By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 15th July , 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
When people say to someone, “Who do you think you are?”, the question is one that is questioning that person’s authority.
Amos’ authority to preach God’s word in the northern kingdom of Israel in the middle of the 8th century BC, came from God even though he lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. When challenged about this he explained that he was only a shepherd who was doing what God told him to do and say. For Amos, God’s authority overrides and kingly or secular authority. The difficulty with this of course is that it is difficult to deny the existence of kingly or governmental authority, but it is very easy to deny the existence of God.
The gospel reading is also about authority. Jesus sent his apostles in pairs on a mission in which they had to travel lightly and resist evil wherever they encountered it. Their mission was undertaken under the authority of Jesus and if they were faithful, God would provide all of their needs. Even so, this mission was no walk in the park. They would face rejection, opposition and ridicule as well as acceptance. Jesus’ advice was that they should not waste time and energy on those who have no intention of responding positively because this was using time available for those who would.
The authority given to the apostles is the authority given to the Church. The Church is the agent of Jesus who is the agent of the Father. This authority is given to the whole Church, not a section of it or to individuals within it. This is what Catholics mean when we talk about the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Universal Church. In a nutshell, it means that all Catholics are required to be faithful to the teaching, doctrines and morals of the Church.
Other Churches may still talk about what their Church teaches and believes, but they also allow local dioceses or parishes to operate their own exceptions. For example, most Anglican dioceses in Australia ordain women as priests and bishops, but a few don’t. There is an official teaching on gay marriage, abortions and other issues, but many dioceses and parishes deviate from the official belief and practice. In these instances, local law overrides universal law with the result that anything goes, and official teaching becomes a suggestion, not a requirement, and what is taught depends on where you live. Living with differences is the new mantra of Protestantism.
There are sections of the Catholic Church that would lead us down this path and this must be resisted, or the Church will be in danger of abandoning the Rule of St Vincent of Lerins which states, “Let us hold fast to that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” Being truly Catholic means believing the Faith that the whole Church confesses; not departing from the clear interpretations of the faith we have been handed down the ages and accept the authority of the Church’s Magisterium and not be persuaded by the novel ideas of the few. If we don’t, we will end up in the same mess as those churches in which belief is a personal choice which is forever changing.
The Church stands under the authority of God, and no secular power has any authority to challenge that. Yet it always has, and it still does. There have been many periods in its history when the Church has been diminished but has been rejuvenated when she preaches the gospel of Jesus and relies on the power of that gospel. We must teach the faith, even to our own faithful. We must talk to others with a Christian and Catholic voice, always remembering that witnesses to the Catholic faith and life are more effective than teachers.
In our age people have little time for the institutions in our society, including the Church, but they are fascinated by Jesus. This is what God is asking us to grapple with and address.
Stand firm because those who persevere to the end will be saved.
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.