“The Goal of Reaping God’s Harvest”
July 3, 2016: The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 9)
Isaiah 66: 10 – 14/ Psalm 66: 1 – 9/Galatians 6: 12 – 18/ Luke 10: 1 - 3; 17 - 20
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
This is the next stage of our journey, hopefully, the last. We are on the verge of our Promised Land. We, biblically and figuratively speaking, are at a place called Kadesh Barnea. In the Book of Numbers, we will understand that this was the place from which Moses sent out twelve spies. This place is about two weeks away from the Promised Land. Kadesh Barnea was their last stop. The ten spies said, “Yes, the land is good! It is flowing with milk and honey.” In fact, they brought back grapes which they had to put on a pole to be carried by two men. The land was so fertile and good and the fruit was so exceedingly lush. Two weeks took them thirty-eight weeks to cover because they went round and round and murmured and complained.
We can either have the understanding and the attitude of Joshua and Caleb, the only two spies who gave good reports, or be either like the ten spies and spend thirty-eight years in this building. At this point where we are, we can either have the understanding and the attitude of either the ten spies or the two spies.
Two years are more than enough, but for the last eighteen years, we have had only one Mass on Sunday. Before that, we had six English Masses and one Tagalog Mass from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We are going to the same format for the meantime, but not quite the same number for the meantime because we are looking to that city that God has promised to us. He is very close to fulfilling that. In fact, He already fulfilled it. It is now up to us. We are getting closer and closer. We are just a stone’s throw away. We are very near and God wants to take us to this land of Promise. God is not done yet. We will have a bigger facility and God will also fill it to overflowing.
The next generation should get ready because this is not the end, but the beginning. We go together. We don’t leave anyone behind. We will follow God. We are experiencing birth pangs. God is faithful. Understand what His plan is and His goal for us, and see the joy that is attached to it. We need to understand our goal.
The past Sundays, we have been having the theme of “The Goal.” Today, it is the goal of reaping God’s harvest. If you see the goal of the harvest, your heart will be glad and if you don’t, you will be affected. Isaiah 66 says, “Then, you will see and your heart will be glad.” If you don’t see it, you will not have an opportunity to be glad. The ten spies did not see the goal which is why they were blinded by the circumstances. See the goal and do not be blinded by the circumstances. When you see, then, you will have joy. James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials and hardships and difficulties, knowing, seeing the goal, of producing endurance for you.” It is something beneficial and good.
Hebrews 12 says, “Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” He saw the joy through and beyond the crucifixion, the suffering, the shame and the embarrassment that He would face in His passion. In Luke 9, Jesus resolutely set His face toward Jerusalem. His eyes were on the prize, looking to the goal.
Yesterday, we had our Men’s Meeting and as we had our groupings. In our group, we were discussing about why we are Christians, why we are the children of God, and what constitutes being a Christian. It was simply because we answered the call of Jesus. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” He also said, “If you want to follow Me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.” This is the prize, and we will find life. He also said, “He who loses his life will find it.” This is our harvest.
In our group, I also said that I used to go to the gym to exercise. Imagine me getting inside and seeing all the equipment and I would go, “There are so many equipment! There are so many things to lift!” Is this the common attitude of somebody who goes to the gym? No! Why does one go to the gym? To lift weights and to pump iron. Does he get there surprised? No, because he knows and expects what to see and what to do in the gym.
We must know and expect the situation and look to the result. The focus is more on the result, not the difficulty of the process. We like the process because it takes us to our goal. In the gym, many use the equipment, and we wait for our turn to work. Is this our attitude? The goal is more on the result, not the difficulty of the process because we know this would build us up. The goal is on the harvest. Our eyes are on the result, not the difficulty.
Our attitude is to be eager to take the opportunity so that we have something to reap. Are we eager or anxious in God's field? The key is finding real joy. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you; I reveal to you the goal and the purpose so that My joy may be in you and so that your joy may be full.” The goal of Jesus is not to make slaves of us and not to have a good time being a slave driver. His goal is so that the joy that He experiences, we would experience if only we obey Him and discover what He experiences every single day.
Jesus told the disciples, “Even the demons are subject to you.” We will not rejoice in this but rejoice in the fact that our names are recorded in heaven. It is not about eternal insurance in heaven. Rejoice because we are bonafide, legitimate, citizens of heaven acting exactly the way citizens of heaven act. This is being concerned for those who needed deliverance, who need healing and answers to problems in their lives. This makes us a legitimate son of God. Jesus said, “Display your good works so that people may see it and see that you are really children of God; glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Prove that you are sons of God; prove that you are citizens of heaven. You are not just to show your ID, but your real ID is your life, your love, your concern. You are actually volunteering to deliver people from their bondages because the spirit of God is in you. You are not sons just by your baptism. You participate in the work of God. What kind of citizen or a member are you? Are you are productive member? Are you involved in the activities of the Kingdom? Do you pass on the Word of God to others?
