Written by: Francis Gonzales
God has sent his only Son to save us from our sins, to redeem us and to point for us the way into salvation. In order for God’s Son to do this perfectly, He became man, and this man lived as a Jew, just like His people are. He has to stand as a man of obedience in the sight of the people of God who were promised a Savior from time immemorial.
Being a Jew, Jesus Christ is expected to go through life living up and fulfilling the Jewish expectations. He was circumcised according to the Law of Moses. He visited and prayed at the Temple. He attended the synagogue. All the way, he became an obedient person under Judaism. Despite of His apparent obedience, He was accused of violating Moses’ laws. He did not. Rather, He said that He came not to break but to fulfill the law and the writings about Him. Not one iota of the writings will be left uncovered by the Messianic fulfillment.
One particular fulfillment is on the way the Patriarchs of old die, which will be adapted by the death of the Messiah. At their deathbeds, the Patriarchs left something behind for their loved ones, in the form of material inheritance or spiritual blessing. Abraham gave everything to his son Isaac and gave some gifts (Genesis 25:5-8). Isaac, recognizing his approaching death, gave the single blessing to Jacob (Genesis 27:1-40). Jacob, gave one more portion greater than Joseph’s brothers and blessed all his sons (Genesis 48:21-49:28). The tradition of leaving a blessing or tangible portions before death is continued to Moses, David, and Elijah.
Jesus Christ, the promised one of the Old Testament and perfecter of the Jewish hopes, fulfills in Himself the biblical tradition of leaving something at the deathbed. Did the Lord leave something both material and spiritual to those who will survive him? Did the Lord leave a gift like what Abraham did? Did He leave a singularly unique blessing like what Isaac did? Did He give a greater portion to someone like what Jacob did? The answer is yes. At the crude bed of his cross, He left someone, which is no other than His mother Mary.
Now, non-Catholics would contend that Jesus Christ left Mary to St. John for familial adoption. But always we Catholics believe that the Seven Last Words have always something deeper in them, since the words of a dying person has to be of such heartfelt importance. These layers and layers of meaning, if present from “Eli, eli, lama sabacthani.” to “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit,” it is also present in the words of Christ as follows:
“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19:26-27)
“Woman, behold, your Son.” For Catholics, this phrase does not only mean that Jesus is introducing John the Beloved to be a son to her from that time on. Jesus Christ is sending a message that only Mary can understand. He is sending a direct message to Mary’s heart, which has kept all these things from the start, which Simeon has prophesied would be pierced by a sword, too. Jesus wants Mary to behold her very Son, now at the Cross, and wants her to understand that the Crucifixion is Christ’s summit mission, the very core of redemption. Mary, being deeply troubled and sorrowful at her son’s suffering, is being comforted by her Son Himself. He remind her of the word of Gabriel when the angel appeared to her:
“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31)
That time, Jesus is rallying for Mary of her needed strength and faith. And she did. She won that moment. And Mary became the greatest gift that the dying Lord has given to John, the disciple whom Jesus loves.
And to John only? No. John is called “the beloved” in the gospels. Yet he is never nominally mentioned, so it is of deep theology that “disciple whom He loved” represents every follower of Christ, whom Christ has also loved. They are present before the cross. It can also mean all mankind. All, because Jesus Christ loves all. Since Jesus once said:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:34)
It is important to note that Christ gave Mary to us to be our mother. Not a sister in a faith or a mere co-churchmate, but a mother. Someone whom we can really share and care with our whole life . A life-companion for us. A mother’s love and affection is different from the love that other types of people give. It is a parental love, like what the fatherly love of God is.
Mary stayed with the early Church after the Ascension, where she is seen praying with the Apostles for nine days. The Apostles receive her there for she belongs there. Her presence is grace to the early church. She was also there at Pentecost. All in all, Mary is God’s gift to us. She can never be downgraded of her importance to the Christian tradition and sentiments. Just like she never left her son at Calvary she never left the Church unassisted by her. With that, she will always be with the Church, assisting and praying for it, until the end.