Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother and her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” So, from that hour, the disciple took her into his home. (Jn 19:25 – 27)
This scripture text takes us right at the Crucifixion and death of Christ. We are familiar with the painful journey and the circumstances that led to the moment of Jesus crucifixion. Throughout history the Church has always encouraged the faithful to relive or contemplate the journey of Jesus passion and death through the spiritual exercise of the via crucis. In the midst of this dramatic episode at the hour of Jesus, we see an exchange of giving and receiving “woman behold your Son, to the disciple behold your mother”. Here we notice the second appearance of Mary the Mother Jesus in the gospel of John, but she is referred once more as woman. At the mention “woman” we have to go back to the beginning of the gospel at the wedding feast of Cana. There we see Mary the mother of Jesus, approaching Jesus with a problem “they have run out of wine” and Jesus responded “women how does your concern affect me? (Jn 2:4). Jesus response was not consistent with the Jewish culture, also African culture. A child cannot simply refer to his mother as woman. The wedding feast at Cana was first of Jesus signs, the changing of water into wine was the replacement of Jewish purification. Here, we notice that Jesus response to Mary was intentional and pointed to a deeper reality.
The name “Woman” takes us back to the creation story of the first Woman “EVE” (Gen 2:23). In the new testament St. Pauls asserts that Christ is the new Adam. In the Gospel of John the emphasizes on Woman points to Mary as the Women who belongs to the new Adam. Marys “yes” to the plan of God, places her at the very centre of salvation history. She is the new Eve, mother of humanity, the Woman of the people. Walter Kasper asserts that “She sums up in herself the history of the Old testament people of God and at the same time, she is the primordial cell of the New Testament” (Mercy. The Essence of the Gospel and the key to Christianity, 274). At Cana Jesus restores the brokenness of the first Woman in the person of Mary who is now the new Eve. On the Cross Mary is definitively ordained as the Mother of humanity, therefore, the consummation between divinity and humanity.
Mary is entrusted to the beloved disciple as mother “woman behold your Son, to the disciple behold your mother”.
This holy exchange or adoption arrangement took place right at the foot of the Cross. Walter Kasper asserts that Mary “endured the darkest night of the Cross with her Son”. She did not flee at the moment of the Cross, “a sword shall pierce your soul” (Lk 2:35). The prophecy of was fulfilled, Mary suffered the internal martyrdom.
The second part of the adoption arrangement is directed to the disciple who was at the foot of the Cross with Mary. You cannot be an authentic Christian without recognizing the significant of Mary, and being close to her. Jesus comforts Mary as a caring Son by entrusting her to the disciple whom he loved. Pope Benedict XVI affirms that the disciple is both a historical figure and a type for discipleship. Therefore, she ‘loses’ one Son but gains the whole creation, all disciples are Mary’s Children. Jesus final instruction ensures that we are not motherless. We must imitate the example of the disciple and behold Mary as our Mother. Historically the disciple at the foot of Cross in known as John who was the youngest of the apostles. Walter Cardinal Kasper makes an interesting analysis that “John is said to be the disciple who remains until Christ comes again” (John 21:22). John personifies all of Jesus disciple, his “remaining’ until Christ comes, points to us that Mary permanently belongs to all of Jesus followers through all generations “from henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).
We are immediately told of the disciple reaction to the instruction of Jesus “from that hour, the disciple took her into his home.”. The disciple took Mary into his home, St. Augustine asserts that “his own” means he took her “into his sphere of activity” not that he took her “into his possession”. We must imitate the action of the disciple to take Mary into the homes our hearts. She has walked the journey of faith; she is able to assist us in our own personal faith journeys. With her we assured that we have a Mother who intercedes for us, she is the voice of the voiceless, the Woman of the people.
Is it not beautiful that at the beginning of the new creation, the new testament, Mary placed Jesus at the manger “a place where animals eat”, She was giving Jesus to us, to eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn 6:54). On the Cross where water and blood gushed forth from the side of Jesus, at the hour of his death, the climax of salvation, Jesus in return gives Mary to us, the Church, Mary therefore, represents the whole Church, the bride of Christ.
She is the Mother of God, Mother most pure, Virgin most powerful, Mirror of Justice, ark of the covenant, Gate of heaven, refuge of sinners, queen of peace.
Fr. Boshom Mpetsheni
List of references
- Kasper, W., Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the key to Christian Life, St. Pauls Mumbai: 2016.
- Ratzinger, J. Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week: From The Entrance into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, Pauline Publications Africa, 2010.
- Owczarek, C., Johannine Literature Class notes, Nairobi, Tangaza College: 2016/2017.