The evangelist has a very important task, one for which Jesus entrusts them with special charisms. Healing and casting out demons are fairly impressive signs of supernatural power. The temptation for the disciple who has discovered these gifts at work in his or her own life is to begin to trust or rely on them more than on God. There may even be a temptation to enter the ministry for the sake of having power and authority. In the Old Testament reading we can see how God condemns the selection of unworthy ministers through the prophet Hosea. In the New Testament, Jesus reminds his disciples, “Not to rejoice that the evil spirits are subjected to you, but that your names are written in heaven.” He also indicates the necessity of praying for ministers to be called for the harvest. It is hard to see ministry or the priesthood as something more than a good career choice for people with a certain personality, and a bad career choice for people with another kind of personality. We are routinely tempted to judge our leaders, especially our religious leaders, based on their human qualities. Today’s readings remind us that a vocation is more than a disposition or a set of talents. Someone may have all the right qualities, but is not being called by God for the task of ministry. The one who has a vocation to ministry, the priesthood, consecrated life, etc. knows when they stand before God in their conscience and in their heart the mission they have received. A vocational calling is something God utters within an intimately personal bond formed with His creature. Someone who imagines they are called because the circumstances seem to indicate it, but have no clue who they are before God requires more discernment. Someone who imagines they do not have a vocation because the circumstances seem too difficult will have no true clarity until they begin to know who they are before God. Every true vocation is a gift of God in answer to the sincere prayer of the faithful.
St. Augustine gives us a very strange principle to understand the phrase of Jesus about not casting our pearl before swine. “We must be careful not to reveal anything to one who cannot bear it, for it is better that one make a search for what is concealed than assail or despise what is revealed.” How are we to understand this in the context of Evangelization. Jesus gives us the image of the Word of God that is almost and seemingly carelessly scattered everywhere: good soil, rocky soil, the road, etc. He contrasts this image with the pearl: something valuable that ought not be given away easily. When we are sent to bring the good news to people, it is the Word of God itself that we should sow liberally. We ought not distribute as liberally how the Word has become a treasure in our hearts personally. If we reveal to others how suffering and toil with the Word have caused it to become the treasure of our hearts, they may reject it and – because it exposes our vulnerability – injure us in the process. The Word of God is different, it is God Himself who speaks and if we communicate that Word to others, He Himself bears the brunt of any insult or rejection. Pearls are reserved for those who already believe but struggle and find it difficult.
The Lord’s prayer is not just a formula. Indeed, Jesus Himself just finished rebuking those who multiply their words thinking that sheer quantity is what will get them a hearing before God. The Lord’s prayer is truly prayed by a heart that has allowed itself to resonate profoundly with the different sentiments and petitions contained therein. So the first step in learning how to pray the Lord’s prayer is actually understanding what each of the lines means:
“Our Father” – Our God is not Master, nor is He Judge, nor is He Supervisor or Babysitter. Our God is not Mother, nor is He Friend or Buddy. Fatherhood is a relationship to a being from whom we have received life, and so long as a man continues to give life he is truly a father. The life that God the Father gives us is something we call Grace, that Grace is nothing less than a share in His own Life. We continue to receive that grace to the extent that we allow God to exercise His Fatherhood upon us. The first statement of the Lord’s prayer takes us immediately to the core of Christianity. Our God is the True Father.