This was a “target of opportunity” picture on our autistic son’s 19th birthday. (I think if you click on the pic the #19 candles will be visible in the background). No, we didn’t serve him wine, but we had some of his favorite people over for a light dinner party and they brought some gifts that the rest of us could enjoy.
Couldn’t help but notice the bread loaf and bottle of wine right next to each other on the counter.
Today is an important Christian holy day, “Maundy Thursday.” (Yes, every Christian child who encounters this makes a face and asks, “How can it be Monday Thursday?”) It commemorates the night that Jesus sat at dinner with his friends and shared bread and wine with them. “Maundy” comes from the word “mandate,” as he commanded his disciples to
- share bread and wine on a regular basis, in remembrance of him
- love one another, as he loved them.
Even if you’re not a Christian, the “Last Supper” can be an evocative scene for care givers.
- Jesus shares the meal knowing that his execution is at hand. Instead of a traditional “last meal,” in which the condemned person gets to indulge in favorite foods, Jesus focuses on feeding those about whom he cares: “This is my body, given for you…” Care givers must find strength to give in every way – emotionally, materially, by constant efforts – even when the gifts are not being reciprocated. It is an intense inner battle, and the Last Supper can help us understand its depth and value.
- At the meal, Jesus, the assumed teacher and leader of the group, makes a point of serving them in a humble, even demeaning way, by washing their feet. Until we became long term care givers to our son, this was a “nice” religious story about being kind to others. Taking care of Joey (and of each other) reveals the deeper nature of care giving. You have to set aside a lot of assumed entitlements as a parent, spouse or whatever you are, and just get down and do the dirty work for those in your care.
Jesus’ language throughout the Last Supper is loaded with the gift of care giving, both his intense care for those around him and his desire that they take up and share the gift:
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:12-15, ESV)
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said,“Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:16-19, ESV)
The Last Supper is an event worth studying, even if one is not convinced of the Christian message. Jesus gives an opportunity to glimpse care giving as a great gift at the heart of reality, not glamorized but in the midst of adversity and pain. It is an affirmation and inspiration that all care givers need.