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Understanding the Lord’s Supper

To approach the Holy Week is to approach the core of reality. And the climax of the week is the Triduum -Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, which form a unity. We are introduced into the heart of the week through the mass that commemorates the last meal of Jesus with his disciples. In the scriptures there are several references to meals, but none are so important as the Last Supper. It would be nice to reflect on this event in the background of other meals. We shall take the gospel of Luke, because no other gospel equals Luke’s emphasis on meals.Luke offers us ten meals: banquet at the home of Levi (5:27-39), dinner at the home of a Pharisee (7:36-50), breaking of the bread in Bethsaida or multiplication of loaves (9:10-17), hospitality offered at the home of Martha (10:38-42), second dinner at the home of a Pharisee (11:37-54), third such dinner at the home of a Pharisee (14:1-35), hospitality extended by Zacchaeus (19:1-10), the Last Supper (22:14-38), breaking of the bread at Emmaus (24:13-35) and the meal with the entire community in Jerusalem (24:36-49).So from the banquet in Levi’s house to the Risen Lord’s final appearance, meal accounts are introduced by the author in nearly every major section of the gospel. Of these ten, the first three appear in the story of the origins of the Church in Jesus’ ministry, the next four during the great journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and his passion and death, and finally the last two after his resurrection. In each of these meals we have a particular setting and come across different personages. All these meals and the persons involved become motivating symbols for us, and help us to understand the Eucharist in a better way.
According to Eugene La Verdiere SSS, “The three prophetic meals in Jesus’ Galilean ministry focus on three of the best basic issues in Christian life. They relate the Eucharist to discipleship among the followers of Jesus, the inclusiveness of the Church as the community of the twelve and the Church’s mission to gather the hungry for the breaking of the bread. The four prophetic meals in the great journey on the way to the passion and the Last Supper focus on the ministerial issues and on attitudes in the community of disciples and the life of the Church. They relate the Eucharist to service, inner purification, attitude towards oneself and others, the gift of salvation and the behaviour that flows from it.”Each of these meals, besides being a symbol of hospitality, play some significant role for Jesus and his disciples. However, the meal to which we turn for the sharpest and fullest presentation of the Eucharist is the Last Supper. The Eucharist is the maximum expression of that hospitality sustaining all those who are on their journey towards the Father. The constitution on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the first document to be issued by the second Vatican council, while speaking of the different presences of Christ in his Church, says that he is “most fully present, under the Eucharistic elements”.
In most of the meals Jesus is a guest, but in the Last Supper, he becomes the perfect host. We can recall how Jesus was denied hospitality at his birth. Now he offers hospitality to all, before he dies on the cross. This Last Supper ends the historical life of Jesus and anticipates what will come after, as it stands on the threshold of the resurrection. He will thereafter continue to remain with the Christian community as the Risen Lord.Will the events that unfold during the Holy Week touch us and leave a deep impression on us, so that we could also radiate Christ in our own way? [TOI]

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