Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Exodus 40:16-21.34-38; Matthew 13:47-53)
We might call the significance of the two parables in today’s gospel “a matter of emphasis.” Jesus emphasizes the bad fish and the new teaching. He summarily says the good fish will be put into buckets but explains that corrupt people are like bad fish and will be thrown in fiery furnaces. Jesus more subtly emphasizes his new teaching in the storeroom of wisdom by inverting the expected order of words. Rather than speaking of old before new, he gives priority to his new teaching before the ancient wisdom of the Scriptures.
The new teaching is the kingdom of heaven which now has definitively come through Jesus’ presence. It brings joy, peace, and happiness to those who repent of their sins. The old teaching – the Law and its commandments – has not been suspended but human concern goes beyond keeping its statues. The bad fish are those who never repent, that is, never look at their faults, ask forgiveness, or endeavor to live Jesus’ new righteousness.
Here again Jesus challenges the sensibilities of the modern world. We like to think that we can get away with doing evil. Many have no problem with telling a lie or absenting themselves from Mass on Sundays as long as they help the poor. Jesus is indicating that there is a problem. He would agree with the ancient Greek moralists who said, “First, do no evil.” Likewise, many today have trouble saying, “I’m sorry.” Jesus would want us to do so every time we err. It is part of what he intends when he tells us to repent.