By Rev. Ray E. Atwood Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
The Last Supper
Some things in life are too beautiful to be forgotten. On Memorial Day, our nation recalls the incredible sacrifices of soldiers for the preservation of freedom of their country. Freedom is not an heirloom, but a way of life. As life must be nourished, defended, and preserved, so freedom must be repurchased by each succeeding generation. The price is the blood of U.S. soldiers. We as a nation commemorate these sacrifices in solemn ceremonies across the country.
Jesus Christ came to die for our salvation. When He was an Infant, the wicked King Herod sent horsemen to decapitate Him. Our Lord’s time had not yet arrived. When it arrived, He ensured it would be remembered for generations.
On the night before He died, Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples. The Passover is recounted in Exodus. After the plagues, God struck the Egyptians further to prompt His people’s release by smiting the firstborn in each Egyptian household. The Israelites saved themselves by offering a lamb, dripping hyssop in the blood, and marking their doorways with blood. The angel of God passed these blood-drenched homes, saving the firstborn of the Israelites. The lamb was therefore the Passover of the destroying angel, that is a “pass,” which secured their safety. God ordered the memorial feast to be celebrated year after year.
The Last Supper and the Crucifixion took place during Passover. When the Eternal Son of the Father instituted a new covenant with His people, He used a meal to commemorate it. He wanted to prolong through the centuries the sacrifice offered on Good Friday.
Our Lord chose bread and wine as the elements of this sacrifice. No two substances in nature better symbolize unity than bread and wine. As bread is made from a multitude of grains of wheat, and wine is made from a multiplicity of grapes, so the many who believe in Christ are one (see 1 Cor. 10:17). Wheat passes through the rigors of winter and is ground in the Calvary of a mill. It is subjected to purging fire before it becomes bread. Grapes are subjected to the Gethsemene of a wine press, and have their life crushed before becoming wine. Thus do these elements symbolize the passion and death of Christ, which is the condition of our salvation.
When Our Lord changed bread and wine into His Flesh and Blood, He invited His disciples to eat and drink. Thus, we are to participate in this sacrifice, which was completed on Good Friday, when Our Lord said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). We literally take the sacrifice into our bodies, and hopefully translate it into a fruitful life.
Christians have different views of the Eucharist. As we commemorate Holy or Maundy Thursday this year, let us be united in the Spirit of Christ, who gave us this holy memorial of His death and resurrection.