Reflection on John 19:25-27
(the third of a series of four reflections on the mysteries of the Rosary)
John’s eyes are focused on Jesus. He is aware of Mary’s presence beside him; this consoles him even as his heart is breaking. Though Jesus had tried to prepare His disciples for this hour, it is an utter shock to the beloved disciple to watch the Lord suffer like this. It is hard to know which is worse, witnessing the excruciating pain or dreading the loss of his Beloved Lord.
Now Jesus struggles to lift Himself up to get a breath. He begins to speak; John leans in, unwilling to miss one syllable. The Lord’s eyes are fixed on His Mother. “Woman, behold your son!” He says. Mother and Son turn their gaze to the beloved disciple, who finds himself suddenly and surprisingly the center of their attention.
John looks up at Jesus. “Behold, your Mother!” the Lord says. And now John turns to look at Mary, who is regarding this new son of hers. Who can know the depth of feeling that passes between them? Both share grief over Jesus’ suffering; both find comfort in the other’s company. But the Mother’s is the greater sacrifice, and it would seem that the disciple experiences the greater consolation.
From this hour, John takes Our Blessed Mother into his home. And Mary? She takes the beloved disciple into her Heart.
* * *
I don’t remember learning much about Our Lady in my religious education growing up. It was a gap in my formation as a Christian and in my budding prayer life. Because of this, for a long time Mary seemed rather distant.
Then one day, as I walked into our church, I happened upon a holy card with the picture of the Pietà on it (Michelangelo’s, I believe). I was a young teenager at the time. When I saw the image of Mary holding the Body of her Son in her arms, it struck me that she suffered at Calvary too, that she is a real human person who knows life’s joys and sorrows. All of this hit home in a split second. I hardly needed to think through the consequences for my life, it seemed to follow so naturally: I could pray to her; she would understand my own sufferings; she would help and guide me. It was as if Jesus’ gift of His Mother to His beloved disciple was made known to me in that moment—I understood
it for the first time.
In his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St. John Paul II says, “The sorrowful mysteries help the believer to relive the death of Jesus, to stand at the foot of the cross beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God’s love for man and to experience all its life-giving power.” When we contemplate the sorrowful mysteries of Our Lord’s life—in particular through the Rosary—Our Lady accompanies us. She helps us both to ponder these mysteries and to stand firm in faith when they are “enfleshed” in our own lives. As Jesus says, to be his disciple one must be ready to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24). Mary teaches us how to bear the cross with Christ, as His followers. Our sufferings, when united to His, bear fruit in our own lives and for souls. Our Heavenly Mother is also a source of unfailing help in our trials. The “Memorare” prayer expresses this well: “Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided...” Mary stood at the foot of the Cross; she will stand by us as well.
“Behold, your Mother.” We can call to mind Jesus’ words when we meditate upon the sorrowful mysteries. In fact, these words are for us, too, for we are also His beloved disciples. Let us never fail to turn to Mary. She understands our sufferings and will be there to help and guide us. Yes, Our Lady takes us into her Heart, her Immaculate, Sorrowful, compassionate and motherly Heart.
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR