The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few … I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sandals, and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household.”
— Jesus Christ in The Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 10
At a Tuesday Bible study group in Makati’s Bel-Air Village this week, one participant noted the difficulty of getting companies to host Christian Life Seminars. He said it took three years of requests to three different human resources managers to finally get a group of 27 to sign up for a CLS session this weekend, among the 400-odd employees.
Others in the evening Scripture discussion lamented the secular or even anti-religious trend in America, where Christian symbols and tenets are being removed from public structures and activities, from the Ten Commandments in courtrooms to the Patriotic Oath in schools, because of the phrase, “One nation under God.”
Talking about our high-tech, low-faith age, the Lord Jesus certainly got at least one thing about today right in his admonition to the 72 disciples He sent forth two millennia ago in the Gospel reading this coming Sunday from St. Luke. “Lambs among wolves” is not far from how many Christians feel when trying to bring their faith to the world around them.
Christianity has the most adherents today (1.2 billion), and the Roman Catholic Church is
the largest worldwide organization, bar none. But many believers who openly profess their faith find many, if not most people around them either ignoring or disdaining their devotion. Not to mention that countless Christians are so only in name.
So is the harvest of faith really abundant, or is the land really dry and infertile for those sowing Christ’s message?
In fact, the absence of spirituality, morality, charity, prosperity, and all other bounties good and godly is the usual state of things until learning, governance, enterprise and other purveyors of civilized life are brought to bear on the less developed. So it is with faith: the mission land is parched and barren — until it is watered, plowed and planted by proselytizing disciples. At least, there are no more colosseums where believers are fed to lions or slaughtered by gladiators.
On the other hand, the challenge to religion today may well be more formidable than wild beasts and murderous emperors. For the modern age offers humanity the prized bounties of law and order, wealth and health, even peace and harmony, but without need of the divine. Indeed, purveyors and advocates of development see many religious tenets and practices as obstacles to a better life and world.
Moreover, the fast-spreading liberal perspective that personal freedom and fulfillment are the ultimate goal of human existence, directly contradicts the centrality of God as the Alpha and the Omega of life on earth. Rather than cheering his own achievements, the Apostle St. Paul writes the Galatians in the second mass reading: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Try selling that line to the me-first generation.
The mission impossible gets even tougher in the Gospel reading. “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one along the way,” Jesus Himself instructs the 72 before sending them off. Even as Christianity harnesses a world of material and human resources to propagate the faith, true believers from the Popes current and emeritus to the newest convert in some remote village, must pin their hopes and efforts on divine providence, even as they employ worldly things for their mission.
At the Bible study session, one participant explained in so many words the Christian perspective of working in the world but trusting in the Lord. She told with joy and inspiration how a Christian group embarked on the building of a church with nowhere near the wherewithal to get the structure even half-done, prompting the practical to shake their heads and throw up their hands. “But eventually,” she recounts, “the money came and the church was finished. God truly blesses what we do for Him.”
The point, therefore, is that Christians can be steeped in the affairs and objects of this world, as Gawad Kalinga homebuilders and Jesuit land reform advocates are every working day, as long as they never lose sight of and belief in the face of God moving over the swirling waters of mundane affairs. Or as the Lord put it in the Gospel reading:
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Even as they blaze the mission trails, let the faithful never forget that God’s hand is pointing and clearing the way.
Now, will this message of believing in God and letting Him move the world through His faithful, win over Generation Me? Jesus did say that not everyone will believe: “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’.”
But that’s not the last word. “Yet know this,” said the Lord, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.