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Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

"Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away." (Mt. 13:44-52)

Over three thousand Black Catholics and allies gathered to write a prophetic call to be visionaries at the National Black Catholic Conference XIII at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD. In Cardinal Wilton Gregory's opening Mass on Friday, July 21, 2023, His eminence said, "Visionaries are important people for every culture. They are the ones who are able to see and to discover unimagined possibilities. They are those who offer people hope. They are the lead agents for change. We all need visionaries and fortunately, we Black Catholics have many such visionaries in our heritage to follow and to honor."

Cardinal Gregory's prophetic words on the importance of visionaries in every culture remind me of the gospel from Matthew's gospel. Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of Heaven being like a net thrown into the sea reminds me of the many Black Catholics who attended the National Black Catholic Conference XIII. Cardinal Gregory captured everyone's attention with inclusive language to challenge eighty dioceses to be visionaries who offer hope. Like Jesus, whose net in the parable collected fish of every kind, His eminence's words of faith and love resonated with the community from all over the world. All in attendance felt the call to be visionaries in writing down a vision to thrive, to imagine the unbelievable "for nothing will be impossible for God" (Lk. 1:37).

However, with further reading in this parable, Jesus makes an interesting comparison. We must address a harsh comment in the parable. The man or woman, the visionary who throws their nets out, must sift through the fish and determine the value. The seer must place the good fish in the basket and throw the bad ones away. Our comment here seems harsh when considering the fish metaphorically people in this parable. Is God throwing bad people away? Can't God turn bad people into good people? What will happen to all the bad people?

If we rely on our wisdom to respond to these daunting questions, we are indeed the foolish ones. St. Paul said, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: He catches the wise in their own ruses ... and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain" (1 Cor. 3:19-20). Therefore, searching for wisdom to explain the rationale for discarding bad fish or people, in this case, is beyond my comprehension.

For this reason, the wisdom from this wise saying is appropriate, "Eat the meat and spit out the bones." As a visionary, I bring all my gifts of Blackness as an agent of change and hope. I bring all myself when casting my net to draw all who desire to manifest the many blessings God has blessed us with from heaven. And if I happen to chew on some bones, I will spit them out. I will turn the bad bones over to God because God's "thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways [God's] ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God's] ways higher than your ways, [God's] thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Is. 55:8-9).

Be a visionary, cast out your net of hope, faith, and love, and let God manifest the goodness in your life.

Author: Evang./Prof. Michael Howard, MACS

Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF, University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online, Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University, Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry

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1 Comment

Darlene Howard
Darlene Howard
Jul 25, 2023

Professor Howard,

So timely and necessary! Your messages always stirs up and invigorates my soul. I too am ready, willing and able to bring all of my Blackness as an agent of change and truth.

"Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, gonna keep on marching , talking, praying, speaking the truth, til I make it to the promised Land"

Amen 🙏🏾

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