As Christians, we know that the events of the Passion of Christ are the most important events in salvation history apart from their total completion in the Resurrection of Jesus. We would be very wise to look at the events of Christ’s Passion, especially those that occur at the Crucifixion itself, when the Love of Loves was poured out for us.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘King of the Jews’, but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the Scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did this. But standing by 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 near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the Scriptures), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
St. John 19:17-30
What was the last event in the life of Christ, the event, that after doing, Christ knew that all was finally finished? It was the act of giving Mary to John as his Mother! We musn’t be too quick to dismiss this final gesture of our Lord. It was his final wish, his final command. Really contemplate this mystery.
First look at Mary, the mother of God. From the very moment of her conception, God was forming her into the vessel with which he would pour his Love, that is Jesus Christ. From the moment of the Anunciation, she said “Yes.” She took the very heart of God, the image of God into her life, into her very being, into the depths of her womanhood, into her life-giving source, not that she is the source of God’s divine life, but that she is certainly the source of his human life in as far as any woman is the source of life for her child. Who dares to deny this simple truth?
And who dares to deny that Mary was faithful and attentive to the word through out her entire life, not once wavering? Does not St. Luke declare that she treasured everything that was said about Jesus in her heart? That every morsel of truth was stored in the depths of her heart, in her being. Was she not faithful even unto the cross? Who can even dare to say that Mary did not bear a more difficult cross than the rest of humanity? God the Father was not the only one who gave his only begotten Son on Calvary. Mary also sacrificed her only child. She was favored. She was granted the most precious gift, God in the flesh, and she humbled herself at the cross, to let him be torn from her. I do not believe there is a greater sorrow in the world than a mother who has to lose a child. Simeon was right in prophesying that a sword would indeed pierce Mary’s heart. Yet, in the depths of her sorrow, there is a great joy, a joy in knowing that God’s will is being accomplished, being completed, and knowing that he has allowed you to take part in that.
And now, look at the disciple John. Of the twelve, one turned out to be a traitor, the one given the keys thrice denied his master before fleeing, and nine others scattered. Only one remained faithful to the very end, who followed Jesus to the Cross, John. His is a good example of what our discipleship should look like. In the face of adversity, we stay strong, we follow Jesus, we keep our eyes on him. And that is exactly what John, Mary, and the women wanted to do. Their hope was in Christ, and all they wanted was to gaze on him, to focus on him, even in that trying moment. Jesus accepted their worship. But he did something altogether strange and marvelous.
In the moment when the only thing Mary desired to do was to look at her pierced Son, he says, “Look at John. Behold, he is your son.” First, we can gather that this does indeed testify to the perpetuity of Mary’s virginity. If Mary had other children, surely Jesus would not have dispensed these children from their duty and obligation to care for their mother. Second, we see that at the command of Jesus, Mary now has a new mission within her divine calling. Those who are faithful brothers of Christ are her children now, are under her care. Jesus says to John, “Behold, your mother.” John then takes Mary into his own home. Jesus establishes a new relationship between disciple and Mary. The words were specifically for John, but they echo more than we can know for us.
The faithful disciple follows Jesus to the cross. The faithful disciple lives the Passion in his or her own life. The faithful disciple then takes Mary as his or her mother, like John did, and invites her into his or her home, his or her heart. This is the very last thing Jesus institutes before he gives up his life! He knows that Mary’s heart is a perfect reflection of the Image of God. Her entire being has always chosen God, and God has always chosen her. And so the disciple finds the most perfect manifestation of God’s love in a creature in the life of Mary.
We have a divine mandate from the cross to “Behold, your mother!” We, like John, must take Mary into our hearts. There is great wisdom and insight from this Woman, the Woman on what it takes to be a disciple, on what it means to really say “yes” to God and give our all. Through her Immaculate Heart we see Christ, we see love. It is not a sin to look at Mary. It is not a sin to invite her into our heart. It does not take our eyes off of God, but her soul truly does magnify the Lord as she proclaims in her Magnificat in St. Luke. Through her motherly love, the gifts of Christ are made abundant for his brothers, the children of Mary.
“Behold, Your Mother!”
O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church to you we recommend ourselves and the entire Church. Guide and assist our Holy Father and our Bishops in their apostolic mission, and aid all who help them in their work. Mother of the Church! Enlighten the People of God along the paths of faith, hope and love! You were given to us as a mother by your Divine Son at the moment of his redeeming death. Remember us your children, support our prayers to God. Preserve our Faith, strengthen our Hope, increase our Charity. Immaculate Heart! Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today. From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, and from every kind of war, deliver us. From sins against human life from its very beginning, deliver us. From every kind of injustice in the life of society, deliver us. From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us. From attempts to stifle the very truth of God, deliver us. From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us. From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us. O Mary, conceived without sin, we who are gathered here today place ourselves under your special protection. We resolve to walk in your footsteps and to imitate your virtues. Obtain for us, O tender Mother, the grace of being faithful to this promise. Amen