The Harvest,
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890),
Painted in June 1888,
Oil on canvas
© Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

The Harvest,
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890),
Painted in June 1888,
Oil on canvas
© Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Gospel of 9 July 2024

Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest

Matthew 9:32-37

A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said. But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’

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.’

Reflection on the painting

Vincent van Gogh's "The Harvest," is a captivating portrayal of rural life infused with the artist's characteristic passion, colour and intensity. Completed in June 1888 during van Gogh's prolific period in Arles, France, the painting captures the essence of the agricultural landscape with typical expressive brushwork. We see a group of labourers toiling in the fields under the radiant glow of the sun and against a backdrop of rolling hills and a vast expanse of sky. The painting shows the plain of La Crau, outside Arles, with, in the distance, the Alpilles mountain range. Van Gogh completed ten paintings and five drawings in just over a week at this point, until a heavy storm brought the harvest season to an end. A week after he painted this painting, the landscape was completely different: all harvested - the golden yellows of the wheat replaced by the brown textures of the soil.

In our Gospel reading today, we read that, while God's power was evident through Jesus' labours, he recognised the importance of having additional labourers join him in the work. Hence, he urges his disciples to "ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest." This call entails both active participation in the labour and fervent prayer for more workers beyond themselves. While traditionally interpreted as a call to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, we now understand it as a broader invitation from Jesus.

The risen Lord requires a diverse array of labourers to work in God's harvest today. Each disciple, regardless of his or her vocation, is indispensable, and all baptized individuals are summoned to contribute their efforts. The harvest remains plentiful, necessitating a full and varied workforce. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that Jesus' mission of proclaiming God's kingdom, both in word and deed, remains vibrant and relevant today. We are all called to be co-workers with the Lord.

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Estrellita Picart
Member
Estrellita Picart
6 days ago

What a beautiful summer/springtime view by Van Gogh! I love the pastoral features of activity yet peaceful, and a balance of our mission in life through contemplative action! Thank you, Fr. Patrick!

Mark Lindeblad
Member
Mark Lindeblad
6 days ago

Yes, all kinds of disciples were and are needed specially as we have so many people in the world – 8 billion – needing to know that they are loved by our God. People in the arts like van Gogh, people in music like myself, people in poetry -all kinds of workers- whether clergy or not. How great God is to give each of us a role in this enormous drama.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
6 days ago

Wimbledon isn’t the same without the sun….

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
6 days ago

What a nice bright sunny painting to look at on a rainy day here in the Chicagoland area of the United States. Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists.

Will Howard
Member
Will Howard
6 days ago
Reply to  Andy Bocanegra

…Powder blue, hot rock, quite-cool-water, heat-wave-day here at Seal Bay, Vancouver Island , Andy.
Hoping you’re still around by the time I get back to civilization later today to post this – with ‘only’ a 2 hr time-diff.

And I suspect our mountains here are a li’l higher than in Van Gough’s painting – ours have snow-caps (mainland B C) if you can’t make it out in the pic below. I love his compositional play: the picket fence does not sever ones eye from moving into the landscape: with his brilliant use of color and tone, and its spiky top, juxtaposed with the vibrant viridian green chevron shrubbery amassed beyond – drawing one’s view back and in. My one question is what the focal figure to the right …’is doing’? Seeking shade, picking some barrie or beans … taking a pee .

Hmmmm “Ask the Lord of the Harvest”:
And then we must ask what type of labor is needed in the Church today?

I guess we need ALL the basic vocations: Marriage/children, priest, missionaries, Religious … Hmmmm more martyrs – at least in the west? I hear of wars, earthquakes, hurricanes ,… and lots of rumors of war. But somehow it feels like we’er in a kind of lingering calm globally … everything is still – even how so tenuously – balanced.

One can almost hear the buzz of a lazy afternoon fly, in the heat of the noonday break from harvest, in our painting. It causes me to think of Acedia “the Noonday Demon”. Is that him lurking in the bushes?

Though wrong in their reasoning, perhaps the Pharisees were not far off in meaning. I guess it’s more than theologically obvious: God is ‘ultimately’ Lord even of the demons.

…, when I leave the beach, I always make sure I toss a rock at my Carin . I’d hate to think an unsuspecting child or dog might come upon it, ‘trusting it’s apparent solid balance.’ … end up with a badly crushed toe at the very least.

Andy-II
Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
6 days ago
Reply to  Will Howard

What a glorious photo of your cairn, Will, worthy of a spot at the head of CA. Thanks for your appreciation of the painting. I’d like to think the figure you mention is testing the ripeness of his peaches, with a white cloth over his shoulder to mop up the juice – but the trees look like scrubby palms…..

