Ordinary Time 14, Year C
- For we are God’s co-workers (1 Cor. 3:9)
God, of course, is still the master of the harvest. We ask him to send out laborers for his harvest. The success really depends on him. Unless they gather with him, even those sent out will end up scattering instead (cf. Mt. 12:30; Lk. 11:23).
That God, however, gives human beings a part in bringing about what he himself ultimately realizes is both an affirmation of our usefulness and worth as human beings and a testimony to the effectiveness and creativity of the leadership that God exercises and wants us to exercise.
God’s invitation should really elicit on our part the kind of jubilation that Mary showed when she exclaimed, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” (Lk. 1:46-48). Those invited by God through Christ in the Spirit should have no reason to think that they toil in vain or that for nothing, uselessly, do they spend their strength (cf. Is. 49:4).
The joy that is ours at finding ourselves trusted by God and entrusted with tasks that properly speaking are really divine should be reason enough for us not to be readily and fundamentally distrustful of others. Effective and creative leadership as shown by the One who takes the initiative and calls us—as shown as well by Jesus—is deep down trustingly inviting and seeks collaboration from others.
And it does not seem to me as though God or Jesus simply wants us to feel good about ourselves, as I am afraid church leadership does sometimes when it concedes to a segment of church membership some roles just so the membership does not insist on a role it desperately seeks for itself. For God or Jesus, in my opinion, assures us that we do make a difference. If it were true that we really don’t make a difference, I don’t think Jesus would have been quite explicit with his apostles and disciples, for instance, about their adopting a lifestyle appropriate to their mission. Those enlisted by Jesus in the mission of proclaiming God’s kingdom and healing the sick do make a difference one way or the other, and therefore, they must be careful about not adopting a lifestyle that undermines their own mission. The simplicity of their lifestyle—“that is, living with minimal concern for personal pleasure and comfort, subordinating them to carrying forward Jesus’ message and mission” (Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., “Follow the Leader” in the July 2-9, 2007 issue of America)—and the sense of urgency they project are to attest to the supreme value and imminence of God’s kingdom.
Moreover, God’s partners are to be clear on what the mission is all about. It is not about holding anyone subject but rather of attending to those in need, spiritually and materially, and bringing peace and joy, all of which disposes the Lord to make sure we are listed among those who are to inherit the kingdom (cf. Mt. 25:34-46; Lk. 16:19-31). It is not about love of power but about the power of love, of power being exercised in servanthood and love, of boasting in the cross of Jesus and bearing his marks on one’s body (view the video “Justice, Power and the Kingdom” at ).
With regard to all this, St. Vincent de Paul appears to me to have gotten it right once again.
He clearly reminded a discouraged superior (cf. VII, 276 at ):
- You must redouble your trust in our Lord, holding him up and
- looking on him as the superior of your house, praying
- unceasingly that it will please him to guide it in his ways,
- regarding yourself simply as a poor tool that would spoil
- everything were it not in the hands of so excellent a worker.
And yet St. Vincent must have excited those he addressed saying (cf. X, 327 at ): “My sisters, doesn’t it seem to you that God want to make use of you?” And I don’t doubt it that he affirmed the worth of those women who heard him say (cf. XIII, 810 at ):
- It has been eight hundred years, or thereabouts, since women
- have had any public office in the Church. In early times there
- were those called deaconesses, who supervised the women in the
- churches and instructed them regarding the ceremonies then in
- use. But around the time of Charlemagne, for some unknown
- actuation of divine Providence, this custom stopped and your sex
- was deprived of all office and left without any of it afterwards.
- Nowadays, however, this same Providence addresses himself to some
- among you, in order to provide the poor sick in the general
- hospital with what they lack.
And what a lift he must have provided to the missionary whom he told (cf. VII, 341 at ):
- Oh, what happiness for you to be working to the same end as he
- did. He came to evangelize the poor and that is your lot and
- your occupation.
And St. Vincent immediately added, “If our perfection lies in charity, which it does, there is no greater charity than to give one’s whole self to save souls and to sacrifice oneself, like Jesus Christ, for them.”
Sent out by the master of the harvest, St. Vincent gathered with him and so did not end up scattering.