Lectio Divina: The B.V. Mary of Mount Carmel - John 19:25-27
Woman, this is your son!
Behold this is your mother!
1. Let us recollect ourselves in prayer - Statio
Come, Holy Spirit, fill our minds with Your light so that we can understand the true meaning of Your Word.
Come, Holy Spirit, en kindle in our hearts the fire of Your love to inflame our faith.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill our being with Your force to strengthen what is weak in us, in our service to God.
Come, Holy Spirit, with the gift of prudence to control our enthusiasm which prevents us from loving God and our neighbor.
2. Prayerful Reading of the Word – Lectio
From the Gospel according to John 19:25-27
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 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.
3. Ponder the Word - Meditatio
3.1. To understand the Reading
- With your spirit go up to Calvary up to the Cross of Jesus and try to understand what is happening.
- From the passage that you have read, ask yourself what has struck you the most and why.
- What are the sentiments that this brief passage has aroused in you?
3.2. Key for the Reading
Jesus holds His own destiny in His hand
We are in the middle of chapter 19 of John’s Gospel which begins with the scourging, the crowing of Jesus with a crown of thorns, the presentation of Jesus by Pilate to the crowds: “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5), the condemnation to death on the cross, the Way of the Cross and the crucifixion. In the account of the passion according to John, Jesus has control in His hand of His life and of everything which is taking place around Him. And for this reason, for example, we find sentences such as this: “Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and a purple robe” (v. 5), or the words said to Pilate: “You would have no power over Me at all if it had not been given you from above” (v. 11).
The text presented in the daily Liturgy also shows that Jesus not only has control over everything which is happening to Him but also on what is taking place around Him. What the Evangelist describes is very important: “Jesus then, seeing His mother and the disciple whom He loved, said…” (v. 26). The words of Jesus in their simplicity are words of revelation, words with which He wants to express His will: “Behold your son” (v. 26), “Behold your mother” (v. 27). These words of Jesus recall to mind the words of Pilate with which he presented the person of Jesus to the crowds: “Behold the man” (v. 5). Jesus from His throne, the Cross, with His words not only pronounces His will, but also that it is truly His love for us and the fruit of this love. He is the Lamb of God, the Shepherd who gives His life in order to gather all into one flock, in the Church.
Near the Cross
In this passage we also find a very important word which is repeated twice when the Evangelist speaks about the mother of Jesus and of the disciple whom He loved. The Evangelist says that the mother of Jesus was “near the Cross” (v. 25) and the disciple whom He loves was “standing near her” (v. 26). This important detail has a very deep Biblical significance. Only the fourth Evangelist says that the Mother of Jesus was near the cross. The other Evangelists do not specify this. Luke says that “All His friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied Him from Galilee and saw all this happen” (Lk 23:49). Matthew writes, “And many women were there, watching from a distance; the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after Him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” (Mt 27:55-56). Mark says that “There were also some women, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome. They used to follow Him and look after Him when He was in Galilee. And many other women were there who had come up to Jerusalem with Him.” (Mk 15:40-41). Therefore, only John stresses that the mother of Jesus was present, not following Him from a distance, but was near the cross together with the other women. Standing up, like a strong woman who has continued to believe, to hope and to have trust in God, even in that most difficult moment. The mother of Jesus is present in the important moment in which “Everything is fulfilled” (v. 30) in Jesus’ mission. Besides, the Evangelist stresses the presence of the mother of Jesus from the beginning of His mission, in the wedding at Cana, where John uses almost the same expression: “The mother of Jesus was there”. (Jn 2:1).
