Monday, April 06, 2009

Seven Last Words of Christ (3)

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:25-27

A small group huddled at the foot of the cross. The disciples had already fled. The crowds of followers that cheered Jesus with “Hosannas” just a week before as he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey evaporated as soon as he was arrested. Only his mother, his Aunt Mary, Mary Magdalene and the “beloved disciple”, who tradition identifies as the author of John’s gospel, stood by Jesus in the agony of his crucifixion.

The gospels tell us the disciples fled out of fear. Where was the rest of his earthly family--his half-brothers and sisters? Although his brother James later became a leader of the early church he is absent on this day. Like all the rest, he too afraid to stand by Jesus.

Jesus not only suffered humiliation, torture and desertion by his closest friends--but also desertion by most of his family as he lay dying. His words show his concern for the welfare of his mother. Since no mention is made of Joseph after Jesus’ childhood, we assume he died sometime between Jesus’ twelfth year and the beginning of his ministry. Mary was a widow and widows had to depend on the protection of family members--usually a son or brother--or else fall into poverty and neglect. The New Testament does not tell us who was supporting her during Jesus’ ministry.

With these words, Jesus tells John to treat Mary as his own mother, take her into his home for the rest of her life so that she is not left without support and protection. In a way, this is Jesus’ last will and testament. He leaves his responsibility for his mother to the one he can trust to stand by her in every circumstance-- just as he stood by Jesus at the foot of the cross.

Dear God,

We praise you for the faithfulness of those who have stood by their witness to Christ throughout the ages despite humiliation, persecution and death. Grant that we may be inspired by their example to share the good news of salvation. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.


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