Thirty First Sunday
The divine mission of Orthodox believers demands that we go out in the world as witnesses for the Lord, as representatives of his teaching, his lifestyle; it demands that we assume this posture seriously and with devotion and it demands that we be sensitive in soul and heart to the needs of others so we can respond in a God-like way to their needs.
But just as importantly, the divine mission demands that we pray avidly to the Lord of the harvest. That is a basic requirement our Lord set forth and of course, we do realize that in most circumstances it is not our natural tendency to pray for the growth of our blessed Church. Our response is to talk about it, to appoint a task force, to set up a committee, to have meetings to make us look like we are serious and actually doing something. But Jesus saw the needs of the people and He was moved because they were weary, worn out, devastated, isolated, attacked and hurt and injured by the devil. Thus He reminds us, "The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest" Matthew 9: 37, 38.
Pray the Lord of the harvest. This is the distinction we made at the beginning. This is God's mission and we must understand that. The whole emphasis is reaching a world with the gospel is God's idea. Not ours. It is the mission of God unfolding in our midst, with our assistance and approving support. If we do not understand and accept the growth of the Church is God's work, we will look at all the needs around us and grow despondent because we are helpless to meet the needs of people for salvation.
I remember the first time I went to New York City years ago as a young priest. We drove all around the streets of Manhattan and over towards Long Island before returning to New Jersey. I realized that from the top of the Empire State Building, I could see the rooftops of some 25 million people which was about one tenth of the population of the nation at that time. Suddenly I was overwhelmed! "Lord," I thought and prayed, "how can we reach all these people?"
We can look at the world like that and we can become despondent because we do not know what to do. Or we can take the other extreme and become frantic in our activity, doing this and that, running here and there. Spending money like fools sending a socalled head evangelist around to check on the activity of local parishes. We think we are meeting the need. But Jesus said, "No you are not supposed to do any of those things.
First, foremost and above all, you must pray the Lord of the harvest with a loving and concerned heart and soul to fulfill his will."
Notice Jesus does not tell us to pray FOR the harvest. I do not know how many times priests have asked God to give us a great harvest. And people pray, "Lord, God, give us a great harvest." But our heavenly Father never told us to pray for the harvest because
He says the harvest is already there. It is out there. It is waiting and ready to be gathered. We are commanded to pray the Lord send laborers into the harvest.
There is a harvest all around us, so we do not have to pray for the harvest. But we must ardently pray that God will send people to gather the harvest. It is already ripe; It is already there! Jesus says to the disciples, "Don't you say, `There are still four months, then comes the harvest'? Listen to what I am telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they ready for the harvest" John 4: 35. We must pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers, devoted laborers, real laborers, serious laborers into the
We are in the greatest era of mission opportunity that the world has ever seen. There has never been a time like this. We can connect to the world easily. E-mail, computer communication is spreading. Do you ever invite people to visit our parish web-site? Do you encourage others to learn from it? Do you introduce others to look it up not only to enjoy the color and beauty of the icons it displays, but the living and ready message it always advances about our blessed Savior and His Body and Bride, the Church? Through technology we have an opportunity to grow in our blessed faith that we become excited by is content and purpose. There are all sorts of information that can be gleaned to enrich our souls. We have to be willing to make whatever changes are necessary to meet the challenges before us. We need to tell God that our answers is yes
to whatever He calls us to do.
We have to seriously pray, "Lord, send laborers into the harvest." And even, "Lord, here I am, send me, too." We must pray out of a sense of surrender to his will, out of a sense of surrender to his purposes for our lives because it is his mission which He
invites us to participate in. We pray the Lord send laborers into the field.
Perhaps it would help us if we viewed this great mission movement as a mighty river. Our mission is carried along on God's mighty mission river. That mission river flowed out of the rock of faith in the highlands of Galilee when Jesus gave the Great Commission to his Church. It flowed through Pentecost where it was fueled, and the early disciples. It flowed through the early years of Christian history and then there
was a period of time when it seemed to flow underground as well. It was almost unseen through the dark times of the Middle Ages and then it emerged again in our homelands even under the terrifying yoke of the Moslems whose terror almost stifled completely its spirit. It emerged in more modern times when our faith came to America in 1792. Throughout the history of this great mission river, it has swept millions and millions of people along its course.
We can never forget this is God's mighty mission river. We do not carry the river; the river carries us. It is his mission river. And just like the ark which Noah was commanded to build to save its eight human beings in the deluge flood water, so our Church is the barge in which salvation is achieved. The mission of the Church was here before us, without us. If the Lord continues his mission on the face of the earth, it will be here after us and without us. It is His mission. He does not depend on us, it is we who must depend upon him. It is God's great mission river that carries us along in its course.
So many times we ask the wrong questions. Sometimes we ask what help for mission is in our lives. We look at missions as if it is a piece of a puzzle and show how that piece is mission. So we try to find where we can find that piece and fit it into the whole. Where does missions into your life? But the definitive question really is, "Where does my life fit into the mission of God?" That is the real issue. For the people of God, for those of us who know Jesus Christ it is not a question of trying to fit God's mission into our busy lives. It is how we fit our lives into God's mission, or even better how does God able to fit our lives into his mission?
Pray, Pray, Pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send laborers into his harvest