14th Sunday of Ordinary Time C
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” There is where I should and traditionally would launch into a plea for more priests, deacons and more men and women in religious life. And of course we should pray for that. But inevitably, whenever I hear this quote, my mind goes to the very honest St. Gregory the Great who, with this Gospel passage in mind, once wrote, “Indeed, see how full the world is of priests, but yet in God’s harvest a true laborer is rarely to be found.” Snap!
When Nathaniel first came to our parish, I would give him a weekly pep talk and the first one was, “The Church does not need more priests, it needs great priests.” The time of the mediocre priest is over. Can you imagine a worst job than being a mediocre priest? Giving up all manner of things for what? A status that does not exist anymore? It reminds me of something the great Rev. Lovejoy of the Simpsons once said, “There is a lot more to ministry than simply not caring about people.” The heart of a vocation of a priest is to know your people and to serve them. To know the smell of the sheep as Pope Francis is fond of saying. My vocation is not just a title of an ontological state. My vocation is to be found in the work of giving my life to yours, to journey with every high and low, to ensure that Christ is present in our lives. And it is beautiful work.
It occurs to me this is true of any vocation – the joy and the success is in the work. For example, it only takes a biological act to become a parent; it takes everything you have to become a Mom or Dad. That you have not achieved until your child is at the very center of your life and you would not hesitate to give everything over for your child – your happiness intrinsically is linked to theirs.
I decided to ask people what was the work of their vocation; the marrow of doing what God has called them to do. A single person pointed out something I had not thought of before. She has less support than others and the same responsibility, but she must continue on to serve. A lay minister wrote, “Being a lay minister is much more than joining a group. It means joining forces with God and taking action to serve the needs of others.” A married person resisted the idea of work and thought of it as an invitation to celebrate the sacrament in joy. She said the key to their vocation was to put the other absolutely first, (P.S. as a celibate that sounds like work to me!), setting aside time together and growing in faith.
The work of every vocation has the same starting point – our baptism. In those waters, we were given the assurance that we could love mightily and like Christ we could give everything for those we love. We were buried with Christ so we could do as he did and lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Whoever God has given us through our vocation of spouse, friend, child, or leader deserves and must be given all that we have. We are called to be poured out for one another.
Jesus gave a mission to spread his name to seventy-two disciples who go out before him. They return amazed over the power of the name of Jesus had in the towns they visited. Jesus exclaims to them, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.” No one will be saved by a title or a position. It is only through sacrifice, compassion and presence that those whom God has given us in a special way will come to know the glory of God.  It is how we will build the kingdom of peace.