By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 14 January, 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
Press the play icon below to listen to audio podcast.
Dogs and humans of all ages know how to ignore a call. Sometimes it is deliberate while at other times it is that they don’t recognise the voice or the message is unclear or suspicious.
Samuel was unclear about God’s voice. It was unknown so he assumed it was Eli’s voice. At first Eli was confused but after a while he recognised the voice as that of God. Eli wanted to know what God’s message was, and when he did it was not good news. Eli and his sons were to be punished for their wickedness.
Accepting and proclaiming God’s truth is not easy, especially when it is challenging and confronting. This is when we are tempted to reject it, ignore it as too hard, or pretend that it is not relevant in today’s world. We have seen these responses in recent times whenever the Catholic leadership present God’s plan for human relationships and the sanctity of life from conception to the grave.
If these responses were those of secularist atheists, that would be understandable. But they have been the responses of those who claim to be faithful Catholics. We also witness these responses from Catholics who think that all religions are the same because they supposedly worship the same God, or that Church unity has nothing to do with sharing the same beliefs, but about being nice to each other, sharing communion with each other and working together to fight injustice. There is selective hearing among the faithful where God’s truth is concerned. Perhaps Catholics, like Eli, have become unfamiliar with God’s voice, or that God’s truth is considered to be no more important than our own conscience, which often is nothing more than confirming what we want to do anyway.
The crisis for the Church faces in our age is one it has faced many times in its history, namely that many Catholics are no longer Catholic. In our culture they are Catholic Protestants or Catholic secularists, which is a contradiction in terms.
Jesus said that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life and only the truth of God, no matter how difficult that might be to receive, will set us free.
Peter had to face that many times in his life of discipleship and today’s gospel reading tells us about the first. Two of John the Baptist’s disciples had spent a day with Jesus and were convinced that Jesus was the one that Moses had promised would come. They could not ignore this revelation, they had to share it with others. Andrew shared it with his brother Simon, but not only that, he brought Simon to meet Jesus and discover that truth for himself. Andrew gives us the model of evangelism – don’t just preach the good news, bring those who hear it to encounter Jesus for themselves in the Church community.
When Simon came to Jesus something unexpected happened. Like Abram and Jacob, Simon had his name changed. Jesus said to him, “You are Simon, you will be Peter. Simon had his weaknesses, his failings, but unlike Judas Iscariot he faced them and grew through them. He allowed the Holy Spirit to enable him to confront the truth about himself so he could grow to become Peter the Rock upon whose confession of faith the Church is founded.
Jesus accepted Simon as he was, so that he could become who he truly is. That is the first step in effective evangelism. We Catholics have to face the truth of ourselves and enable others to do the same, so that through the work of the Spirit, we can become who we are. It includes facing the dark truth of any lack of faith and trust in what God has revealed to the Church. The Church itself must face its failures to hold fast to God’s truth as well as its failures to enable the laity to be effective disciples and evangelists. These are some of the challenges we must address so the Holy Spirit can lead us to regain the courage to deliver the truth of God clearly and boldly, because this is the truth that will set us free.
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.