Past NVCWF member, Kathryn Cleveland calls us to fully experience our last suppers.
In a Lenten blog, Vanita Hampton Wright suggested some personal questions to center us in the Passion Week.
She says, There’s only so much one heart can hold and feel and comprehend. … So listen to your own heart and allow it to land in a specific place this week—an event or one aspect of an event that takes place in Jesus’ life during Holy Week. St. Ignatius encourages us to have conversational prayer with Jesus, walking alongside Jesus as a friend while he goes through his great Passion.
Imagine watching something horrific happening to a person you know and love. Some of us don’t have to imagine—we have experienced this. Allow Jesus’ experience of the Passion to be as close and human as the suffering you have witnessed in your life or another’s. Take the time to consider details such as:
Sharing with friends what you know will be a last meal.
I stopped right there. I had a last meal, a last supper. It was breakfast.
Cherry blossoms drifted through the air, blessing a gentle spring. The airy blanket of pale pink blossoms always means a new season has come to Washington, DC.
A new season, it’s spring again. Life.
That particular spring day we were in the middle of suburban life as usual. A son and daughter were off at college; another needed a ride to the airport. The youngest was in high school. It was another day of normal family life. We took the son to the airport and had time to enjoy before the doctor appointment. Time for breakfast together.
I love breakfast. I love poached eggs and veggie omelets, rich pastries and chewy bagels. He loved Eggs Benedict. I teased him for always ordering the same thing but he said it was his favorite and he didn’t enjoy it nearly often enough. Quiche Lorraine was the closest thing on the menu that day. It was breakfast at cozy Le Madeline’s French Cafe with its sturdy bricks and dark beams. Our heavy wooden chairs slid on the wood floors. The food came warm on thick white earthenware. We lingered over a second cup. We had time. Time to spend.
It was our last breakfast, our last innocent meal. It was the last time we ate together without cancer as the unwanted guest at every table. The topic of unspoken conversation. The cause of ruined taste buds. The reason for the feeding tube and blended meals that refused to stay down. The bitter pill to swallow. It was our last supper.
Did Jesus know exactly what was ahead of Him?
Did he gently joke with his friends?
Was He able to enjoy the bread and wine they shared or
did He choke it down with the foreknowledge of the bitter pill to come?
We think of Judas leaving to betray his Teacher,
Peter swearing his faithfulness,
John’s earnestness to be close to his loved Master.
It all feels so solemn and tragic, the portend to the great agony ahead.
That spring day we didn’t know the agony ahead of us. But we also didn’t know we would have moments of pure joy. Moments of bliss and tender intimacy. Standing hand and hand to soak up the beauty of a tree bathed in golden afternoon light or walking hand in hand the halls of hospitals, our marriage became as good as marriage gets. We expressed our love in the best ways we knew and received enough from each other. He was secure; I was needed. We loved well. We laughed. We lived.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says,
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
What did he know?
Did he see past the agony to the joy of the victory over death?
Did He know firsthand the pure joy of life?
The life His death would create for us?
His love was eager to eat with them, to share His final meal with them.
He was willing to obey to bring God’s kingdom into our lives.
Does He really love us that much?
I think about how Jesus lived on earth. He was Son of God, Son of man.
We know he suffered in the garden later the very night of that Passover meal.
As He walked on this earth did He remember without regret and anticipate without anxiety, unlike the rest of us?
Or did He truly live in the present?
Experience each moment as it presented itself?
Enjoy the one last supper with his friends?
That must be a true mark of His divinity, to be fully present as each hour comes.
To look for the joy that can come in the midst of suffering.
He tenderly washed His disciples feet.
He showed them how to serve. He was humility.
He prepared them for their greatest failings. He was compassion.
He broke bread, passed wine and taught them to remember. He was wisdom.
He knew what was ahead of Him and He chose to eat the traditional Passover meal and be with his disciples. Be in that moment. And He transformed that moment into a celebration- a celebration we continue at our communion tables. He knew his disciples would betray, deny and scatter in His moment of greatest need. He walked willingly into the night of Gethsemane and into the arms of Judas.
His Last Supper was the fortification for the agony ahead.
His Last Supper was the final preparation for the joys that lay beyond the cross.
His Last Supper was the meal that ended in Resurrection and joyful restoration.
There will continue to be last suppers in our lives, the quiet moments before our greatest trials. Sometimes they will be breakfasts. Can we also choose to be fully present for each moment?
May those moments be steps toward our resurrection, our restoration, our joy.