Sunday, July 7, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or Luke 10:1-9
Jesus was a master teacher. As such, he often employed metaphors and images from daily life to teach the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. From calling the apostles to be fishers of men to inviting them to sow the good seed of the Gospel in the fields of human hearts, Jesus repeatedly emphasized that proclaiming the Kingdom was as essential to life as the food that we eat.
When Jesus spoke of needing laborers for the harvest, he pointed out the necessity of evangelists, the centrality of proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom to all who would hear it and be converted by it.
Afraid of the moral demands a life of true discipleship entails, some think of the preaching of the Kingdom of God as an oppressive message. Today’s readings point to the reality that the truth of the Kingdom bears not heavy burdens, but, rather, the fruits of peace and joy.
When the prophet Isaiah spoke of a future time of prosperity, his message inspired hope. The Israelites had long endured exile far from Jerusalem and all the material and spiritual poverty that exile produced. We are not foreigners to this sense of exile, and in God’s word we receive assurance that “in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort” (Isaiah 66:12). For the Israelites, this pointed to a time when they would return to the city of Jerusalem and the joy of worship in the Temple. For us, Isaiah’s prophecy opens onto an even broader vista of the New Jerusalem in which Christ the Lamb is the Temple and in which abundance will be unsurpassed.
St. Paul, who heard the call to labor for the Master in a dramatic way on the road to Damascus, knew both what the Kingdom of God requires of us and what it promises to us. He knew not only in his mind, but also through his experience, that to enter the Kingdom is to be conformed to Christ crucified and risen. This path involves embracing “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The cross and all it costs is not the goal in itself, but, rather, allowing God to make of each of us a new creation transformed by grace.
It is this hopeful assurance that helps the one who accepts the call to labor for the harvest to be a messenger of peace. It is true that living for God’s kingdom comes at a price. It is also true that entrusting oneself and all one has to the Lord is the wisest investment.
If the Psalmist calls all the earth to rejoice, it is because even amid the exile of this life, we know that God saves. The Lord who delivered the Israelites from bondage and who restored and comforted them after the exile is the same Lord who triumphed over sin and death on the cross. Such a God can be trusted to make of us the new creation we long to be. Renewed in his love, we can sing with the Psalmist, “Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!” (Psalm 66:20). Being a laborer in this harvest brings abundance that surpasses even 153 large fish or 12 baskets of leftovers — abundance of life unto eternity!
Dominican Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee.
She is assistant professor of theology at Aquinas College in Nashville and also serves through retreats, public speaking and writing.