Wednesday of Holy Week

PHOTO: LAURENCE FREEMAN

Mt 26:14-25: in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.

Actually the scene today rubs our nose again in the shame of betrayal. It's clearly an important if nasty element of Holy Week's meaning that we are meant to face.
 
It's like raising a socially embarrassing topic in the conversation at a pleasant dinner. You risk becoming everyone's worst companion and never being invited out again. Like dropping a piece of food from your mouth on the floor, you kick it under the table rather than retrieving it and offering it to your neighbour.
 
So we'll avoid the topic of betrayal which is much a key to this story. Instead let's remember the context, the meal and the companionship, however flawed and fragile. There are people who have a gift for creating these occasions. They manage the food and the table with just the right kind of symbolism - not too formal but not too casual. It's an increasingly rare gift, this art of hospitality that allows celebration and friendship to happen and be shared for the duration of the meal. Every such occasion is a kind of eucharist.
 
Perhaps one reason why today the Eucharist has lost its meaning for people, and why religious ceremony seems so incomprehensible and such an empty game, is because we see food as an individual indulgence not as a communal sharing. For many families, in the lands of affluence especially, to sit and eat and talk and to remain together until the end of the meal seems a quaint custom. Theres always something else to do in my room - download something, watch something, communicate in some other media - and the community of the table seems far less interesting once you have eaten your fill.
 
Yet eating with others is what prayer is all about. It is the time - like meditating with others or celebrating a ritual as we will begin to do tomorrow - when we are fed and nourished by the one who is the food itself. We need to stay and wait and allow ourselves to be waited on. After all, it was the betrayer, who was the first to leave the table. (Sorry for bringing this up again).
 
With love
Laurence
 
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