Christ’s Third Word from the Cross
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)
Our Lord addresses his first word from the cross to the Father, his second word to the repentant sinner (who represents us all), his third to “Woman.”
Of course, he is speaking to Mary, his mother, as the Gospel of John clearly tells us. Why then does he call her “Woman?” I don’t know anyone who calls their mom, “Woman,” do you?
Jesus calls his mother “Woman” in the second chapter of John’s Gospel, when she urges him to perform his first miracle:
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
The hour Jesus referred to then, has now arrived. As Mary played a strong role then, she plays a stronger role now, and Jesus makes this known when he speaks to his beloved disciple John from the cross.
The first woman was Eve, which means mother of all. Eve is mother of all the living according to the flesh. Jesus gives Mary to “the disciple whom he loved” as his mother, not according to the flesh, certainly, but according to the new spiritual family of his Kingdom here on earth and in heaven, his Church.
Who is the disciple whom Jesus loved? John actually never names that disciple — at the end of his Gospel, he indicated that he was that beloved disciple, but he never once refers to himself as John. The Evangelist leaves the epithet, “the beloved disciple,” open, so that we can step into that role. Thus, we can step into John’s shoes and stand beside Mary at the foot of the cross. When we do so, Jesus speaks directly to us.
The Greek Church refers to Mary as “Theotokos,” which means “Mother of God,” for she gave birth to the savior. This is not the only role she accepted when she told the angel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” With such profound docility, she accepted and took onto herself God’s unfolding plan of salvation and her place in it, not knowing every detail that plan would entail for her.
For her, God’s plan would entail deep sorrow, as Simeon prophesied, “and a sword shall pierce thy heart.” As she stood at the foot of the cross to witness the death of her own son, that prophesy came to its full fruition. Now Jesus reveals there is still more to come.
Mary, whom Jesus refers to as “Woman,” is now mother of us all, that is, all believers. That is why we call her, “Mother of the Church.”
Jesus intended Mary’s common motherhood to be specific, not collective. He made it specific when he spoke specifically to the disciple he loved, and said, “Behold your mother.” Now, each person who calls himself a disciple of Christ may also call Mary my mother.
Today, you can stand beside Mary, your mother, at the foot of the cross, and embracing her, take her into your heart. You can pray with her, contemplate her son’s passion with her, share her sorrow,console her, and be consoled by her. Ask her to share her sentiments with you, to feel what she felt. As a child imitates his mother, let her show you how to love and follow Jesus.
Take Mary into your home, that is, your heart, as a beloved disciple of Jesus. From this day forward keep her at your side, and you will never be far from Christ.
Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, Mother of the Church, and My Mother, I want to love Jesus Christ as you did. Let me see what you saw at the foot of the cross, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt.
Lord, thank you for the gift of Mary, my Mother. Now, when I am close to her, I am also closer to you. I accept her into my docile home, and will always follow your will in everything, as she teaches me by her humble example to love, honor, and serve you for the rest of my life.