“. . . the laborers are few. . .”.
We lay Catholics often think that the laborers referred to by Jesus are clerics or vowed religious. At the same time the clergy and hierarchy, going along with that interpretation, deplore the decline in “vocations”. Maybe there is another way to look at this situation.
Taking Jesus at His word, the laborers were in short supply in His day, as well as our own. The truth is that we are all called – we all have a vocation. None of us can delegate that to a professional caste of special pious individuals. We’re all disciples. It is precisely the call of the disciple to do the work of the Master, which is today, as it was then, to call our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and co-workers, to change their priorities and to join us as disciples, calling in turn their own brothers and sisters and neighbors and co-workers. And it doesn’t stop there. We have good news to share, news that God is straightening out the mess that we humans have made of his beautiful creation and that He wants us to be His instruments of change. And, because few people are changed by rhetoric, we are called to show our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and co-workers, what God has in mind for His creation, precisely by how we live our lives in this world.
We modern, Western, post-Reformation humans live highly compartmentalized lives. We have an employment compartment, a family compartment, a social compartment, a political compartment, a religious compartment, on and on . . . We tend to keep them sealed off, one from the other. We can change jobs, homes, political parties, and, sadly, sometimes even religions. But religion cannot be a compartment. The realization that we have been saved, that God calls us to help reshape the world – to help God’s Kingdom come “on earth as in heaven” – has to inspirit all of our lives. It has to permeate all of our compartments. From fragmented, fractured, compartmentalized, we become once more whole, consumed in everything we do with doing the work of the Master, who calls us all into God’s fields.
We probably have all heard the saying that the Church is not so much a museum for saints as it is a hospice for sinners – invoked to explain why there are so many flawed human beings in our company. True as it is, the saying doesn’t go far enough. Locked onto that saint-sinner axis, we are helplessly, hopelessly obsessed with ourselves – discouraged by our manifest failings or smug at our virtues, or often some of both. What’s missing is the axis of discipleship – the other directedness that takes us out of ourselves to weep as Jesus did over the wrongheaded citizens of Jerusalem. Do we care that there are brothers and sisters who are cruel or self-centered, mean or petty? They’re missing being a part of God’s new creation. They need to be converted. We – every one us – are called to convert them. We’re all harvest workers.
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