(This is the fourth and final post in a four-part series. To see my intro from Part 1 about my inspiration for this series, click here.)
As I was reflecting on this final action of giving, I realized something I’d not noticed before. In each of the three Gospel accounts where the Last Supper is described in very similar detail, (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23) one thing is not made clear to me…did Jesus take the bread and wine and give it all to his disciples, or did he keep some bread and wine for himself, too? It wouldn’t matter that much, of course, if these actions of his at the Last Supper weren’t, for me, so closely tied to his actions throughout his life.
Now I am left wondering here, how do I interpret this act of giving in the Last Supper? Is it an act of total giving? Or is it his final act of sharing (where he gives others nourishment, but also takes some nourishment for himself) before finally giving it all on the Cross?
Here I have only questions.
Theologians everywhere are probably rolling their eyes because there is a common knowledge among them to which this housewife is not privy. No matter. In my readings right now, I do not know for sure. Still, even in my not knowing, I find meaning in my closing this four-part blog series with more questions. Doing so best illustrates, I think, a final and frustrating point for Christians everywhere regarding the life of Jesus and all his actions: an invitation into God’s Mystery. Because in our world of instant money, instant streaming and instant access, sitting with questions and allowing a mystery to unravel can leave one feeling highly unsatisfied and uncomfortable. After all, this is America, for crying out loud! We need answers!
My best example of the gift of asking questions and waiting for answers, though, is Jesus himself. In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus asks far more questions than he answers; and what answers he does give generally come in the form of parables or similes (“The kingdom of heaven is like…” Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44) which are, in their own special way an invitation into further Mystery.
Indeed, the more time I spend with Jesus in the Gospels, he is almost never about giving answers. He is instead always about drawing us deeper.
Deeper into ourselves.
Deeper into God.
Joining the part of ourselves that is spirit, to the part of God that is human.
For me, it is where “deep calls to deep.” (Psalm 42:7)
But, regardless of whether Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper were of total giving or of sharing (lest we forget that John skips over the details of the meal itself entirely and reminds us that Jesus’ final act was to kneel down and serve [John 13:1-20]) what we can see in Jesus is that he does leave us with one final shocking example of just how far we have to go before we may fully understand what it means to give. It was only days after sharing (or giving away?) bread and wine with the apostles in the Last Supper, that he showed us what giving of ourselves—fully– really looks like as he allowed his arms to be hammered open on the Cross.
And so it is these four actions in the Last Supper: take, bless, break and give, that I try to be open to every time I celebrate the Eucharist.
Like life itself, it is a process.
Like life itself, I do not do it well most of the time.
But also, like life itself, thankfully, I have Jesus to lead me through it and draw me in to the Deep.
And on this final day in the week of Thanksgiving, one thing of which I am certain is this: whether we are offering gratitude, sharing our lives with others, or giving ourselves up in an act of service or love to our fellow-man, our actions echo those of our Lord in his final hours.
And that is reason enough for us all to give thanks.