Exodus 24, 3-8 + Psalm 116 + Hebrews 9, 11-15 + Mark 14, 12-16, 22-26
This feast is about hunger before it is about food. Knowing the hungers of the human heart opens the way to understand what the gift of the Eucharist provides. Several weeks ago when I began to prepare for the cruise we are beginning the reality of these hungers struck me powerfully as I thought about what goes on all day and nearly all night in the Lido and in the La Fontaine dining room. It’s hard to think about hunger with all this feasting, but today the Church thinks about hunger and then about food.
Deeper than physical hunger and more powerful there is a hunger for life, a hunger for love, a hunger for companionship, acceptance, understanding, and always a hunger for merciful forgiveness. Sadly, not recognizing or acknowledging these hungers leads to all kinds of abuse, not the least of which might be gluttony or any other addictive behaviors that somehow never satisfy nor quiet these deep and very real human hungers. All around us we are fed with foods that do not satisfy. Power, Pride, Vanity, Money, Privilege, Success, and many others never quite satisfy our deepest hungers, and the most convincing sign that this is true is the fact that there is never enough. The hungry fed on these things always want more and more.
At the beginning Jesus Christ came to eat with us and share our hungers. We should remember that the first temptation he faced in the desert concerned bread and using food for power. The first of the great signs he worked in John’s Gospel was at a wedding feast. In all the days of his earthly ministry, he continually confronted the hungers of humankind, and finally having shown us and told what to do in front of thousands who followed him into the wilderness hungry for his word, he fed us with the only food that will end our hungers on the night before he died.
The food that Jesus offers is not much when compared to what is available on this ship and in our homes. It is not particularly tasty, and the little bite we receive doesn’t seem like much. So we sometimes dream of other foods like the Jews in the desert who complained about the manna and longed for the meat and fruits they had in Egypt. They forgot that they had these things at the table of slavery. They did not remember well what God had done for them because a slave’s memory is not free.
“Do this in memory of me.” Jesus says to us. Remembering is what we do here at this table. Here, and only here will we satisfy the hungry heart. Here we need not worry about whether or not there is enough. There always will be. Here those who hunger to be included always have a place. Here all who hunger for mercy and forgiveness are fed, and those hungry for life find love, because without love there is no life. Here those who are lonely find companions who share our common hope for joy and for peace. So, on this day when the whole church celebrates the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, we remember the one who has set us free, and we feast again on the food that can satisfy our deepest hungers. We do it together as church as family, as hungry people who know the table of mercy.