“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
This passage is so very important to help us understand what it means for us to be Christians, followers of Christ. Jesus taught us that “the harvest is abundant.” God has done a great deal of work on each one of us. God planted the seed, nurtured it and cared for it until it matured and was ready to be harvested. The Psalm puts it this way: “I thank you Lord, with all my heart…You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works.” (Psalm 139:1, 13-14)
God willed us into being and guided us to maturity, but Jesus acknowledged a glitch. He noted that the harvest, the fruit of God’s labor, stands waiting to be gathered and brought into the kingdom of God. Through God’s labor everyone has been prepared for the kingdom, but we need something more. We need to be invited. That’s where the seventy-two disciples in today’s gospel come in. This is where we come into the story, too.
“So, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Some commentators say that Jesus sent the disciples out two by two so that one would pray while the other preached. Personally, I think we all have to pray, and we all have to preach.
We have to be people of prayer. Jesus often spent the night in prayer before he began a new segment of his mission. Prayer is that si
lent time when we invite the Spirit to speak to our hearts. This is essential to give us insight into the message of Jesus and the courage we’ll need to witness to it. Not pulling any punches, Jesus was clear that the work of harvesting could be difficult and maybe scary. “I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”
He also asks that we be simple and honest with our message. Remember, this is a heart to heart ministry. “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” We must be single-minded, determined and sincere. The kingdom of God holds the gift we all long for. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’”
In John’s Gospel, during the last supper, Jesus spoke intimately with his disciples. He said to them, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus was opening the door of the kingdom for them. His gift of peace wasn’t freedom from struggle or danger, however. It was the peace that would remain secure and powerful in their hearts no matter what challenges life would bring them. This is what the laborer is asked to offer, the peace of the kingdom of God.
Today, the gospel is inviting each of us to work to bring in the harvest. God has already planted the seed throughout the world. Let’s pray to the Spirit for the gift of peace so that we can we can begin the ministry we’ve been called to. From deep within our hearts let’s proclaim the kingdom of God. Let’s be brave. Let’s say, “Peace be to this household.”
Don’t turn back! That’s the message in the scriptures this week-end. We begin our reflection by looking at a dramatic scene from the first book of Kings.
Elijah, Israel’s greatest prophet, is about to pass on his prophetic spirit to his disciple, Elisha, who is plowing a field with twelve yoke of oxen. Elijah throws his mantle over Elisha’s shoulders thereby passing on his prophetic power. Elisha accepts the mantle and asks permission to kiss his mother and father goodby. Elijah encourages him to do so. Then, Elisha performs a prophetic act. He slaughters the oxen, cooks their flesh, and offers the food to his workers. By this action, Elisha is offering his entire past as a loving sacrifice to God. He’s completely free now to begin a new life as Elijah’s successor. For Elisha, there’s no turning back.
In the passage from Luke’s gospel we witness a number of people responding to the call of Jesus. One tells Jesus that he’ll follow him anywhere. Jesus gives him some reality therapy by alerting him to the fact that he’s an itinerate preacher. “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Jesus calls another person to follow him but receives the reply, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Jesus’ answer to him could not be more direct. “Let the dead bury their dead, but you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Finally, a person tells Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family.” The intensity of Jesus’ response is somewhat shocking. “No one who sets a hand
to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was extraordinary. For three years he taught in synagogues, in people’s homes, along the seashore and on mountain tops. He spent many nights in prayer. Power flowed out of him when he healed people, but he kept healing anyway. His family worried about him making enemies of the religious leaders by frequently, and publicly, breaking the sabbath laws and religious customs. They were right to worry, but they couldn’t stop him.
People often ask me when and how I received “the call.” So many people think that the call to priesthood is extraordinary. My answer to them is always the same. “My ‘call’ wasn’t any more extraordinary than yours.”
