Today’s reading begins to draw us into Jesus’ Passion: While they were eating, Jesus said, “…one of you will betray me”! Even Judas said, “Surely it is not I”.
Probably, Judas was still there when Jesus blessed bread, and giving it to his disciples, said “Take and eat, this is my body” and then took a cup and said “Drink it all of you for this is my blood… which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Mat.26:26-28). For a Jew of that time to say “my body and blood” was somewhat like us saying “my flesh and blood”. Effectively Jesus’ was saying: “This is me”!
Jesus invited the twelve to nourish themselves on him, to absorb him into their selves, to allow his whole person to become so much a part of them that they would become a part of him! They would not understand this until He had risen from the dead.
During Holy Week Jesus invites us. We know the rest of the story: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13. Jesus knew what Judas was up to. Yet Jesus apparently did not refuse the bread that was “my body” to Judas.
Jesus suffered beyond our understanding from the scheming of the Sanhedrin and the cruelty of the Roman rulers. Yet, after his resurrection, he sent his disciples to make disciples of all nations. He excluded no one from the invitation to follow him.
This isn’t a week for us to mourn. It’s a time to rejoice in the wonder of our merciful, self-giving God: who chose to become one of God’s own creatures in the person of Jesus, the Christ; who accepted a tortuous death in order to draw us out of our alienation and reunite us with our Creator; and invited us, without exception, to become members of his Body, and of each other.
In His Name, whom should we be inviting into a greater participation in his gift of life?
Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., is Retreat Director of Bishop Molloy Retreat House, “The Passionist Spiritual Center in New York City”, www.bishopmolloy.org