By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 17th February, 2019
Trust is a rather battered virtue in our current age possibly because it is linked to experience.
In the Old Testament reading, Jeremiah contrasts two basic philosophies of life, namely, ‘trust in God’ and ‘trust in oneself.’ He likens trusting in oneself to being like dry scrub in the desert. If it is not continuously nourished, it will not flourish. Humans need physical and spiritual nourishment from outside of themselves, and if spiritual nourishment is not sought from God, we will search for an instant, but short-lived buzz from drink, drugs, pleasure or power.
In contrast, Jeremiah describes a person who trusts in God as someone who is like a tree planted by the riverside which continues to bear fruit whatever other conditions may exist. Jeremiah’s message is clear, it is that God is the only one in whom we can truly trust.
Jesus faces us with the same message, “In whom do we trust?” St Matthew calls Jesus’ great sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, St Luke calls it the Sermon on the Plain. In Luke’s version Jesus speaks of beatitudes and corresponding woes. The beatitudes do not bestow blessings on people in certain conditions, they are more like offering congratulations to people in those conditions because their future will be different.
The woes are not curses. Rather they bemoan the sad plight of a person in certain conditions no matter how things appear to be at the moment, because their future also will be very different. The beatitudes and woes congratulate or bemoan, not on what is the present situation in the world, but on what life is like in the kingdom of God.
The ‘poor’ that Jesus mentions are not the destitute, but those who recognise their total dependence on God. The rich are those whose total trust is in their possessions, like the Rich Young Man who asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. The hungry are those who are unsatisfied spiritually, who want more than they have. It is those who are full, who think they are spiritually self-sufficient, who are to be pitied. Those who are oppressed and weep are congratulated. Those who enjoy worldly popularity and legend status are to be pitied.
Jesus’ message is that those who trust in God now will be satisfied in the kingdom. Those who only trust in the here and now have nothing more to hope for and so are to be pitied.
St Paul is in no doubt in whom we should trust. It is God because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul doesn’t consider the resurrection to be an illusion or a symbol of our hopes and aspirations. He has no doubt that Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus as powerfully as he had appeared to Peter and many others. St Paul is certain that Jesus’ resurrection is a reality and the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the very same power that has created us and redeemed us. As St Paul says elsewhere, “We have been saved (2Tim 1:9); We are being saved (1Cor 1:18); We shall be saved (Rom 5:9-10).
The reason we can trust God is the Resurrection of Jesus. If we can’t do that, then we can only trust ourselves and a few of our fellow humans.
In the turbulence that is upon us, not only in the weather, but in the world and the Church, we must stand firm, be resolute and preach the word because St Paul was convinced that there would come a time when some Christians will not endure sound doctrine but will surround themselves with people who, like false prophets, preach what they want to hear (2Tim 4:1-5).
It has probably always been like this but the question remains, “Who do you trust? In God or in yourselves? Are you a dried-up shrub in the desert or a pelican in the wilderness or a tree planted by the waters edge?” Only you can answer that, and your future depends on it.
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.