If you knew you were going to die, what would you do on your last day?
The liturgy of Holy Thursday begins the holiest part of Holy Week, the Easter Triduum. On this day, we commemorate the Last Supper and also the institution of the Priesthood – and we could just pass over it (no pun intended) as something only religious people care about. But, Jesus is not just a “religious” figure. Being fully human, he had family and friends, personality and appetites. He worked for a living and his muscles got sore as he built things with his own hands. There were people whose company he enjoyed particularly – and foods and times of day and songs and stories that he liked particularly, as well. And then came the day when he knew it was all going to end.
What would you do on your last day on earth?
Being also fully divine, Jesus knew he was going to be killed in a cruel and horribly agonizing way. On the evening before his death, he gathered with his friends and shared a meal with them – his last meal. When he broke the bread and passed the cup of wine, he told them that it was his body and blood given up and poured forth for salvation, and that they were to eat and drink of his body and blood in continuing re-presentation, or remembrance. And his friends were confused and perplexed. After supper, he, whom they called Master, tenderly washed their feet – and they didn’t really know why, although he tried to explain that he was leaving them an example of service and love. All evening, he shared his hopes with his friends, gave them words of advice and encouragement, all the while knowing that they had no idea what he was about to go through. Even when he tried to tell them, they didn’t get it.
Jesus knew he would have to go through the pending ordeal and horror of arrest, torture, and crucifixion without his loved ones’ understanding or support. But… he was willing to go through it anyway for their sake – even for the sake of the friend who would betray him, even for the very people who would seize, torture, and kill him. Despite it being difficult for his loved ones to grasp, Jesus knew that the immensity of his pain and suffering was for their good, for the good of every human being on his beloved earth. Yet, he, very human, was in dread of going through it.
Later that night, Jesus, agonizing, sweat tears of blood, alone. But, he did not run away.
What would you do? (What would I do…?)