I heard in the radio that there used to be a mayor in a city hall who employed his relatives and they show only two days a month – on the 15th and the 30th. They may have had full stomachs, but empty hearts and empty lives because they are not legitimate employees. They may have had issued city hall IDs but does that make them authentic employees? Real workers are those who produce for the city, for the Kingdom. Participating in God’s work itself is joy. The service itself is the reward. We are looking for a denarius, but the work itself is the reward. If Jesus ignored the people on the market place or people He found and did not employ them, they wouldn’t have a denarius, and their families would starve. They should be grateful simply for the fact that Jesus gave them employment.
In the Parable of the Talents, what was the reward of those who produced more talents? It was more work. Jesus then said, “Enter to the joy.” Did those who receive more work complain? No, they rejoiced because they understood the joy of their Master, and entered into the joy. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Pray for more workers. Jesus did not mean that He wants the work load to be distributed so that it is easier for everyone. The work is joy. If you diminish the work, you diminish the joy. It is about increasing the work and increasing the joy.
The reason that I believed He said to pray for more workers is so that more will discover the joy of being in the harvest field. This is His will for man. When God put Adam in the Garden, He told him to work, to cultivate and to keep and Adam was living his eternal life at that point. When he was being obedient, working, sowing, and harvesting was eternal life. Sin was before this; death was before this, and Adam was experiencing the joy of serving God.
In the parable, the workers who worked all day missed the point. They thought the denarius was the reward, but the harvest of souls is the reward. The grace of serving God is the reward. Don’t we sing to God, “The greatest thing in all our lives is serving You, knowing You?” The workers who worked all day complained about the heat of the day instead of appreciating the grace given to them. They missed the point. So what if others got the same thing for less work? They got the benefit and God gave them life. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into the harvest. I don’t think that this is so that the work is lessened; but the more people into the harvest, the bigger the harvest it would be because God’s grace is like this. It abounds all the more. The reason He instructs to pray for more workers is so that more would discover the joy of working in the harvest field. Reward is more work. His will is that the joy will be in us and our joy may be full. It is not to an exclusive few but to more workers.
In my alma mater, San Beda College, whose patron saint is St. Benedict, its anthem goes, “Herald the Bedans coming. May their fellowship never cease; molded by bold, undaunted men of pray’r, work and peace. Through the carefree days of our childhood and the visions of our youth, you gave us the wisdom of Benedict’s soul, faith in God and love of the truth. When we encounter trails and hardships, we shall give you honor and fame, for nothing but these show our loyalty clear to our Alma Mater’s name. Bring out the challenges, we’ll win them all, and fear neither fire nor blood. Bedans will answer the clarions call, for San Beda, our country and God.” The song sets a vision – being ready for the trials. Trials are part of the process of bringing fame to the name of the school that molded the students and bringing glory to God in the process.
The purpose is not to make life hard for us. The purpose is to build us up and to give glory to God. People don’t serve because they don’t understand the joy they derive from serving. They see work as a task, but not as a source of joy. They don’t see the joy of giving of themselves. The fact that you have a secure work in the vineyard and your names are recorded in heaven is the reward in itself. If we are serving God and we find the joy in serving, and we are toward the fullness of realizing this, then, we will put a lot of meaning to what we sing, “The greatest thing in all my life is serving You.” It is not complaining about the heat of the day, but appreciating the fact that we don’t have work, but God gave us work, and the work are all part of the process. Our eyes are on the goal of the harvest.
Rejoice as your names are recorded in heaven. Participating in God’s work is an opportunity to serve and this is the reward. This is why good, faithful, productive servants are given more work. A song goes, “O God our glorious Maker, we marvel at Your grace that You would use us in Your plan; rejoicing at Your favor, delighting in Your ways, we'll gladly follow Your command.” We marvel because of His grace. We are awed by it, and we rejoice at His favor. It is a favor that He included us in His army. He enlisted us and we rejoice in it and we delight in His ways, and we gladly follow all His commands. All the emphasized words are positive words. It was the Joshua and Caleb attitude. This is a real blessing.
We, being sent out as lambs in the midst of wolves, look through this because these wolves, one day, will join us in the harvest field and they will be lambs themselves and they will discover the joy of serving God. We don’t see them as our enemies. We see them as people needing deliverance. There are people that we don’t necessary like, but God’s purpose for them is to turn them from being a wolf to being a lamb, just like He did and still doing to us.
Sometimes, we think that serving God is a thankless job. Sometimes, we are not appreciated and the hand that feeds is being bitten by people we feed. We look passed this and we look to the goal of the harvest. Jesus said, “You will be persecuted, but rejoice for I have overcome the world and we will get to our goal of reaping.” Jesus asks, “Will you still follow Me?’
There is the gospel that says, “Come, and I will multiply your offering.” “Come and I will give you a US Visa.” Jesus said, “You see Me, you see the Father. You hear Me, you hear the Father. The Father says, ‘If you want to follow Me, you will be persecuted. If you want to follow Me, deny yourself and take up your cross. And you will get to participate in the work that transforms death to life. I will give you the ability. Your pay is the joy that you derive from this plus one denarius.’” The denarius is the fringe benefit; the compensation package is really in the joy. This is the real gospel. It is not, “What is in it for me or what is the one hundred fold return for me.” The real gospel is we give, we lose our lives, and then, we find it. God knows how to bless us. We involve ourselves in the work of God which is the reward.
This makes it great gain and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.