“Live every day as if it were your last and then some day, you’ll be right” so I first heard in the 1980 Australian war movie, Breaker Morant. It is not just seize the day or live vigorously, but it invokes the idea of mortality and finitude to add meaning and intensity to life.
Many people come to church because of a consciousness of their mortality. They especially tend to come after the loss of a loved one. The fiction that we will live forever has been rudely ripped away by a dire prognosis or a sudden loss. It is this consciousness of finitude which truly sets us seeking what is the real purpose of my existence. Of course, some people have this consciousness from early in life while others discover it somewhere along the way. But it is only in the light of this awareness that true spiritual insight can thrive and grow and that real teaching that moves the heart exists.
This weekend we liturgically enter into the last hours of Jesus’ life. He has lived as fully as we might imagine possible, but here we sense that everything has become crystal clear to this young man. He will be betrayed, he will be arrested tried, humiliated and crucified. It is here that he must summarize the essence of his life and communicate it to his followers. If not now, when?
Words are too limited and easy to misconstrue. On this last night, Jesus focuses on the main points he wants to convey and offers images that will surpass the rational and move the human soul. These symbolic acts are so basic and yet so profound that they bypass objection and interpretation with prophetic immediacy. They speak across all human languages and throughout the centuries.
Jesus wraps himself in a towel and washes his disciples’ feet. He clearly communicates that the purpose of life is to reject the narcissistic demands of the personal ego and serve others. He had already said, the greatest one in my Kingdom is the one who serves others, but lest they forget, here is the 1st century PowerPoint demonstration. Secondly, he says love one another as I have loved you and then blesses the bread and the wine, and says this is the common meal by which we will stay united. He is saying that the spirit of self-sacrificial love for others will be made possible in a community that remembers my words, my life, my sacrifice in a common meal.
Ancients from primitive times knew that sharing a common meal made a common people.