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The Harvest is Great but the Labourers are Few
Gospel Reflection for June 18, 2023, Father's Day - Matthew 9:36-10:8
And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd.
Then he saith to his disciples, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few.
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.
And having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities.
And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother,
James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus,
Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent: commanding them, saying: Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not.
But go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give. (Matthew 9:36-10:8 DRA)
The Church has always suffered persecution. As the Body of Christ, this is her fate until He returns in glory, to participate in the sufferings of her Lord, as He says: “Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.” (Jn 15:20) Yet He also knew that by this very participation, the redemptive sacrifice of the Cross erases the judgement of sin in our flesh and conforms us to His image of perfect, gratuitous charity, and so He also says: “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.” (Mt 5:11-12)
In this Gospel reading, Our Lord is moved to pity by the very people who sin against Him daily, who reject and mock Him, and who will, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, be part of the crowds demanding His crucifixion. As St. John Chrysostom taught, “Herein He teaches us not to return accusations to them that accuse us, but kindness. For he that ceases to do good because of accusation, shews that his good has been done because of men. But if for God’s sake you do good to your fellow-servants, you will not cease from doing good whatever they do, that your reward may be greater.” (Catena Aurea) Accordingly, these multitudes representatively include all people, both those who strive to follow Him as disciples and those who deny Him to this day, precisely because “all have sinned, and do need the glory of God”, (Rom 3:23) yet this is the very purpose of our hope, as the Epistle reminds us, “because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time, Christ died for us; much more therefore, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from wrath through him.” (Rom 5:8-9)
Catholics today should not think that the brutal persecutions of the Roman Empire, or of the Reformation, or of the missionary efforts in the Orient, or of the atheistic regimes of the 20th century are over. Nor are anti-Christian persecutions today limited only to Communist nations like China or the brutal murder of the faithful in Islamic countries across Africa and the Middle East. No, in the formerly Christian West, once the land of Christendom, what has been called “Christophobia” is rampant. While many Christians, driven by the fear and complacent hedonism which led many Israelites to desire a return to Egyptian slavery (Num 14:3) or the faithlessness which caused many of Our Lord’s disciples to abandon Him, (Jn 6:67) for those who continue to serve Christ and His Church, the malevolent forces of the world, whose prince is Satan, (Jn 12:31) run rampant, using every kind of blasphemy, mockery, seduction and distraction to lead the world away from Christ and further into darkness. As the diabolical and sacrilegious “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” demonstrate, this war against Christ is only becoming more and more explicit, with ever less restraint or concealment, and while there are many who resist it, the ideals of anarchical “freedom” and the spiritual indifference afflicting the world today leads most to simply ignore it and focus on “more important things,” those labeled “essential necessities” in 2020 and never including the only true necessity: our eternal salvation.
Despite, or perhaps even because of, these great evils in the world today, Christ’s words continue to ring true: “The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few.” Even with its façade of technological power, economic success and material comfort, the world is mired in the despair which results from a life without God. Lacking any sense of meaning or purpose, people today harm themselves through the glamorous pleasures of the world and the prideful affirmations of society, yet commit suicide, abuse drugs, mutilate themselves and even murder their own children at untold rates, proving that the supposed “happiness” promised by Progress is ultimately empty and self-destructive. For this reason, Christians today must recover the boldness, humility and self-sacrificial love which motivated the apostles (like St. Matthew, who humbly listed himself as “the publican/tax collector”) sent out by Christ, the Lord of the harvest, to evangelize the world, watering the parched earth with God’s mercy and defending it against demonic wolves, whether those trying to climb over the fences or those who wear the guise of our own shepherds. In many ways, the fight is harder today than it was for the apostles, since most people we encounter are already familiar with Catholicism, or at least have a vague notion of Christianity, and are frequently confused with biases, bad experiences and erroneous ideas which inhibit conversion. But as St. Paul remind us, “I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me.” (Philip 4:13)
As our brave priests continue to cast out demons, may we work through catechesis, apologetics, evangelization and the other spiritual and corporal works of mercy to war against Satan and reconcile the world to Christ, remaining always prayerfully alive in His Sacred Heart and fighting evil with good. During this month, let us pray for the forgiveness of those who advocate for Pride, including those within the Church, entrusting them and ourselves always to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Also, this Father's Day, let us entrust all fathers, spiritual or physical, to the Sacred Heart, that they may fulfill their sacred mission of preserving, guiding and protecting all those in their charge, and may we be always thankful for their sacrifice and heroic example.