The Word Magazine, November, 1962, Page 5
“The Harvest is Great, the Laborers are Few”
by Rev. Robert E. Lucas
Jesus began His work in Galilee by calling from their fishing boats four men whom He wanted as His disciples – Simon and Andrew, James and John. The call was issued for a permanent companionship in which He would prepare them for their life’s work. “Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Promptly Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and others left their daily tasks and followed Him as they heard an unexplainable quality in His beckoning voice.
Although He uses different means, Christ continues to call young men to His service. In a divine manner, Christ tries to fill the ranks of the church’s need for more priests. He instills a calling, a vocation in the hearts of young men and asks them to come and serve Him and His Church. The sense of the word “vocation” in general is being lost. In trying to decide how to spend their lives, many young people are looking only for “breaks” and chances.” This of course reflects the materialistic idea that we work only to earn a living: that there is no point in work itself except what you get out of it, in the way of money, prestige and power. What we fail to realize is that there is more to life than this, much more as a matter of fact. Life DOES have a meaning and an aim. In God’s divine plan, every individual has a purpose; everyone is important. God created each of us to do a particular work, to glorify Him in a particular way, to make a particular contribution so that His purposes might be attained on this earth.
In calling the Apostles to succeed Him, Christ instituted the Holy Priesthood which is the most glorious gift any man could ever receive. But how many young men have disregarded God’s calling, God’s bid to them to serve Him and our Orthodox Catholic Church? The lack of young men who are willing to accept Christ’s call betokens a deficiency in the witness of the church on the part of our faithful and until we realize our obligations to God and recover our sense of vocation to the priesthood in its fullness we will not be in a position to fulfill Christ’s explicit command to preach the gospel to every living creature in the world, to bring Christ to those who hunger for Him, and particularly to those who know absolutely nothing about Him and the saving principles of His philosophy of life.
Every Orthodox Catholic, particularly parents, should accept the responsibility to encourage young men to fulfill their callings by becoming priests of Christ’s Church. We should strive to raise up young men to serve our Lord. Families should consider it a rare privilege and honor to provide a priest for the ministry of Christ. We must utilize every opportunity of prayer to ask for more vocations.
The priesthood is the foundation stone of Christianity. Christ Himself was a priest. Without priests we cannot have a church. Even though the priest occupies an exalted position before the throne of God, Christ’s words are as true today as the moment He uttered them, ‘The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few.”
The situation we are now in is nothing new or peculiar to our times of material prosperity. Christ Himself encountered it during His earthly life. We remember well the rich man to whom Christ offered a vocation. The young man asked Christ what he should do to gain eternal life. After Christ had enumerated all the requisites, the young man answered that he had abided by all those commandments. But Christ replied, “One thing is lacking to thee; go and sell whatever thou hast, give it to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven and then come, and follow Me.” But the rich man went away disappointed at the thought of having to give up everything for Christ. Though he possessed all the other qualities, he was lacking in the spirit of sacrifice. With the spirit of sacrifice, the priestly aspirant can easily find Christ and He will never regret the decision to heed His calling.
How glorious and magnificent is the priestly vocation! The priest possesses heavenly powers. He changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Divine Redeemer. St. John Chrysostom says that a priest is in a much more exalted position than the angels for they cannot touch Christ in heaven as the priest does during the Holy Eucharist. What an invigorating thrill is felt by the servant of God as he serves piously at the altar, as he zealously preaches the word of God from the pulpit, as he sympathetically advises in the confessional, as he loving comforts at the sick bed, as he administers the duties of his priestly office with the greatest compunction. He is a missionary who knows no other desire than to win all men for Christ and His Orthodox Catholic Church.
If we could only realize with our limited capacities the greatness and sublimity of the calling of Christ as He places His hand upon the shoulder of a young man and whispers lovingly into his ear: “Come and follow me.” If we fully realized the significance of Christ’s beckoning voice, the Church would have no difficulty in enrolling men for Christ’s crusading army.