14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. 21 But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. 22 For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” 23 And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.
There is a certain holiness about the Eucharist.
One of the reasons why I think the early church and what would become the Catholics and the Orthodox wrapped it within the various rituals that attend it today was because early Christians recognized the sacredness of this moment.
It was a last meal between the Lord and his closest friends (and one enemy.) There was an intimacy here. There was a familiarity. This was a family gathering.
God had come among us and decided that He would like us to be His family. Everyone there was family, regardless of income, status, background, politics, vocation (and later race, ethnicity, and gender.)
So here, in the quiet of the evening before the Lord’s Passion and suffering, we spy in on family dinner. And we recognize the sacred.
And we repeat it in remembrance of that special moment when humanity realized that God was no longer a distant and vengeful overlord who barely tolerated us, but was, in fact, family. And in celebrating that moment, we realize that all of our differences are superficial. We are a part of that family, that church, too, and we are one. We all draw life from the Christ, the bread and the wine becoming His body and blood, literally or symbolically, it doesn’t matter, because both can be true. The meaning we attach to them makes them sacred.
And that meaning is that our new life was made possible by Jesus Christ. He came to show us the Way in which a human being should life. He came to give His life and face death so that He could conquer both sin and death and share His resurrection with us. The Eucharist reminds us of the cost for our new life.
But it also reminds us that He has decided to call us His family.
How humble the human heart should be at that reminder. How humble we should be with one another.
But not all of us are.
Judas is here. He plots even as he takes the meal and misses its significance. These are men that he has disowned. He misses the sacredness of this moment because his heart isn’t here. His heart is on the money he’s been paid and his exit strategy. His heart is so grounded in the common ordinary things that he blinded to what is happening here.
After the moment has passed, the Lord again demonstrates that He is in control by letting them know that He is aware that there is a traitor in their midst. The disciples, perhaps humbled by the Eucharist, examine themselves. Could they be the one who would do such a thing? It’s said in another gospel that each one asked Jesus, “Is it I?” They will lose that humility is a short time, but it is a profound thing.
And perhaps that is why we’re called back to the Eucharist often. We tend to get distracted by things in this life. We lose our focus on what’s important. The Eucharist calls us to come back to the moment when God brought us all into one family. When the rest of the world outside those four walls didn’t matter. When the Lord gave us His life quite literally. And we respond by recognizing that sacrifice and our unity and we are humbled by it.