Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.
And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’
He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’
Recent Church of England reports have raised the alarm about the future of the parish system as a great number of our priests will reach the age of retirement in the next decade. The days of “one priest, one parish” are rapidly disappearing – and in certain rural areas of our country these days have gone already a long time ago. However, in the midst of this a recent report endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested that the “one priest, one parish” model is effective and it is the ideal setting for church growth. On top of this a recent session of the General Synod has pledged to increase the number of vocations by 50% over the coming years, in order to limit the number of parishes left without priests as much as possible.
In all these discussions I have heard rather little about praying for vocations, something that the Church has done throughout the centuries and that finds it Biblical origin in today’s gospel reading. Jesus says, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’
Instead of occupying ourselves too much with statistics and endless reports, or with smplistic training of people to fill gaps in our worship, as a Church we should get on our knees and do exactly what Jesus tells us; pray, pray, and pray that more and more people may hear the call of God to the ordained ministry for their lives and that they may have the courage to respond generously to it.