Long before any human being dreamed of creating a “New Society” or a “New Order,” God had the plan to fashion humankind into a community characterized by love, solidarity, justice, and peace.
It was Jesus who revealed that “Grand Plan,” called it the KINGDOM OF GOD on earth, and laid its foundation in the group of disciples he had chosen. Before He ascended into heaven, he also commissioned them to proclaim and establish the Kingdom in every nation and human heart.
Today we are reminded that the proclamation and the building of the Kingdom is the call and responsibility not just of the leaders and a few enthusiasts, but of all those who believe in Christ. The Kingdom we are called to build should be viewed as our home and our best aspiration.
At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand! I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy, and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
So few workers for such an abundant harvest! This remark, justified in the time of Jesus, is more than appropriate today. There is the whole world to be brought to Jesus. Or better, Jesus has to be made present to the whole world. More than five billion human beings have not yet received the Good News. They are not yet aware of how much God loves them and of what a wonderful future He has in store for them!
The workers are few. This is a fact and more. It is a lament, an invitation, and a challenge. For centuries the Church has endeavored to respond to the challenge through her elite troops: the clergy and the religious. Now she has come to realize ever more clearly that she needs many, many more apostles if she is to fulfill her mission of preaching the Gospel to all men.
What was never denied in the past is now proclaimed loud and clear: the Church needs the Laity. They are an immense potential of 99% that has been kept dormant for too many centuries. The 1987 Synod acknowledged it frankly. “Christifiddeles Laici” (the post-synodal exhortation written by Pope John Paul II after that Synod) proclaims it bravely and as a matter of urgency. The time for a re-evangelization has come, and the lay faithful are to play their rightful role in it.
The magnitude of the task to be accomplished should not discourage anyone. It has never been easy to be a worker in the field of God. Jesus told the seventy-two that he was sending them as “lambs in the midst of wolves.” (See Lk 10:3.) Proportionally, the wolves are as numerous today as in the times of Herod and Nero. We need to be as brave as the Apostles, none of whom died of old age, except John.
The harvest is plentiful. Indeed, there is so much to be done. There is peace to be sown and nurtured in the hearts of men, if we want to see it flourish among the nations. There is so much healing to be done among the numberless victims of the terrible cancer called “sin.” There is a Kingdom yet to be proclaimed and established, in the endless alternation of victories and setbacks.
If billions of humans do not know and love Christ, no Christian should try to excuse himself/herself. Woe to us if we do not preach the Gospel! (See 1 Cor 9:16.) This is a duty and a privilege that none of us may delegate to others. The roles and styles may be different and change with the times and circumstances. The essence remains: every Christian is called to be a worker in the harvest of God, today.