Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
John 19. 26-27
The hideous penalty of crucifixion was reserved for the scum of society. After the grueling process of being nailed on, then raised up, the process of suffocation began. Mocked and scorned by the crowds, the religious elite and the soldiers, the end was near, Jesus was dying. But despite the gruel, the pain, the isolation he spoke out to his mother to assure her she would be cared for.
The intimacy between mother and child is visceral. In that oceanic realm of the womb, a child is formed, fed, grown and protected. Taking on a child, becoming a mother is the epitome of love and human family. “Woman, here is your son,” Jesus said to his mother, meaning he will love you, honor you, cherish you, be in relationship with you and you will be family.
And so Jesus reached out to this disciple with whom he must have had a profound relationship and said take my mother and love her like your own. Form a family with her, love her, be her child because I can no longer be there for her.
In his beautiful little book Love Set Free, Martin Smith suggests that this new household Jesus is asking the disciple and his mother to create is meant to be seen as “the symbolic nucleus of the church, the all-embracing family.” Smith goes on to say that the community Jesus is asking us to be is not an institution, not an organization, but a family one “grounded in the common experience of intimacy with Christ.” And, Smith says, that community is grounded in a commitment to reciprocal care and mutual love. Just as washing the feet of his disciples with no regard for human status or rank was a sign of the new community, so we are called to be a “force-field of self giving.” We are called to be a community that lays down its lives for one another, one where seeds must die to bear fruit.
So here we stand at the threshold of the great mystery of Love, the essence of giving, the fullness of communion…the One who gave us life must die that we might live, be redeemed, and be loved.
Let us remember to be family as Mary the mother of God and the beloved disciple were called by Jesus to be family – with commitment to reciprocal care, mutual love and a force-field of self- giving…grounded in intimacy with Christ.
O Savior of the world, who by thy cross and precious blood hast redeemed us: Save us and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord.