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The Fifth Sunday of Lent is celebrated by Christians around the world this weekend, April 3, 2022. On this Sunday of Lent, Christians remember both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ.
(Next Sunday, April 10, 2022, is Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week; Sunday, April 17, 2022, is Easter Sunday.)
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Jeff Myers, PhD, president of Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colorado, suggested that as we get closer to the passion of Jesus Christ and look to the rest of Lent, believers should visualize a painting of the Last Supper of Jesus while considering the themes of Lent — temptation, forgiveness and sacrificial love.
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“Probably the image that comes to mind first looks a lot like Leonardo da Vinci’s masterful mural of disciples whispering and arguing, all lined up on one side of the table,” he told Fox News Digital via email.
The disciples are shown seated around the table, but there is an open space directly in front of Christ.
Dr. Myers urged believers to instead consider a different interpretation of the Last Supper, one that he says “haunts” him.
He was referring to the medieval painting of the Last Supper by Italian artist Barna da Siena, which he says represents more of a “family meal”. The disciples are shown seated around the table, but there is an open space directly in front of Christ. (The painting can be seen in the video below, at approximately 5:04, lower right.)
It’s an “invitation” for all of us, Myers said.
“It’s like Jesus saying to each of us, ‘We have reserved a place for you.'”
“In my mind, I’m throwing my legs over the bench,” Myers said. “Around me, I hear whispered conversation, and I try to think of something witty to say. The smell of spices fills my nostrils, and someone slips me a serving platter.”
Myers said he imagines glancing to his left, only to see Judas, the betrayer of Christ.
The meal continues, and Jesus announces: “One of you will betray me. Each disciple responds in shock, “Is it me, Lord?
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Jesus doesn’t say it then, Myers noted, but the answer to everyone is yes.
“By the end of the night, we’ll betray him with a kiss,” he said. “Another will deny that they even met and the others will fade into the night without saying a word.”
Myers said we can all relate to this chart because we all fall short.
“There’s no hiding it,” Dr. Myers said. “I too have a place at the table and I too am a traitor. By my actions and also by my inaction, I turn my back on love; I refuse the outstretched hand in salvation.”
If a soundtrack accompanied Barna’s painting, Myers said, it could be the “haunting melody” of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”: “Mine, mine was the transgression, and yours the pain mortal”.
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When faced with wrongdoing, Myers noted, our instinct is to deny.
“We want the finger pointing elsewhere,” he said of our common human nature. “We tell ourselves that we are our own truth, and therefore without fault. We alone draw the line defining guilt, conveniently drawing it so that we are on the side of innocence.”
This strategy should work, said Myers: “After all, if there is no truth, there is no sin. If there is no sin, there is no of guilt.” But without guilt there can be no forgiveness, he noted, and so our hearts remain heavy.
“In our panic, we judge the disciples for a weakness we fear will be discovered in our own hearts. ‘My response to Jesus would have been so different,’ we tell ourselves.”
But Barna’s depiction of the Last Supper “plants us firmly” in the midst of the “messy truth,” Myers said. “We are among the culprits.
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He noted that the young adults he cares for today don’t like to hear this truth.
A rescue from the folly of mankind, including wars such as the current deadly crisis in Ukraine, lies in the holy sacrifice of Christ.
He said a youth once asked him, “Why does there have to be bloodshed for salvation? Isn’t there another way? Jesus himself asked that question just hours before his crucifixion, Myers said.
“I ask it when I’m going through a crisis myself, and we also ask it in the sweep of history,” Myers said.
“Why is it, as the philosopher Will Durant has calculated, that only 268 years of recorded time has seen no war?”
A rescue from the folly of mankind, including wars such as the current murderous crisis in Ukraine, lies in the holy sacrifice of Christ, Myers said.
“In the Eucharist, the minister offers the cup of Jesus’ suffering saying: ‘[This is] the blood of Christ shed for you,” he noted.
“The passion of Christ reminds us that light has come into the world and darkness has not conquered it.”
“It’s not the bloodshed of someone laying down their life so that we can live out our remaining years with less hardship. It’s the excruciating, literally meaning ‘off the cross’ – from l ‘eternal entering time to reverse the history of death.’
Myers commented, “Twenty years later the apostle Paul exulted, ‘O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?'” (1 Cor. 15:55).
Myers shared that Barna added the finishing touches to his Last Supper masterpiece as a deadly pandemic began to circle the world – the plague known as the Black Death.
“In the horror of those days and in the distress of ours, the passion of Christ reminds us that light has come into the world and darkness has not conquered it,” Myers said.
“The suffering will cease. Death will not win.”
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“And we,” he concluded, “we are offered forgiveness.”