Will Howard
Member
Will Howard
6 days ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

THANKS Noelle … nice to know some still are on this late in the day.

Marilee Pittman
Member
Marilee Pittman
7 days ago

What a joy to see this work of Van Gogh. So golden. The sunshine comes out of the painting into my being. My grandmother was born in June of 1888. Although she was born in a country far from France, I like to think the countryside was not unlike Arles France in her day.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
7 days ago

Fabulous painting.
“Each disciple is indispensable” Fr Patrick….a real challenge there.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
7 days ago

This isn’t a good summer for anyone suffering from SAD -Seasonal Affective Depression, at any rate in the west of England. So this glimpse of “real” summer, of a countryside drenched in sunlight, & turned to gold with ripened crops, is very welcome. The painting is eccentric in its proportions, but it is the texture and colour that is important. In some senses it is an idealised scene, except for that road in front, that practical necessity that tells us this is a real, working place, and was once a real time. The joyful exuberance of this picture is part of the bright passage of productivity that Van Gogh enjoyed in and around Arles, a short chapter in the sadness and struggle that was most of his life. For anyone who has felt excluded, misunderstood, or a failure, Van Gogh is an ideal subject for study. He never gave up, but he was never to know the scale and importance of his legacy, he did not have an earthly reward. I’m glad it’s not just me that has found enormous joy in looking at his drawings and paintings, and reading his collected letters, I genuinely thank God for him. He kept going when things were grim for him, because he had an aim: “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” Three cheers for stickability!

Marie Ryan
Member
Marie Ryan
7 days ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

Yes so true what you say about him ,no earthly reward and did not know how he would come to be recognised but stuck with it through thick and thin ,a Christian ethos for sure

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
6 days ago
Reply to  Marie Ryan

An ethos, and a very human, fallible example, Marie, that’s what I Iove about him.

Beth Forrester
Member
Beth Forrester
7 days ago

I love todays post – and I’m feeling the connection between the Van Gogh landscape, and the vegetal references so often made by Jesus – he was a man of the landscape too – and the sheer abundance, and bright, focused energy that we can all relate to in even the very idea of harvest… I’m also reflecting on the other parts of that cycle, so well illustrated by creation around us – this height of activity – this time of year in the northern hemisphere, and then the going over, the fields laid bare, the temperature and light changing, as we go back underground for new treasures of Gods creation to begin their gestation. These words of Jesus make my hairs stand on end. Our bodies and souls are part of this. We can be it and speak it.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
7 days ago
Reply to  Beth Forrester

Beautiful meditation, Beth, thank you. Are you a country-dweller?

Monica Doyle
Member
Monica Doyle
7 days ago

Wasn’t Van Gough himself blessed with Missionary zeal?? I seem to remember a comment of his on my fridge! “We are not here for ourselves alone”.. Such insight… May you rest in Heavenly peace and thank you for your magnificent legacy to us🌻🌻🌻

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
7 days ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

Yes Monica – he was a wonderful man full of love of God’s beautiful creation. And a great depictor of it. He had a terribly difficult and turbulent internal life but I’m sure he’s in God’s presence now!

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
7 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I really, really do hope so. 🛐

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
7 days ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

He was indeed, Monica, but he was so ardent, and odd in his ways, that the society he worked for asked him to leave! Happily he found his true vocation, to the benefit of millions world-wide. Like the sunflowers!

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
7 days ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

I highly recommend the biography, “Van Gogh,” by Naifeh and Smith. What a circuitous path he took and a tragic end.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
6 days ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

Thank you , Mark, a helpful recommendation.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
7 days ago

Christianity is the most enduring and influential legacy of the ancient world, and its emergence the single most transformative development in Western history. Even the increasing number in the West today who have abandoned the faith of their forebears, and dismiss all religion as pointless superstition, remain recognisably its heirs. Seen close-up, the division between a sceptic and a believer may seem unbridgeable. Widen the focus, though, and Christianity’s enduring impact upon the West can be seen in the emergence of much that has traditionally been cast as its nemesis: in science, in secularism, and yes, even in atheism.

Introduction to ‘Dominion’ by historian Tom Holland. A book that expands on this statement. Excellent…

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
7 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I’ve just been reading about him. He’s become patron of the British Pilgrimage Trust. Not quite a Christian but I get the impression he’s getting there after a tentative prayer was surprisingly answered.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
7 days ago

Building on the Tom Holland quote is Winston Churchill;

‘I’m not a pillar of the church, more of a flying buttress!” I think a lot would go along with that….

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
7 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

That’s good, any other images – a gutter, a gargoyle…..? The cornerstone is already taken, d.g.

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