Jun 01, 2020 (Monday) - The Third Word - A Reflection on John 19:25-34 (Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

Have you watched Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’? There is this one scene in the movie that I have never been able to forget. As Jesus makes his way to Calvary, he falls down. His mother, Mary, who has been watching him, recalls how he had fallen as a little boy and she had run to pick him up. We tend to remember things like that at times like this. Well, her maternal instincts, still intact, she runs towards him now, wanting to pick him up again. After all, he is still her little boy.

Not too long after this, JESUS is watching his mother as he hangs on the cross. She is standing there, with the apostle John next to her, looking up at him, and one wonders what he is thinking. Does he recall his childhood: the lessons she taught him as he sat at her feet; the treats she fed him when he was hungry; the comfort and cuddles he received when he was sick? Does he remember stressing her out when he disappeared one day and was found only three days later? I don’t know; it’s possible.

But what I do know is that he is now concerned for her. She was a widow with no husband to look after her, and now with her son gone, things were not going to be easy. Women on their own had it harder then that they have it today, and then, it isn’t exactly easy today. Also — I don’t think we ever think about this — but her son was crucified as a criminal, and people would surely taunt her and make her life miserable. Who was gonna take care of her? None of the apostles were there, except for John. Well, John was dependable; he would be able to take care of her.

So, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And he said to John, “Here is your mother.” And John took her into his home. Why did Jesus call his mother “Woman?” I think we can get a clue from the way John starts his gospel.  It is identical to the way Genesis starts. Both start with the words: In the beginning.... Consequently, one suspects John wants us to connect Mary to Eve, who was called “woman” more than she was called by her name, and to remember something that God had said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the WOMAN, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). I think you can figure out the rest yourself, ya?

Now, I have finished my quota of words for today, but I can’t go without asking you to figure out one more thing. You know, I always say that when we read the Bible, we have to take what is written in it personally. For example, when Jesus tells the apostles: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions” (Luke 10:19), he is also talking to us. When Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again“ (John 3:7), he is also talking to us. So, when he tells John, “Here is your mother,” who is he also talking to?