Over the next few weeks our attention in these blogs will be absorbed by the events of Holy Week and Easter one portion at a time.
Today, let’s study lovingly the Lord’s Supper, specifically as a meal.
As I began to think of how to start this blog, my thoughts went back to an experience my friend Viktor told me about. Viktor is a Swiss Dominican priest, who in his earlier life was making his way down the boot of Italy toward Rome. His preferred method of transportation was … hitchhiking. At one point, he was picked up by a scruffy looking older man driving an even older old truck which had almost no springs. Viktor tried a few conversation starters, but they were fruitless. They drove along in silence through the hot countryside, the air in the truck redolent with human sweat. Viktor brought along no food, but when the truckdriver pulled up under a tree, this taciturn man shared with Viktor what he had: a loaf of peasant bread and a bottle of rough wine. They sat in companionable silence under the tree and polished off both the loaf and wine before resuming their journey. The truckdriver let Viktor off in the outskirts of Rome. It was only as he walked along, that Viktor realized that he had celebrated Eucharist with this man who was Jesus unrecognized.
As we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus these next two weeks, we’ll want to study him from every angle.
Listen to him.
Be his shadow.
Be focused on him.
We’ll want to think back over all the meals in the Scripture that Jesus had – not only with is disciples- but with strangers, outcasts and even his enemies:
- the meal Peter’s mother-in-law mad after Jesus healed her
- the parties Jesus had with Levi (Matthew) and Zacchaeus after each of their first encounters
- the parties at the end of the stories of the Prodigal, the woman with the lost coin, the man with the lost sheep
- the wedding feast at Cana and the feeding of the multitudes
- Some of Jesus’ most poignant encounters with people took place at meals. We have only to recall Jesus at the home of Simon where an unnamed woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them.
On the night before He died, Jesus' final meal with His disciples was:
The Passover meal of the exodus, when the Israelite slaves ate the lamb and unleavened bread before leaving Egypt. Jesus’ unique contribution to that meal was his service to His disciples ,whose feet he washed and gave us the example to do likewise. In doing so, Jesus asks us for two things: to let Him serve us in this way, and to serve others in whatever way draws those others closer to God, His Father. This required that Jesus cross boundaries. We can do no less.
A farewell meal, tinged with sadness. Jesus would part from them shortly. Yet there was something about this night that was more powerful than sadness, namely a pledge and an assurance that farewell was not forever. Jesus would feed them forever, at the altar and when the truck stops on our way to Rome. Jesus would be with them forever, though they knew not how.
Today, all week long, let’s find in our memories and experiences the presence of the Risen Jesus eating with us, feeding us, telling us stories of how others are nourished for the journey, and we also. Then, when we come to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday night, our hearts will be ready.
~Joan Sobala, SSJ