17th 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)
John Lewis, the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, an American politician and civil rights leader, caused me to reflect on his life while reading this gospel. Jesus, in this gospel, uses a parable to discuss the Kingdom of Heaven. In this lesson, He first makes a comparison that the Kingdom of Heaven is similar to a treasure, and then like pearls. In both imageries, the wisdom gleaned is that when one finds value in the images mentioned in the parable, he/she will go to considerable trouble to return to purchase the treasure and pearls. The desire is to be in the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, further, in this parable, Jesus makes a third comparison. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into a sea. Get this; the net hauls in all kinds of fish. This parable shifts drastically. Instead of an inanimate object, a living organism now expresses the Kingdom of Heaven as life. The man or woman who threw the net out must sift through the fish and determine the value. Instead of someone calculating the amount of treasure or pearls needed to purchase these items, the individual places the good fish in the basket and throws the bad ones away.
For this reason, John Lewis's life resembles the last stanza of this parable. Congressman Lewis threw the net of justice out to bring about moral authority to give all people a right to enter a public facility without signs saying, "Colored Only." This activist did not care about the color of one's skin. Lewis, inspired by Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., joined the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties at a young age. He worked with Freedom Riders to oppose injustice. He and his companions endured countless beatings on a quest for Freedom in a strange land, to be somebody, a child of God.
Howard Thurman, a former Dean of Howard University, called this "A Strange Freedom." Thurman said, "It is a strange freedom to go nameless up and down the streets of other minds where salutation greets and no sign is given to mark the place one calls one's own." As Lewis continued his illustrious career, he stood up against this strange Freedom till the angels escorted him to Heaven's Kingdom. He developed a canon to mark the place where justice starts and one's Freedom begins. Lewis said, "My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something." Doing something against injustice is the starting point. Lewis practiced this truth by casting a net for justice and equality. If you could not adhere to this principle, he would throw you away. Only those who stood for "Good Trouble" could fight this "Strange Freedom." As I see it, a Freedom Rider was someone who knows that Black Lives Matter in Heaven's Kingdom.
Therefore, with the elevation of the spirit of John Lewis into the ancestor's world, the angels in heaven received a Freedom Rider for justice, a Freedom Rider for equality, a Freedom Rider for Black Lives Matter, a Freedom Rider for policies to protect the innocent, a Freedom Rider for the homeless, a Freedom Rider for gun control, a Freedom Rider for education, a Freedom Rider for health care for all, a Freedom Rider for DREAMERS. I pray that we all will be Freedom Riders. Let's all take this freedom ride towards the Kingdom of Heaven with all of God's children. This scripture passage is your instruction for joining this Freedom Ride:
"You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mi. 6:8).
"Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society." - John Lewis
Notes: Howard Thurman, "A Strange Freedom," Look in the book, "Inward Journey."
Author: Evangelist Michael Howard