Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Augustine of Hippo

Your peace will rest upon him.

The Gospel which has just been read raises a question. When the Lord told his disciples that the harvest was indeed abundant but laborers were scarce and urged them to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers out to harvest his crop, which crop did he have in mind?

That was the point at which he increased the group of twelve disciples whom he had named his apostles by the addition of another seventy-two, and his words make it clear that he sent all these out to gather in the ripe grain.

But which crop did he mean? Evidently not a crop of Gentiles, from whom there was nothing to be reaped because there had as yet been no sowing among them. The conclusion must be that the crop in question consisted of Jews.

The Jewish people were the harvest to which the Lord of the harvest came, and to which he dispatched his reapers. To the Gentiles he could send no reapers at that time, only sowers.

We may understand, then, that harvest time among the Jews coincided with sowing time among the Gentiles, for out of the Jewish crop, sown by the prophets and now ripe for harvesting, the apostles were chosen.

Here we have the joy of observing the divine husbandry. How good it is to see God’s gifts and watch the laborers in his field! Consider his twofold harvest, the one already reaped, the other still to come. That of the Jews is over and done, but there is a crop yet to be gathered in from the Gentiles.

Now let us see if this can be demonstrated. And what better place to look for evidence than the holy scriptures of the divine Lord of the harvest?

Here in this very chapter of the Gospel we have the saying: “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few; ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”

This harvest is the people to whom the prophets preached, sowing the seed so that the apostles might gather in the sheaves. For the seed to sprout it was sufficient for the prophets to sow, but the ripe grain had to wait for the apostles’ sickle.

Another time the Lord told his disciples: “You say that summer is still far off. Lift up your eyes and see that the fields are already white with ripe grain!” And he added: “Others have toiled over it, and you have entered into their labors.”

Those others were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. Because they worked hard at sowing, at the Lord’s coming the grain was found to be ripe.

Then the reapers were sent out, wielding the Gospel as their sickle. They were to greet no one on the road, which meant they were to have no aim or activity apart from proclaiming the Good News in a spirit of brotherly love.

When they arrived at a house they were to say: “Peace be to this house.” This greeting was no mere formula; being filled with peace themselves, the apostles spread it abroad, proclaiming peace and at the same time possessing it.

Consequently when one of them, fully at peace with himself, pronounced the blessing: “Peace be to this house,” then if a lover of peace were in that house, the apostle’s peace would rest upon him.


(Sermon 101, 1-3.11: PL 38, 605-607.610)
 

Augustine (354-430) was born at Thagaste in Africa and received a Christian education, although he was not baptized until 387. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 395 he became coadjutor bishop to Valerius of Hippo, whom he succeeded in 396. Augustine’s theology was formulated in the course of his struggle with three heresies: Manicheism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. His writings are voluminous and his influence on subsequent theology immense. He molded the thought of the Middle Ages down to the thirteenth century. Yet he was above all a pastor and a great spiritual writer.


 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson