Today we read Mark’s account of the Last Supper. By coincidence (or perhaps divine providence) this is also this week’s Sunday reading at Mass. Mark provides us with some particularly important details.
Here is the passage, note again how the last supper follows the same exact pattern as the distribution of the loaves and the fishes.
22 And as they were eating, he TOOK bread, and after BLESSED it BROKE it and GAVE it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Use of this same phraseology seeks to link these passages together. Just like the loaves in the multiplication miracle are bountifully replicated so will be the bread of this Pascal meal, the Eucharist.
Another important detail is that Jesus says that he will not “drink again of the fruit of the vine” (i.e., WINE) until he drinks it in the Kingdom of God. This is an important clue. The Passover meal was a liturgical ceremony. Within it was the drinking of four cups of wine. The 3rd cup was the cup or suffering and the 4th cup was the cup or consummation – marking the end of the Passover meal. Mark tells us that after blessing this cup and sharing it with the Apostles they, “… when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” We know that the hymn was sung after the 3rd up but before the 4th. Thus we see Jesus ending the Passover meal early after the cup or suffering but before the cup of consummation. But notice what then prays in the Garden:
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. REMOVE THIS CUP FROM ME. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
For Jesus, and ultimately for us, the Last Supper does not end when they leave the upper room. The new Passover is continuing on into the night. The cup of suffering is being filled by Jesus in his passion and death. Traditionally, everything form the consecration of the bread and wine at the Last Supper until Jesus sips the wine while on the cross and says, “it is finished” is considered to be one event. One long moment. One act of sacrifice.
Finally, notice what Jesus says to the Apostles that fell asleep in the Garden while he prayed
And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The phrase “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” is the same phrase Jesus will use in John 6:63, which is known as the Bread of Life discourse. This similar phrasing again is used to show the two passages are connected. In John it is used to show that belief or intellectual acceptance of the truth of the Eucharist is hard. Here it is being used to show that perseverance on the way of the cross is hard.