Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Gospel says that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages... When he 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 labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’” (Mt 9:35-38). These words surprise us, because we all know that it is necessary first to plow, sow and cultivate to then, in due time, reap an abundant harvest. Jesus says instead that “the harvest is plentiful”. But who did the work to bring about these results? There is only one answer: God. Clearly the field of which Jesus is speaking is humanity, us. And the efficacious action which has borne “much fruit” is the grace of God, that is, communion with Him (cf. Jn 15:5). The prayer which Jesus asks of the Church therefore concerns the need to increase the number of those who serve his Kingdom. Saint Paul, who was one of “God’s fellow workers”, tirelessly dedicated himself to the cause of the Gospel and the Church. The Apostle, with the awareness of one who has personally experienced how mysterious God’s saving will is, and how the initiative of grace is the origin of every vocation, reminds the Christians of Corinth: “You are God’s field” (1 Cor 3:9). That is why wonder first arises in our hearts over the plentiful harvest which God alone can bestow; then gratitude for a love that always goes before us; and lastly, adoration for the work that he has accomplished, which requires our free consent in acting with him and for him.
2. Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps 100:3); or: “The Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession” (Ps 135:4). And yet we are God’s “possession” not in the sense of a possession that renders us slaves, but rather of a strong bond that unites us to God and one another, in accord with a covenant that is eternal, “for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Ps 136). In the account of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, for example, God reminds us that he continually watches over each one of us in order that his word may be accomplished in us. The image is of an almond branch which is the first tree to flower, thus announcing life’s rebirth in the springtime (cf Jer 1:11-12). Everything comes from him and is his gift: the world, life, death, the present, the future, but — the Apostle assures us — “you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:23). Hence the way of belonging to God is explained: it comes about through a unique and personal relationship with Jesus, which Baptism confers on us from the beginning of our rebirth to new life. It is Christ, therefore, who continually summons us by his word to place our trust in him, loving him “with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength” (Mk 12:33).