June 3, 2018 – Body and Blood of Christ
By Ted Wolgamot
In 1594, an Italian Renaissance artist named Tintoretto completed a masterpiece named “The Last Supper.” One of the many remarkable qualities of this painting is that it does not present this most memorable scene as many others have typically depicted it. It does not have a dark, hushed, awe-inspiring atmosphere with 12 apostles totally focused on Jesus amid a silent sense of wonder and amazement.
Instead, what is most notable about this rendition of this famous supper scene is all the activity going on in the room: serving people busying themselves; other servants looking wistfully at the table that appears to have no room for them; 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.
This painting reminds me of our minds while we are participating some 2,000 years later in a re-enactment of that very same event: the Last Supper, which we now call the Mass.
It’s easy for most of us to find ourselves somewhere in that Tintoretto painting. Like those people in the painting, we may discover ourselves approaching the Lord’s table with a glow of attentiveness to the moment. But, we may also find our minds wandering, our hearts distracted, our focus elsewhere.
What Tintoretto is possibly suggesting in this painting is that our faith will never be perfect or complete, our love for others will falter at times, and our best intentions will weaken and fall flat over the long run.
Certainly, we often find ourselves at the Lord’s table not with a glow of ardent love, but with a scowl similar to that of Judas as pictured in this painting. Sometimes, like the one character in the painting, we have to halt the distractions of others around us so that we can attend to what Jesus is saying to us; other times we may find that we are the ones doing the distracting. Sometimes, we may find that our distractions are caused by legitimate 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 Tintoretto painting is a reminder that currents of emotions, interruptions and distractions swirl under the surface for all of us 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 me 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 carry in our hearts. No matter what distractions hold our minds hostage. No matter what sins shame us. No matter what.
That’s what Jesus was telling those first disciples at his last supper with them — even while the servants scurried about, even while Judas plotted silently.
This is what Jesus beckons us to do in the midst of all our busyness and all our heartaches. He asks us to join him in a meal. He asks us to take his body and blood into the deepest part of ourselves.
And he asks us to do this in the hope that we will find there the strength and the nourishment and the power to heal our inner brokenness. And there, to create a heart so filled with conviction that it can deafen all the inner torments.
Editor’s note: Parts of this homily were prepublished online in June 2015: http://talkingwithted.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-most-holy-body-and-blood-of-christ.html
Ted Wolgamot has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, a master’s in Sacred Theology, and is nationally certified in three areas of addiction work. He left active ministry as a Catholic priest after serving 20 years and is in full communion with the Church. For 15 years he led the psychological group evaluating seminarians and priests for successful ministry in the diocese of Peoria, IL. Retired after 46 years as a professional, Dr. Wolgamot continues to give public presentations in the fields of spirituality, psychology, and addiction. He also publishes a weekly Sunday Reflection based on the upcoming Sunday scriptures.
Ted Wolgamot has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a master’s degree in Sacred Theology. A specialist in the field of Addiction, Dr. Wolgamot worked for three years at The Betty Ford Center in California. Retired after 46 years as a professional, Dr. Wolgamot writes weekly reflections based on the Sunday scriptures.