July 7, 2019 — Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel passage from Luke, we find our Lord appointing disciples to go out and prepare others to receive His invitation into the Kingdom of God. Every verse has something to say about the way a Christian steward should approach others. Let’s look at least a few of the coaching tips Christ gives.
“The Lord appointed seventy-two others whom He sent out ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit.” In His wisdom, Christ sent His disciples out not as individuals but in pairs, as teams. This approach to evangelization certainly provided practical advantages. The disciples could lean on each other for mutual support and encouragement, helping each other to stay on task and to put their heads together to pray and problem-solve. This teamwork approach is just as relevant to us modern-day Christian stewards. It takes courage and commitment to go out and invite others into the Christian life. We need to work together to do it well.
But there is also symbolic importance to working in teams. It points to the reality that when we invite others to embrace the Good News of the Gospel, we are not merely inviting them into a belief system, but into a relationship with Christ and through that relationship, into Christ’s family — our fellow Christian disciples near and far.
Our parish is, in a sense, our immediate spiritual family in this extended worldwide fold. We are not meant to live as isolated individuals within the parish any more than we are meant to live in isolation within our families. We are meant to be a community. That is why it is so important for us to foster a vibrant, supportive, welcoming parish life. This is why we emphasize hospitality as one of the pillars of stewardship. It is not enough just to point others to Christ, we must invite them to join us in community with Him; we must offer a place and mission for them in the Church and within our parish family.
Next, Christ instructs, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Who are the laborers that our Lord speaks of? Perhaps it is the clergy and religious who first come to mind. And we certainly have a duty to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. But we confirmed Catholics are also His laborers, called by Christ to bring others to Him and to join us in the life of Christian discipleship.
How are we to do this? We are to go to first to God in prayer. Inviting people into the Kingdom of Christ is above all a spiritual endeavor so our Lord reminds us to seek God’s wisdom before approaching others. The harvest, after all, belongs to Him. We simply have the privilege of helping with the harvesting. This also reminds us that it is not primarily through “Catholic guilt trips” that we will ignite in others a passion for serving Christ and living the Gospel. It is God Himself who must be at work in us as we call others to the Christian life.
The very next instruction Christ gives is this: “Go on your way.” Yes, we must pray for each other, for our families, for our parish. But then we must go! The Good News of Christ is meant to be shared, and not just within the confines of our own parish family. We must take it out wherever our way leads us — in our neighborhood, at our workplace, in our social life. This is the essence and purpose of a stewardship way of life.
This week, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work on the harvest all around us.