I wonder if we might allow our faith-imagination to be active today and reflect on the parable as applying to our inner life – as much as it might apply to the wider life of the Christian community. Today let us allow the teaching of Jesus to wash over us personally, and not seek to find its application elsewhere.
While tradition has gifted us with so much, it has also left strong traces of an expectation of judgment from God, and thus when we read of Jesus saying that “angels will go out and sperate the wicked form the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace..” we can be excused for being somewhat anxious – even if we have experienced a modern or liberal catechesis in our own life.
But what if the ‘separation’ is merely God sifting out the limits, failures, burdens and sins of our life and casting them aside, while allowing us to live on in the goodness and righteousness of our true self and that which is the reflection of God’s own image?
What if there is no judgement, only reconciliation and healing? What if God was intent on bringing out of the storeroom of our lives all that is life-giving and true and casting aside all that has held us back or caused pain and suffering?
It would seem reasonable to imagine God doing nothing else but this. It is at the heart of God’s leading the people away from slavery in Egypt and into freedom in the promised land, and it is at the heart of all Jesus taught.
God’s net is wide and there is room for all. What I think is new and precious in the teaching of Jesus, and which he so deeply wants us to appreciate, is that God is love, boundless love. That love accompanies us through the journey of life as much as the cloud and fire did for the people of Israel, and that love will equally come down upon us and surround us in the next life too.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is the Provincial Superior of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.