At the fourth station of the cross Jesus sees his mother Mary in the crowd, rubbing shoulders with those who cheer her beloved son to his death and those who weep and mourn like herself. We know so little about Jesus’ relationship with his mother and father, but the scene that unfolds as the eyes of mother and son meet in the mounting tension and sorrow of the moment is filled with pain and empathy that one need not be a parent to experience.
I can’t help but think of the story of Jesus and his mother and brothers in Matthew 12. Jesus has been teaching the crowds and the text reveals that while Jesus was in the middle of teaching, his mother and brothers were present and wished to speak with him. Who knows what they wished to talk with him about. Jesus ignored their request, saying instead, “Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?” He then pointed to his disciples and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
In another scene, this time from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells a crowd,
No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–along with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life–and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
On the way to the cross Jesus’ mother is present again. The Gospel of John says
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Jesus’ life and journey speak to the process of individuation in a move away from his family of origin and into the life of the Spirit. Emerging into the life of the Spirit, however, makes everyone your mother, father, brother and sister because the Spirit is the glue that binds life together and erases the distinctions and separations of blood, borders and bodies. Following Jesus is a self-effacing and distinction defying descent into humility and earthiness that resists the separations that produce bigotry, violence and selfishness. You are my mother, brother, father and sister.
Prayer: May I learn to love all persons as I stumble toward the cross in pursuit of Jesus.