By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 9th December, 2018
TS Eliot begins his poem East Cocker with the words, “In my beginning is my end,” and ends it with the words, “In my end is my beginning.” He is saying something specific about spiritual journeys being circular.
Today’s readings are about endings and beginnings. Baruch tells those left behind in Jerusalem in 597BC as their leaders were being taken into exile in Babylon, that what seems to be an end is in fact the beginning of a new beginning. The exiles would return home through God’s power. He uses the imagery of God flattening mountains and filling in valleys so the exiles can safely return. God may chastise his people but he never stops loving them and will make his home with them.
St Luke picks up this theme of flattened hills and filled in valleys, but this time it is John the Baptist standing on the banks of the Jordan River urging God’s people to turn their lives around because the Messiah is among them. The Messiah is the one who will announce the presence of God’s Kingdom and invite them to embrace it and live by its values.
St Paul praises the Christians in Philippi for spreading the good news about Jesus and assures them that they would receive their reward on Judgment Day. Yet talking about Jesus is not enough, we have to become like Jesus if we are to be true disciples. We become like him if we think like Jesus in order to love like him. St Paul encourages the Philippians to have the ‘mind of Christ.’
In his book, ‘The Christian Mind,’ Harry Blamires, a student of C S Lewis, gives us some indication of what a Christian mind is like.
Firstly, a Christian Mind sees the whole universe as being under God’s rule and sustained by his love. Remove God from the equation and anything goes.
Secondly, the Christian mind believes that evil is real. It creates chaos in the lives of people, nations and in the balance of the universe. It is a gross mistake to underestimate the destructiveness of evil especially when it masquerades as good.
Thirdly, the Christian mind believes in absolute truth. Relativism says that there is no absolute truth, there is my truth and your truth. If these truths are different, they cannot both be true. Pope Benedict observes that our civilisation exists under the tyranny of relativism, which is often expressed by the shrug of the shoulders or the word, ‘whatever.’
The Christian mind values the human conscience but considers it must be informed so we can make good decisions. It should be guided by Scripture, the Church’s teaching and our relationship with God. This protects us from being tossed about by the latest novel trend or relying on fortune tellers. A person with a Christian mind not only cares about people but for people because God has shared our fragile, uncertain human existence. He became one of us so we can become fully human. Think of it, if God became human, there must be something about our human nature that God is able to be recognised through it, and that recognition is through our love, not our brains.
The hostility that serious Catholics are facing today, which is that of being silenced through legislation, is because the self-centredness of relativism cannot tolerate those who speak of absolute truth and who defend the defenceless and vulnerable, sometimes from themselves. The persecution is because the catch phrase, ‘Whatever turns you on is OK as long as no one else is harmed.’ This attitude has created a massive oil slick of innuendo, insult and misrepresentation, polluting the dignity of God’s creation and faith in him.
Lastly, the Christian mind is a sacramental mind. It experiences God through symbols and signs. His created world is a sacrament of his presence among us. His Son Jesus is the absolute sacrament being the visible presence of the invisible God. The Church’s sacraments which Jesus gave us are gifts of God’s love and an assurance that we are not alone.
Advent is the time we are urged to work on becoming more Christ like so that we too may become sacraments through whom others can recognise the Messiah who said he would always be among us and join us on our pilgrimage with him and to him.
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.