Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Great Fish

I confess that I am a lost soul. So lost, indeed, that I wonder whether it makes sense even to hope of being found, or finding anything really at all. So often when I hear those with faith discuss salvation I wonder, salvation from what? We take on faith our births and gradually come to a sense of self; we flicker, flame, dampen and die. I've no confidence in a life to come. I see no need to wager as did Pascal; there is nothing about human experience that leads me to consider that death is anything other than annihilation. "Come sweet death," Bach wrote.

But still I am puzzled and drawn the accounts of the historical Jesus. The parables attributed to him resonate with me and fascinate me in a way that feels much like a beckoning. The kingdom of heaven is an image I grapple with almost daily. Is it at hand? What can that mean?

The parable of the Great Fish leaves me stone coldand sheds no light. It is reported in the Gospel of Matthew, 13: 47-50, and reads as follows:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Weeping and gnashing of teeth? We all know sorrow and grief. I know loss and the weight of what cannot be changed. But angels? Fire? I recall as a child worrying about the afterlife. Neither option appealed: Heaven and endless Hosannas struck terror. Imagine the boredom after several million years of the same old, same old. And Hell? Somehow that seemed less terrifying than heaven. Wouldn't pain eventually cauterize? Isn't the sense of eternity really just an illusion?

Time did not come to an end after the crucifixion of Jesus. The generation that saw his death has passed, and the generation after that, and after that ... on and on into two millenia of time's passing. There is no kingdom to come, and, if there is, worrying it seems pointless. I was unprepared for the life I lead when decades ago I tumbled from a womb.

This parable falls on deaf ears and eyes that cannot see.