+ ‘Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’.
When is the right time to act? In our gospel Jesus ‘saw the crowds and had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’. He saw a need… then he acted. But actually he didn’t.
The first thing he did was to ask his disciples to pray, ‘ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into the harvest’. The Lord of the harvest is God. Jesus tells them to pray to God. But then he chooses and sends our the twelve apostles as ‘labourers into the harvest’. All my commentaries on this say the Lord of the harvest is God not Jesus but it actually is Jesus who immediately answers the prayer. Jesus is the Lord of the harvest and by sending our the Apostles to share his mission, he is saying we, you, are called to share God’s work.
When is the right time to act? Now. When you hear Jesus speaking to you. ‘Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.’ It is interesting that here harvest is a symbol for mission work in the world here and now. Elsewhere in Scripture harvest is usually used as a symbol for the end of time. There is a hint in our gospel that the end is already here, in the middle of history (though we could still be in what future ages see as the ‘early church’). But the key thing is that Jesus wants people to serve him now, as Apostles.
See, pray, act. See need, pray about it, and when you feel the Lord prodding you, act to respond to it. This applies to all of us, those who work in our foodbank are responding to a need, and some are called to a particular mission. Jesus called the apostles, they appointed bishops in the churches they founded, and the bishops ordained priests and deacons. This still goes on today. At the same time the Holy Spirit raised up other people to special ministries outside the threefold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon. This year in our little community we will see Ross ordained to the priesthood and Br Joe sent out to Pilton to found a small community of Franciscan friars. This is a grace to us – and should make us all think about our own calling.
‘Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.’ Now is the time to act. Life is fragile, our death may be closer than we think. In recent news: two students walking home in Nottingham thinking their whole life is before them, killed. Hundreds of migrants in a boat of Greece hoping for a new life in Europe, many of them dead after the boat sunk. At the start of this month in India hundreds of people, people with plans and hopes, were travelling on two trains, then they crashed and nearly 300 died. Terrible tragedies for each person and family. Even for Christians for whom death is the gateway to real life, there is something tragic about being snatched away in the midst of life without preparation. Don’t put things off as you don’t know what’s coming.
See, pray, act. When is the right time? In our first reading from Romans Paul tells us ‘at the right time Christ died for the ungodly’. When is this right time? He says ‘while we were still weak’. There is a big clue there. Christ died for us, he showed his love for us, when we were weak, while we were still sinners. Act when you see the need, don’t let your own weakness get in the way for as Pauls says elsewhere, ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’.
So what’s the call? What are you and I, Ross and Br Joe called to do? Well, calling or vocation is unique to each person, God has a special plan for you, for each of us. But Jesus gives us a pattern for all vocations. In todays gospel he proclaims the good news and heals the sick. When he calls the apostles he sends them out to proclaim the good news and bring healing. It’s a challenge to us all – are we doing this, as individuals and as a community? Thinking of the news, when migrants are dehumanised, when people suffer, when our leaders tell lies – our world needs truth, compassion and healing.
Then we remember we are weak. We feel ‘harassed and helpless’. Faced with indifference to the gospel and the vast load of evil and suffering in the world we feel ‘I can’t respond to that, it’s too much for me’. Jesus original apostles must have felt like that in the end after they denied him, betrayed him and ran away when he was in need. But it is the very weakness of the apostles that should encourage us. We are just called to do what we can, now. See, pray, act. Listen to God, look around you, respond in love and faith, for ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’.