By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 8th July , 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
I think most of us have thought that at times we have banged our heads against a brick wall. Today’s reading are about three individuals who have experienced that, Ezekiel, St Paul and Jesus.
Ezekiel was sent by God to preach God’s word to the rebellious, stubborn Children of Israel who had turned their backs on God. Ezekiel was instructed to pull no punches, and whether they believed or not, they must be in no doubt that one of God’s prophets had spoken.
St Paul had a lot of trouble with the Christians in Corinth. To coin a phrase, they were ‘up themselves,’ claiming to be spiritual giants. They annoyed Paul so much that he allowed himself to be caught up in childish games of ‘my faith is stronger than yours, and I’ve had more spiritual experiences that you.’ In order to keep him grounded, God refused to remove some impediment that he had, which Paul described as a thorn in his flesh.
What Paul had to learn is that holiness means our being obedient to God’s will and standing firm in God’s truth knowing that God would not abandon us. His grace and love will always be sufficient for us.
Jesus also faced open hostility in his ministry, not least from those he had grown up with who had known him all his life. The citizens of Nazareth knew his family, so they couldn’t work out how he could possibly be the person that people said he was. A teacher, yes; a preacher, yes; even a rabbi perhaps, but certainly not God’s Chosen Messiah. They knew a great deal about Jesus, but they did not know him. Jesus hit a brick wall because if they only knew about him, there was no reason to have faith in him. They did not recognise God working through him, so he was unable to show them the signs of God’s kingdom through teaching them God’s truth and healing their sick.
There are many lessons to learn from this week’s readings because things are no different today. Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus faced stubbornness, not only from the secular and religious leaders, but from God’s people themselves. Today we face active resistance from Governments and some sections of society who consider them to be superior in knowledge and wisdom to everyone else. This is not new, but their efforts are made easier because of the apathy of many who consider themselves to be faithful Catholics. Token Catholicism is alive and well, and complacency is the real enemy. We are hitting our heads against a brick wall.
The Church is not dead even though the true faithful are excluded from public life. The secular world promises people what they want, but it cannot provide them with a sense of meaning, holiness, true freedom and the security of journeying with God. Absence of these elements is why anything goes. The Church has always been under attack, but through God’s promise and providence, it has and will survive and flourish.
I’ll describe two men, both intelligent and intuitive. One creative, a lover of music, non-drinker or smoker, vegetarian, a fearless leader and accomplished orator. Full of qualities the world admires. The other was depressive, suicidal, suffering from extreme rheumatic pain and if he were alive today he would be a good candidate for euthanasia.
The first man was Adolf Hitler, the second was Fr Huvelin, a French priest and spiritual director who inspired Charles de Foucauld, the founder of the Little Brothers of Algeria. One directee said that he was always filled with joy and peace after visiting Fr Huvelin, despite Huvelin’s intense physical and mental pain.
Christian disciples must not be seduced into thinking we must be like the world but rather we must let the power of the gospel shine in the world. We must not only talk with a Catholic voice but live a Catholic life. We must not be satisfied with teaching people about Jesus but leading them to come to know him. This surely is the way to demolish brick walls.
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.