By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 29 October 2017
Sermon preached at
The Ordinariate Parish of
The Most Holy Family, Heyfield, Victoria
The gospel readings over the past four weeks have been concerned with obedience to God’s reign in our lives. Jesus said “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and then all things will be added to you.”
In the readings we encountered several groups that tried to trap Jesus into breaking the Law of Moses. They failed, and in the end the lawyers tried their luck and challenged Jesus about the Law itself.
Jesus was asked, “Which of the Laws is the greatest?” He responded by quoting the Schema, the Jewish statement about loving God totally, but he went on to combine it with another Law about loving one’s neighbour in the same way that we love ourselves.
The Jews had no argument about loving one’s neighbour, so long as they could identify who actually was a neighbour.
The problem the Church faces in our time is not about who is our neighbour, but about what love actually is. The slogan of our age is ‘Love is Love,’ but those who recite this mantra do not define what they mean by ‘love.’ Is it the kind of heart-shaped emotional love that writes, ‘Darling snuggle puggle – you are my best friend and soul mate’ on a Valentine cards? Or is it the cross-shaped sacrificial love that Jesus spoke of, namely the letter I crossed out?
Cross-shaped love involves sacrifice, commitment for the long haul and remaining faithful to God when there seems to be no logical reason to do so. Cross-shaped love is tough love, but is the only love that brings salvation to others and ourselves. Loving God with our heart, mind, soul and body, and working for the salvation of others.
The Jews may have had difficulty deciding who qualified to be their neighbour, but Christians do not because God made himself available to everyone through the incarnation of Jesus. “God is Christ-like and in him is no unChrist-likeness at all” (Michael Ramsay).
Jesus made himself accessible. He loitered in the streets, in the synagogue, at meals and in the Temple. He was highly visible among the people. He was approachable. People could come to him, either to argue with him or beg forgiveness. When they did he offered them cross-shaped love. It wasn’t a loving pat on the head, but “God loves and forgives you, sin no more.”
Sentimental heart shaped love says, “Come as you are and stay as you are because God wants you to be saved anyway.” Cross-shaped love says, “Come as you are and accept the changes needed for you to become what you really are.”
God made himself available to everyone through the incarnation of Jesus. God is Christ-like and in him is no unChrist-likeness at all (Michael Ramsay).
The Ordinariate’s mission is to bring the treasures of the English Spiritual tradition into the wider Catholic Church. Our Liturgy is the visible expression of that tradition, but the tradition is much more than a good liturgy. It sees priest and laity as equal partners in our mission. It encourages laity and clergy to pray the same daily office of morning and evening prayer. The tradition requires us to be prophetic, to hold prayer, study and service in balance, and it requires priests to be available, accessible and approachable. It requires them to be merciful and pastoral while maintaining the Faith and Church discipline rather than being legalistic and judgmental.
We are to be purveyors of cross-shaped love. We must never be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ Crucified, manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world and the devil; and continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant until our life’s end.
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.