Being called by Jesus to follow him takes many extraordinary forms. “Follow me.” Commit all you have to your marriage. “Follow me.” Be a loving, dedicated father. “Follow me.” Be the best mother you can be. “Follow me.” Teach the truth! “Follow me.” Do the best job you can when you fix that leaking pipe. “Follow me.” Be loving, just and compassionate when you enforce the law. “Follow me.” Whatever you do in this life, do it with your whole heart and soul. Don’t be put off by the sacrifices you’ll have to make. Embrace them. We’re Christians. We’ve been chosen and have accepted the call to follow Christ.
We’ll end this reflection with a teaching on Christian life St. Paul directed to the community in Colossae. “Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these, put on love.”
In the bible, numbers very often have a symbolic or mystical meaning. John’s Book of Revelation, for example, makes extensive use of numerology. His numbers are not to be taken literally; they have a deeper meaning. Today, let’s reflect on Luke’s use of numbers in his account of the feeding of the 5,000.
The event takes place after a long day of healing and teaching about the kingdom of God. Evening is coming, and the 12 suggest that the crowd be dismissed so that everyone can go to the towns around this “deserted place” to buy food for themselves. This “deserted place” is reminiscent of the desert of Tsin where God rained down manna upon the people of Israel during their exodus journey. That was the old order, the old time. Jesus challenges them to stay put and to give the people something to eat themselves. The 12 answer that they only have 5 loaves and 2 fish. They are about to experience the new order, the new time, the kingdom of God.
This gathering is marked by the number 12, the symbol of entirety and cosmic order. In the old order people, a group of tribes, were struggling in a “deserted place” and needed God to care for them. The people of the kingdom, however, are a community and have all they need. They have 5 loaves and 2 fish.
5 is symbolic of transformation and illumination. 2 symbolizes harmony. In this meal the people will be fed with an intimate knowledge of God which brings the harmony that only divine healing can bestow. This illumination and harmony spreads to groups of 50 and then to the entire group of 5,000.
But the kingdom of God is not exclusive. Its gates are open to everyone. The entire world is invited to eat in the kingdom of God. 12 baskets are left over after this first meal in the kingdom of God. Food of the kingdom of God awaits, and everyone is invited to this meal.
On this day, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we hear the words of invitation, powerful and clear that invite everyone to this meal in the kingdom of God, “Take and eat. This is my body. This is my blood. Do this in memory of me”
Lord Jesus, we worship you living among us in the sacrament of your body and blood. May we offer to the Father in heaven a solemn pledge of undivided love. May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service of that kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(Prayer from the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ from the Sacramentary)
Following the Feast of Pentecost, the Church officially moves into Ordinary Time. The liturgical calendar is divided into “seasons:” Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, LentEaster, Pentecost and the Sundays following, Ordinary Time.
During the thirty weeks of Ordinary Time, the Church focuses our attention on the teachings of Jesus. We listen to many parables. We witness many miracles and healings that Jesus performed. We contemplate their meaning and try to adapt something we’ve gleaned from them to our everyday lives.
To start off this portion of the liturgical year, the Church accents three important elements of our faith by naming the Sundays: Trinity Sunday, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost our “understanding” of God is complete. The Father sent the Son to redeem us. The Son, in turn, sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and enlighten us. We contemplate God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier One God, three Persons: The Holy Trinity.
In the Feast of the Body of Blood of Christ, we celebrate Jesus’ abiding presence among us in the Eucharist that we so often celebrate.
Then we celebrate the tremendous love of the Heart of Christ revealed to us though his life, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection. This is commemorated in the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
But today, we focus on the Feast of the Holy Trinity. In the second reading, from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, we’re given an important teaching: “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Paul is telling us that we have been drawn into the life of the Trinity because the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into us. And so, we dare to call God, “our Father.”
This first reflection in Ordinary Time is profound but so basic to who we are as Christians. We believe that we’re children of God because we share God’s very life by sharing in God’s love. We deepen and perfect that love when we love as Jesus loved – when we love as totally as we can, when we lay down our lives for one another every day, when we live, not for ourselves, but for others.
Let’s conclude our reflection by recalling the teaching of John, the Evangelist. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16b)