with Him forever.





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