A rich harvest

POST BY PO'Reilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
                it remains only a single grain;
                but if it dies,
                it yields a rich harvest.”

Well, yes, but the question I’ve always wanted to ask is: “how is the wheat grain supposed to know that?” All that the wheat grain gets to know is that it’s dying. It never gets to see the happy ending.

Twenty years ago I was sent out as a missionary for the first time to Guyana in South America. The plane brought me from Britain to Barbados and then I stayed over one night in Barbados before I could catch the plane into Georgetown, Guyana. That night I read a book called “Men of Faith”. It was an account of the work of Jesuits in Guyana – men who came from many countries in the world to give their lives to the service of the Gospel and the Church in Guyana. There were in the book many fine and inspiring stories of good and holy men giving great and sometimes heroic service to the Faith. Some names figured prominently – Cary-Elwes, Wilson-Browne, and – closer to our own time: Bernard Darke, Bryan O’Reilly, Bernard McKenna, Andy Morrison, Bernard “Breezer” Brown. You’ll never have heard of any of them, but in Guyana, those names are revered by people of faith. I had met some of them and been inspired by their example. These were stories of real men of faith and men of hope. For a young man, embarking on his first real work in the Jesuits, it was a rather heady mixture – a little like a young man’s first shot of rum! How could any red-blooded young Catholic not want to serve alongside such men and continue the work that they had done?

Then, when I got to the back of the book, there was something rather more sobering. It was a list of all the Jesuits who had come to Guyana for the last hundred years and what had happened to them. What was shocking to me was the large number of men who had come and who, within a few months had either died or had become so ill they had to be sent home. Thinking about that and wondering what I had got myself into, I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.

It wasn’t until next morning that it occurred to me that the extraordinary thing was that, even with such a high death-rate, they never stopped coming. These men came knew the risks they were running – that perhaps they would die or be incapacitated very soon having achieved little or nothing. Can you imagine that happening today? Can you imagine the scandal? Can you imagine the Health and Safety investigations? But those were risks they were prepared to take, because they believed that this was what God was calling them to. Suddenly, I realised that, whatever I did to try to help build the Church in Guyana, I would walk in the steps of many men who gave their lives to the same endeavour – men who knew that:

“Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
                it remains only a single grain;
                but if it dies,
                it yields a rich harvest.”

We all hope to be grains of wheat. We all hope that we too can contribute whatever gifts and talents we have in service of God and God’s people. Certainly, we all hope to stay alive and healthy in doing so. But each of us, in our own little way, hope to be grains of wheat that will be seeds for The Lord’s harvest. We do not know – we cannot know – exactly which of us will yield a harvest some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold, some a thousand-fold. Some of our attempts may succeed. Some of them may fail. At this point, we cannot know –we are only grains of wheat. In times to come, some of us may be remembered; some of us may even have books written about us. But, if each of us is prepared to give of our best in whatever way is given us to do, then all of us will have contributed to the harvest.

Let us pray that in our day too, we may be given the grace to take risks for the Kingdom.