There was a book out a number of years ago by Graham Greene titled “The Heart of the Matter”. In todays second reading St. Paul puts us in touch with the heart of the matter of our Christian faith. He reminds the Corinthian community what he taught them while he lived with them.
He writes; “I handed on to you as of first importance what I had in turn received; that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
Paul did not receive this matter of first importance from any of the apostles. He received this knowledge of Christ crucified and risen when he encountered the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul teaches that Christ crucified and raised is the heart of the matter of Christian faith, this is our foundational truth. Later Paul would write, “if Christ be not risen we are still in our sins,” in other words nothing has changed in our relationship with God – we would still be alienated from God. Paul teaches that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The death and resurrection of Jesus is that event which puts to rights our relationship with God. This is of first importance – this is the good news Paul brought to the Corinthians, the good news they accepted and the good news by which they were living their lives.
The teaching of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus are important but of first importance is this basic truth, Christ died for our sins, was buried and on the third day was raised from the death.
When this good news was revealed to Paul at his meeting with Christ on the road to Damascus it changed his life. Paul the persecutor becomes Paul the proclaimer. Paul knew he was a gifted man, “by God’s grace I am what I am and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”
At this Mass, at every Mass we come to grips with the heart of the matter of our faith – Christ died for our sins, Christ is raised from the dead. At this Mass at every Mass we proclaim the mystery of our faith; Christ has died, Christ is raised, Christ will come again. At this Mass, at every Mass we answer this proclamation when, at the end of our Eucharistic prayer we give our great Amen, our yes to this truth that is the heart of the matter – yes this we believe, yes this is the wonder by which we will live our lives as Christian men and women.
Someone said, “if you want to get across an idea wrap it in a person.” This is what God has done for us in Jesus. To get across God’s great love and compassion for us God wrapped it up in the person of Jesus. We’ve heard time and time again that God loved the world, God loved each one of us so much, God sent His Son to the world, not to condemn us but to embrace us, to wrap himself up in our humanity, to be like us in all things, to know our joys and sorrows, to endure our hurts and pains, all the while being faithful to the Father. Jesus preached God’s great love every where He went. Jesus invited people to respond to God’s love by changing their lives and being reconciled to God. People of power tried to silence Him but to His very last breath He proclaimed God’s love “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
We get so used to hearing those loving words of Jesus – “take, eat, this is my body, take, drink this is my blood” – they don’t touch us as they might. By this simple, loving words Jesus hands Himself over to each of us as food for our life’s journey so that we do not faint along the way. He is the bread of life that strengthens us to enjoy the gifts of life and love with which we have been blessed. He is the bread of life that strengthens us to face the difficulties and disappointments we all face. As we hold out our empty hands – the symbol of our neediness – to receive the bread of life may we all be blessed to have our faith in Christ deepened, our commitment to Christ strengthened as we all are touched by what is of first importance; Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised on the third day as living proof to all of us that God loved the us so much God sent His Son to the world, not to condemn us but to embrace us, just as we are.