Despite prior claims to the contrary, the Jesus who meets us in today’s Gospel certainly does not seem very meek or humble of heart. Words like “fiery furnace” and “wailing and grinding of teeth” not only sound jarring coming from the Good Shepherd; they can be hard to hear. These kinds of words make me wonder: does Jesus want me to feel afraid of him? Will he be angry if I don’t start sorting the good from the bad right now?
Noticing two things brings some clarity to such charged questions. First, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of heaven here, and talking about it as a fishing net that catches all kinds of things, bad and good alike. In this analogy it’s Jesus who is the fisherman, and my own role is simple, to let myself be caught.
I don’t think he actually wants me to be afraid; no, I think he wants me to do just what the Israelites did in the first reading: remain settled where God’s glory is settled, let myself be gathered up by him. And second, I think it’s important to notice one key thing about who does the sorting of the good and bad things the heavenly net has caught, and that’s this: it is not us.
Our task is not to sort the bad or good (that’s reserved for “the angels,” thank God) but simply to be gathered together in his nets, trusting that if we have listened and acted on our deepest desires, on the cries our souls make for God in this life, then we will dwell in his courts both now and in the next.
—Fr. Patrick “Paddy” Gilger, SJ, was ordained on June 15, 2013, and is serving as Associate Pastor of St. John’s Parish, Creighton University, Omaha. Click here for an Ignatian News Network video on ordination featuring Fr. Gilger.