I have always loved the harvest moon. In my two-stoplight hometown, it was always a big event. The rising of this enormous, orange moon heralded the last days to harvest all of the crops that needed to be brought in before the hard frost. With all hands on deck, the days surrounding this moon were a frenzy of picking, pulling, baling, canning, and hauling into the barn and the root cellar. The harvest moon emitted such a brilliant orange glow that, had it been a good growing year, everyone would work in rhythm well past dinnertime into the night. There was simply no time to delay, because the frost would arrive like clockwork on the heels of this moon. Even as a child, I was in awe of how the timing of this moon always worked out in perfect harmony with the harvest.
This year, the harvest moon fell on October 1. The readings at Mass that weekend paralleled the harvest. The Gospel, Matthew 21:33–43, was the parable of the tenants, which begins with “a landowner who planted a vineyard.” What struck me as I listened to this Gospel passage were the action verbs about this landowner, God, who planted the vineyard, who dug a winepress, and built a tower. Undoubtedly, my awareness of these actions by a God who works the earth was heightened as this Gospel fell on the weekend of the harvest moon.
As I reflected on the Gospel further, I couldn’t help but think of the words of St. Ignatius, who speaks of a God who labors on behalf of his beloved children:
I will consider how God labors and works for me in all the creatures on the face of the earth; that is, he acts in the manner of one who is laboring. For example, he is working in the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, and all the rest—giving them their existence, conserving them, concurring with their vegetative and sensitive activities, and so forth. (SE 236, Ganss)
We have a God who is living and active and who labors for us. The annual timing of that harvest moon is no coincidence. The God who labors for us calls this illuminating moon up on those particular nights when the crops have matured to aid us in harvesting and storing up these gifts that sustain us in the long, barren months of winter.
After Mass that evening, I breathed deeply of the crisp air as I caught sight of the warm glow of that familiar harvest moon rising behind the trees. A giddy joy bubbled up and settled within me as a placid pond. I was filled with a reassurance that the God of all creation labors for and with us. It’s a message I needed to hear, a message we all need to hear right now. Our God is living and active. Our God hears us. Our God is still with us, laboring for us. We are not alone.