By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 12th August , 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
During the height of the First World War, the American Senator Hiram Johnson said, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” The Catholic Church is engaged in a spiritual war at this time and every effort must be made to ensure that the truth is not compromised so becoming a casualty in the struggle. Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, who is the Truth, ‘What is truth?’, and St Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to speak truthfully to each other, because as Jesus said, it is the truth that sets us free.
Even so, speaking the truth, even in love, will sometimes bring hostility and create enemies. Today’s gospel illustrates how Jesus attracted hostility by describing himself as the Bread of Life. When he said this after feeding the 5000, he was making the point that humans eat in order to live, not live in order to eat, and that is equally true for our spiritual lives.
The Jewish crowds viewed life very logically. For them, God is in heaven and humans live on earth. God sends messengers, be they angels or prophets, to deliver his word. An angel was sent to feed Elijah so he would be strengthened to continue his mission to God’s people. To the Jewish mind, what God gives and to whom he gives it, are distinct from God himself. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and Moses gave them to the people. God, Moses and the Commandments are distinctive entities.
You can see why the crowds were hostile when Jesus said that he is not only God’s messenger, he is God’s message. People cannot receive from him without receiving him himself. He not only gives life giving bread, he is the Bread of eternal Life. Unlike the bread given to Elijah, the bread Jesus gives and is, strengthens us on our journey with him to the Father.
When we gather for worship, we meet to celebrate God’s love and salvation that Jesus showed us and won for us. We hear God’s Word in the Scriptures and receive the Word of God, Jesus himself, as we obey his command to take, bless, break and eat his body and drink his blood.
We don’t just hear the phrase, “The Body of Christ,” we receive the Body of Christ, so that we can become more like him and be his visible presence here on earth. As his body the Church here on earth, we are the guardians of his truth which we must live and proclaim so that others will be drawn to that Truth.
We are indeed engaged in spiritual warfare. As members of the Church we will be misunderstood, ridiculed and vilified by the world and even by other Christians. What happened to Jesus will happen to those who believe that Jesus not only speaks the words of eternal life but is the Word of eternal life.
If you are looking for a religion, even if it claims to be Catholic, that will make you feel good, demands very little of you other than periodic observance, and promises you health, wealth and prosperity as well as eternal salvation no matter how you live, then true Catholicism is not for you. If you are looking for a religion that offers you blood, sweat and tears together with a great deal of painful change, but offers you the strengthening power of the true bread from heaven so that you live eternal life here and now, then the Catholic Faith, given to the Apostles and handed down through the centuries is the one you should embrace.
The options are straightforward, making the right choice and living it is much more difficult.
Monsignor Entwistle is 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.