John 13: 21-33, 36-38
If John’s telling of the last supper were to be filmed yet again this particular scene would feature close-ups of the actors faces, ethereal yet sinister music, multiple shifting camera angles and very dim lighting. Given that Passover begins at sundown the lighting probably was dim. What about the rest?
It wasn't too dramatic. Probably no music. A Passover meal. An annual event. Perhaps bringing up memories of Passover meals eaten in years past; memories from the mundane, “The lamb is kind of tough this year” to the personal “Before mom died". . . to remembrance of what God had done in the past. No movie audience. A religious holy day meal with tension underlying it. Rather like a typical non-Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving meal in the contemporary U.S. Looking around, nursing a few grudges, judging how much weight someone has gained. Usual human behavior.
It is the sheer pedestrian quality of the scene described here that catches the attention. Anyone of us can participate in such a meal. And any one of us is capable of betraying Jesus just as easily as Judas did, even including the hint of sarcasm. Any one of us is capable of swaggering and boasting in the manner of Peter even though we know from experience that we will be brought down one more time when we hear the cock crow.
Among the definitions of pedestrian is: Undistinguished. Ordinary. We can only appreciate the undistinguished and ordinary nature of sin, we can only appreciate the many ways in which we sin, when we sit in silence and reflect or examine our conscience and our lives.
Sometimes our sin is cold and calculated. Other times we sin in such unthinking and habitual ways that it is almost comical. Skip the dramatic music. There is no anguished expression as someone flees the room. Forget the dramatic lighting. Sin happens under the wretched fluorescent lighting of our offices and schools. Sin is enacted to the background sounds of Muzak, traffic noise, and the chirping of birds. It happens in the silence of our hearts and the grating sound of our boasting.
Sin is really quite ordinary. What is extraordinary is that Jesus died for our sins.
And never stopped loving us.
The photos below were taken several years ago in one of my favorite places, Longwood Gardens on U.S. Route 1 about 25 miles south of Philadelphia. It is a former Dupont estate that has magnificent gardens and indoor exhibition spaces. I particularly like to visit there in the autumn as it is the time for the chrysanthemum festival, the chrysanthemum being one of my favorite flowers of all time.
The first is a butterfly on a flower. Butterflies move more slowly in the U.S. than in Australia. I rarely managed to get a semi-decent shot of a butterfly there but the ones at Longwood are always cooperative.
Below is a chair on a patio area overlooking much of the estate entrance, the fountains and some of the formal gardens. This definitely works better in black and white than in color. Love the effect of the shadows. This shot was taken not too long after noon.
A bed of purple petunias.
Finally a water lily. Interesting factoid. The gardeners add a non-toxic black dye to the water so that the flowers will stand out more. The inky black water does make a dramatic background for the flowers.
+Fr. Jack SJ, MD