Today we honour the memory of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron of the foreign missions. Our Lord calls us all to “go and preach to all nations”. But our preaching and teaching isn’t done on distant shores, but here in our own land, in our own place and among the people we know. Saint Francis gave of his time and his talents to benefit others. May we follow his example.
I read the other day that psychologists have conducted fresh studies that demonstrate how people’s actions are very often affected by how they view themselves. For example, if you are convinced that you are bad at arithmetic, you will do worse on a test than if you felt as if you were making progress. And if you expect to lose a game of chess, you’re much less likely to win. Given this dynamic, it’s worth considering whether we view our role in God’s Kingdom the same way God does.
Today’s Gospel begins with a very familiar scene: Our Lord is preaching and teaching, giving himself completely to everyone who comes to him. But then he pauses; he is struck by the overwhelming need of the crowds. But he doesn’t just redouble his efforts or pray to the Father for his intervention. Rather, he turns to the disciples and urges them to pray for more workers. Then he sends them out to minister without him.
From that day on, it became very clear that Our Lord didn’t intend to do everything himself. He has reserved much of the work of his Kingdom for his followers—which, of course, includes us.
But we may say, I’m not a great apostle like Peter or Paul or John, or Saint Francis Xavier. What can I do? Well, consider the image Our Lord uses: he wants “labourers for his harvest,” everyday, ordinary people willing to do the work of the Kingdom (Matthew 9:38). And that work has many different roles requiring many different skills. So, when we step up and offer ourselves, God makes us fruitful.
To do the job of evangelism properly we need to find the right balance between our diligence and God’s faithfulness, between our work and his grace. Or, as Saint Augustine said: we need to work as if it all depends on us, but pray as if it all depends on God.
This sounds challenging, but Our Lord reminds us that we have freely received God’s grace—and that’s what we should be working hard to give away (Matthew 10:8). So let’s give ourselves willingly to this great work of welcoming and advancing God’s Kingdom among the people with whom we live.