Laborers Needed

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus,
and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke.
The crowds were amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said,
“He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

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 9:32-38)

Scripture Study

9:32–34 Finally, after Jesus cures a demoniac who could not speak, the crowds were amazed—not simply over this exorcism but over all Jesus’ miraculous deeds. In the Jewish tradition healing lepers, curing the sick, raising the dead, and expelling demons had been done before, but never quite like this: in a sudden sequence of incidents, by one man who was announcing the coming of God’s kingdom. Therefore, at the climax of Jesus’ ten miracles, the crowds respond, Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.

But not everyone is so impressed. Jesus’ miracles are so powerful that the Pharisees cannot deny that he has access to some supernatural power. However, since he eats with tax collectors and sinners, seemingly shows disregard for the ritual purity laws, and offers forgiveness of sins apart from the temple, they conclude that he must not be sent from God. They allege that his miracles are the result of a dark power: He drives out demons by the prince of demons. With this severe accusation, which will recur in 12:22–32, the battle lines are being drawn and opposition to Jesus intensifies. The Pharisees do not merely disagree with Jesus’ teaching. They accuse him of working with Satan. The next section of Matthew’s Gospel will show how Jesus responds to this crisis in Galilee.

9:35–38 We have seen Christ’s concern for those in Israel who are sick, sinners, outcasts, or afflicted by demons. Now Jesus shows compassion for the crowds who come to him. His heart was moved with pity for them—an expression describing deep, emotional concern. Lacking leaders to guide them, the crowds are like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus continues, saying that The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. The crowds have expressed great enthusiasm over Christ’s kingdom (7:28; 9:33), but there are no leaders to reap this spiritual harvest for the Messiah. Since many of the leaders oppose him, Jesus tells the disciples to pray for new leaders to be raised up, so that the Lord could send out laborers for his harvest.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus directs his disciples to “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” to pray for evangelists to rescue the lost. But what precisely does it mean to evangelize?

Euangelion (glad tidings) was a familiar word in the culture of the New Testament authors. When the emperor or one of his generals won a battle, he would send evangelists ahead to announce the glad tidings.

The first Christians were being edgy when they adapted the word to their purposes. They were saying that the definitive battle had indeed been won, but that it had nothing to do with Caesar and his armies. It had to do with the victory that God had won in Christ over sin and death.

Jesus went into the belly of the beast, into the heart of our dysfunction, to the limits of godforsakenness, and he defeated the dark powers. He demonstrated that the divine love is greater than our greatest enemies.

This evangelical message entails, too, that there is a new king, a new emperor. Christ, the victor over sin and death, must be the center of your life.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.