UGOLINO DI NERIO
The Last Supper
THE SEVENTH MEDITATION. How at supper he foretold the scandal of his Disciples, and Peter’s denial of him.
Then began Disciples to contend together, which of them should be greater, to whom Jesus said:The Kings of the Gentiles overrule their subjects, but you not so, but he that is the greater amongst you, let him become as the younger: and he that is the leader, as the waiter: even as I am in the midst of you as he that ministereth and you are they that have remained with me in my temptations and I dispose to you, as my Father disposed to me, a kingdom: that you may eat and drink upon my table in my Kingdom, and may sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Little children yet a while I am with you, and whither I go, you can not now come. Simon Peter saith to him, Lord whither goest thou? Jesus answered, whither I go, thou canst not now follow me: Peter saith to him, why can not I follow thee now? I will yield my life for thee. Jesus answered: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath required to have you for to sift as wheat, but I have prayed for them, that thy faith fail not, and after that thou shalt be converted, confirm thy brethren. Then Jesus saith to them. all you shall be scandallized in me in this night: and Peter answering said to him: although all shall be scandalized in thee, yet I will never be scandalized. I am ready to go with thee both to prison and unto death unto whom Jesus said: Amen I say to thee Peter, that in this night before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter answered, yea though I should die with thee, I will bot deny thee. And the like said all the other Disciples. After this our Lord made a speech unto his Disciples exhorting them sweetly to his love, and to love on another: promising for to send them another comforter, which should remain with them, and should teach them all truth. Afterward he gave and left them his peace, exhorting them to be untied in him, as branches in the proper vine: to the extent they might bring forth greater fruit. After this foretelling them many persecutions and adversities which they were to suffer for his name, he exhorted them with his own example unto patience: and finally he made for them prayer unto his Father praying him, that he would keep and sanctify and guard them from all evil, conserving them untied together, even as he was one self same thing with his Father.
The Patriarch Jacob being near unto death, and having allis children gather together round about him, appointed Efraim the younger brother over Manasses which was the elder: and afterward having told them many things to come, he gave them allis blessing.
1. See the small consideration of the Disciples: for that in time, so inconvenient, when as the Death and Passion of their master was at hand, whilst that he stood treating with them of the treason which one of them was to commit against him, wherefore they had greater occasion to be sad and to desire all to suffer and die with Christ: they considering no one thing of this matter, and much less the example which a little before he had given them of so profound humility: with ambitious minds are disputing and contending amongst themselves which of them should be the greater. O how vain is man, and how great is our frailty and inconstancy, if we be not holpen and confirmed with the divine grace. 2. Consider on the other side, the benignity and meekness of our Savior because he is not incensed against his Disciples, neither reprehendeth them sharply, or confoundeth them for the small love which they show towards him: but familiarly correcteth them, and in most friendly manner instructeth them first by declaring unto them how that ambition was a vice of worldlings and gentiles: Secondly by setting before them the example of himself, who being such as he was, performed notwithstanding amongst them the office of a servant. Thirdly by promising them other kind of honors, & a kingdom in Heaven of greater importance, and how necessary humility is, seeing that Christ in the end of his life both with words and with examples doth so often inculcate and recommend it.
3. Consider how tenderly our Lord loved his Disciples, which although they were imperfect in his love, yet nevertheless because, they had followed him faithfully, & persevered with him in his mentations, he promiseth them in reward and recompense, not greatness and earthly goods, as he did unto the ancient Fathers, but a Heavenly Kingdom, & the self same kingdom and reward, which his eternal Father had disposed to give unto him. What greater honor and dignity then this, can mans heart desire, to be made after a sort equal in reward unto the very Son of God, to be coheir with Christ, and to eat at the same table with Christ? Yea as he saith in an other place: Our Lord will make his servants sit down at table, and he girding himself like a servant will minister unto them, O with how small travail may we obtain so great a good? happy is that soul which Christ calleth unto his service, and giveth it grace to suffer & persevere with him in his tentations unto the end: that afterward he may make it worthy to enjoy & reign with him in Heaven without end.
