Sybil 1999

Gospel text

Mark 14: 12-16.22-26

12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in which the paschal lamb was immolated, the disciples said to Jesus, "Where do you want us to go to make the preparations so that you can eat the Passover". 13 Then he sent two of his disciples with this instruction, "Go into the city, and there a man will come to meet you, carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him. 14 And in the place where he goes in, say to the owner, 'The master is asking you, Where is my dining room where I can eat the passover with my disciples?' 15 And he will show you a very tall room, with the carpets spread out, all ready. This is where you will make the preparations for us." 16 So the disciples set out and went into the city, and found everything as he had told them. They began to prepare the Passover...

22 During the meal, having taken bread and having pronounced the blessing, he broke the bread which he then shared among them with these words, "Take, this is my body." 23 Then, taking a cup, he made the thanksgiving and sharing it with them, and they drank all. 24 He added, "This is my blood to make a covenant, and it will be shed for many. 25 Truly, I assure you, I will never drink wine again until I drink new wine in the world of God". 26 After singing the psalms, they went to the Mount of Olives.


There is no limit to love

Gospel commentary - Homily

Eating everything on your plate

One day, several years ago, I was having lunch in a presbytery of a German church, and having finished eating my dish, I handed the plate to the nun who was serving the table. But out of sudden I was stormed by an outburst of her anger: I left crumbs on my plate and traces of sauce; I should have cleaned up the whole plate with a piece of bread, so that nothing remains. It was later explained to me that she had known war and hunger, and that she did not understand that anything was left on a plate. This image has remained to me, and today it symbolizes for me a dimension of the celebration of the body and the blood of Christ.

When we talk about Jesus' last meal with his disciples, we say, "Jesus took bread ... and said, 'Take, this is my body'"; "Then he took the cup ... and he said to them, 'This is my blood ...'". We find among Christians today a whole range of feelings and perceptions. For some, it is above all the almost magical moment of transubstantiation where Christ is present with his body and his divinity, and which calls all our veneration. For others, it is the evocation of the institution of the Eucharist and the moment when a mass becomes a real mass. For still others, it is the evocation of words of a ritual well familiar, almost stretched to the cord, but which resonates as a reassuring music and allows the communion at the end.

For me, the evocation of the last meal of Jesus is something else. It is at first this touching moment of his farewell meal, where he sums up what was the meaning of his life, all he tried to do and say. He gave everything, including his whole being, as the symbolism of the body and blood expresses. Everything has become food with him. We have reached the limit of the gift, in the manner of the pelican that pierces its side to feed its young. Whenever I revisit that moment, deep down I say, "No, I do not forget, no, I will never forget what your life was, never, I will remember what you did!"

However, this is not a mere memory, an evocation of the past, like when you flip through a photo album. In the case of the Jews, when one speaks of the coming out of Egypt and the celebration of the Passover, it is recalled that it was not only the fathers who were saved and ate the Passover, but with them it is all the people, including contemporaries. When we talk about the last meal of Jesus, I feel in the same room, at the same time, around the same table shared by the disciples. It is to me that Jesus is talking, it is to us, in a real present. In spite of all my indignity, I feel sent on a mission, just like Peter, John, and Andrew. It is this present that evokes the scene of the disciples of Emmaus, when Jesus walks mysteriously with them and presides over the meal. Call it, if you will, a real presence. I knew a Dominican priest in Paris who refused to sit on the chair of the Eucharist when he was presiding: it was reserved for Christ, the real president.

Finally, there is one dimension that may only really attract our attention when it comes to eating the bread of communion. Why bread and wine? Why evoke the body and the blood of Jesus? For me, there is summed up in a few words all the mystery of the Incarnation. Bread is at the core of our diet, wine is at the core of our party. The body is us, it is our whole being with what characterizes it, the blood is the life that circulates and allows us to act. To eat this bread, to drink to this cup is to recognize that the living Jesus is found only in what is the heart of our lives and our feasts, that he can only act through what constitutes our being, our personality, our breath.

But there is more. When I eat bread, when I say Amen, I say yes to what constitutes my life, I accept to eat everything on my plate, beautiful things as well as those that are ugly, just like Jesus said yes to his, just as he drank the cup to the dregs. There are sometimes bitter things on my plate. Will I eat them? All? It's a real crossroads. At the moment, I am thinking of parents who have said yes to the love of life, to accept and support a child with Down syndrome or lactic acidosis. They really chose life.

I allow myself a prayer: "Lord, as you have done, let me put my hand in the dough, and drink the chalice of my life to the end, with his feasts and his dregs".


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, March 2003