Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 32 “THIRD WORD ON THE CROSS: BEHOLD YOUR SON, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. M. Belshiya Ruth, Presbyter, CSI Diocese of Madras gives a meditation “THIRD WORD ON THE CROSS: BEHOLD YOUR SON, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER”
Lenten Meditations- Day 32 (for 11th April 2019)
“THIRD WORD ON THE CROSS: BEHOLD YOUR SON, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER”
Selected Texts: John 19:26-27 | Ruth 1:16-17 | Eph. 6:1-4
Paradigm for Responsible Community
Crucifixion was a form of Roman Imperial terrorism, invented by the Persians, developed by the Carthaginians and perfected by Romans. Josephus refers to it as ‘the most wretched of deaths’. Cicero called it ‘a most cruel and terrible penalty …incapable of description by any word, for there is none fit to describe it’. So terrible was the crucifixion that no Roman was permitted to undergo it. But they reserved this cruel punishment for the very special victims. Apart from the torture, suffering, humiliation and tormenting death the much agonizing part was, nothing remained left from the crucified body for the burial. Why because the victims were often crucified low enough to the ground that not only the carrion birds but also the scavenging dogs could reach them. Knowing all these “… there stood by the cross his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, Mary Magdalene and his beloved disciple.”
The Jews were present at the crucifixion to satisfy their fiendish craving for His death; the Roman soldiers were there to perform their duty; but here is the group who had been drawn there by affectionate devotion for the sufferer. They were not looking on from a distance, nor mingling with the crowds they stood by the cross. Especially for Mary, neither her own Danger, nor her sadness of the sight around, nor the insult of the crowd, could restrain her from the love for her son on the cross. There was no show of feminine weakness, no wild outcry of uncontrollable anguish, no unconsciousness, not a word from her lips, apparently she suffered in unbroken silence and stood at the cross. Mary’s struggle was an unceasing one, started before the birth of Jesus, continued while growing up her children as a young widow, and the climax in watching the crucifixion of her son.
Fulfilled Prophesy Mary, the mother of Jesus being there at the cross, seeing her son’s wounds, his bleeding body and his agony helps us not to over spiritualize the crucifixion and minimize his physical suffering. Often Jesus’ death is considered as an atoning sacrifice (I Cor 5:7), cultic sacrifice (Rom 3:25) and perfect sacrifice, according to the divine plan for the salvation of humanity. But this third word is an outburst of human emotions and deals with the blood relations, and forces us to understand that Jesus was fully human, true son of a mother and his pain was real. Witnessing the tormenting suffering of Jesus, Mary now realized that the prophetic word spoken by Simeon more than thirty-three years before… “yet, a sword will pierce through your own soul.” (Lk 2: 35)
There will be no doubt that our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirements of the fifth commandment, at the same time His great love and concern for His mother made him to arrange things for her future. Jesus as a responsible Son uttered this word. Some argued that Mary a young widow gave her only son to die for the humanity. Though we have the reference of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, that could also mean cousins or spiritual siblings. Their argument further states that Jesus was addressed as “Son of Mary” and not “one of the sons of Mary” and thus Jesus was the only son and Mary will be left alone after his death. So he gave her to His beloved disciple.
Some other commentators argued that, Jesus’ brothers reproached him for not performing a miracle at the feast of tabernacle. (John 7:5). After this incident, they distanced themselves from Jesus and they did not believe in Him. Thus by thinking that Mary will be left all alone after his death, he handed over the responsibility to John where she would find a believing and supportive relationship. As a respecting son he addressed her as ‘woman’. The Greek word ‘gynai’ means ‘woman’ in English has been used in Bible in many connotations. But here in this verse it is used in much respectable form. Jesus used this word to reduce her pain and partly to conceal her from the mob and their insults. Moreover, in the Jewish context addressing people as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in public places were the much respected titles.
Paradigm for the church
Jesus assured Mary of His love and he gave His beloved disciple to be her adopted son to care for her. Here the beloved disciple John was honored for his love and faithfulness to be in the place of Jesus in Mary’s life. We, the Church as a community of God are expected to follow this paradigm of Jesus to be the responsible community. As a church we need to address the more pertaining needs of the people. Recently, one of the major issues found among the congregation members is childlessness. Most of them tried many treatments which ended up in failures and leads them in frustration. For these faithful couples the new hope that comes from the cross is the concept of Adoption and surrogacy. Though these thoughts were introduced with very positive objectives, later it was widely misused for the commercial purposes.
In India most of the poor women are willing to be the surrogate mothers in order to support and fulfill the financial needs of their own families. Having known the economic conditions of the poor women in India, the corporates and the money minded people started to exploit them. As a church we should work for the fulfilment of its original purpose for which they were introduced. We should work to make our congregation understand the true meaning of the surrogacy. The basic ideas of Adoption should also be given to the congregation with proper biblical explanations. The adoption should be encouraged based on the biblical, moral and ethical values. Adoption could be the suitable paradigm for the families to rule out the problem of childlessness. At the same time if the government of India could relax the terms and conditions of adoption process; then most of the families will be benefitted.
Finally, this third verse from the cross should be viewed through the lens of gender justice. The virgin birth, the Magnificat, the compassionate voice for the voiceless at the wedding of Cana and the courageous act of standing near the cross prove that Mary is a True revolutionist. Jesus did not simply entrust Mary to John, but with a great emphasis that Mary should be incorporated in the ministry, and her courageous thoughts and knowledge should be utilized was His concern. Thus accepting and utilizing the ministry of women for the extension of the Reign of God was the command from the cross to the Church to be the Paradigm for the responsible community.
Our Loving Parent God, help us to be the responsible community to honor our earthly parents, and to help our brothers and sisters to come out of their frustrations of childlessness by adoption, and to give equal partnership for women in ministry. Give us your divine wisdom to lead a life worthy of your calling, and to be the responsible community in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Yenga Sumanthu Pogereir ? (Tamil Hymn)
Rev. M. Belshiya Ruth
CSI Diocese of Madras