By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 4 February, 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
Below is the Homily on YouTube, audio and text version.
Press the play icon below to listen to audio podcast.
A Job’s comforter is a person who in attempting to support a person in distress makes the situation worse. They surrounded Job as he grappled with the question about why God allows the innocent to suffer, he himself claiming to be one of them. His friends assure him that only sinners suffer, so his continuing to deny being a sinner is a sin!
The Book of Job doesn’t give any answers to the question about suffering. It is part of life. Those with no relationship with God and suffer just have to ‘suck it up’ and get on with life. Those who do love God and suffer need to ask the question, “Who is this God whose creation contains so much suffering?” In the centre of our faith is Christ the wounded healer who embraced this uncertain and fragile life of ours to show us that suffering and death does not have the last word. His resurrection makes it clear that out of suffering and loss, new life can emerge.
Today’s gospel reading gives us examples of this, and what our response must be when it happens. After healing the sick inn the synagogue, Jesus went to Simon’s house and cured his mother in law who was suffering from a fever. Her response is to get up and serve him and his disciples. At one level this refers to her getting on with her domestic chores proving that she was healed. At another level she is showing that the proper response to Jesus’ love is that of being of service to him.
The healing miracles of Jesus are only signs for those who can see their meaning. St Mark’s gospel doesn’t tell us that being healed brings people to faith. Many people were healed but they didn’t follow him. The healings are signs to those who already have faith that he is indeed the Messiah, the Chosen one of God.
The gospel reading also tells us the source of service is for Jesus and what it must be for his disciples. While the others are asleep, Jesus goes out into a desert place, not a sacred site. He went to a place apart not to rush through the Jewish daily Office Book, but to spend time in stillness and contemplation with his Father. On this occasion he was gone for so long that the disciples sent out a search party to find out why he was neglecting all those people queuing up to be healed.
They didn’t get healed, Jesus moved on to other places because his mission was to preach the good news of God’s love and the defeat of evil. It is through prayer that Jesus discovers the priorities of his mission. We also see that Jesus’ power to overcome evil does not come from himself but from his Father. Secondly, prayer, devotion and contemplation must be central in the lives of all disciples if we are to be servant leaders who proclaim the victory of the resurrection and the new life it brings.
St Paul’s mission was to preach this good news to the Gentiles. Some people accuse him of being a free loader, preaching to get free board and lodging. He denies this and shares something of what it means to be a servant of Jesus. He presents the good news in the way his hearers will understand. To the Jews he taught them like a Jew. To the Gentiles, like a Gentile. He met people where they were. To the weak he became weak. In our desire to evangelise we must not compromise the truth of God, but meet people where they are so we can lead them to understand that truth.
St Paul reminds the Corinthians that disciples possess differing gifts that we are called to exercise. Clergy must be spiritual leaders and laity collaborators with them. The laity is not called to pretend to be clergy, but to use their teaching, pastoral and business skills learned in the secular world for the building up of the Church’s mission.
The Church is in a period of change. The days of clergy expecting laity to stay put, shut up and pay up and the days of laity placing clergy on pedestals are over. These attitudes have led us into trouble, so we must work together exercising our differing roles in unity with God’s will so that as his servant we can lead others into knowing 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.