Jesus’ Last Meal

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March 24, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

March 24, 2016
John 13:1-15
Fr. George Smiga

Imagine with me if you will, what was in the mind of Jesus at the Last Supper. It did not take divine knowledge to recognize that suffering and death were close at hand. In a few hours Jesus would be in the garden, and there he would pray to his father that the cup of his suffering would pass him by. But already at supper, Jesus could guess that the cup would not pass him by. His crucifixion was a reality he could not avoid. So it makes sense for us to picture Jesus at the Last Supper as keenly aware that suffering and death were moving towards him, and that there was nothing he could do to stop them.

This attitude on the part of Jesus provides for us an example, a model for our own lives when we have to face evil we cannot avoid. The evil might be failure, rejection, sickness, or the fear of death. Now, of course, whenever we can we should try to avoid rejection and failure. We should strive for healing in the presence of sickness. We should attempt to postpone death. But times will come in our life when evil stands before us face to face, and there is no place where we can flee. What do we do then?

Jesus tells us that we are to surround ourselves with love. Today’s gospel is clear on this. Setting the scene of the Last Supper it tells us, “Jesus always loved those who were his own in this world and now he loved them to the end.” Clearly recognizing that he could not avoid suffering and death, Jesus chose to surround himself with the people who loved him, his disciples. He chose to share with them on the night before he died a meal. Now the Jesus’ friends were not perfect. They included Judas who betrayed him and Peter who denied him. But they were Jesus’ friends, and the love that he could offer them and the love that they could offer him provided comfort and strength in the face of evil. We as Christians cannot always protect ourselves from evil, but we can always celebrate love. The Christian way is not so much a way of escape as it is a way of presence: the presence of the people who love us and the presence of God who is love.

That is why Jesus gave us this meal. That is why Jesus calls us regularly to gather together and affirm with one another the love that surrounds us. That is why we believe that when we break this bread and share this cup, Jesus is really present among us. Evil is real and we cannot always avoid it. But when we gather together as we do tonight in Jesus’ name, love is here. And love is stronger than death.

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