Abundant harvest: Help Wanted!

Homily - 11th Sunday, Ordinary Time: June 15, 2008
Exodus 19:2-6a
Romans 5:6-11
Matthew 9:36-10:8

Oh, how sweet, how easy would be my life if,
at ordination, the Lord had given me:
authority over unclean spirits, and the power
to cure every disease and every illness,

to cure the sick, cleanse lepers,
drive out demons and raise the dead!

But when Jesus called me to be a priest,
he didn’t promise any of that.

And, well, in one sense
it wasn’t Jesus who called me to ministry:
it was Kathy T...

When I was in high school, around 1963,
Kathy T., a classmate and friend,
sent a post card requesting
“more information about becoming a priest”
to a vocation director -
and she filled in my name and phone number
without telling me what she had done!

A few weeks later, she asked me if any priest had called to talk to me.
I told her no and asked her why. She told me what she had done.
And I told her what I thought of what she had done!
I wasn’t happy about it and asked her why she would do such a thing.
She answered, “Because I think you’d be a good priest…”

Well, at that point in my life
I wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer – not a priest.
But sure enough, a week or so later a priest called me.
I explained what Kathy had done and told him I wasn’t interested.
He understood and said that students often did that to their friends.
End of the phone call.
But the beginning of my thinking about what Kathy had said to me,
“I think you’d be a good priest…”

Well, we can fast-forward here
because you already know how this story ends!
I’ve been a priest for 35 years.
And I don’t believe I’d trade those 35 years for any other life.
I have a full life, a rich life, a rewarding life.
It’s not without loneliness, pain, hurt, disappointment
and some regrets -
but it is, after all, the life of a human being, not an angel,
so I think in that respect it’s a normal life.

The world, Church and culture in 1963 were very different than today.
When I first told people I was entering a seminary,
just above everyone thought it was a great thing.
That might not be the response today.
“A seminary? You want to be a priest? A Catholic priest?
But don’t you know…? Haven’t you heard…?”

Of course, the biggest reason why anyone should consider
becoming a priest is simply this:
you believe this might be what God wants of you…
I believed that 43 years ago when I went to the seminary
and I’ve believed that over the 35 years I’ve been a priest.

It ain’t all been perfect! And I have not been perfect.
My faults and failings are many more
than even those who don’t like me might imagine!
But year after year after year I continue to believe
that I am what I am and I do what I do
because God has drawn me to this work
and given me gifts and talents, tools for harvesting the gospel,
so that what has been sown in faith might be harvested
in the fields of this parish, in the hearts of God’s people.

As Jesus commissions the twelve apostles in the gospel today
he says the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.
We have, of course, a whole staff of great harvesters in our parish:
Jim B, Susan B, Helen C, Andrea L, Sr. Rose L,
Sandra M, Bill S, Sheila S, and Pat W.
Without them and without the great work of
our Councils and Commissions and Committees,
without the work of our liturgical ministers
and without the work of so many others – you –
who help harvest the gospel
in hundreds of different ways each week,
without all of these laborers, we would reap very little at Holy Family.

But, we need more help. We need more workers.

Every week in the prayers of the faithful we pray
“for men and women being called to serve God’s people…”
I believe God is constantly drawing men and women in this parish,
and everywhere, to be laborers
for the harvest of the gospel of peace.
And there are a variety of jobs to do in the fields of the church.
For some ministries you must still be a male – and celibate.
But for most work in the Church, gender is not an issue
and celibacy is not required:
7 of the 10 people on our parish staff are women
and 8 of the 10 are happily married!

The ten of us don’t usually drive out demons
and none of us has raised anyone from the dead,
but we have the privilege and the joy,
the invitation and the welcome,
the opportunity and the challenge to walk with God’s people
at the most important moments in their lives’ journeys
and to touch and sometimes hold their hearts
as they stand before God.

I have the inestimable joy each week of gathering with you
around the table where we are all drawn by God’s Spirit
and of offering here, in your name,
the gifts of our worship and praise
and receiving with you,
sharing with you the body and blood of Christ
whose presence in this sacrament nourishes us
to be his workers and to bring in the harvest of the gospel.

I wonder whom the Lord is calling this week
to help bring in the harvest.

I wonder what part God’s work
you might be called you to take up.

I wonder if you’re wondering if God is calling you.

I wonder if any of you here need a “Kathy T.”
to tell you how much you have to offer the Church.

I wonder if anyone here needs to be a “Kathy T.,”
to be the person who tells another,
“I think you would do a good job working for the Lord…”

And that work might be full time, or part time or, for most,
an hour or two, here and there, now and again,
and again and again and again…

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.
Is the Lord calling you?

As we come to the table this morning,
the Lord reaches out to feed us
to make us strong for the work of harvesting the gospel message.

May the nourishment he offers us,
his body and blood in the Eucharist,
not be offered to us in vain.

Image: Blooming Patches CSA Farm



  1. Great homily...I happen to attend a Mass that you did not preach at so I love to catch up on the homily. I hope lots of laborers hear the call...thank God for Kathy T

  2. You are so lucky to have had a "calling" which originated from Kathy T., and eventually brought you to us.

    As you know, we all have different gifts, which weren't handed out equally by God. Those with less, find it harder to find their purpose on this earth. They don't find people coming up to them and telling them to use their gifts that God gave them, because it's not obvious to them or others, there are any gifts to be given.

    Maybe that's when, those who were given less to work with, need to pray to God to show us the way.

  3. I'd say that in God's eyes:
    1) it's not that one gets more gifts than another; it's that everyone's gifts are different and some are more obvious or public than others
    2) every person receives from God just the gifts they need to do what God asks of them; no one is called to do things God has not equipped them to do
    3) comparing gifts (mine vs. yours, vs. his, vs. hers, vs. theirs) is counter productive and a kind of dead end;trying to use one's gifts, whatever they may be, and to use them in concert with others' gifts - that gets us somewhere
    4) every person has a calling from God and, again, some are more public than others; my calling puts me in the public eye an other callings are behind the scenes or in places where the exercise of gifts may not be as easily noticed but that doesn't make some gifts better than others
    5) from my point of view, the most important gifts in the parish are those given to parents; this afternoon I was at a cookout where there was a couple with their new baby (one month old) and I was thinking about how different the couple's life will be now for at least about 10 years - and even beyond that; I don't know a more important or demanding gift given - and it's one that's taken for granted all the time

  4. Thanks, your comments were helpful. Children are indeed a gift from God, and parenting is a privilege, one too often neglected and abused.

  5. I just read your reply above about their your friends couple's life being different at least about 10 years and beyond. My daughter is now 11 and my life has been very different than when she was 1 month old and I pray every night that I have God's guidance and she has God's because I think my next 10 are going to be even more different than I can imagine.

    Take care and Happy Father's Day to you- all you do is very much appreciated.


  6. Do you think you would be a priest if Kathy T. hadn't sent your name in?

  7. I have no way of knowing the answer to that question. Might be a good one to ask the Lord when we meet him!


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