“Daddy, when will the leaves change colors?” With that, I knew I was entering into the time when my 8 year old was beginning to understand the changing of the seasons. “Do they call it ‘Fall’ because the leaves fall on the ground?” Wonderful!
I confess a deep love for Fall, mainly because of my childhood growing up in the rural American South. I also confess an ontological connection with the soil of my youth. There is something special about helping your grandmother snap beans and “put them up” through the canning process of Mason jars and boiling water in large pots. I also remember cutting okra on hot summer days with a long sleeve shirt on so I wouldn’t get “eaten up” by the pricklies on the okra! Nice memories that, my children will only have on specialized field trips to farms. Modern life is too far removed from the earth!
But there is something spiritual about harvest time. The lessons of just the right time to pick the tomatoes, dig up the potatoes, cut the corn, and gather the “fruit of the earth” teaches us valuable lessons about our own souls. There are seasons of life when we are ready to move forward and hear clearly the call of the “Lord of the Harvest” to enter the “field already white” and gather the most important “fruit” in all the universe; the fruit of the repentant person.
Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 9:36-38; 10:1-8:
At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaios, and Lebbaeos called Thaddaios; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
Here we see the Lord “moved with compassion” when He saw the crowd because they were so needy, so harassed by life, and so much like “lost sheep.” He was referring to His own people, the Jews of His day. Even though they had the Scriptures, the Prophets, and the Temple worship, they were lost and the time of their redemption had arrived. So, our Lord, in His customary compassion “harvested” 12 Apostles from these “lost sheep” and then sent them (“Apostle” means “sent one”) to harvest the rest who were ready to be freed from their confusion and darkness.
The Lord goes on to tell these newly “harvested” Apostles to go and share the message of the Kingdom. But He didn’t just send them out to preach; He empowered them to heal! And He further told them NOT to go and do these works among the Gentiles because that “harvest” wasn’t ready. It wouldn’t be ready until years after Pentecost! But when it was ready, the Lord had already “harvested” an Apostle for us as well!
The beauty and the power and the wisdom of knowing when to harvest is only surpassed by the power of this truth: The Lord has already told us it is time to harvest. The fields are “white”; the grain is ready; to risk not having workers to go into the fields means allowing the harvest to rot! God forbid.
Today, what season of life are you in? Where is your own life “ripe” for harvesting the “fruit” of your spiritual maturity? Are you actively and purposefully allowing your life to be “watered” by the wisdom of the faith? “Fertilized” by the beauty of the Liturgy? “Pruned” by the wise Lord of the Harvest from those areas of your life that are no longer life-giving? And finally, are you willing to take up your Lord’s heart cry of looking for “laborers” who will go into the field and harvest others? The Lord of the Harvest looks into your eyes today and asks you “are you willing”, because there are so many who are ready to be Orthodox on Purpose!