By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 19 November, 2017
St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
Today’s reading from Proverbs asks a question, “Who can find a good wife?” which I will not answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me. The author goes on to describe her as one who works for good and not evil. She runs her household so well that everyone, including her husband, if happy. Meanwhile her husband is probably sitting in a cool place with his friends solving the world’s problems.
The point of this passage is that we are all urged to do the best we can with the resources we have and to do so with diligent care and purity of heart.
The readings leading up to Advent make it clear that love cannot force itself on anyone. We are free to accept or reject it, but unless we have received love at the hand of others it is more difficult to offer it to others.
Today’s gospel reading is concerned with our attitude to God’s love for us. It is about 3 servants, but Matthew focuses on the attitude of the third servant. The servants’ master gives them money to use profitably for his benefit. Two servants do this but the third produces no gain because he said he was afraid. He did not want to risk losing what he had been given, so he buried it until his master returned. He refused to take responsibility for the trust that had been placed on him and blamed his master for setting him such high expectations. Fear of failure paralysed him
Fear can be devastating because it can prevent us from making decisions we know should be made; it can prevent us from entering or leaving relationships; it can cripple us in the workplace and decimate any sense of self-worth we might have and cause us to reject God’s love for us for fear of falling short of what we assume are his high expected standards. Presenting God as a brutal tyrant has been a weapon of abuse by parents, teachers, priests and Religious. It has crushed the love of God in people and destroyed any stirrings of a call to the priesthood or lay ministry that they may have had. To present God as a vengeful tyrant is inexcusable.
The master’s reaction to the third servant was not one we would expect. He said that being afraid of failure should spur us on to greater effort. Blaming the master or God is the sin of Adam and Eve. It is a refusal to accept responsibility for our own decisions and actions and is a curse of our current age.
The third servant was so self-focussed he did not see that the other servants were rewarded because they did their best with what was given to them. What God asks of us is to remain faithful, be prepared to take risks and do our best with the gifts he gives us. The worst we can do is to let fear paralyse us.
The Thessalonian Christians were beginning to lose their nerve because Jesus hadn’t returned to earth when they thought he would. Paul assures them that those who have been faithful will have nothing to fear at the Judgment, so they should get on with their lives and be prepared for whatever might happen.
The Ordinariate is focussing on vocations during the lead up to Advent. We need priests, but not priests who see themselves as chief administrator of a parish and who does not encourage, empower and enable the people to be effective disciples and ministers of the gospel. That is clericalism at its worst. Neither do we want priests who see their role as keeping the people happy by being nice and demanding nothing of them or challenging them to grow. Such priests focus on everything except God, salvation and teaching the faith to the people.
Our mission is to proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ alongside our fellow Catholic Christians. Proclaiming this gospel is becoming more risky by the minute in the Western world, and the Catholic Church is in danger of being paralysed because many Catholics are no longer Catholic because they are afraid of being different from Protestant Christians and secularists. If we are afraid to defend and proclaim the faith we have been handed using the resources we have, God’s Kingdom will never grow. The Church has faced these crises before and has remained faithful, so which servant are you going to be like?
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.