If your Catholic Church gets a monthly missal one of the things you will notice occasionally are short form options on some Sunday readings. This is characterized by a set of brackets around part of a reading that can be omitted if the celebrant of a mass so chooses.
As a rule this happens when a Sunday’s scheduled passage is particularly long but last week was an exception. There were two choices for the Gospel reading. The short option was Matthew 13:44-46 which says:
Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
This is a perfectly good Gospel, but you glanced at the length of the full reading in the missal you might have said to yourself what I did. “Brackets? These verses only add a few sentences. Why on earth would the church feel the need to shorten it?
Once I read the missing verses understanding came to me.
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. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
Unlike the short form which only teaches of the joys of salvation, the long form also reminds us there are consequences horrible consequences complete with the fires of hell and wailing and grinding of teeth, for those who do not achieve it. This is lesson that Christ teaches often, from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) , the parables of the fig tree, the narrow gate and calls to repentance (Luke 13).
Put simply Jesus talks about Hell an awful lot and repeatedly gave warnings about that fate:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
But in these Vatican 2 , “who am I to judge days” it seems that some have decided that the faithful can’t handle this critical message, so it’s best to be skipped.
I think skipping those difficult verses are underselling their congregation but more importantly I would remind those pastors making that choice of the words of God to Ezekiel
Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me. If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, on the other hand, you have warned the wicked man, yet he has not turned away from his evil nor from his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin, but you shall save your life.
I think that’s a warning worth heeding.
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