“I have longed to share this meal with you,” Jesus told his friends as he sat down at the table with them for the Last Supper. (Luke 22:15)
Just hear the depth of his human heart in that exclamation. He loved them passionately and he longed to share this most special meal with them.
Another thing Jesus passionately prayed at that very place at that same table: “I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realize that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.” – John 17:20-23
Of all times, Jesus chose the Last Supper to beg his Abba for Christian unity. And that is the one thing we are most divided over. But…what if we could be united in spirit while being okay with our different understandings?
We’ve proven that it’s practically humanly impossible to be intimate with people with whom we disagree on fundamental issues. But when Jesus prayed for unity, the most important part of his prayer was that he was giving himself, his Abba, and their glory into our hearts so that we could be one. We do not have to try on our own steam. What we do need to do is find Jesus, Abba, and their glory in each other’s hearts.
Communion means “fellowship, mutual participation, sharing.” It means being intimate with one another. And just before Jesus prayed for just that, he said that he longed to share this meal with us and then he instituted the Eucharist.
Christians have different beliefs about what the Eucharist is; I’m not trying to downplay that. I am Catholic. I believe that the Eucharist is actually Jesus’ body and blood because I trust the Church more the more I experience. I have experienced finding it impossible to love until the moment I received the Eucharist, and then being able to. I have experienced being surprised again and again by the peaceful and deep, deep presence I encounter at the tabernacle. But I also have friends who are Christian but not Catholic who have a different understanding. I will always remember one time in particular that I went with one friend to her church, and when they shared the bread and wine which they believe represents Jesus, they were deeply prayerful and quiet and reverent in this moment they were sharing with each other and with Jesus. I was so struck by the depth of that communion. It’s different from what I believe, but we worship the same Jesus and we are close, close friends. It’s great to share every belief, but even when we only share most of our beliefs, as Christians we can be deeply bonded and that is what Jesus longs for.
And after Jesus prayed for us to be one, he said that it was so that the world would believe. We are preventing the world from believing in Jesus because we hold ourselves apart from each other. We must stand in the truth, even though we can’t quite align on what that is. But even so, we can still stand together. Christianity will be much more of a force in this world when we can do that—and anyway, then we’ll be more alive as the Church Paul described throughout the New Testament, the Church that is one body and the Church in which the power of the Holy Spirit is undeniable and joy is rampant. The Church in which each one of us is so passionately in love with Jesus and dedicated to one another that no amount of strife in the world even matters.
He longs to share this meal with you personally because he loves you as much as his Abba loves him. He longs for each of us to share in this family together. Will we?