“It is indeed regrettable that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. There is no shortage of people to hear the Good news. What is missing are (the right) people to spread it!”….Pope Gregory the Great.
Have you wondered why most companies and government establishments spend a lot of resources advertising for job vacancies? They also expend more resources to set up written tests and oral interviews for the few that are eventually shortlisted. All these are done by the employers in view of getting the right people to do the various jobs. Another instance could be in most families where house-helps and childminders are engaged though there could be people already there. When you have the right people working, efficiency is assured and productivity is increased. This is apropos to mission as we shall see in this reflection.
Last Sunday we heard about the call to the mission of Christ. Today we are going to be looking at the nature and nurture of that mission. Most significantly, our Lord Jesus Christ, on this day, sent out Seventy-two others after sending out the Twelve Apostles (Luke 9:1-6) to the places he was to go.
The number Seventy would remind us of the seventy Elders who were appointed to help Moses in the work of leading the people of Israel on their long trek to the promised land (Numbers 11:16-17). However, two more are added in the account of Luke. It is also very significant to note that he sent them out two by two. This is an indication of the fact that nobody does it alone like in the trinitarian union there is a need for community in functionality. Fellowship is therefore very crucial and important for every mission.
There are indeed many elements (missionary accessories) that are involved in this mission. A closer and more focused reflection on them will be very helpful to us for deeper understanding.
The Plentiful Harvest Vs The Few Laborers: When we were in the major seminary there was one of our priest formators who was known for his rare, deep and magnetic thoughts. One day while preaching this gospel he said, in the native Igbo language, “madu no madu ako“. That means that there are people yet people are lacking. Today, I can add to that by saying that though there are people, the right ones are lacking or to be more precise, as our Lord mentioned, they are few. In a similar episode in the Gospel of Matthew (10:1-11), we are told that our Lord saw a multitude of people looking like sheep without a shepherd and he said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. He went ahead to send the Twelve (the right people) to minister to them.
The simple analysis from the foregoing is that our Lord saw a lot of people who were helpless and rudderless and he went ahead to send the right helpers and leaders to them. Like St. Gregory the Great mentioned many years ago, the challenge is not on the scarcity of those who should hear the word of God but the fewness of the right people who should preach the word to them. It is not about the dearth of consumers but the little number of serious and committed suppliers.
The emphasis on the right laborers is very important here. This is mostly because many people have not only called themselves to the mission, they are also operating it as a business venture. This is not only an aberration, it is at the same time destructive to the spiritual life of the believers who are consequently disoriented.
To make the matter clearer, a lot of people are out there in the harvest but only a few of them are laborers. The word laborer rings a bell. By definition, a laborer is an unskilled worker. In our context here, however, the laborer is one whose strength and skill come from God. The laborer is one whose help comes from God (Psalm 121:1-2) and not from some deceptive antics.
Before anyone is officially engaged in any work at all, the individual is usually given a defined work description. This was actually what our Lord Jesus Christ did today in the Gospel as he took the time to give the Seventy missionaries some detailed missionary description as well the desirable expectations. An insightful look at these will be most fitting.
- You will be like lambs in the midst of wolves (But God will be your protection-Psalm 91:1).
- Carry no Provisions. (God will provide-Gen.22:14)
- Salute no one on the road. (Do not be distracted-1 Cor. 7:35)
- Pray Peace upon them. (Peace is foundational to the mission -John 20:21-22)
- Do not perambulate from house to house (Be steady and focused-Col.3:2)
- Eat whatever that is set before you (Do not worry about food- Matt. 6:31)
- Heal the sick and announce the coming of the kingdom. (The world needs both physical and spiritual healing and the kingdom of God is the goal of the mission-Matt.6:10).
After their missionary activity, the seventy came back rejoicing on account of the success they recorded. The true joy of the mission is not on the material returns or the fame that is recorded. The true joy ought to be based on the fact that souls are saved and the devil is defeated. Furthermore, the joy of the mission is also relevant for the salvation of the one carrying out the mission. It will be preposterous, pitiable, and eternally painful to save other souls while leaving one’s soul unsaved (Mark 8:36).
It is very evident that the names of the Seventy that were sent after the Twelve were not mentioned. This is a clear indication that those Seventy represent all of us who by virtue of our baptism are called to mission. Wherever you find yourself, be it in or outside your home, you are a missionary. Hence, we are all missionaries because we carry Christ in us and we ought to be conformed to him. Like St. Paul mentioned in the Second Reading today (Gal.6:14-18), the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ought to be in us. We bear the marks of Christ as missionaries which are not only joyful, luminous, and glorious but also sorrowful.
As we march into the new week, let us be conscious of the fact that our words and actions could add or remove from the essence of the mission of Jesus Christ to which we are called. Furthermore, let us pay particular attention to the missionary work descriptions.
Finally, let us pray, as the Lord challenged us, for more commitment to the mission especially in our world that is increasingly becoming secular with most young people who are supposed to be in mission showing so much disinterest.
Have a great week and a blissful Sunday.