We just attended our nephew's commencement ceremony as he graduated from high school. Of course, the message of being prepared for the future was a common theme amongst the various speakers. Seeing the potential of each graduate as they walked across the stage was inspiring but I found myself wondering what the future held for these 18 year-olds? Preparation is also part of the message in this week's Gospel.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Preparing for the Passover meal was a regular occurrence for these Jewish men. What they could not have been ready for were Jesus' words during the meal. "This is my body." And if that wasn't unexpected enough, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." More importantly, there could be no preparing for the actuality of what the disciples would experience as Jesus' words came to pass. Jesus was describing a unique experience and no matter what He told the disciples they simply could not be prepared for their coming future. They were about to "commence" a new journey. In time, the disciples thought back on Jesus' words at the Passover supper they eventually came to realize that He had not only prepared them for their future but was providing for them as well.
Commencement speakers try to give the perfect advice to the graduating class. Young, idealistic graduates are told they have been prepared for the journey ahead. In reality, there is no way they can know what awaits them. It is important for them to remember that the foundation has been laid in their school and family experience. But life can be full of surprises, many unpleasant. That is why we need to trust in Jesus' "commencement" words. Only He prepares us and provides us what we need for our journey with God, His body and blood!