By Sister Jan Hayes 

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

John’s is the only Gospel that has Mary at the foot of the cross, and it is there that she is entrusted to the care of Jesus’s beloved disciple. 

This heart-rending gesture of “letting go,” of entrusting his mother to his much-loved disciple and friend is the last act in Jesus’ relationship with Mary before his death. For the handful of friends and followers at the foot of the cross, witnessing such a tender gesture in the midst of great suffering must have said volumes about Jesus’s love for her and his trust in his friend.   

Almost two thousand years later, for those of us who stand at the foot of the cross in prayer, the effect is no less poignant. The Spirit leads our mind’s eye to this tender scene in the midst of total agony. “How he must have loved her,” we think, “and how he must have trusted his beloved disciple.” With that insight, our hearts may be led to ask, “Would Jesus have given his mother to me to love and protect at that vulnerable moment?” Even more, “Are there others that he loves around me that he is asking me to care for?”      

A New Relationship 

Was this the moment that Mary became our spiritual mother—that maternal, feminine presence that we identify in the many prayers, rituals and works of art that feature her image?  The role of the Blessed Mother in the Catholic tradition is so significant.  She is everywhere: in the mysteries of the Rosary, in Marian Devotions, in stained glass windows and great works of art. Her many titles are posted on Catholic churches, parish schools, colleges, universities and hospitals all over the world. Let us not take that Marian presence for granted. In the final moments of his life, Jesus gave us the great gift of a relationship with his own mother until the end of time. 

But there is more. The concluding line in this passage from the Gospel of John tells us, “From that hour, the disciple took her into his home.”   

During my novitiate year in 1987, I took a course in Mariology from Father Patrick Gaffney, SMM, a Monfort Missionary priest who taught theology at Saint Louis University. He encouraged his students to examine the text of this passage using the lens of New Testament Greek. In this classical language, he explained, the word “home” literally means his “own.”  So, the translated text would read, “From that hour, the disciple took her into his own…”      

That translation led me to an entirely different understanding of Mary. Thanks to that class, I now see Jesus caring for his mother and entrusting her to his beloved disciple, not only for her protection and care, but as a model for his followers (their “own”) and subsequently, for us.     

Mary was “the first disciple,” “the perfect disciple,” the one who always said “yes” to Jesus.  Perhaps the idea is for us to become more like her.   

May this Lenten journey bring us to the foot of the cross where we can receive Jesus’s great gift of his mother as a model for us. Like the beloved disciple, may we take Mary as our “own” with the same open heart and willingness to follow Jesus wherever the path of faith will lead.