I have to admit that I struggle a bit with our Gospel reading in trying to understand it.
Jesus says to the 72 disciples that he is sending out – “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few;
The way that many in the church are feeling today is that the harvest is getting less and less rather than being plentiful.
No one seemingly wants to hear what the church has to say.
A harvest suggests that the people are waiting for us but we don’t have enough workers to send out for the demand.
Where are all these people that Jesus suggests are just waiting for us to come to them?
Where is this harvest that Jesus speaks about that is ready to be picked?
The harvest is wherever you go – whenever you go there.
The harvest is in your workplace.
The harvest is in your local shopping centre.
The harvest is in your own home.
The harvest is in your local sport.
That’s how Jesus sees every individual because every individual is created in God’s image.
Every individual is a person for whom he suffered and died.
In last week’s Gospel when the Samaritans rejected Jesus, James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy them.
But Jesus rejected their anger.
What would that achieve?
They too were people for whom he will die.
After all the suffering, humiliation, rejection and death that Jesus would undergo to save humankind, what more could anyone do that would deny them from Jesus’ love to have them saved?
And so we are sent out with just one thing – the love of Christ to extend to all people.
So often we go out with our agenda of what WE believe people need to hear.
What WE believe people need to do or change in order to be accepted by God.
But let us remember, we are already accepted by God –that’s what the Cross of Jesus is all about;
For God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son, not to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
God had nothing more to give us which he gave by sending his Son Jesus so what can we possibly give or do for God to have him accept us.
There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love or have God love us any more than he does.
Likewise there is nothing we can do that will make God love us less or reject us.
But, because of free will, we can freely reject God’s love – and that’s our harvest field to work in.
And that’s what we have to give to the world around us – the love of God in Jesus.
Jesus sends his disciples out equipped with all they need – the Good News of God’s love and acceptance of all people:
Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
Go where the Holy Spirit leads you.
But he wants us to be under no illusion – we are going into enemy territory
I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
And that’s why the harvest is plentiful.
Because there are so many out there that do not yet know the love of God that he has for them.
This is not an easy task to do because, as Jesus says, rejection is at the heart of sharing the Gospel.
And that is why the workers are few because it not everyone’s “cup of tea” to share the gospel with others – especially with family and friends.
In fact Jesus acknowledges the difficulty as he sends his disciples out in pairs rather than by themselves.
And that’s why we need to encourage one another.
That’s why we gather as community rather than individuals.
And what a wonderful message we have to share and how amazing when we see someone respond to the Gospel.
Just like the disciples who returned with excitement: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!
It’s like the angels in heaven who rejoice over one sinner who repents rather than the multitude who have no need of repentance – that’s our harvest field – even if there is just one grain of wheat ready for the harvest.
Sadly our fear of rejection often motivates us rather than the joy of sharing the Good News.
As Isaiah says: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!
What is it that hinders us from sharing this Good News that brings so much joy and peace?
Is it because we are afraid of the rejection and take it personally?
It often is, which is why Jesus encourages and comforts us – Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
It’s not you that is being rejected but God.
It isn’t easy but we need to share the Good News so others have the opportunity to share in the joy we have.
And that motivation comes by remembering what we have, as Jesus said:
Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
If you ever want motivation – remember what you have and what others miss out on if they don’t hear about the love that God has for them.
And another thing to notice from our Gospel reading is that this was not a quick process.
When he sends them out he says: remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.
For someone we are witnessing to it may take a lifetime.
And for some it may be just one person God has you focused on for your entire mission.
Remember ever single person is important to God – like the one lost sheep.
It may take a lifetime of involvement of sitting with them, eating with them, listening to them, praying for them and with them – waiting for the right time.
That’s how Jesus did his evangelism – “he eats with sinners”.
Sadly “evangelism” has received a bad name whether it’s the evangelist on the street corner yelling out to “repent” or the door knocker wanting to leave reading material, or posting things on Facebook, twitter or Instagram.
Jesus sends his disciples out with nothing – just the message of the Good News – no purse, no bag, no sandals, no reading material, no bullhorn – just the love that God has asked them to share.
I wondered what it means to “shake the dust of your feet” if a town rejects you.
Does that mean you forget about them and ask God to send down fire from heaven on them.
It means, move on to the next place the Holy Spirit sends you and don’t take the rejection with you.
Don’t let the rejection stick to you like mud weighing you down.
Because it is very easy to become cynical in our witnessing and condemn everyone after a while and give up.
As Jesus said – they have not rejected you – they have rejected God.
Let God work in their hearts while you spread the Good News elsewhere.
And remember – one sows, one waters, but only God can make it grow.
And never give up because it is so easy to become disheartened.
But remember what St Paul says:
Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.
So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
Let us go because the harvest is plentiful and ready – but the time is short.