4. All you said our Lord shall be scandalized in me. See how still the displeasures and travails of our Savior increase: a little before he was troubled for that one of his Disciples was to betray him: now he is grieved because all of them are to be scandalized in him, and that which troubleth him most, is, that he, whom he had exalted above all the rest, within a while after should so shamefully deny him, and swear that he never knew him. See how on every side Blessed Jesus findeth new occasions of sorrow and sadness, for if he turn himself unto his Father, he seth him stand with the sword of his justice in his hand, prepared to strike him for our iniquities: If he turn him to his mother, he seeth her so much afflicted for his love, that she hath more need to be comforted herself, then to give comfort to her son: If he turn towards his friends and Disciples, he seth that within short space they all being scandalized in him shall abandon and forsake him. If finally he turn towards the fruit of his Passion, to comfort himself at least in those which were to be redeemed by his death: Alas my Lord how small in number did you perceived them to be, which were to take profit by your Blood: yea rather how many to your infinite grief did you see which would despise it & tread it under their feet?
5. If all the others be scandalized, said Peter unto Christ, yet will not I, and if need be I will go with thee to prison and unto death. In like manner said all the rest. O Redeemer of the world, how great courage do your Disciples show, but they will quickly loose it. O what difference is betwixt saying and doing? for their words go very strait, but their doings will go quite a wry, seeing that they say they will die for you, and not run away, but within a while after they will fly, and you shall die for them. But content yourself most benign Lord, that this promise which now they make you, remain as reserved for the time to come, when as after your Ascension they dispersing themselves over the whole world shall die all Martyrs for you. Then shall be fulfilled that which now they say, then shall they go to prisons and to death for your love: so that at this present you call them not to account for that which they promise, seeing that they will do quite contrary. O poor Disciples now cometh the hour, that obscure shower for you, wherein shall be obscured & darkened in you the light of faith, and so shall be discovered infirm and imperfect you are: seeing that now you go all none way united together, and shortly after you shall fly away dispersed into many ways: now you go like faithful Disciples together with your master, and presently after you shall return without a master and without true fidelity.
Thou shalt pray to Christ our Lord by that benignity & fatherly piety. wherewith he took compassion over the frailty of his Disciples, and healed their spiritual infirmities, that he permit thee not vainly to be carried away with any blast of Pride, neither to be removed by any dentition, from the way which thou hast begone of his holy service, but that knowing thine own weakness and inconstancy thou maiest trust only in him, & unite thyself unto him only: that aided and confirmed with his grace thou maiest overcome all the deceits of the Devil, and securely arrive to that happy kingdom, which he hath prepared for those which are humble of heart, which persevere for his love constant in the tentations and travails of this life.
1. Seeing that Christ was not ashamed to serve his Disciples. If we think much to imitate the example of other men, at least let us not be ashamed to imitate the humility of God.
2. CHRIST promised his Apostles a kingdom, not for that they had followed him, but because they had preserved with him in his tentations: it availeth us little to begin well, if afterwards we persevere not: and he is not rewarded which only followeth Christ, but he which suffereth and travaileth with Christ.
3. The Devil desert with dentition to sift all men, but much more the servants of God, whom he hath elected for the aid and help of others. Let us therefore endeavor to be always vigilant, because our enemy sleepeth not.
4. Christ prayed for Peter that he being converted might help others: Even so, the graces which our Lord hath granted us, must not we keep idle, but use them to the help and salvation of others.
5. Let us not account our selves secure, although we seem to have gotten never so much virtue and perfections: for often times it happeneth, that they which seem far better then others fall most miserably.
6. Our Lord permitted Peter that great pilar to fall, for our instruction. First that we should learn, not to trust in ourselves, neither to attribute much to our own strength, seeing how frail and weak we are: Secondly that we should give more credit unto Christ and unto those which in his steed do govern us, then unto our own judgment. Thirdly to reprove the foolish boldness of those, which persuade themselves that they know and are able to do great matters and much better then others. Fourthly to the extent that those which have the charge and government of others, might learn by their own experience how to have compassion of their subjects when as they also happen to fall.
Fr. Vincenzo Bruno S.J. 1599