Today we encounter two Bible images at Holy Mass. One: perhaps the most genuinely terrifying. The other: among the most consoling.
1. We are floating around in a vast and murky ocean, like little minnows. Of a sudden, an enormous dragnet falls from the shimmering surface above. We get yanked up into an unfamiliar, bright light.
The dragnet contains an enormous amount of junk. Mostly junk. A few good, edible items. Expert sorters go through everything. The junk gets burned. The few worthy little treasures go into a bucket.
God Almighty proposes this image to us as a metaphor by which we can understand our entire earthly existence. If that doesn’t terrify us, well…
2. Meanwhile: We, the People of God—each of us individually, and all of us collectively, the holy nation extending to the four corners of the earth—we are a moist lump of clay on a potter’s wheel.
Now, I do not throw pots. But I think we all know one of the great maxims of throwing clay. Namely, that moist clay on a spinning wheel can always get re-molded. Ugly disproportion can become a lovely circle. Lumps can be kneaded away. As long as the potter has the expertise, and the clay still moist, and the wheel still turning: there’s hope. Beauty is still possible.
In this case, the potter has the expertise. He is God. What we need is faith enough to believe: He has us—each of us individually, and all of us together—He has us in His strong, deft, and skillful hands. Molding us into something.
God Almighty proposes this, also, as a metaphor by which we can understand our entire earthly existence.
So: Yes, we float in a murky sea, most of the contents of which will ultimately burn in an unquenchable fire, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. For now we swim around in the dark, like helpless little Nemos.
But, in this case: Nemo is not just a cartoon; he’s made of moist clay. And the hands of God can mold him, if Nemo only allows it, into something like a mighty dolphin or a frolicking orca. All Nemo has to do is believe in Jesus Christ.