Meditation on the Third Word from the Cross, John 19: 23-27, on Good Friday, 2011.
Allow me to begin by saying that I love my mom. Which is why I struggle somewhat to understand how someone who, while perhaps not specifically anticipating death by crucifixion, certainly knew that trouble was brewing for him in Jerusalem, would not have made arrangements to care for his mother at some point substantially before he found himself hanging from a cross. This is, after all, what we have here. Jesus is arranging for his mother to be taken into the home of his beloved disciple, to provide for her in the wake of the death of her firstborn.
We should remember, of course, that Jesus’ relationship with his family was strained at best. In the Gospel according to St. Luke, we hear that Jesus’ “mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’” Ouch! We may want to forgive Jesus for having his mind on things heavenly rather than things earthly. On the other hand, is it not the whole point of the incarnation that God is with us, here on earth, not in heaven?
Jesus did not have a very high view of family in general, not merely his own particular family. St. Luke’s Gospel also recounts Jesus saying, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”
And yet, here is Jesus, hanging on the cross, abandoned by those among whom he shared the word of God, and as we shall hear momentarily, abandoned by God as well. Jesus spent his whole life and ministry relying upon God, who he called father, to the point of standing against all others. But here, finally, at the last, when everyone else is gone, only his mother is left. And Jesus repents. Finally, here on the cross, Jesus is more Confucian than Christian, making one last, desperate attempt at reconciliation in an act of filial piety. It is raw, not sentimental; a humble apology rather than noble effort. Mary courageously stood by and watched as the child God called her to bear, and who subsequently rejected her, was betrayed, forsaken and abandoned by humanity and by God, and was crucified. In the end, she was all he had, and Jesus repents. Amen.