“Woman here is your son! … Behold your Mother”
In John 19 26-27, Jesus looks down at his mother and the disciple he loves best. He loves them both. And in his agony, he calls out to them, caring for them, establishing a new form of family, one of love and relationship that extends beyond bloodlines. Mary will not be alone now. Her other sons are gone. They do not believe Jesus and Iive somewhere else. The beloved disciple takes Mary into his home. Mary will not be a solitary widow. The beloved friend will have someone to care for and to care for him. It’s all Jesus has to give now—his love that unites them and brings security and encouragement.Consider Mary. This son of hers has brought her the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow. She was set apart from early on, sent to live in the Temple to learn the ways of Temple worship life and worship. Later she is greeted by an angel who announces her role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world. She will be the Theotokos, the one who carries the Savior. She consents. When she visits her cousin Elizabeth, she sings one of the most powerful and beautiful songs in Scripture, the Magnificat. She, a humble woman, has been chosen, and God’s loving power will bring justice and hope to the powerless. How brave! And she probably has no real sense of what this will mean for her and for the generations she says will call her blessed. This time of waiting for a child who will face the dangers of a society that looks upon your people with disdain, but who will bring you hope and love and serve as an example to the world resonates with us through the centuries.
We see her deep introspection in as her fate unfolds. Joseph, a righteous man, accompanies her through her labor in a shed during a journey. They trust God and each other. When the shepherds come to visit the Holy Family and amaze everyone with their testimony, Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ Simeon and Anna recognize her son as the Savior of Israel and she hears Simeon tell her, “a sword will pierce your own soul.”
Mary and Joseph take the baby and flee to Egypt when an angel tells them Jesus may be killed. This young woman, her husband at her side, and her trust in God, braves poverty, death threats, and the prospect of caring for her son, the Messiah, whom she will protect and raise.
She and Joseph find Jesus conversing with the Temple leaders when he is twelve. She raises him to be a boy who understands his humanity, how to Iive in society. She teaches him the psalms from her time in the temple. She’s a good Mom.
Nevertheless she hears him as an adult tell a crowd that she and her other son are waiting for him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12: 48-50). I’ve read the commentaries, but at the time that must have hurt.
And in Jerusalem as he is teaching, “a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11 27-28).
“More than that”??? Her son belongs to the world but is she cast aside. Has her devotion and sacrifice for this son meant nothing?
Yet she loves him. She believes in him and stays with him, traveling, caring and supporting him until the end. She and the other women stay by his side. She feels the agony he suffers on the Cross. Then she hears his words to her, part of a double blessing: she is given a son to protect her, and the disciple will have a mother to care for him. The former painful words make sense. Your family are the ones you love and who love you back. We find family as we make our way though life. We create families of love and care and mutual responsibility. Jesus was raising the people in the crowd to be his family, his mother, the Theotokos. He was raising all people to the heavenly family. Sons and mothers and brothers and fathers and sisters are all part of the beloved family, children of God. And as such we find great love and glory. As such we may suffer great pain. A mother loses her son, and it moves us all. How can this be? What shall we do?
We show the word. We share our grief. We confront the world with the evil that causes such pain, that cuts life short and ruins our lives. We keep working for what’s right, through the torment and hardships. We make meaning of the deaths by making the world take notice to stop the brutality, to become a global Holy Family. In the end, Jesus comes to Mary during the Assumption. Surrounded by her sons, daughters and the family of her new community she watches as he comes to retrieve her soul. She will be with him in Heaven. May we be assured that with Jesus our family are those who love us and love each other.