Again the kingdom
of heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all
kind of fishes. Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by
the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth.
So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall
separate the wicked from among the just. And shall cast them into the furnace
of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
By St. John Chryostom
And wherein doth
this differ from the parable of the tares? For there too the one are saved
the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked doctrines; and those
before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings, but these for wickedness
of life; who are the most wretched of all, having attained to His knowledge,
and being caught, but not even so capable of being saved.
Yet surely He saith elsewhere, that the shepherd Himself separates them,
but here He saith the angels do this; and so with respect to the tares. How
then is it? At one time He discourses to them in a way more suited to their
dullness, at another time in a higher strain.
And this parable He interprets without so much as being asked, but of His
own motion He explained it by one part of it, and increased their awe. For
lest, on being told, "They cast the bad away," thou shouldest suppose that
ruin to be without danger; by His interpretation He signified the punishment,
saying, "They will cast them into the furnace." And He declared the gnashing
of teeth, and the anguish, that it is unspeakable.
Seest thou how many are the ways of destruction? By the rock, by the thorns,
by the wayside, by the tares, by the net. Not without reason therefore did
He say, "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be
which go away by it."
the Catholic Encyclopedia
The draw net completes
the sevenfold teaching in the first Gospel. The order was chosen by St. Matthew;
and if we accept the mystic signification of the number "seven", i.e.,
"perfection", we shall perceive in this parable not a repetition, as Maldonatus
held, of the tares, but its crown.
In the tares separation of good and bad is put off; here it is accomplished.
St. Augustine composed a kind of ballad for the people against the Donatist
schismatics which expresses the doctrine clearly, "seculi finis est littus,
tunc est tempus separare" (see Enarr. in Ps., lxiv, 6).
The net is a sweeping net, Lat. verriculum, or a seine, which of necessity
captures all sorts, and requires to be hauled on shore and the division made.
For the Jews, in particular, the clean must be taken and the unclean cast
away. Since it is distinctly stated that within the net are both good and
bad, this implies a visible and a mixed congregation until the Lord comes
with His angels to judgment (Matthew 13:41; Apocalypse 14:18). The
Evangelist...has understood this parable, like the others quoted, allegorically,
and Christ is the Fisher of men.
Clement of Alexandria perhaps wrote the well-known Orphic hymn which contains
a similar appellation. The "fiery furnace", the "tears and the gnashing of
teeth", going beyond the figures in the story, belong to its meaning and
to Christian dogma.