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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to the disciples: “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. 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.” When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
Opening Prayer: Lord, I come before you today seeking your wisdom as I go about my day. Please open my eyes and my heart to your gentle guidance and to the opportunities to serve you and your people today. Heighten my awareness of the areas in my life I need to turn over to you for help.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: As fisherman, many of those hearing these words of Jesus were familiar with the scenario he described. In their daily work it would have been routine to cast out a net until it was full of fish and later to sort out which fish were good enough to eat or sell and which needed to be discarded. We heard a similar allegory earlier in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 3:12) when Jesus spoke of being “ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork.” Just as a farmer would sort out and discard the worthless chaff from the valuable wheat, Jesus will separate sin and evil from his church, the world, and our communities at the end of times. Until then, the good, the bad, and the ugly will continue to exist as part of our fallen world.
- The Wicked and the Righteous: It is easy to become convinced of our own righteousness and call out the wickedness of anyone who does not agree with us. Sadly, within our own Church, country, and families, we often hear proclaimed this false sense of being “on the right side” of theology, politics, or a family conflict. These parables clearly tell us that wickedness and righteousness will continue to do battle in our Church, our communities, our families, and indeed in our souls. With the exception of the Blessed Mother and Jesus himself, there has never been a human being who is completely righteous and without sin. One of the devil’s favorite tricks is to get us to focus on the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own. Rather than lamenting the state of the world, we turn to God, asking the grace to pursue our own holiness and root out our own sin.
- The New and the Old: A good household manager carefully curates storage areas on a regular basis removing junk, clutter, and items that do not bring value to his or her home. Similarly, we “declutter” our souls when we take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation, see our spiritual director, and seek mental health care if necessary. We ask God’s help in decluttering our souls of sin, sinful tendencies, negative mental narratives, and all kinds of spiritual junk that keeps us from being the person God created us to be. He restores us and moves in with his grace to fill us to overflowing with his abundant goodness.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, grant me patience and love when I encounter those who think, speak, and act differently than I do. Teach me to see every person I encounter as you see them, with eyes of love and a desire for their good. Curate my heart, my mind, and my soul and fill me with love for good and hatred for sin. Keep me from being judgmental of others, and when I am tempted to be judgmental, gently remind me of my own need for forgiveness.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I pray this prayer from St. Ignatius Loyola:
Take, Lord, and receive my memory, my understanding, my entire will. All that I am, all that I have, are your gift to me. I now return them to you. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I am rich enough, and desire no more.
For Further Reflection: The Second Coming of the Lord and the Last Judgment, by Fr. William Saunders.
Cathy Stamper is a wife, mother of five young adults, and business owner. She reads and writes from her home in Maryland, where she lives with her husband, her beloved dog, and an assortment of finicky cats.
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