July 2016 | Hōngongoi
Reflections | He Whaiwhakaaro
This Sunday’s Gospel reflection comes from Tom Gibson, a retired dairy farmer from Kaponga in South Taranaki. He now lives in Stratford and is a parishioner of the Immaculate Conception Parish.
A Successful Mission
For many years the Stratford parishioners have, during prayers for the faithful, included a prayer for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life at all week-day Masses. Today, we read Luke’s longer meditation on Mission. He had previously written, along with the other synoptic writers, of Jesus sending out twelve disciples on an evangelising mission (Luke 9:1-6). While today’s direction is similar to the others, there is an urgency in the outcome; it is to bring peace and that requires increased human resources. ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few’ highlights the requirement for every available person. In 2016, we, Christ’s followers, are the seventy-two disciples highlighted in today’s reading (Lk 10:2). Harvesting in this context is any vocation to which the Holy Spirit has called us. ‘There are different ways of serving but the same Lord is served’ (Paul 1 Cor:5).
All work done for God is a servanthood regardless of our gifts. Employment in the 21st century will require us to serve God and society in different ways. We may not have anticipated these varying roles when we first entered the work-force but it is a reality today.
Fifty-five years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase a dairy farm of 100 hectares in Taranaki. It was one of the largest farms in the locality. Dairy farming was very much a way of life.
As the herd increased, staff numbers increased, homes were built, children attended local schools, God was worshipped and the local villages prospered. When sold last year, our 100 hectares was less than the average New Zealand dairy-farm size.
There are fewer farms because farmers have bought out their neighbours and other farms as well. Banks have lent more money to fewer people purchasing dairy farms and made dairying a business not a life-style.
New costs and technologies have necessitated changing farm styles. Neighbours no longer participate in gangs for seasonal work; compliance regulations, labour laws, health and safety rules and an ongoing concern for the environment have seen to that. Taranaki, once the dairy and energy centre of New Zealand, has empty houses, which mean fewer schools, more debt and a reduction of personal resources in the rural-support centres.
In Auckland, where an increasing and richer population pushes up home prices, first-home buyers are being shut out of the market because of the Reserve Bank’s loan-to-value rules. Is ownership in New Zealand to become a working-person’s dream?
So, what of the ‘Harvest of Souls’? Have the new pressures of 2016 in both the city and rural areas ripened the souls of searching people ready for harvest? And who of us have been chosen to be the harvest pickers? And what resources do we need and how will they be supplied?
I know from my experience as a dairy farmer that nothing comes easily and everything comes at a cost. Success takes time, prayer and perseverance. Peace is not a wanton virtue. Nothing is achieved without hope and help. So may all who harvest for the Lord rejoice, that their names be written in heaven.