The net

By: Simeon Dumdum Jr. July 27,2014 - 11:52 AM

Not too long ago, the wife and I spent a weekend at my sister and brother-in-law’s beach property on the western side of the island. We took a long, winding road that crossed the mountains, passing by the open pits of a mining company where I once worked. The journey took a little under two hours, and more than gave us value for our effort. Because when we arrived a most wonderful seascape welcomed us — a glittering sea, a long and largely unspoiled shore, and, at sunset, a Heraclitean sky of changing fires.

We spent the night at a cabana by a pool, and — my brother and sister having joined us — the ribbon of conversation unspooled itself well into the little hours. The Son and his family joined us the next day, and in no time our four-year-old grandchild made for the pool and there splashed the morning away.

Things got a little slack in the afternoon.  We turned towards the sea, which the whole time had stayed with us like an obsession, and whose lure became irresistible in the four-o’clock sun. Perhaps because it looked limitless, and this gave the earth-bound heart a perception of transcendence, long denied it by the incessant movements of city life.  Or a sense of unhurried time from the way the folk scrape by on its surface and seams.

We saw beachcombers, and fishermen far out in boats whose size distance had reduced into that of toys.

Three men, a woman and a boy walked on the shore before us, all the while pulling a rope that came out of the sea. We did not know what the rope held at its other end, still we decided to assist them in their tug of war against the sea. As we helped haul the rope and moved along the edge of the water, we noticed another group about fifty meters away, likewise tugging a rope. When we finally closed the distance between us, something surfaced from below — a dragnet. When the dragnet reached the shore, the fishermen checked its pocket and there we saw alive and leaping all manner of fish — some familiar, others strange and inedible. For our assistance, we received two scaly, longish types, which, it turned out, had more bones than the cook could handle.

The dragnet reminded me of a parable that, Matthew writes, Jesus recounted, in which he compared the kingdom of heaven to a dragnet “cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds.” When the dragnet is full, Jesus said, “the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use.”

Jesus continued, “This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

Jesus consorted with fishermen and must have seen how they worked the dragnet. Or, who knows, he might have stood on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias and witnessed a scene similar to what we saw that afternoon — two groups of men, women and children pulling the ends of a rope tied to a dragnet in the sea. Jesus drew from the lives of the fishermen to illustrate how God’s justice works, how it rewards and punishes. A parable does not require an exact correspondence between image and meaning, and leaves itself open for the ones addressed to locate themselves in the picture. In a way a parable resembles a dragnet, from which one picks the message that applies to oneself, considering one’s personal circumstances, and disregards the message that does not.

And what of ourselves?  Better if already, before the angels begin the selection, we have separated within the smaller dragnet of ourselves the wicked from the just person, discarding the former and choosing the latter.

Of this, the sea, with its note of transcendence and peace, serves as reminder, best taken note of before the apocalyptic fires of the sunset that precedes the night.

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TAGS: Cebu, Gospel of the day, Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr, seascape, Sunday Essay

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