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 sight 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)
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. (Matthew 10:8)
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. (John 15:12-15)
Advent is something of a contradiction in terms. It is a time of receiving and welcoming the Lord into our hearts in a deeper way, but it is also a time to give away what we have freely received from the Lord (Matthew 10:8).
It is this pattern of divine exchange that we find in the two groups of people Jesus addressed in Matthew 9:35-38. The first group received the gifts of his teaching and miracles. Jesus saw their neediness and had compassion on them. He couldn’t stay away from them but spent all his time ministering to their needs (Matthew 9:35-36).
But there was a second group— the people who knew him best and who had already received his gospel. To these, his closest friends, he sent as “laborers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:38) — to proclaim the good news and do the work of the kingdom of heaven themselves.
Instead of trying to figure out which of these two groups we belong to as Catholic men, let’s accept that we really belong to both. On the one hand, we all need deeper healing. We all need to learn the gospel message more clearly. We all have areas of sin that need to be addressed and forgiven. So we all need to spend time with Jesus in prayer and at Mass, letting him minister to our wounds and fill us with his grace.
But on the other hand, as “friends” (John 15:15) and “disciples” (John 13:35) of Jesus, we too have much that we can offer to other people. How often during this Advent and Christmas season do you hear people talking about how lonely they are because they have lost a loved one or are estranged from a family member. How often do you hear people tell you how guilty they feel about some poor decisions they made? It is to these that we can offer the love and compassion we have already received from the Lord (John 13:34). Maybe they need nothing more than a friendly word of encouragement. But maybe they need to hear about how much the Lord loves them and wants to work in their lives. None of us is too “weak” in the faith to begin giving away what we have.
Brothers, we serve a generous God. So let’s be just as generous, freely giving what we have freely received – his love, mercy, and forgiveness!
“Lord, touch everyone searching for you during this grace-filled season. Deepen my experience of your great love and mercy. Use me to show others your abundant love and mercy, and to help lead them to the grace of a new life in you.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
2. As a Catholic man, in what way do you believe you have been called to be “laborers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:38)?
3. The article states that we all need to “learn the gospel message more clearly,” we all “have areas of sin that need to be addressed and forgiven,” and we all need to “spend time with Jesus in prayer and at Mass, letting him minister to our wounds and fill us with his grace.” What steps can you take to allow these personal needs to be addressed during the Advent and Christmas seasons?
4. The article ends with these words: “Brothers, we serve a generous God. So let’s be just as generous, freely giving what we have freely received – his love, mercy, and forgiveness!” In what ways has God been generous to you?
5. As Catholic men, we are “friends” (John 15:15) and “disciples” of Jesus (John 13:35), and we are receivers of God’s generous love. Do you know of any family members, friends, or acquaintances that also need to experience the healing touch of God’s generous love for them? In what way can you be a vessel of God’s love and healing touch in their lives?
6. Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord reveal to you in a deeper way his great love for you, so you can give it to others. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.