Farm Work for the Long Haul

I was involved with harvesting only once in my life and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Don't take me wrong; it was really hard work. The story goes like this: I was seventeen and I joined other youth from around Italy to harvest grapes in one of the vineyards in southern Italy. This was through the Church. We paid our way to get to the field; the wage, however, was totally given away so the Church could drill a well for drinking water somewhere in Africa. We gladly got up at the crack of dawn and went to work for several hours, bent down and sometimes crawling through the very low vines. We would stop for lunch and then at it again. Only two simple and sympathetic rules: "Don't cut yourselves with the shears and eat as many grapes as you can." Once back in the barracks, we would shower (cold water only, mind you), go for a hour Bible study, take a dinner brake and then go to a two hours worship service (every now and then you would hear someone placidly snore). I didn't mind the hard work. I enjoyed the experience because I knew the purpose (providing revenue for a well) and the sacrifice didn't face me.

Jesus spoke often with images from farm life. His intent was to let people savor how generous God is with God's resources for the purpose of bringing healing and salvation. God, the Farmer, saws abundantly and expectantly. Joseph G. Donders, teacher and chaplain at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, writes that "Jesus sowed his seed in our heart, then off he went...He knew things would not be ideal. There were the birds and the droughts, the weeds and the insects, the parasites and the blights. But there was also the power of the seed itself." The seed has the power to withstand the harshness of death, to break through, and finally grow strong and yield fruit. All happens as the Farmer tends to the soil and nurtures the plant.

Are we docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and grateful through persevering prayer as the farm work is being done in us? Or are we rebellious and restless wanting things done our way and immediately? Secondly, do we do our part in receiving the seed and cradle it through a virtual life 'till full grown? Or do we seek what's most gratifying for the less amount of work?

Two simple and sympathetic rules for this kind of work: Love God with all your heart, mind and energy is the first. The second is similar to the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. And watch those shears, will you?