Readings: Is. 66:10-14/Gal. 6:14-18
Psalm: 66: 1-7, 16, 20
Gospel: Lk. 10:1-12, 17-20.
“The harvest is abundant but the Laborers are few.” It is a common concern amongst leaders and organizers whenever a movement is started. It is also a concern amongst those who are searching for something (or someone) in which to believe. They want to find the way to contentment, but there are not too many people available to help them. The few that can help will seem overwhelmed by the work, or could be uninformed of how to bring the Good News effectively, or they could be more interested in their own self-interests that the message becomes a means to an end. They are more interested in their success, not God’s. It is this uncertainty that can slow down or even stop a movement in its tracks. Those who are searching become hesitant to follow anything that is new or unfamiliar. They fear that there is no authenticity in the message and the laborers are only giving half-measures, fake promises or even get involved in scandalous activities. We see it in all manner of society: Politics, Religion, Business and so on. The lack of the talented and skilled can damage the movement and, as a result, tarnish the image of those who want to belong but are hesitant to do so. The Harvest is abundant, but the Laborers are few.
In order to understand the joy that Christ felt in the Gospel proclaimed today, we need to look at the struggle he had to find the Laborers in order to gather the harvest. When someone goes to work for a company, generally it is helpful to know a little bit about the place or the people one is going to work for. In Jesus’ case, he was asking disciples who the people thought he was. Some said John the Baptist, others Elijah and still others one of the older prophets. Then Jesus took it a step further and asked those closest to him who they thought he is. It was Peter that said, “You are the Messiah.” Then Jesus gives his “job requirements” for being a Laborer in the field. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
This was a difficult requirement for many to take. On their way to Jerusalem from Galilee, they were trying to gather more people to help in the Harvest. One Samaritan village told them to leave because he was just passing by. Jesus asked someone to join him, yet the man tells him that he must first bury his father. Jesus asks someone else, and that one said he needed to say goodbye to his family. And to a third who tells him that he will follow him anywhere, Jesus reminds them of what sort of life they were to live if they became a disciple of Jesus. Each one of these people had a desire to be a disciple of Jesus, but for one reason or another, they believed that their devotion to their worldly duties prevented them from doing so. But Jesus saw through that, reminding them that no one who moves forward and looks back can truly be committed to the Kingdom of God. The Harvest is abundant, but the Laborers are few.
But for those who did answer the call to be Christ’s disciple, Jesus’ put them to work right away. He sends out 72 men out in pairs to spread the Good News to the world. When they came to be disciples, they left everything behind. Jesus, when the time came, sends them out in the same way: with nothing. He instructs them to not carry a money bag or sack or sandals. These were signs of importance, or at least self-reliance in this era. Jesus wanted them to be reliant on the hospitality of strangers, those with whom they will preach the Good News and prepare the area for Jesus’ eventual arrival. They were not to take advantage of their situation by going from house-to-house, imposing on many families with their hospitality. They were to stay in one home, eat whatever is laid before them, and cure the sick all in the same place. If there was a town that would not welcome them, they were to shake off the dust from their feet as they left. With such a command such as this, one would wonder if this 72 may have had concerns as they went on their way.
If they had any concerns, they did not matter when they returned. The Gospel says that they all returned rejoicing: everything that they done in His name was successful. Even Jesus was impressed with the success that had come of it. “I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky.” That is a bold statement. It means that these disciples, empowered by Jesus, had now become agents of God on Earth. Yet even with all that power, Jesus reminded them that their joy should not be in the fact that they can do these things on their own, but that they are part of a larger mission. They are now the disciples of Jesus Christ. They are the Few Laborers that will bring in the Abundant Harvest.
Much like the 72 of Jesus’ day, today the Church is also looking for those Laborers to bring in the Abundant Harvest. However, much like those times, we can have a hard time in recognizing who Jesus is in our world. Yet this much is certain in this quest: We are not Jesus! What we do is to be the work for His glory, not for ours. We may reap the rewards of our labor, but these rewards are to be used to continue the Good News.
These rewards are the care that he gives us in order that we do not focus on the worries of the world and keep our focus upon the faith that we have in Him; and that He has in us. In the Benedictine Tradition, this balance is referred to as “Ora et Labora”-Prayer and work. These two concepts working together allow the Benedictines to understand that what they do is not so much for their own personal gain, but for the benefit of those in the order, the community and, equally for God. It is with prayer that our work has meaning, and it is with work that we glorify through our prayers in bringing the Kingdom of God upon the Earth. It was helpful then and it is helpful now. The work we do for God is the prayer that we give back to him. It is what enabled Jesus to send out the 72 into the world. It is what enables the Church to find those to spread the Good News and it is what you are entrusted to do through your baptism to be the best example of Christianity you can be. Ora et Labora- Prayer and work. Let us use this phrase as the guiding principle of the things that we have done, are being done and what will be done. When that is accomplished, then the Harvest is no long abundant. The Laborers are no longer few. The Harvest and the Laborers have become one. And that is where true discipleship begins.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflection:
- Where were you when you saw an image of Jesus in your life and said to yourself “That is the Messiah?”
- What are those moments in your life that makes you hesitant to be a Disciple of Christ? How were you able to overcome it?
- What has been your “Rejoice Moment” when you had done something for God?
 Lk. 9:18-24.
 Lk. 9:51-62.