14th Sunday

First, an old story that is worth repeating! A man was in his dinghy on a lake when a large yacht rammed him and his dinghy sank. As the man began to drown the crew of the yacht threw him a life jacket, but the man yelled back, "I don’t need help, for God will soon save me." Straight away another boat pulled up beside the man to haul him aboard, but he refused to go saying, "I don’t need help, for God will soon save me." Just then, the Air & Sea helicopter flew overhead and dropped a ladder, but the man pushed it away yelling out, "I don’t need help, for God will soon save me." And with that the man drowns. He meets God and angrily inquires, "Where were you when I needed you most? I kept believing you would save me and I’ve ended up here." "Don’t blame me for your tragic death" replied God, "I sent you a life jacket, a boat and a helicopter." Sometimes today’s Gospel has been used to talk about vocations to the priestly and religious life. While it can apply to these specific roles of service in the Church, to exclusively read the laborers in the harvest as priests and religious narrows down too much the power of Jesus’ message. His commission of the seventy disciples must be read over and against his commission to the twelve. The seventy are called to be evangelizers, to go and prepare the way for Jesus to visit the surrounding villagers and towns. This commission is for the whole community. It is the priesthood of all believers. The twelve are later commissioned to serve as leaders of the community. Through baptism we have all been commissioned to go out to live and proclaim the Good News of Christ, to keep journeying on to all our sisters and brothers and prepare the way for Christ to come into their lives. The number of laborers for this harvest has never been greater. We have never had more Christians in the world than we have right now. If all of us, who have been baptized in Christ, were living out the Gospel and bringing it to bear in our personal, family, social and national life, then the world would be transformed. We seem to have lost our courage, our nerve for the task at hand. We have been consumed by sheepishness and daunted by the wolves. Jesus reminds us that to live out this commission we need to depend on each other for support, hospitality and kindness. He challenges us to travel light and stick together. So let us pray for ourselves, the laborers who are putting in a hard day’s work toward the harvest. Let us pray for the gift of faith and gratitude for the privilege of the commission. Let us also pray that all baptized people will live out their faith in such a manner that it prepares the way for the Christ to come in every village and town. And let’s ask for eyes to see the extraordinary flowering of vocations throughout the Church and celebrate how grace comes in many shapes and sizes, even as a life jacket, a boat and a helicopter. Richard Leonard, S.J.
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