The harvest is ripe wheat. It is necessary and urgent to harvest it in time so that it may become bread. You cannot harvest it ahead of time or behind time. In the first case, it is unripe and useless; afterwards, it rots and you have to throw it away. Like the harvest, every person is always ready to live as God’s child and in mutual fraternity. Otherwise, he/she is dead and spreads death.
It is necessary to announce the Gospel to every person. People live according to what they think they are. If they don’t know that they are God’s children and brothers or sisters to each other, they will not act as such. This is hard even for those who are aware of it! It is urgent that all persons may know who they are, in order to live their personal truth at once, from now on. Every moment lived outside the truth is wasted; it is darkness and a lie.
“And He said to them”: Jesus keeps saying what He said in the first place. His voice still resounds in the Word: in every word the speaker is present. What He said to the 72 disciples, He is now saying to me and to all. The Gospel reading in the liturgy starts always with the expression: “In that time.” Listening to the Word, I re-live now the time gone by. The story becomes alive for me here and now: what is narrated happens also in me and I say with Mary: “Let it be to me according to Your word.”
“The harvest is plentiful”: The harvest, all human beings of every time and culture—past, present and future—are God’s children, called to live as brothers and sisters. They are ripe wheat, ready to receive the gift of the Gospel. It is never too early for the Gospel announcement; but it is soon too late. Every instant that people pass outside the love of the Father and the brethren is wasted life.
Jesus’ very first words in Mark’s Gospel are: “The time is fulfilled.” Thus, the present is pregnant with eternity. Then, Jesus adds: “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” i.e. it is here present in the One who is speaking to me. I have only to “convert and believe”, following Him and His word (Mark 1: 15). In His speech at Nazareth, after having read the promises according to Isaiah, Jesus said: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 21). Today, not yesterday or tomorrow! Aware of the urgency of the present, Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9: 16).
The announcement, by itself, doesn’t postulate the inculturation of the Gospel. The Word is seed. Once thrown on the ground, it catches and grows “automatically” (Mark 4: 28): it knows what to do by adapting to the terrain, ambience and time. It is evangelization that must inculturate itself to the Gospel, in order to witness it both to Greeks and Jews.
These, in their turn, will inculturate themselves to the Gospel, in their own way. Paul says: “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9: 22). Whoever doesn’t act like this, doesn’t propose the Gospel, but imposes his/her own culture.
“The labourers”: God is a “labourer”, always at work in creating and saving the world. Creation is a continuous event: like water from a spring, it gushes forth every instant from His love that puts itself at our service. “My Father is always at work and so am I” (John 5: 17). He sees the Father and what He sees the Father doing, the Son does likewise” (John 5: 19).
The apostle too is, like Jesus, God’s “collaborator”: he is His “fellow worker” (1 Cor 3: 9), moved by the same love. Woe to him if he works against God. If God wants poverty, service, humility, and I want wealth, power and prestige, my work destroys His. The Kingdom’s delay doesn’t depend on God, but on us: since God doesn’t want anybody to perish, He uses patience and waits for us to convert. Woe to us if He would act as we do!
“Are few”: the harvest is plentiful and ripe; but the labourers are few. Few work with God, with God’s style. An obstacle to the Kingdom are not enemies and persecutors: they accelerate and spread it. The only obstacle is “the world” which is within us and makes our testimony not credible.