A farmer was working his field of tall, maturing corn when his pastor arrived for a short visit. Noticing the field of corn, the pastor said, “That's a mighty fine field of corn the good Lord has given you!” “Well,” replied the farmer, “You should have seen this same field a while back when the good Lord was working it all by himself!”
To each of us is given, for a time, one small but significant plot of earth to plant and work and harvest. We alone can make it blossom – it's our responsibility and no one else's! Just as in today's Gospel, Jesus assigns his disciples their specific towns and villages, we too are given assignments of time and place. If we falter in this mission, our plot of God's kingdom will never bloom, never come to harvest. Yes, God's help is essential, but so are we.
It's no easy task God is giving us. Jesus tells us in today's Gospel of Luke, “I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Our life experiences surely confirm that Jesus knew what he was talking about. So his advice to his disciples as they begin their mission merits our close attention.
“Travel light,” Jesus says. “You're going to be walking a long, hard journey. Get rid of your extra baggage. Don't bring anything that might slow you down or prevent you from reaching your destination and finishing the good work God gave you to do.” “What extra baggage?” we ask. What are we taking with us that slows us down, drains our energy or even brings us to a full stop? Extra baggage comes in many shapes and sizes, and for each of us it's different.
For some of us, extra baggage is fear or worry that we're not up to the task. For others it's trying to please people too much, or judging others without having to walk in their footsteps, or holding on to old ideas that have outlived their time, or unhealthy attachments to people, places and things that are not good. Extra baggage may include feelings of superiority and selfishness that blind us to the needs of others and to the harsh realities of life.
Whatever our extra baggage is, Jesus tells us to get rid of it. If we keep it, we can't finish our mission, we can't plant good seeds that grow and blossom, and the field assigned us will not be ready for harvest. Keeping that extra baggage means our hands and hearts wont be open to do the work God has given us.
So there we have it: God's challenge to each of us. First, identify the extra baggage that's slowing us down. Second, leave it behind. Third, figure out what we really need for the journey, what is truly essential, and make sure we have it. Three things come to mind: (1) a compassionate heart to embrace all God's creation, (2) a helpful hand to reach out to care for people in need and (3) a habit of prayer that keeps us in close touch with the Living God. In short, we need compassion, service and prayer!
Yes, God calls each of us to a specific task, just as God calls the farmer to work his land. God supplies the farmer with good soil, the strength to work the field, and the sun and rain to grow the crop. Yes, we need these things. Yet without the farmer, nothing gets done. God has entrusted us to work a small plot of this earth: the people, places and things in our everyday lives. If we work it well, it will surely blossom outrageously and will become a bit of heaven on earth! It will be a great harvest! AMEN!