Mass of the Last Supper
17 April 2014
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
There was an elderly man in India who meditated every morning under a big tree on the bank of the Ganges River. One morning, after he had finished praying, the man opened his eyes and saw a scorpion flowing helplessly in the water. As the scorpion washed nearer to the tree, the man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that extended over the river and reached out to save the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand. A few moments later, when he had regained his balance, he stretched himself again on the tree roots to save the foundering scorpion. Again, the scorpion stung him. This time the sting was so severe that the man’s hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.
At that very moment, a passer-by saw the old man stretched out on the tree root, still struggling with the unco-operative scorpion. He shouted, “Hey stupid old man, what’s the matter with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature! Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?” At that, the old man turned and, looking directly into his detractor’s eyes, calmly replied, “My friend, just because it is in the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change the fact that it is in my nature to save.”
There is a sense in which all the celebrations of this week reminds us that it is God’s nature to love, to forgive, to heal and to save. Even when human beings do what is wrong or selfish or downright evil, God’s nature does not change. It is in the very nature of God to reach out with the gift of reconciliation; it is the very essence of God’s nature to save. This we know because the nature of God has been eloquently revealed in the person, mission and life of Jesus. Although he was God, Jesus emptied himself of all he was and all he had so as to effect the salvation of sinners. Jesus became as we are for our sakes. He humbly died an ignominious death determined to see his mission through. He does not give up on sinners.
The Gospel accounts of the events of this week remind us of all the weaknesses and evil tendencies of humankind. We are told of betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter. The disciples fall asleep when he needs their support in Gethsemane. Lies are told about what Jesus did and said. He is mocked. He has to face the fierceness of the crowd, the weakness of Pilate and the hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders. The loving nature of God was reflected in the gentle way of Jesus with sinners and this did not change on the cross. This love was revealed in a most striking way at the last supper which Jesus shared with his friends. He gave himself as food. After his resurrection the disciples recognised him in the breaking of bread. He continued to reveal himself to us in this way just as he is doing this evening.
A postgraduate medical student had to be away from her fiancé for a month to take the exams she had to pass in her last year at College. It was agony for her to be separated in this way. She took the bus from New York to New Haven, Connecticut. The bus stopped at a Greyhound station which was a rather dreary place. This did not help her spirits. She sat down on a revolving seat at a dirty counter. The counter was Ushaped so she found herself sitting across from an old woman with a dirt-under-the fingernail hand.
“Honey you look depressed”, the old lady said, “I am” and before she knew it she was crying. The old woman reached across the counter but the medical student recoiled when she saw her fingernails. “What’s wrong honey?” She told her about her fiancé and how much she missed him. The old woman told her she had been married to a salesman and knew all about loneliness when he was away working. She suggested to the young medical student that she might feel a bit better if she had something to eat. So she ordered a roll, broke it and handed her a portion as she continued to prattle on about her dead salesman husband. Just then an announcement came over the loudspeaker and she said “Oh dear! That’s my bus,” and disappeared. It was only at that point that the young medical student recognised that her burden of sorrow had lightened in the breaking of a roll.
+Liam S. MacDaid
17 April 2014