The laborers are few

Today’s Gospel reading puts the modern-day priest shortage into a useful perspective. Jesus had no priests to work with when he founded his ministry. Today, in the 9th Chapter of Matthew, He calls the 12 Apostles to him, recognizing that “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.” Tomorrow’s reading is from Chapter 10 and it has Jesus sending the Apostles out to the Jews, curing their diseases, casting out demons, and most important, telling them that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The first Christian Missionaries are put to work.

Jesus saw the hunger for God in the people around him. Matthew tells us that the Lord’s heart was troubled when he saw how they were “harassed and helpless.” Jesus was the embodiment of His father who is love itself, and love grieves when it sees pain and loneliness. But Jesus knew that he could not reach everyone by himself. Although he traveled all over his part of the world, he was still one man and walking was the fastest form of transport available to him. So he sent the Apostles. And then later, the 70 disciples. And then the Holy Spirit who supercharged the work of Jesus’ followers, allowing them to bring thousands of people to the Way of Christ by their zeal and love. And now, he sends you and I.

The work that began in the 9th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel continues today. There are still many, many lost sheep. There are people among us who have never heard the good news, or who have heard it but have forgotten it or who never understood the incredible promise of eternal life that lies within it. Each of us has friends, neighbors and family members who are “harassed and helpless” because Jesus is not a part of their life. They need gentle reminders that the Kingdom of God is truly at hand.

The harvest is still abundant, but the laborers are still few. Jesus continues to call us to go forth and spread the good news. Most of us don’t have the power to cure illnesses or cast out demons, but we do have the power to love. That was enough for the 12 in Matthew’s Gospel. It’s enough for us today.


Don’t teach, do

Football legend Knute Rockne said, “One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than one hundred teaching it.” Replace the word sportsmanship with Christianity and you get a powerful message. Christianity lives in our actions, not our words. We do far more to spread the Good News by living a Christian life than by preaching about it. We inspire others to live by our example, not by our conversation. In this way, all humans are Missourians; “Show me,” is the universal human motto.

I was recently reading a familiar passage from Matthew. Jesus tells the crowd and his disciples not to follow the example of the scribes and the Pharisees, who talk a good game, but “they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” Jesus exhorts us to live lives of humble service to one another.

This is the annual sign-up weekend at my parish. We call it the “Time and Talent Fair.” The many parish ministries that are always looking for more help put up simple displays in the gymnasium and we are asked to volunteer wherever our time or talent can be useful. Most years, I’ve been too busy. This year, I would like to sign up for something new. Care to join me?