Vrroommm. Grrrrunnnn. It was 4:00am and the sound of the tractor outside in the fields woke me up. Squinting into the darkness, I could see that the sun still wasn’t up, and wouldn’t show its face for another few hours. Even then, it would be a pale, watery thing, not the bright, happy sunlight we enjoyed in summer.
Wrapping a blanket around myself, I got up and walked to the window, looking out. The headlights of the tractor outside moved across the fields, wandering over the small hills and dales. I knew our neighbor, Ben, was out in the cold, sitting in the seat of that machine, wearily going back and forth in the dark, following the row of corn to the end of the field, then turning around to come back. Not swerving, just following the lines, so that as much of the crop could be brought safely in as possible.
I had spoken to Ben just the day before. He and his family ran the small dairy farm across the road from us, and we rented our land to them. They grew corn and soybeans and every year around early November; the same mantra arose. “We’ve got to get the crops in before it snows.” That pressing, hurried urgency was in every conversation with them. All the work could be lost if they didn’t hurry, hurry, hurry and get the crops into the barn. There was no stopping and very little rest for them during this time, just one overriding, recurring thought - “we’ve got to get the crops in.”
Although we have since moved away from our home in the hills and our dairy farmer friends, I always think of them at this time of year. As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, the Mass readings also change. Just as my dairy farmer friends knew that it was time to go out and gather in all of their work, to harvest what was good and to avoid the patches of weeds and rocks, Scripture tells us to prepare for the same thing. Now, in our churches, we turn our attention to the end times, to the great ingathering of all the faithful into the home of our Lord. Just like my friend Ben, tracing his solitary way in the dark, getting the corn and beans in before the onslaught of the winter, Scripture tells us that “Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous.” (Mt 13:49) and that “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.” (Mt 13:39)
There’s nothing quite like standing in the dark, watching a farmer race against time, the cold and the elements to bring home the reality of those words of Scripture. The end times are coming, whether that’s on a global scale with Jesus’ return or simply the drawing to a close of our own individual lives. The angels will go out because they’ve got to bring the good crop in.
The crops of wheat, corn and soybeans are in the fields, ready to be harvested. The end times are coming. Nature reminds us of this truth. The Church reminds us as well. During the month of November, we pray for the gathering of the crop of people by praying for those who have passed away. We believe that we are still united to them through the Communion of the Saints and we recall our deceased relatives, friends and all the faithful departed who may yet be waiting for the full joy of heaven. We write their names into the Book of the Names of the Dead and we might also visit cemeteries for the same reason, to offer prayers and remember them, because we’ve ‘got to get the crop in.’
As the leaves fall and crunch underneath, as the sun sets earlier and the days are shorter, we would do well to remember that the end times are coming, and to add to the Lord’s crop by praying for all those we love - and those we find hard to love - and to do our part in the harvesting.
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