Frank Covey, in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” suggests that one should begin with the end in mind. This weekend we celebrate the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, but the compilers of the Lectionary do not begin with the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Rather, they begin at the end of Jesus’ life and just before the Passion. In other words, they begin with the end in mind.
“Two men will be out in the field.” Jesus reminds us that when the end comes it will find people working. Family farms in parts of the Midwest are rapidly disappearing, replaced by factory farms and mushrooming subdivisions. Many had been handed down from generation to generation until one day there was no money to buy seed or repair equipment and the “For Sale” sign went up in the front yard. Most of the farms that remain belong to large, diversified corporations who plant and harvest mechanically; and when you see a man out in the field these days it’s probably not the owner of the farm but, more likely, an employee of the corporation.
“Two women will be grinding at the mill …” Family-owned bakeries are also disappearing from the landscape as mega-grocery stores move bakeries inside and sell artisan breads no longer prepared by the hands of artisans. Teashops are replaced by Starbuck’s, birthday cakes are decorated by computers and the sound of the automatic bread maker signals the end of an era.
People work for many reasons with many ends in mind. For some it’s to carry on a family tradition; for others it’s the fulfillment of a lifelong dream; for many it’s the means necessary to feed and clothe their family. Each one of us is called to use God’s gifts of grace and goods to provide a product or service for the benefit of family and community. Today we mark the beginning of a new year but even as we begin, we look forward to the end. Where will the Son of Man find us when he comes? What “end” do we have in mind as we begin?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.