By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 17 December, 2017
St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
The prophet Isaiah records the words of a speaker who announces his divinely appointed mission to the distressed, wounded people of God who are in exile in Babylon. His message is one of comfort, joy and hope and an assurance that God has not abandoned them because he will restore their good name. What is required of them is that each member of God’s people will offer his or her life as a sacrificial offering to God by serving him and others. This is what is meant by the phrase, the priesthood of all believers.
Christians identify Jesus as the one who has brought God’s people joy and hope. In Advent we focus on John the Baptist who announced Jesus’ coming. The Jewish leadership was used to preachers, miracle workers and revolutionaries, so they approached John to ask who he was and why he baptised if he denied being the Elijah the forerunner of the Messiah, or the prophet that Moses said would be like him?
John described himself as a ‘Voice crying in the wilderness’ making it possible for the Lord to reveal his identity and glory to all people. John said he only baptised with water and demanded a change of life in order create the conditions in which the chosen one of God, who he was unworthy to serve, could be announced and recognised.
St John’s gospel reveals Jesus as the person who is to come. The Word of God made flesh, the one who reconciles heaven and earth, the spiritual and the temporal. St John wants us to know the true identity of Jesus and this issue lies at the core of the crises the Church is facing at this time. A growing number of people, including those involved in Catholic agencies and institutions who claim to be Catholic, do not believe, hold or proclaim all the teachings of the Church. If we do not believe that Jesus is God’s Son, truly divine and truly human, then he is a liar or a self-deluded individual. The resurrection would be an illusion and the doctrine of the Trinity would be a fanciful piece of fiction.
Advent is the season that the Church calls us to recognise our failures and recommit ourselves to God as disciples of Jesus and holders of God’s truth revealed to us and taught by his Church.
We have entered what some describe as a new Dark Age in the life of the Church. It will not become easier in the short term. We are surrounded by a false understanding of equality, a culture of death, the denial of the sacred and scorn of faithful believers and the or conscience.
In this spiritual crisis it is tempting for us to engage in political warfare, but Jesus didn’t encourage his disciples to do that. Instead he urged them to remain faithful no matter how difficult the times were.
In the troubled times facing the Thessalonians, St Paul gives the faithful three standing orders. Firstly, to rejoice always no matter what life throws at us. In contrast to the dictatorship of political correctness and the hopelessness and helplessness of paganism, Christians are free from fear, from guilt, from frustration and fear. Why? Because Jesus is Lord of all.
Secondly, we must be prayerful at all times. By that he didn’t mean we should be badgering God every minute of the day, but we must be aware of his presence in all things and have an open heart and mind in order to be guided by him in our work and in our leisure.
Thirdly, St Paul says, ‘Be thankful for everything,’ even the bad things that happen because they can be used for good. This kind of thanksgiving is not simply giving thanks to God periodically, but acknowledging that all we are and all we have comes from him and belongs to him.
These are some of the foundations of our Christian discipleship and in our present time must be highly visible in our Christian life. Let Advent be the season when we review our commitment to God so we can remain faithful and truly rejoice in celebrating the birth of the one who has come, who is with us and who is to come.
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.