AN ABUNDANT HARVEST
October 3, 2013
Today’s gospel: Luke 10:1-12
God’s disciples are empowered to witness, because “the harvest is abundant” (Lk 10:2a). The work of bringing in the harvest has been entrusted to God’s people, to continue the work of Jesus in bringing salvation to all. As such, God’s workers are given everything they need in order to do this work. They witness to Jesus, and in this they are empowered.
The harvest is abundant because God went to great lengths to win salvation for all humankind, sacrificing His very own Son Jesus. Jesus won salvation on the cross, at the price of his most precious blood. Then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who guides, inspires and empowers God’s people to proclaim that salvation. God wants to restore all humankind to Himself, and to be with Him eternally in heaven. The work of evangelization is divine work, carried out through divine power, intended for a divine purpose. Thus the harvest has been prepared.
But here is the problem: “the laborers are few” (Lk 10:2b). Now the laborers are supposed to be all Christians, all those who claim to be followers of Christ, those who are his disciples. There are two billion of them in the world, one-third of the whole population. However, most of them are Christian in name only. Many are lapsed, nominal or cultural Christians. For the few who can be considered Christian, they may not be all-out disciples of Jesus, not striving for holiness or walking the narrow path. And for the very few who are striving to live the way of Jesus, many of them do not share Christ, especially Catholics who have no notion of being evangelizers and thus helping bring in the harvest.
Now for the few workers who participate in bringing in the harvest, they may not be conducting themselves in the way Jesus intends.
First, they might not be aware that they have entered into intense spiritual warfare. They are sent “like lambs among wolves.” (Lk 10:3). They might be trying to do good, but are clueless as to the intensity of the war that is raging in the heavens and on earth, with them right in the midst of that conflict. The enemy is a diabolical spiritual being, not just crime, injustice, poverty, environmental degradation. These are just manifestations. So their weapons have to be spiritual as well, and they need to be clothed in the armor of God.
Second, they may sally forth too much dependent upon their own human wisdom, power and resources. But what is needed is absolute dependence on and trust in God. “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals” (Lk 10:4a).
Third, they might be distracted with many worldly things, such that evangelization is not given the priority it needs. The disciples are told by Jesus to “greet no one along the way.” (Lk 10:4b). They must be impressed with the urgency of proclaiming the gospel. This work is more important that the usual social interaction or relationships that ordinary people maintain. While we eat, drink and be merry, people are dying in their sins.
Fourth, they must know they are bringers of peace. “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’” (Lk 10:5). But before they can be instruments of peace, their own lives must reflect that peace. So are they in right relationships with others? Do they have resentments or grudges in their hearts? Have they failed to forgive? Are they intolerant of the shortcomings of others? Are they into factions or dissension within communities?
Fifth, they are supposed to be instruments of healing, as they “cure the sick” (Lk 10:9a). This is often in the form not so much of physical healing, but emotional and spiritual healing. They share the burdens of others. They counsel. They teach forbearance and forgiveness. They cry with those who cry. They point people in pain to Jesus, the great Healer.
Sixth, they speak of spiritual realities. They say to people, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.” (Lk 10:9b). They point to the need for a deep intimate personal relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord. They urge people not just to lead good lives but holy lives. They help people meet Christ, live Christ and share Christ.
Seventh, they must share a deep burden in their hearts for the many who are lost, ultimately lost to eternal damnation. The work of evangelization is all about salvation, about eternal life. It is not so much the peace and joy that is available to a disciple of Jesus in the here and now, but what happens to a person in the life that will never end. They must take seriously the words of Jesus, speaking about those who will reject the gospel message: “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.” (Lk 10:12). They must bear their relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers in their hearts, not wanting them to suffer the fate of Sodom, of destruction by eternal fire.
Let us continue to “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Lk 10:2c). But know that it is his harvest. We are just his workers. We do things his way. We live his life. We carry his heart.
God bless you all.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)