“Then to the disciple, He said ‘this is your Mother’.
And from that moment, the disciple made a place for Her in his home.”
These words from the Gospel of Saint John have always fascinated me, and I ponder over them time and time again. These few words seem so very simple, so entirely obvious; and yet, the reality goes far, far deeper.
Three figures are prominent on Golgotha; the Lord, crucified and in the throes of His Passion and now close to death; standing at the foot of His Cross, His Mother; and at Her side, Saint John. Each has a particular and unique role.
The Lord is offering to the Father this sacrifice of His life for the salvation of sinners, a sacrifice which will transform all of human history, reverberating in every age and in every human soul.
The Blessed Virgin is being given a singular and very specific role; to be the Mother of all people, represented here in the person of Saint John.
And the Beloved Disciple is here in place of all of us. He prefigures and represents every single one of us, the followers of the Lord who would come after him, even down to the present day, and into the future, to those who will follow us on this journey of faith later on. And so in this sense, John stands in the place of all humanity.
If it is true that Saint John stands in place of every one of us, then we should note the very specific invitation made to him by the Lord – “this is your Mother”. What do these words mean? At the literal level, the Lord is ensuring the safety of His Mother – given the events taking place, and the perception of a Jewish woman in that era without a husband or family, Her place is anything but safe.
But there is a much deeper meaning here. Moments before this, the Lord has spoken to His Mother and He has used a strange expression, one He has used previously – He has called Her ‘Woman’. Why has He done this? It is for one reason – to recall to our minds Her place in salvation history and in relation to each one of us personally.
It is not the first time the Bible has referred to ‘the Woman’. Indeed, these references to Her are almost like the bookends of the Bible, occurring in the first book, Genesis, and the last book, Revelation.
In Genesis, She is mentioned for the first time, when God addresses the Serpent, who has caused the fall of humanity in Adam and Eve –
“I shall put enmity between you and the Woman, your seed and Her seed; She shall crush your head..” (Gn.3:15)
Much later, in Revelation, She is mentioned a final time –
“A great sign appeared in Heaven, a Woman clothed with the sun, the moon beneath Her feet, and on Her head, a crown of twelve stars” (Rv.12:1)
And between these two references, She appears again, here on Golgotha, referred to by Her dying Son as ‘Woman’, and given into the care of the Beloved Disciple, who makes a place for Her in his home from that moment.
Now, if Saint John truly does represent all of us, standing there at the foot of the Cross, then what are we to make of the command of the Lord, Who says to the Disciple ‘this is your Mother’? These words, then, apply to all of us. And if that is so, then we, too, are invited to make a place for Her in our own homes and in our own lives.
The Church understands these words full well, and the invitation it offers us; the history of the Church shows the unique and very special place held by the Mother of God, and a great deal has been written about Her place by the great Saints and Popes of the Church, and lived out by countless disciples of the Lord throughout the centuries, from the earliest days of the Church down to the present day.
Above all, we understand clearly that from that moment on Golgotha, the Mother of the Lord was given to every one of us as our own Mother, and we were all given to Her, as Her spiritual children. And Her function is as it has always been – to point us to Her Divine Son, as She tells us over and over, ‘Do whatever He tells you’ (Jn.2:5).
Dear St John, like you, may we have the fortitude to stand faithfully at the foot of the Cross; the courage to proclaim the Good News of the Lord; and the joy of making a home for the Blessed Virgin in our hearts.