Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.

Friends, I understand that a song composed in a minor key has a haunting yet soothing quality, a quality which lingers in the minds and the hearts of the listener. I feel that Jesus' third word from the cross has this very same quality. "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother." My sisters and brothers, according to oral tradition, the will of a dying man is to be read before he dies and in the presence of his family.

Not too long ago, one of my sister friends told me that her dad who was very, very sick and probably close to death, called for a family meeting. He wanted to share with his wife and his children both the contents of his will and his plans for his burial. Then at the conclusion of this meeting, he looked at his children tenderly and said, "Will you promise me that you'll take care of your mother. I need to know your answer so that I can die in peace." At this family meeting, her dad spoke his will.

Friends, in a sense, there was a family meeting on Mount Calvary that first Good Friday. Jesus' friends and relatives were there. His beloved disciple, John, was there. His loyal friend, Mary, was there and of course, His mother was there. And his mother was probably doing what any mother would do at the bedside of her son. She was probably reminiscing, recalling all those events in the life of her son which she treasured in her heart. Though Mary stood silently beneath the cross, her very countenance spoke, "World, this is my Son, the son I conceived, the son I held in my arms, the son I kissed tenderly, the son I watched grow in wisdom and age, the son I lost in the temple, the son to whom I said, "They have no more wine.", and the son I surrendered so that he could do his saving work.

Now world, look at my son. Look at His body, his body ripped apart by the scourging, struck by a reed, pierced with nails, fixed upon a cross and treated like a lowly, lowly criminal. Though Mary was lost in her thoughts, she wasn't at all immune to the chanting taking place in the background, a chanting that got louder and louder with every passing moment. "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. You saved others. Now, save yourself." Mary's dignified silence spoke volumes! Yes, yes, my son Jesus is the Son of God. I know that more than anyone else. The angel told me that the holy one who was to be born of me shall be the son of God. Yes, my son Jesus is the Son of God.

Saint Bonaventure wrote, "No tongue could tell or intellect grasp the depth of Mary's desolation as she stood there beneath the cross. "

Mary's musing is now interrupted for Jesus is about to speak His will. Looking at His mother tenderly, Jesus said, "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother."

"Mother, I must leave you now and return to My Father and your Father. But I give you a new son, John, and he represents all the sons and daughters of the world.

"Mother, today I call you woman because today I am lifting your motherhood to a new role in My plan of salvation. Your motherhood shall be a motherhood solicitous of the needs of all My people, particularly of their fundamental need, their need of salvation. "

Friends, as Mary stood beneath the cross she became for us a teacher of prayer for she listened to the word spoken savored it in her heart and responded to it with her life. And as Mary stood beneath the cross, she also became for us a teacher of love not because she said many loving words. No. She lived the depth and the sacredness of love. As Mary stood beneath the cross she was called to love in a way she never, never anticipated. She was called to a letting go love. No mother wants to let go of her son. No mother wants to release her son to death, no, not even Mary. But because her son asked her to do so, Mary let go of Jesus, for love would have it no other way. But in letting go of Jesus, Mary gained all the sons and daughters of the world. Today, Mary's not only the mother of the Redeemer. She is also the mother of all redeemed sinners. She is your mother. She is my mother. She is our mother.

My sisters and brother, you've symbolically come to Mt. Calvary today. And in a sense you're participating in a family meeting, too. Your friends and family are here either physically or symbolically within your hearts. And of course, Jesus and his mother are here. I invite you now to still your hearts and listen for Jesus is about to speak his will in you. Looking at his mother tenderly Jesus says, "Woman, behold your sons and daughters my prize possessions." And now, looking at each and every one of you lovingly, Jesus says, "My sisters and brothers behold your mother."

Sr. Geraldine Calabrese, MPF
1997

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