What does the “rich harvest” in today’s Gospel mean to you and me? In a video clip Fr Olivier Morin, a French Jesuit shares about his experiences of his daily visits to the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok. In this detention centre which is a prison to thousands of foreigners who are arrested for immigration offences Fr Morin says, “When we visit them, we show them that somebody knows their name and knows their face; somebody cares for them; and in doing so, we give them their dignity. . .”
Fr Morin adds, “When you are in prison for many years, hope disappears . . . the happiest moments are when we are able to bring them the good news of their release by waving their air tickets at them; when that happens everyone in the cell would always cheer and burst out in great applause.” They are not only happy for someone who has found freedom again and can return to their family and homeland. Each successful case also raises their hopes that one day they too would be able to return to their family and country.
In the same video clip, Fr Morin also shares about how he and his staff found a young boy who was severely deformed begging in the streets. He had a very big growth in his neck that glued his head to his shoulders; Fr Morin and his staff took him off the streets, cared for him and brought him to the hospital; after he was operated on he could move his head very slightly. Fr Morin then contacted the Cambodian embassy and eventually managed to trace his parents.
They were then able to bring the boy by plane to his parents. Fr Morin says, “When the boy met his parents he gave everyone a big smile. Every one of us nearly collapsed with great joy in our hearts to see the boy smile for the first time. When we found him, he never smiled. Now, we brought a smile to his face. All these took us 8 months of hard work, and all the time we knew that the boy would not live long; the doctors had told us that he only had a few months to live. Was it worth all the hard work? Yes, certainly because every person is God’s precious child and we were able to bring God’s love to him and his family.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Gospel, when Jesus preached about the “rich harvest,” He is speaking of God’s love and the Eternal Happiness that everybody in this world needs. This love of God and happiness is already present in each of our hearts and in the world. When Jesus said that “the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few” He is telling you and me, that He wants each of us to share His Love and His Truth of Salvation with others in our daily living. Whether we are parents, priests or politicians, whether we are young, old, sick or disabled, whether we are at home or in the office, in the pub or in the Church, there is no time and no place and no person in this world that we cannot show more respect, more care and more love. This is because ultimately everybody is hungering to be loved; not only humanely, but divinely.
If you ask Fr Morin and his staff how they are able to care so much for the boy and for people, they will surely tell us that it is because they are able to find God’s love in their hearts and also able to see that everyone in the world is hungering to be loved. Ultimately, it is by God’s love that they are able to visit the prisoners at the Detention Centre day after day, and care for the boy as though he was their son or brother.
Today’s Gospel does not expect us to be like Fr Morin or Mother Teresa. Our Lord is challenging each of us to begin with simply showing more love, care and concern to all peoples; people we live, work and come into contact daily, including our neighbours who may be unreasonable, or the beggars who come up to us with their stories and smelling of alcohol, or a depressed family member or friend who can demand much from us in different ways.
It is from small and simple steps; from humble beginnings that our love will grow each day and touch more people in time to come. I know of many such people who today are totally committed to serving the needs of the Church and the poor and needy. Through such services their lives have been enriched and totally transformed. They would be too embarrassed if I named them. They have become better spouses, better parents, better siblings, more active members of their Churches and indeed become even more prayerful.
Let me assure you that these are busy people too; they are not people who are bored with life and did not know what to do with their time. Some of them even opted for early retirement. They tell me, “Father, I want to serve God when I still have the energy and health for a good part of my active life. It’s no use trying to serve God when we wait till we are too frail and weak to do any thing.
Before they began serving the needs of the Church and the poor and needy, they were happy people, but through their services they have found life to be even more meaningful and fulfilling; this is something they never imagined would happen to them. And this too, I assure you, will happen to anyone of us who are willing to serve God and share His love with others.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, Jesus in today’s Gospel challenge is not asking the impossible from us. Jesus is simply challenging us to take His Kingdom of Eternal Life more seriously. Concretely, He is simply saying to us, “Take one small step at a time; don’t procrastinate, don’t’ mull over this too much; otherwise, that small step will never be taken.
To bring the Good News of Salvation to others through showing them concern and care is a basic Christian responsibility and not an optional extra; no believer can say that I don’t need to show concern and love to others in the way that Jesus has taught us. Thus, no Christian is exempted from today’s Gospel challenge to be a labourer in the “rich harvest.”
There are many opportunities in our homes daily and there is no shortage of activities too in our Parish to show concern and care for others that we can engage in. To pre-empt our Pulpit Announcement, next week we will have a blood donation drive in our Parish as part of our Feast Day celebration. We can conveniently say, “Oh, I have no time,” or we can say, “My little sacrifice can even save the life of someone;” the choice is ours.” If we have the heart to care and live our faith, there is much we can do.
“If someone says, “I don’t love you.” He may be trying to say many things to you like he is no longer willing to make the sacrifices and commitment that are needed in the relationship. But, what the person and each of us cannot say is that we don’t need love or we don’t need to love. Every human person needs to love and needs to be loved. Without love we all become inhumane and we will soon dry up and die. Why? Everyone of us is created by God out of love of God and to love.
To conclude, let us remember that in today’s Gospel Jesus is challenging us to share the love that is in our hearts through our care and concern for others, and in doing so, point them to God’s Kingdom of eternal life. Yes, this is the Good News of Salvation that everyone in this world, without exception needs and is hungering for; the harvest is rich the hunger for eternal happiness is universal.
We are each so blessed and privileged to have this gift through our faith. . . we are thus, each challenged today, to be God’s labourers to bring this Good News of Salvation through out concrete acts of goodness, kindness, care and concern for others as Jesus has shown us. This challenge from Jesus is daily . . . but, the response depends on how much love we have for Jesus, and how seriously we want to take His gift of eternal happiness in our daily living .
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.
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