I could almost title this sermon ‘enough already’. Paul was having a real problem trying to convince the Jewish Christians in Galatia that what made their personal relationship with God ‘right’ was their baptism and their faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen, not ritual circumcision. Jewish Christians were insisting, despite all Paul’s teachings, that Gentile Christians had to be circumcised if they were real Christians. Under such pressure some of the Gentile Christian had themselves circumcised and Paul wrote to them, “O foolish Galatians who has led you astray before whom Jesus Christ is depicted as crucified.” He told these misguided people he was astonished they followed a teaching, a gospel other the one he preached. Such a gospel was a perversion of the one he taught them from the beginning of his ministry among them. He called such preachers ‘accursed’.
For Paul the crucified Christ was everything. The crucified Christ was the love of God made visible. He would say of himself, “for me to live is Christ. His life, his ministry, his many sufferings are all expressed in these words, ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me and the life I live, I live trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me.’”
Paul’s attachment, Paul’s identity with the crucified is an identity to which we are all called. The life of the church is enriched by many devotions; devotion to Mary and to different saints. We have many popular shrines and places of pilgrimage but the greatest prayer of the church, the centre of its life is what we are doing right here, right now: celebrating Christ’s offering of his life to the Father on the altar of the cross.
In days past we used to use the expression, ‘we are going to hear Mass.’ We were in the pew, the priest was at the altar speaking a language none of us really understood. We might be saying the rosary or reading our own book of devotions. We were there physically but not really involved with what was happening at the altar.
For the past 50 years we have been called to a full and active participation in the Mass. The Mass is a community event. At every Mass we are touched by the past, the present and the future. In his famous prayer O Sacrum Convivium – O sacred banquet – St. Thomas Aquinas says “O sacred banquet in which Christ is received, the memory of his passion is recalled and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
This Mass, like every Mass, makes present to all of us the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. At this Mass, at every Mass we hear again the words of Jesus – take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood – this is my life given for you. The best response we can give at every Mass is to say in our own hearts – this is my body, this is my blood – I give them to you as you gave to me. We say to Christ, ‘as you gave yourself to me so I give myself to you – with all the blessings with which I have been blessed and with all my self – inflicted wounds.
In and through such an exchange of gifts hopefully we can say with St. Paul “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me and the life I live I live trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me.”
In today’s gospel we have Christ sending the disciples out to towns and villages, knowing that some towns and villages would welcome them and some would drive them out. But the message in every town was to be ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’ If the love of the Christ crucified is the centre of our lives then we want to share the love with others. This is what gives our Mass authenticity when we live it outside these walls of a church in the lives we live, the service we give, the work we do and the prayers we pray.’
Strengthened by the Bread of Life we will receive at this Mass may we always be willing to bear witness to the love of God in this world, knowing that the crucified Christ is the love of God made visible for all the world to see in and through the way we live our lives as followers of Christ.