At the foot of the cross

The third set of the last seven words of Jesus is addressed to His mother, Mary, and Saint John the Beloved Apostle. These words take a little family and transcend their relationship throughout all generations. 

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, 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 into his home.

John 19:26-27

Mary and John stood  at the foot of the cross. They could  do nothing but watch and pray. Yet, they are there for Jesus, to support Him as a family does when one member is suffering. They are the witnesses of His final hours, and  while it is painful to watch, this is the reason Jesus came to earth — to suffer, die, and rise for the redemption of our sins. They have the courage to stand amongst those who believe this is the end of the disturbance that Jesus has brought about with His teaching. I would have thought they would be fearful for their lives as well. But perhaps their love for Jesus was stronger than any fears they may have had for their own lives. Maybe it’s because John was the single Apostle to stand at the foot of the cross, that he was spared a martyr’s death that all the other Apostles eventually faced. I can only imagine the trauma and emotional strain of watching a beloved friend be executed in such a brutal manner that  the price of this witness may have cost him more than a martyrdom would have.

The exchange that Jesus directs from the cross has long been taught by the Church: it’s at this moment that Mary becomes Mother to the Church and Mother of All. John is the sole representative of all the Christians that shall live in the ages that follow. John receives Mary and cares for her needs for the duration of her lifetime. However, Mary’s needs have not stopped there, but rather they have been transformed to care for all God’s children, and directs us to do God’s will in the charity we share with our neighbor. Likewise, we continue John’s work by seeking her intercession and guidance to draw closer to God.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. She carried Jesus within her womb and raised Him, protecting His young life and supported Him during His ministry. Once again she is called to accept God’s will as she watches her precious Son slowly die in agony. Her pain is as sharp as a sword, just like Simeon predicted all those years ago when Jesus was first presented in the Temple. One could even ponder as to whether or not she knew what would happen and how things would end. Yet even if she did know about Jesus’ inevitable crucifixion, His resurrection needed to follow His death. Each moment Jesus hung on the cross must have felt like a lifetime. But Mary had declared herself the handmaid of the Lord and she trusted in Him, no matter the cost. 

Let us ponder what it means to stand in support of Jesus on the cross. Is our love for Him stronger than our fears? Do we seek to do what God calls us to do? Do we trust God even when it seems that the worst possible thing is happening? Calling out to Blessed Mother Mary and St. John, let us ask for their intercession as we progress through this Lent and pick up our daily crosses.

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