Gospel: Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Reflection on the Eucharist

Popular Translation

12 On the first day of the Passover festival, Jesus' followers asked him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare the Passover meal for you?"

13 Jesus sent two of them with these instructions: "Go into Jerusalem. There, you will meet a man carrying a pot full of water. Follow him. 14 Whatever house he enters, say to the owner:

'Our teacher wants to know what room he can use to celebrate the Passover meal with his followers.'

15 He will take you upstairs and show you a large room ready for us to use. Prepare the meal there."

16 The two followers left the others and entered Jerusalem. They found everything just as Jesus told them and they got the meal ready.

22 While they celebrated the meal, Jesus took bread and blessed God for it. Then, he broke the bread into pieces, gave it to his followers, and said, "Take it. This is my body."

23 After he took the cup in his hands and blessed God for the wine, Jesus passed the cup to everyone and they all took a drink. 24 "This is my blood of the covenant God makes with us," Jesus stated. "It will be poured out for many people."

25 "Listen!" Jesus continued. "I will not drink any wine again until that day I drink it anew in God's Kingdom!" 26 After they sang a few songs, Jesus and his followers went out of the city to the Mount of Olives.

We could discuss the Last Supper for many pages. (Indeed, how much ink has been spilled over the subject!) For our purposes, we can note the unique preparation for the meal and the institution of the Eucharist itself.

Literal Translation

12 On the first day of the Unleavened Bread when they slaughtered the Passover (lamb), HIS disciples said to HIM, "Where do YOU want us to go and prepare (the place) so YOU might eat the Passover (lamb)?" 13 HE sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a ceramic pot of water. Follow him 14 and wherever he might enter, say to the house master, 'The teacher says, 'Where is the guest area where I can eat the Passover (lamb) with my disciples?' 15 He himself will show you a large room upstairs (already) prepared, spread out (with rugs and pillows). Prepare (the meal) there for us." 16 The disciples departed and entered the city. They found (everything) just as HE told them and they prepared the Passover (lamb)."

12:13 "a man carrying a ceramic pot of water." In a gender segregated society, fetching water from a common well was delegated to women. Clearly, a man bearing a water jar was a prearranged sign for the disciples.

12:15 "spread out (with rugs and pillows)" Jews in the time of Jesus reclined on their sides to eat. They lie in a circle about a common table.

If we read Mark's account closely, we will notice Jesus had already made arrangements for Passover with a wealthy patron in the city. (A rich man in the city could have been a Sadducee, since the religious party consisted of the Temple priests-scribes and the wealthy of the city.) We can presume the man with the jar of water was a servant. He led the two followers to the house where the owner himself (not a servant or patron) showed them a spacious attic room for a private celebration.

Theologically, Mark wished to stress the meal and its aftermath were Jesus' initiative. He was in charge, not his followers, his betrayer, or the Sanhedrin. Because of his relationship with the Father, Jesus obeyed the will of the Father in the unfolding scenes.

22 While they ate, as HE took bread and blessed it, HE broke (the bread), gave (it) to them, and said, "Take (the bread). This is MY body." 23 Having taken the cup, having pronounced (the blessing), HE gave it to them and everyone drank out of it. 24 HE said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant being poured out for many. 25 Amen, I say to you that I will no longer drink from any fruit of the vine until that day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God." 26 Having sung (a psalm), they went out to the Mount of Olives.

12:22 "While they ate, as HE took bread and blessed it, HE broke (the bread), gave (it) to them, and said" is literally "they eating, he taking, he blessing, he broke, he gave it to them, he said." The three participles (eating, taking, blessing) are called "genitive absolutes;" they modify the three finite verbs (broke, gave, said) in a concurrent sense ("while" or during"). In other words, during the meal ritual of eating, taking bread, blessing God, Jesus broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and pronounced the Eucharistic proclamation.

Jesus blessed the bread in words similar to the Jewish blessing: "Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the universe, who makes bread come forth from the earth."

12:23 "having pronounced (the blessing)" is literally "eucharized" While words of blessing are different in 12:22 and 12:23, the meaning is the same. The blessings praised God in preparation for the words of eucharistic institution.

"This is my blood of the covenant being poured out for many." This phrase echoed Exodus 24:8:

And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words." (RSV)

Just as Moses poured out the blood of a worship sacrifice onto the people to ratify the covenant, Jesus would pour out his blood in a sacrifice meant to worship the Father. Notice covenant was different from an agreement (that implied parties of equal stature); the covenant of Exodus 24:8 was purely God's initiative. We can infer the same quality in the covenant Jesus offered to his followers.

"being poured out for many" In the context of the narrative, this present tense participle has the force of the future ("will be poured out for many").

12:25 "no longer...any" This sentence is emphatic since it contains a double negative and the phrase "no longer" ("I will not no longer drink no fruit of the vine..." A triple negative!). With the phrase "Amen, I say to you..." Jesus really made a point about his role in the Kingdom.

"until that day I drink it new" The word "new" can be translated as an adverb (" in a new way") or as an adjective modifying "fruit of the vine" (a reference to wine, as "new vine"). In the first sense, "until I drink it in a new fashion in the Kingdom" or, in the second sense, "until I drink new wine in the Kingdom." In either case, the word referred to a different reality (i.e., God's Kingdom).

12:26 "Having sung (a psalm)." Traditionally the Passover meal ended by singing psalms.

During the meal, Jesus instituted the Eucharist. He took a meal that celebrated the liberation of Israel from slavery (an event in the past) and transformed it into a meal that looked forward to the Kingdom. He made the change with his self-giving (sharing himself in the form of bread and wine). And he reenforced the change with a declaration of the postponed celebration ("Amen, I say to you that I will no longer drink from any fruit of the vine until that day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God").

Both self-giving and eschatological declaration would play themselves out in Jesus' passion and death. The crucified Lord would be the sign of the end times. His sacrifice on the cross would be THE worship of the Kingdom. The blood he spilled would be poured out for "many" (a Semitic phrase "for all people"). The arrangement God made with believers through the sacrifice of his Son was the covenant of the Kingdom!

Obviously, we do not live in the Kingdom, even though we live in constant expectation of God's reign. However, the Eucharist we celebrate makes the Kingdom real because the Lord in truly present. He is with us at Mass so he can be one with us. Our struggles, our pain, our anticipation of the Kingdom becomes his. And the gift of his self-giving becomes ours.

Discuss your experiences of divine intimacy at Eucharist. What impact have these experiences had on your life?