This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
New English Translation (NET)
Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away. 49 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They replied, “Yes.” 52 Then he said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old.”
The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl both emphasise the joy of discovering the process of God’s rule in the world. It carries immediate conviction as something supremely valuable for which it makes sense to risk the whole of one’s means of living.
The parable of the net is similar to the parable of the weeds; God’s rule catches all sorts of queer fish, some of whom will be discarded when the catch is assessed. But the assessment time is not yet. Don’t let anyone make premature judgements!
The first two mirror the experience of Jesus’ disciples. They encountered God’s way of ruling in Jesus and that was decisive: they were convinced and gladly left their previous kind of fishing behind so that they could help fish for people. If this is the way God rules the world, they want to be part of it. They are not forced or deceived; their joy is genuine. This is a more profound experience than what is usually called salvation. It is a joyful participation in God’s way of ruling the world. There is no great distinction between oneself and others.
The parable of the net encourages a kind of careless fishing that is now much attacked. Boats are now discouraged from scooping up by-catch as this is ecologically bad management. This was not an issue in Jesus’ day. Those who help catch people are reminded that you don’t examine the catch while you’re still fishing; but when you land it for assessment, then yes, the good ones are kept and the bad burnt. The good and the bad are not necessarily separate people but may be the mix of good and bad in all people. If you were determined never to catch any bad fish you would never fish at all.
Matthew quotes Jesus as praising the experts in the law (“scribes”) who understand the new “Law of God’s Rule”; they know that the old Torah is precious, especially when it is supplemented by the new Torah of Jesus. Matthew’s gospel is concerned that the faith of Jesus should be seen as a fulfilment of the faith of Moses. In Matthew’s time orthodox rabbis were teaching that the Torah of Moses contradicted the Torah of Jesus and that therefore good Jews must decide for Moses. They were saying that you couldn’t be genuinely Jewish and Christian. Matthew, himself a Jew, asks why not.