By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross
Sunday 13 November, 2016
Most Holy Family, Heyfield, Gippsland
It can be fascinating watching very young children gathering around their leader when undertaking physical activity in a group. They are energised, waiting to be told what to do next. Personally I have much sympathy with the late actor Robert Morley who said, “Whenever I get the feeling that I should partake in some physical activity, I lie down until the feeling passes.”
Today’s Gospel reading describes the disciples being rather like children. They are gathered round Jesus in the Temple, asking what they should do next.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had said that when the end came it would come very quickly. Now he is saying that some would not only be unprepared, they would be unworthy to share in God’s heavenly banquet. In order to shock his disciples into reality, Jesus says that it will take a series of calamities before such people surrender to God’s will.
As Jesus was speaking, some began to wax lyrical about the splendour of the Temple, and this was the trigger for Jesus to be prophetic about disasters that would occur. He said there would be a breakdown of social order, of peace, security and of stable government. There would also be natural disasters such as tidal waves, earthquakes and even different solar and lunar patterns.
Before we become obsessed with saying that we are currently in the middle of these happenings and go out into the streets announcing that ‘the end is nigh,’ the point Jesus is making is that the very thing that humans put their trust in will be taken away. For many Jews, as long as the Temple, the priesthood and their land remained, all would be well. What they had abandoned was their trust in God. Trusting in earthly things rather than in God will end in disaster because they will fail us.
Jesus said that when everything around us is disintegrating, we should look up, trust in God and we will receive the gift of eternal security and salvation. Through trusting in God we find that out of pain comes joy, out of terror comes peace, out of confusion comes knowledge and through the darkness, light will shine.
The question with which the readings challenge us today is this. “How should we live and what should we do before the end comes?” In one sense this is a non-question because the end has already come when Jesus the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we too can become the children of God.
Every time we receive Our Lord’s body and precious blood in the sacrament of the altar we are sharing in the heavenly feast. But we also believe that Jesus will come again as judge of all, and it is this second coming that we have to keep in mind. We must not be foolish enough to think we can coast along in life ignoring the disciplines that our Christian Faith requires. Jesus has warned his disciples constantly that we must be ready and alert because only the father knows when the end will come.
The breakdown in Western social order, climate change and natural disasters are not the end, they are signs of the end. We are urged to be ready, alert, vigilant and spiritually and evangelistically active.
St Paul is clear about what we should do in this time between the first and second coming of Christ. The Christians in Thessalonica were so obsessed about Jesus’ return, which they thought was imminent, that they gave up working and encouraged everyone else to do the same.
Paul really got stuck into them and told them to get on living as normal, to continue in prayer, to be faithful in worship and to continue to preach the gospel of Jesus and the resurrection as understood by the Church. Furthermore, those who wouldn’t work must be left to starve. I don’t think that Paul would have coped in our age of political correctness.
In these times when Christianity is suffering persecution of varying forms throughout the world, it is easy to become dispirited, especially when we see many of our fellow believers abandoning the faith delivered to the Church and accommodating the values of the secular world. For a faithful, traditional Christian to despair is to become an atheist.
We must be focussed on God, Our Lady and the Sacraments and revitalise the ministries that God has called us to undertake. We must resist taking refuge in the bunker occupied by those who believe they are the only true Catholic believers, and certainly avoid the bunker occupied by those who believe the Church is antediluvian and must get with the times.
Instead we must stand firm, hold the faith, preach the faith boldly and show the world and the Church what being faithful means. The teaching cannot change, and pastoral care must lead those who struggle to understand that teaching rather than being judgmental or letting people do what they want.
We don’t know what God’s next step for us in the Ordinariate will be, but our mission is both with the Church and to the Church and if we trust him then the prophet Malachi’s assurance that all who love God will bask in his healing light and the spiritually arrogant, distracted by pure evil, will be destroyed like burning straw will prove to be true.
Our liturgical year ends next week with the Feast of Christ the King when we acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over all. We are called to be his agents in the world, and so as we enter Advent let us reflect on who it is whose agent we are, and ensure that we take his call to be ready, watchful, spiritually strong and above all, faithful, even in our darkest moments seriously. God will not abandon us so it is possible for us to persevere to the end, and those who do, will be saved.