Today's Gospel takes us to the scene of Jesus' Farewell Discourse. This extended teaching of Jesus runs through five chapters of John's Gospel. I think there is something significant in such an allocation. In these chapters, we learn a great deal about the final hours before Jesus is arrested and crucified.
The Gospels often speak of Jesus having a meal with friends. Food is a universal human need and good. The breaking of bread together is a sacred act. There is something deep within our nature that wants to share this time with others. Many couples spend their first date having a meal together. Families gather for feasts at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Business lunches and dinners are usually important occasions. Somehow, we find out more about people when we eat with them. Perhaps we find out more about ourselves.
Sharing a meal is a sign of peace and fellowship. We are at one when we break bread. We acknowledge our mutual need and dependence upon the fruit of the land and the work of God. Those who love God are called to the marriage supper of the lamb, the great heavenly banquet (Revelation 19:6-9). The Lord God desires to eat a meal with us in His Kingdom.
Yet, it is in the breaking of bread, the great sign of friendship, that Jesus' betrayer yields to temptation. Judas Iscariot is infamous for his treachery. Who could turn on their friend in such a way, especially when that friend was Jesus? And how bad would it be to harbor animosity while at the table of fellowship? We tend to overlook how much it must have hurt Jesus to know that His close friend and disciple betrayed Him.
We must not neglect to remember that the other disciples also fled and abandoned hope. St. Peter denied Jesus three times. Judas stands out as an example of one who had the grace of God invade his life and still wanted something else. In yielding to Satan, Judas capitulates to the same inclination as our first parents.
Our first parents had a friendship with God. Their felicity was broken when they took food. It was at a meal of sorts that they sinned. And then they fled and tried to hide from God. Still, God offered them mercy and grace. Just as Jesus does for the disciples. Just like He offers us today. After His resurrection, Jesus says "peace" to the disciples and shares food with them.
What was broken at a meal is restored in the true Bread of Life. We are joined with Him and grow ever closer as we partake of divine nourishment and look forward to the heavenly banquet.
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