Fr Billy Swan
‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son’. Then to the disciple he said: ‘Behold your mother’. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home’ (John 19:25-27).
When a person receives the terrible news that they are terminally ill, one of their first priorities is to make arrangements so that those they love and are about to leave behind, are cared for. It is a wonderful witness to love: thinking about others and not themselves. Here with Jesus, we see the same love that he shows so poignantly when he looks down from the cross and seeing his mother and the disciple he loved, entrusts one to the other’s care. Throughout his Gospel, St John consistently refers to the ‘beloved disciple’ who is present at the most significant moments of Jesus’ life. He or she is not given a name but merely called ‘the beloved disciple’. Some scholars of Scripture believe that this person is John himself. However, the majority believe that ‘the beloved disciple’ is none other than you and me or anyone who reads the Gospel and who takes Jesus’ word to heart. If this is true then it is you and I that Jesus entrusts to Mary’s care and it is she who is entrusted to our love too.
If we are entrusted to Mary’s care then she becomes our mother as Jesus asked her to be: ‘Woman behold your son or daughter’. What this means is that each of us have a special place in Mary’s heart. She knows each one of us by name and loves us like only a mother can. For Mary, we were entrusted to her by her Son Jesus so therefore nothing is more important to her than helping us know and love her Son as she came to know and love him with her whole heart. She teaches us how to know him, how to trust him and gently tells us every day: ‘Do whatever he tells you’.
She is also entrusted to our care. She is Jesus’ dying gift to us. The Gospel text tells us that when the Lord said to the beloved disciple: ‘Son behold your mother’, the disciple took Mary into his home. In Biblical times, this was a huge act of trust as Mary would have been considered one of his family from that moment. But that is who Mary is for us: she is one of our family. Taking her into our home is a way of saying that she becomes part of our inner lives, daily lives and is taken into our hearts. Along the path of life, she urges us to persevere in faith as she did and to never lose sight of the promises that God has made to us: ‘Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled’ (Luke 1:45). From the moment she said ‘yes’ to the angel at the Annunciation, we are told that the angel left her. From then on, the light and clarity of that apparition left her and she was left to trust God as she followed her Son on his way to the cross. As our companion in following her Son Jesus, she urges us not to lose faith but to trust as she did and to rejoice with her in God our Savior.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of your mother as you died. Give us the grace to welcome her into our lives and our hearts. May we always turn to her as a mother and friend. With her help, may each of us know you better and learn how to love you more. Amen.