Stories by Mary Murphy

Last Supper

Read in St. John’s-St. Ann’s Church, 1997
Read in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 2004

We women were with Jesus when he died. The men had run away—except John, who was with Jesus’ mother. We women served him for three years while he went around teaching and preaching to anyone who wanted to listen. And to some who didn’t like what they heard. We served him and helped him with our money.

The end was terrible. I hated the dirt. His pain. The noise of that screaming mob. We women saw it. His mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and other women. We stayed with him till it was over, and we prepared his body for the tomb.

I said I followed him, but it was my sons I followed—James and Joses. They left good jobs—put their tools on the ground when he called them. They said there was nothing else to do. I was angry. They could have married, raised families. Children. My grandchildren.

When they began to travel with their teacher, I went along too. Can you blame me? I’m a widow. A woman with no family can’t survive. My sons were supposed to take care of me, and now I was taking care of their teacher.

He called himself the light of the world. He was always talking about love. Love your neighbor as you do yourselves. Love God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole mind and your whole strength. Love your enemy. Do good to those who hate you. Love yourself because God loves you. Always love. I began to like being with him.

It was almost Passover. We were in Bethany one evening at Simon’s house—he had been a leper but Jesus had cured him, made him whole again. A woman I’d never seen before entered carrying an alabaster jar. In the jar was expensive perfume. The woman poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. The smell was intoxicating. I thought I could live the rest of my life in that wonderful smell. Some of the men were furious: “Why are you wasting this perfume?” they said. “We could have sold it for over three hundred silver pieces and given the money to the poor.”

But Jesus scolded them: “Let her alone,” he said. “Why judge her? The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. She is preparing me for my burial. Wherever the good news is proclaimed throughout the world, what she has done will be told to remember her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, stood up quickly. He seemed angry. My son James asked what was the matter. But Judas didn’t answer. He just left Simon’s house without looking back.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, we celebrated the Passover supper in a large upstairs room in Jerusalem. At the table, Jesus talked about dying. He said that he was going home to his Father. He said, “I give you my word, one of you is about to betray me, yes, one who is eating with me.”

The men all said to him, “Surely not I!” We women—what could we say?—we had served him and learned to love him and didn’t care about power and being on his right hand and being the greatest and judging the tribes of Israel, we women didn’t say anything.

Then he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to all of us. “Take this,” he said, “this is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks to his Father, and gave it to us, and we all drank from it. He said to us: “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many. I solemnly assure you, I will not again drink of the fruit of the vine until the day I drink it in the reign of God.” Then he said, “Do this to remember me.”

We didn’t understand what he was saying, but we all —the women and the men—we all ate and drank.

Mary Murphy and Leo Wong hello@albany.net

Stories by Mary Murphy