15 September [Our Lady of Sorrows]
Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ”Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, ”Here is your mother.” and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Crucifixion was exemplary punishment: it made an example of the victim. This was meant to deter anyone who might think of defying the might of the Roman Empire. The sign above the cross was in keeping with this. John manages to turn even this sign into a testimony to Jesus: Pilate, the man who condemned him to death, had put it in writing that Jesus was a king; he could not have imagined the higher sense in which his words were true; he knew nothing about the truth (John 19:38), yet he proclaimed the truth about Jesus; like Caiphas (John 11:49-52) he was an unwitting prophet. Ultimate goodness finds its way, even by the agency of people who make themselves its enemies.
John's account of the crucifixion is remarkably short, and focuses more on the bystanders than on Jesus himself. Having described the soldiers and the other enemies of Jesus, he now shows us his friends, focusing on two: Mary and John. But strangely, these are not named; they remain “his mother” and “the disciple whom he loved.” The Mother and the Beloved Disciple are not just two individuals; they are symbolic examples of true discipleship, figures or types of the new community of love. With his dying words Jesus commits them into each other’s care. Love does not live in isolation; it implies community.
A thought from Julian of Norwich on Jesus’ words, “I thirst”. “Christ's spiritual thirst will have an end. For this is Christ's spiritual thirst, his longing in love, which persists and always will until we see him on the day of judgment, for we who shall be saved and shall be Christ's joy and bliss are still here, and some are yet to come, and so will some be until that day. Therefore this is his thirst and his longing in love for us, to gather us all here into him, to our endless joy, as I see it. For we are not now so wholly in him as we then shall be.”
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