Dear brothers and sisters,
The parable of the dragnet from today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 13:44-52) teaches us a crucial lesson about the Church: It is in the world, but not of the world. The net symbolizes the Church, and the fish are the members of the Church – you and me. The water symbolizes the world of human history, in which the Church exists and with which the Church interacts. At the end of history, there will be a judgment. Jesus will “come again to judge the living and the dead,” as we pray every week in the Creed. At this judgment, some of the fish in the net will be saved, but others will be thrown back, into the fiery furnace, “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matthew 13:50); but until judgment day, the net remains fully immersed in the water.
Picture the huge dragnet as it is suspended in the water. It is separate from the water, the world, but it is affected by everything that happens to the water. The currents, a storm, a wave – the net moves in response to all those influences, but it maintains its integrity even so. That’s what the Church is like. She is affected by the cultural trends around us, and yet, she is never weakened or broken by them. She is flexible enough to adjust to the ebb and flow of history, while always maintaining her own shape and strength, keeping her “fish” safe inside her sturdy ropes. The Church is meant to be active in the world, present in the world, spreading the influence of Christ in the world, saving the world; and if that’s how the Church is supposed to be, that’s also how we, members of the Church, are supposed to be: in the world, but not of the world (adapted from www.epriest.com).