The disciples don’t know it, but everything is about to change. After years of being with Jesus, they don’t realize that this meal will come to be known as their “Last.” Once supper is over, once the table is cleared, they will all abandon their Lord. Everything will change.
The disciples might not know this yet, but we’re told that Jesus is fully aware. He is aware of everything that’s happening. Jesus knows what his friends are about to do. He knows they’ll abandon and betray him. He knows he’ll be arrested and put on trial. He knows that the cross awaits. He knows that he will have to walk this way of suffering alone.
But Jesus also knew that God the Father had put all things under his power. He knows that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to his Father. And that no matter what calamity might befall him in the hours to come, he’d come from God, and now he was returning to God. This was all part of the Father’s plan to save the world, to save humanity. This was God’s plan to save humanity, to save you.
This evening churches around the world will symbolize this abandonment and this act of redemption by first sharing the Holy Eucharist together and then by stripping their altars. It’s a stark liturgical reminder that everything changed on that “Last” night. We go out into the world with this knowledge, but we do so, fed and sustained by the One who saves us. He meets us in the bread and wine and then leads us into the darkness of night. Salvation is coming. It is here.