By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Sunday 7th July 2019
After Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, St Luke tells us that Jesus began to build up his Church and prepare his disciples to be in a right relationship with God in order to be able to continue his ministry after his death. Today’s readings explain what the relationship between God and his people is like.
Our reading from Isaiah tells of God’s message to his people in exile in Babylon that they will return home to the destroyed city of Jerusalem. Their mourning for their homeland will become joy because in Jerusalem they will be nourished and nurtured like a mother suckling her children. In Jerusalem the returning exiles will be comforted, a word that means strengthened. God will empower them to such a degree that every nation will know that God is with his people.
St Paul also assures Christians in Galatia that it was in Jerusalem that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice in order to reconcile God and those of his people who people who love him. The Church is the new people of God, and like God’s first disciples we have to learn to trust him because he chooses to trust us.
In order to test their trust, Jesus sent 72 of his disciples on a mission as he had sent his 12 apostles on a mission to the people of Israel. The number 72 is thought to represent the number of nations in the then known world, so emphasising that salvation is available to all. Jesus sent them out with nothing so they had to trust God to provide for them. Jesus also had to trust them that with nothing of their own, they would persevere in their mission. The harvest was great but the labourers were few. The situation has not changed and it was hearing a sermon of that text when I was 14 that set me on my journey to ordination.
The relationship between the Church and its individual members and God has to be one of mutual trust.
As you know I have just returned from the week-long visit of the Australian bishops to Rome. During this time we spent 2.5 hrs in brotherly conversation with Pope Francis who challenged us on some issues, but also responded to our questions and concerns. We also said a mass of pilgrimage at the tombs of St Peter and St Paul and in the basilicas of St Mary Major and St John Lateran. In the basilica of St Paul outside the walls we also prayed at the burial site of the young 11 yr old Aboriginal boy from New Norcia, Francis Xavier Conaci who was to become a Benedictine in Rome but died in 1853 probably of a broken heart.
From our discussions and meetings in Rome, the message that was coming through is that Christianity is living in a period of persecution which is more severe than at any other period in its history. What we have is being taken away from us, namely our reputation, our money, our ability to preach the gospel of Jesus and the resurrection.
What we are to do in this situation is what Jesus made clear to his disciples. We must stand fast and trust in God because he has to trust us to do so. He will feed and nurture us throughout the persecution and suffering as he has done in times past. Bishops, priests and laity will be victims of the multifaceted onslaught against the Church. Despite this, or because of this steadfastness, people are still embracing God’s love and young men are still embracing the life of priestly sacrifice, while the laity must not allow themselves to be seduced into compromising the faith and discipline of the Church thinking that the solution to the crisis lies in tinkering with the structures of the Church. The way to salvation is the uncompromising, uncomfortable Way of the Cross, not the way of apostasy which is the abandonment of our trust in and love for God and the faith he has given us.
Monsignor Entwistle was the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.