A starting point for our reflection on today’s gospel might well be the phrase ‘summoned and sent’. That is, the dynamic movement of being called to come close to the Lord and in turn being commissioned by him to go out to others, seems to be at the heart of discipleship. Furthermore, discipleship itself seems to be at the heart of the growth of God’s reign in this world.
While Jesus inaugurated and announced the ‘kingdom’, today’s gospel is a powerful reminder that the growth of this same kingdom comes about through human effort. Of course, our efforts must be modelled on Jesus own life and mission, but nevertheless we play a vital part in keeping alive that mission today. In this context we might better understand the passion and urgency Jesus expresses in his own prayer, a prayer he asks us to make our own and continue praying – “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest”.
If the sight of Jesus being moved by the plight of the people, and his deep desire to respond to their need as seen in his healing actions, was not enough indication of our worth, then his language in assigning ownership of the harvest (our world) to God makes it quite clear. The harvest, perhaps a similar image to that of the ‘field’ in many of the parables, is God’s own possession. We are God’s people and God’s focus, and the Lord’s desire is to shepherd us and hold at bay from us all evil or illness.
So, to be a disciple in our world, is not just to seek the company of Jesus, but to listen to his commission and to go out in his name.
The themes of movement, proclamation, and compassionate response to suffering fill out the role description for discipleship even more. We may not have to travel to distant places, but we do need to be able to move and change and adapt ourselves to new situations and challenges. We may not have to preach in a public sphere, but we do need to illustrate by our lives and values that which we believe. We may not have the skills to cure a particular illness, but we are all capable of healing situations or relationships.
We have all received unique gifts and talents from the Lord, we are only asked to spend them in service of the growth of God’s reign in hearts, minds and our world itself – “You have received without cost, give without cost”.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.