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The Harvest Is Ready
Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist
The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
Opening Prayer: In today’s psalm you make us a promise: The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. I call upon you right now! I call upon you to be with me, to comfort me, to enlighten me, to grant me all the grace I need so that I can live this day to the full, glorifying you and moving forward on the path of holiness.
- Seventy-Two: In Jewish tradition, the number seventy-two (or seventy, depending on the sources) has symbolic significance. It was considered the number of gentile nations in the world. It was the number of members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing body. It was the number of elders chosen to assist Moses. Scholars disagree about how to link these Old Testament realities to Christ’s choice to send out seventy-two disciples, in addition to his original Twelve Apostles. Many Catholic spiritual writers, however, see in this gesture a preview of Christ’s great commission to his Church, given after his Resurrection and right before his Ascension, to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus wants his Gospel to spread. He wants the peace that comes with his mercy and truth to spread. He wants all people in every single corner of time and history to discover that God loves them and enter into friendship with him. This is the deepest desire of his heart. And this is why Pope St. Paul VI could write: Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize (Evangelii nuntiandi, 14). Is that how I think about the Church and my role in the Church?
- Asking for Laborers: Jesus commands us to ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest. Traditionally, this is understood as a call to pray for vocations, to pray that God will call many men and women to dedicate themselves completely to spreading Christ’s Kingdom by word, deed, and example. Jesus tells us that the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few—there are many opportunities for spreading Christ’s Kingdom, but few people are taking advantage of those opportunities. Few people seem to have the spiritual sensitivity to hear God’s voice calling them to this work. Few people seem to have the spiritual courage to heed the call even when they hear it. Add to the innate difficulty of hearing and heeding the call today’s additional obstacles–the cacophonous, frenzied, secularized noise that surrounds and oppresses us through popular, digital culture–and we can see why Jesus asks us to pray. When we pray for these vocations, we send unseen spiritual reinforcements to help open the ears and strengthen the hearts of those whom God is calling. If this is something Jesus himself is asking of me, how could I not make it a priority?
- Thanking St. Luke: Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Luke, the only non-Jewish writer of the New Testament. Luke was a writer, doctor, and artist who ran into St. Paul and decided to join the intrepid Apostle on his missionary journeys. In today’s first reading, we got a glimpse of St. Paul during his imprisonment and trial in Rome, when so many of his companions abandoned him. We can infer a twinge of sadness when he wrote, Luke is the only one with me. Luke didn’t meet Jesus while he was still traipsing the paths of Galilee. Instead, he gathered the material for his Gospel by interviewing those who had known Jesus, and he put together his narrative with a special emphasis on the aspects and perspective that would help non-Jewish readers understand and appreciate the good news of Christ. He added a second part (in a sense) to his Gospel, The Acts of the Apostles, which shows how the early Church embodied the Gospel and continued Christ’s Incarnation through their own witness, miracles, and sufferings. St. Luke symbolically joins the ranks of the seventy-two disciples whom Jesus sent out to spread the Gospel, because through his writings he too responded to the Lord’s call to go and make disciples of all nations. Each one of us is called somehow to join those ranks. How am I responding to that call in my life?
Conversing with Christ: At times, Lord, I am puzzled by your decision to make the spreading of your precious Gospel, the building up of your eternal Kingdom, dependent upon the cooperation of normal, flawed, weak people like myself, like the seventy-two, like St. Luke. It’s a rather strange strategy, you must admit. And the news headlines are continually reminding us of the downside of the risk you took—all the scandals of Christian disciples who are unfaithful to their calling. But I cannot deny that this was indeed your decision. I want to accept the call you offer me, to bring your Gospel to those around me, as best I can, just as St. Luke did. Be my strength, Lord Jesus, and make me a harbinger of your salvation.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a special visit to a Eucharistic chapel and offer a decade of the rosary (or some other prayer) to ask the master of the harvest to send out workers to his harvest.
For Further Reflection: Called and Chosen: A Retreat Guide on Vocation and the Calling of St. Matthew.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.