26 July 2020

A Fish Story: Caught in the Net of Christ's Gospel

The Lord Jesus Christ, that expert Fisherman, has caught you in His Net, and He has brought you aboard His Boat, His Holy Church.  He has made you a member of His Household.  And here within His House, as a good and faithful Scribe, He teaches you all about the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is by the catechesis of His Word, and by the washing of water with His Word in Holy Baptism, that He has made you a disciple of His Kingdom, a fish in His Net.  So, what kind of fish are you?

When it comes to the sorting of the fish at the close of the age, will you be among the righteous who are gathered in, or among the wicked who are thrown out?

If you would know and understand these Mysteries of the Kingdom, hear and heed the catechesis of Christ Jesus.  You are to be holy, as He is holy.  You are to be perfect, as He is perfect.  You are to be righteous, as He is righteous.  And you are to have no other gods besides Him.

Search for Him diligently.  Seek for Him always.  And when you have found Him, let go and leave behind everything else.  Let go of all the treasures that you would otherwise cling to and depend upon, in order that Christ may be and remain your true and only Treasure on earth and in heaven.

Love Him most.  Love Him best.  Let Him be the priceless Treasure for which you willingly give up everything else.  Let Him be the one great Pearl on which you fix your single-minded devotion.

Put away all the other gods (the idols) that occupy your heart, mind, body, and life.  Put away all the other gods from your thinking, from your speaking, and from the way that you act.  In short, do not allow anything to deter you or distract you from Christ Jesus.  And do not allow anything or anyone to compete with Him for your time and attention, for your energy and your affection.

Favor the Lord Jesus Christ above even your own home and family, indeed, more than even your own life.  Rather serve your home and family with Christ Jesus.  Take care of them with His Word.  Do not neglect the catechesis of those whom the Lord has placed under your care and supervision.

In particular, if you are a father, you are the head of your household and family, and the burden of responsibility for your wife and children falls especially on you.  God has commanded you to teach them His Word, to pray with them, to bring them to church, and to see to it that they are kept safe and secure within the Net of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  Do that, in order that they may live.

If there is any treasure in your life other than Christ, be done with it, and get rid of it.  If there is anything that you value more than Him — anything that consumes you at the expense of His Word — Repent, and put all of that away from you, lest you be put out and cast away from Him forever.

What are those things in your life?  Or who is it that you love and honor more than Jesus Christ?

What’s your price?  If it’s not thirty pieces of silver, what does it take to buy you off?  What does it take — how much, or how little — to turn you away from Christ and the hearing of His Word?

The truth of the matter is that, even if you were able to gain the entire world, if you let go of Jesus, then you have let go of everything.  You have lost everything.  And you, yourself, will be lost.

Again, what kind of fish are you?  When that great Net is finally dragged to shore and all the fish are sorted, will you be gathered with the righteous or thrown out with the wicked into eternal fire?

You have no righteousness of your own.  By your inheritance from Adam, there is nothing but sin and death in your heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit.  You are, as you have confessed, sinful and unclean.  You have fallen far short of the glory of God, and you have gone astray from His Law in all your thoughts, words, and actions — by what you have done wrong, and by the good that you have left undone.  Your faith and your love are not what they should be.

What hope, then, do you have?  How shall you ever see or ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Well, understand that the Kingdom of Heaven is nothing like you.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not like your life on earth.  The Kingdom of Heaven does not look like all your striving after stuff.

But the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand in that Man who has found you — who has sought you out and found you hidden in the world, a sinner among sinners — that Man who has given everything, even Himself, in order to redeem you, to purchase and win you for Himself forevermore.

You are His treasure.  You are His pearl of great price.  Not because of any merit or worthiness, strength or impressiveness in you, but solely for the sake of His divine and holy Love.  It is for the sake of His Love that He has done this.  And it is on account of the price that He has paid for you — when you were worth nothing — that you are of such exceedingly great and precious value.

It was in His Love for you, for the sake of His divine and holy Love, that He came down from His Father in heaven, and sought you out, and found you, in order to save you and to bring you with Himself into the Kingdom of Heaven, to the bosom of His God and Father.

It is with great joy that He has purchased you for Himself, ransomed and redeemed you, and paid for you — lost and condemned person though you were — not with gold or silver, but with His holy and precious Blood and by His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own.

He delights in you.  He truly does.  He takes great joy in you.  You are His greatest pleasure, you are His dearest treasure.  For He has sought you out and paid the dowry of His own Body and Life, that you should be a member of His beloved and beautiful Bride, His Holy Christian Church.

And it is in His great joy and delight over you — for the sake of His Love, for the sake of His Beloved Bride — even for you who are His treasure and His pearl of great price — it is for all this that He has bought the entire Field.  He has purchased and redeemed the whole wide world.

So, if you’re in the field, if you’re part of the world, Jesus has paid for you, and you belong to Him.

All this He has done because He loves you.  There is nothing in heaven or on earth more sure and certain than that.  When everything else has passed away, this Truth remains: That for your sake, Jesus has given Himself and paid for you with His own life; and not only you, but the entire world.

So it is that He causes His Gospel to be preached, even to the ends of the earth.  He sends out His Apostles to preach, to catechize, to baptize, to absolve, and to commune disciples from all nations.  In St. Mark, as I have often pointed out, He sends them out to preach the Gospel to all creation.

And it is by that great Dragnet of the Gospel that He has called you by name, and He has caught you into His warm and wide embrace, as surely as He has gone fishing for you by His preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins.  That is how He’s taken you in hand.

He surely has not tricked you.  He does not lie to you.  Take it to heart that you are not in His Net by any mistake.  You are not in His Net by accident.  He knows right where you are.  He has called you to Himself because, in love, He desired to make you His own — and His Gospel makes it so.

The One who has called you is faithful and sincere.  By His Blood, your sins are forgiven.  All of them.  Every last one.  He is not ignorant or naive, but in mercy He has forgiven you everything.

As Christ and His Holy Spirit have called you by the Gospel, so has He justified you with His own Righteousness — just as He is righteous.  You will not be thrown out with the wicked, though that is what you deserve.  Instead, you are gathered into the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ Jesus because, by His grace, through faith in His forgiveness of sins, you are righteous and holy in Him.

It is by and with that Gospel of His that He adorns you beautifully, and He glorifies you with His own Glory.  As often as He preaches to you, as often as He feeds you with Himself, His Body and His Blood, so are you among His many brethren, abiding with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven.

He is the Head of His Household and Family, and as a good and faithful Head of His Bride and all the children of God, He takes care of you by and with His Word.  So, then, you are the sort of fish that Jesus is, because by His Gospel He has declared you to be righteous and holy and perfect, as He Himself is righteous and holy and perfect.  He is in the Field with you, in the Net, and in the Boat — He is here on the Altar in His House — in the Ciborium and Chalice, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins — that you should be with Him in His Kingdom forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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