There is nothing like a shared meal that binds family and friends together. Memories and stories shared around the table are the glue that cement relationships. Often, when we share a meal, we love to recall all our past meals together. The Last Supper was one such event.
“Do this in memory of me.” There is one song whose lyrics never fail to touch my innermost.
We remember how you loved us to your death
And still we celebrate for you are with us here
And we believe that we will see you when you come in your glory, Lord.
We remember, we celebrate, we believe.
All such shared meals are a celebration of love and caring. Agape (ἀγάπη), the early Christians called it. At this last meal with his friends, Jesus showed them his love for them. He washed their feet in humble service. He broke bread with them and said it was actually himself he was sharing. Then, like a man who knew that the end was near, he gave them his final teaching (instructions) and his commandment of Love (mandatum, that is why this day is also known as Maundy Thursday).
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Yet over all the event hang the pending betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, the desertion by all the apostles except for perhaps the beloved disciple. I imagine myself being with the twelve. I would have been moved by such manifestation of love from my Lord and Teacher. I would have been inspired by his last discourse. I would have taken his mandatum to heart and memorized it instantly. But I would also have been totally confused and disturbed by what was happening. A betrayal? By whom? Denial by impetuous Peter? And when the chips fell where they did, would I have also deserted him along with the rest? The stakes were getting to high and too dangerous.
Today, we celebrate this bitter-sweet, clear-confused Last Supper with the Lord.