The Woman and the Disciple
In the wedding at Cana and on the Cross, Jesus shows His glory, and His mother is present in an active way. In the wedding at Cana it is made evident, in a symbolical way, what took place on the cross. During the feast of the wedding Jesus changed the water contained in six jars (Jn 2:6). Number six symbolizes imperfection. The perfect number is seven. For this reason Jesus responds to His mother: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). The hour in which Jesus renewed everything was the hour of the cross. The Disciples asked Him: “Lord, has the time come for You to restore the kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1:6). On the cross, with the water and blood, Jesus gives birth to the Church and at the same time the Church becomes His spouse. It is the beginning of the new time. Both at the wedding in Cana and at the foot of the cross, Jesus does not call His mother by her proper name, but calls her with the beautiful title of “Woman” (Jn 2:19, 26). On the cross He is not speaking with His mother moved only by a natural sentiment, of a son toward his mother. The title of “Woman” is a sign that in that moment Jesus was opening His mother’s heart to the spiritual maternity of His disciples, represented in the person of the disciple whom He loved who is always near Jesus, the Disciple who at the Last Supper reclined his head on Jesus’ chest (Jn 13:23-26), the Disciple who understood the mystery of Jesus and always remains faithful to his Master up to the time of His crucifixion, and later on was the first disciple to believe that Christ is risen in seeing the empty tomb and the linen cloths on the ground (Jn 20:4-8), while Mary of Magdala believed that they had taken away the body of Jesus (Jn 20:2). Then, Jesus’ beloved Disciple is the one who believes and remains faithful to His Master in all the trials of his life. The Disciple whom Jesus loved has no name, because he represents you and me, and all those who are His true disciples. The woman becomes the mother of the Disciple. The woman is never called by the Evangelist by her proper name, she is not only the Mother of Jesus, but she is also the Church. John the Evangelist likes to call the Church “woman” or “lady.” This title is found in the Second Letter of John (2 Jn 1:5) and in the Apocalypses: “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant, and in labor, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth”. (Rev 12:1-2). Therefore, the woman is the image of the Mother Church which is in labor to generate new sons for God.
The Mother of Jesus is the perfect image of the Church, spouse of Christ who is in labor to generate new children for her spouse Jesus.
The Disciples takes the woman to his house
If Jesus has left in the hands of the woman (His mother and the Church) His disciples, represented in the person of the beloved Disciple, in the same way, He has left in the hands of His disciples, the woman (His mother and the Church). The Evangelist says that Jesus had just seen the disciple whom he loved next to His mother. He told him, “Behold your mother!” (v. 27).
The Evangelist continues: “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (v. 27). That means that the disciple took the woman as a very dear and valuable person. This again reminds us all that John says in his letter when he calls himself the elder who loves the lady in truth (2 Jn: 1) who prays for her (2 Jn: 5) so that he takes care of her and defends her against the Antichrist, that is, all those who do not know Christ and seek to trouble the children of the Church, the disciples of Jesus (2 Jn 7:10).
The words of verse 27 “And from that hour he took her into his home” reminds us what we also find in the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The Evangelist opens his account telling about the vision of the angel which Joseph, the spouse of Mary, had in his dream. In this vision the angel tells Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 1:20). Matthew begins his Gospel with entrusting Mary and Jesus to Joseph, while John concludes his account with Jesus entrusting His Mother and the Church into the hands of His beloved disciple!
4. Questions to orientate the meditation and the putting it into practice.
- What has struck you most in this passage and in the reflection?
- On the Cross Jesus has given us everything: His life and His mother. And you, are you ready to sacrifice something for the Lord? Are you capable of renouncing your possessions, your likes, desires, etc., to serve God and to help your neighbor?
- “From that hour the disciple took her to his home.” Do you believe that families today continue to follow the example of the disciple whom Jesus loved? What meaning do these words have for your Christian life?
Canticle of the Blessed Virgin: Luke 1, 46-55
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
because He has looked upon the lowliness of His servant.
Yes, from now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is His name,
and His faithful love extends age after age to those who fear Him.
He has used the power of His arm,
He has routed the arrogant of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and raised high the lowly.
He has filled the starving with good things,
sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of Israel His servant,
mindful of His faithful love
-according to the promise He made to our ancestors --
of His mercy to Abraham and to His descendants for ever.
Let us adore together the goodness of God who has given us Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as our Mother, and let us repeat in silence:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen