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Bits o' Wisdom: Master of the Harvest
by Cullen Schippe
As we get back into the swing of things, and our parish catechetical programs get into gear, it might be a good idea to spend a little time on the harvest metaphor. The Gospel gives us a source for the reflection:

[CLICK HERE] for guidelines for a harvest festival.

Does anybody still remember harvest time?

Every year when I was growing up—about the time of the Solemnity of the Assumption—our minds turned to two events: the harvest and our inevitable return to school. We may have been eating garden-fresh vegetables all summer long, but now it was time to gather all the farm crops, especially the big ones—corn, wheat, barley, and of course hay to support the dairy herds all winter long.

Most of us today do our harvesting at supermarkets. But back then, the harvest was an annual milestone event. While the smell of new-mown hay was still in the air, it was time to say “so long” to summer and head back to school. Shortly after the start of school in our parish, the harvest and the school met in the only event that softened the back-to-school blow: the parish fall festival.

Our festival was a county fair in miniature. There were food booths, craft booths, white-elephant sales, activities, music, and games. (My favorite was the fishpond where, for ten cents, you could cast a line over a curtain. On the other side of the curtain, some teen volunteer would attach a donated toy or game or perhaps a cap or a pair of mittens.) Everything was homespun and wonderful.

The parish festival was (of course) a fundraising event. It was, however, also a time for building a Eucharistic community. The festival was a team effort on the part of all the parish clubs and organizations that produced great fellowship—as well as great barbecue, cider, cakes, cookies, and pies! The parish harvest festival took many laborers.

As we get back into the swing of things, and our parish catechetical programs get into gear, it might be a good idea to spend a little time on the harvest metaphor. The Gospel gives us a source for the reflection:

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sign of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest’” (Matthew 9:35-38).

Jesus’ urging his followers to ask for harvest workers is most often used as a prayer for vocations to the priesthood or to religious life, and surely it is just that. However, I would like to expand on it a bit. By our Baptism and our participation in the Eucharist, we all share a harvest responsibility. We are all answers to the storied request to the Master of the Harvest.

An essential element in all catechesis is the call to discipleship. Disciples do indeed follow the master, but disciples are not consumers of the gospel or observers at the Sunday Assembly. Rather, disciples bring their considerable gifts to the service of the reign of God. Disciples go out into the abundant harvest as laborers—as members who want to bring into the community the poor, the disenfranchised, the discouraged, the fearful, the estranged, and all those searching for love and fellowship.

In the presence of the abundant harvest, there need never be a dearth of field hands because your catechetical ministry summons laborers into the harvest. There are some sizable crops out there and, with your help, there should be many hands raised and voices calling: “Here I am! Send me!”

The “harvest celebration” provided here (click on HARVEST CELEBRATION above) will help you put on a simple harvest festival—one that celebrates the many gifts of the community and calls the members of your community to respond to the Master of the Harvest.

My IN THE SEEING blog site at mynsvc.net has been on summer vacation, but I invite you to join me again after Labor Day.

Cullen Schippe has been in Catholic publishing for well over 40 years and currently serves as President and Publisher for the Peter Li Education Group. E-mail Cullen at cschippe@peterli.com.


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