“… he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body … this is my blood.” Mk. 14: 22&24
In 1594, Italian renaissance artist Jacopo Tintoretto, completed a masterpiece called “The Last Supper.”
One of the many remarkable qualities of the painting is that it does not present this most memorable scene from the gospel as many others do. It does not, for example, picture an awe-inspiring atmosphere with the twelve apostles totally focused on Jesus with a silent sense of wonder and amazement.
Instead, this extraordinary piece of art is distinguished by angels swooping from the ceiling, some of the disciples watching Jesus attentively while others are engaging in conversation with each other, and Judas – the only one not pictured with a halo – perching awkwardly on the side of the table separated from everyone else.
What is especially notable about this rendition of Jesus’ Last Supper scene, however, is all the additional activity going on in the room: serving people busying themselves with their various appointed tasks, a cat poking her nose into a basket of dishes, and a servant talking to a disciple who is holding up his hand to halt the servant’s speech, presumably so he can hear what Jesus is saying.
Busyness, distractions, interruptions.
It reminded me of our minds while we’re participating some 2000 years later in a re-enactment of that that very same event:
The Last Supper, which we now call the Mass.
It’s easy for many of us to find ourselves somewhere in that Tintoretto painting. Like the people in the painting, we too may find our minds wandering, our hearts distracted, our focus elsewhere.
What Tintoretto may be suggesting here is that our faith will never be perfect or complete, our love for others will falter at times, and our best intentions may weaken and fall flat over the long run.
Sometimes, like the one character in the painting, we have to halt the distractions of others around us, or find our own distractions being caused by issues of crisis in our lives, the pain of terrible loss, the heartache of something affecting our family life, or the fear of having to face some perceived danger.
This lively, busy, distracting painting can be a reminder to us all that currents of emotion, and different points of view swirl under the surface for all of us from time to time as we approach the taking of the sacred bread and the drinking of the sacred blood.
But here’s the beauty of this painting and of our life situation as believing people:
Jesus is saying the very same words to you and to me today as he did so long ago to a room full of distracted, scared, half-believing, even treacherous people –
Take and eat. Take and drink.
No matter what moods we bring with us. No matter what fears we are carrying in our hearts. No matter what distractions are holding us hostage.
No matter what.
Take my body. Drink my blood.
Wherever you may find yourself in Tintoretto’s painting, wherever you are in your personal faith journey, know that you are invited to a meal where we will all be received with open arms, and where you will just be given one instruction:
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.