Today’s readings start with the passage from the prophet Hosea about worshipping false gods. The Psalm responds that “The house of Israel trusts in the Lord.” Then in the Gospel narrative, Jesus casts out demons and cures diseases.
We have plenty of psychological demons and diseases in our culture: fraud and waste, anger and malice, racist reactions, deceptive and exploitive internet sites, selfishness of all kinds, war and terrorism, addictions to drugs and gambling – and those just begin the list of the troubles of our times
So as Jesus is moved to compassion for the crowds of his time, “because they were troubled and abandoned” (or “harassed and helpless” or whatever your translation says), we know that today we suffer similar troubles and sicknesses and evil influences. We are “troubled” and “helpless” and can only “trust in the Lord.” Next Jesus uses agricultural images that people all over the world, even city folks, can understand: we are “like sheep without a shepherd.” The “harvest” needs workers, and he asks his disciples to pray for “laborers for his harvest.”
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Benedict, the founder of monastic
life in Western Christianity. About a thousand years before St.
Ignatius Loyola lived and founded the Society of Jesus, Benedict
wanted to go off alone and be a hermit, living only to worship God.
But he was sought out by others with similar desires, and so he
founded religious community life and composed the great Rule of
St. Benedict by which so many lived in Benedictine communities for
so many centuries. Benedict was certainly a great laborer for the
harvest – in fact, a good shepherd. Benedictines today are
known for their schools and scholarship, and also for their charity
and hospitality. Good laborers and shepherds indeed. The many later-founded
religious communities have also provided shepherds and laborers
for God’s people.
Our prayer today can be of thanks and especially petition: Thanks for the “laborers for his harvest” that he has sent to work for us all. Petition – as Jesus asks his disciples to pray for laborers – we can all pray that God will send the laborers, but some of us should pray to BE the laborers. You know how in family life, the complaint is that the teenager can walk around the pile of laundry that needs to be carried upstairs, or “would never think to wash a dish.” I’m not maligning teenagers here – it’s just that the near-adults in the home tend to draw this type of observation, that they just don’t see the chores to be done. Today I pray that I may see that metaphorical laundry to be moved or dish to be washed. Lord, show me what labor I can do for your harvest today.
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