“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, His heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest’” (Matthew 9:35-38).
We have heard this Scripture passage many times before, but I think most of us only remember the part that states “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few …” Would you be surprised to know that this passage is titled “The Compassion of Jesus?” This passage is about relationships, our relationship with God and each other, not about achieving goals or objectives. It’s about fulfilling God’s plan and not our own.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” is a common stewardship theme for many parishes, but maybe for the wrong reasons. Most parishes experience the “80/20 rule”, that is, 80% of the work (the harvest) is done by 20% of the parishioners (the laborers). (In many cases, it’s probably closer to 90/10). If the goal of your parish harvest is to increase Mass attendance, increase the number of volunteers or increase the amount of money collected, you, my friend, are about achieving goals and not saving souls. If you see your fellow parishioners as statistics and not individuals, your parish stewardship efforts are probably not bearing good fruit from your harvest.
The goal of stewardship is to bring people to Jesus and ultimately, help each other get to heaven. If we aren’t doing that, we are not fulfilling God’s plan. Our goal is to help people encounter the Lord, grow in love and friendship with Him and share their witness with others. All good gifts are meant to be shared — through our generous sharing, we imitate Christ, and with God’s grace, inspire others to be followers of Jesus. The stewardship of our gifts has the ability to build disciples and transform disciples into disciple-makers, this is the harvest that Jesus cites.
But, before the harvest can become abundant, the seed of each individual plant must break so that it can transform and grow. So too it is with our heart, it must break open to grow and transform. If we are truly interested in reaping the abundant harvest that God has planned, let’s develop our relationships with each other and not group our fellow parishioners together as a statistic to be measured.
This isn’t easy. It may require us to be in some uncomfortable situations. It may require us to listen, not to respond, but to understand. It may require us to go beyond the minimum required and place our complete trust in God. Let’s pray for the strength and courage to become the laborers God designed us to be.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners of Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected].