Friday 12 March 2021

Here is Your Mother

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. (John 19:25-27)

In the middle of an utterly heartbreaking passage - the death of Jesus on the Cross - is this utterly heartbreaking interlude. Mary stands at the cross. The son she was promised by an angel, risked her marriage and name for - the son she wondered at - who she lost then found in the Temple - the son who she's loved and has followed out on his travels to try to persuade him to come safely home - she's watching as his life ebbs away on the Cross. This is it then, she thinks. All those promises from God - were they false? Was the only true prophecy the one made by Simeon, in this city, 33 years and a few weeks ago - "a sword will pierce your own heart"? 

The hymn "Stabat Mater"says it so well, of course:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last. 

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing, 
all His bitter anguish bearing, 
now at length the sword has passed. 

And as he hangs there, Jesus shows his love for both Mary and his "beloved disciple". This disciple is generally regarded as being John the son of Zebedee. And I'll go along with that. In his own loss and suffering, Jesus ensures that they both have someone to look after them. He also, in my opinion, commits the care and the devotion of the Church to his mother. But maybe another time.

This has been the second Mothering Sunday in succession that is plain odd, verging on cruel. Children that would normally be with parents are separated. Some haven't seen each other since the late summer - or even since before last March. Many people have lost loved ones without even seeing them - for the protection of others, but at such personal cost. 

Stained glass of Crucifixion, Chapel Brampton

It's so easy to be jealous of others who have been more fortunate - able to find bubbles that work. To go beyond jealousy to resentment when we think others are breaking the rules we've been so carefully keeping. The press has certainly kept us entertained with photographs of people in parks. A pub landlord in Bedford was surprised to get a visit from the police when he was just having dinner with his family - apparently he was breaking lockdown according to whoever reported him. That will teach him to eat dinner in the lounge bar of his own home. Complaints about who's gone for a walk where, for how long, have been many. And reporters have been out in crowded streets, to report on the sort of irresponsible people who crowd streets - with no sense of irony. 

 But Jesus's words here on the cross tell us a better way. When we are in times of sadness and challenge - be kind to each other. Look after each other. This isn't, as they say if they don't understand that rocket science is very simple, rocket science. But it's easy to forget in such stressful times. Don't judge. Appreciate each others' struggles. Carry each others ' burdens.

 As he had said just the previous night - which must, at this point, have seemed so long ago - love one another. So it's not earth shattering, new or the product of revolutionary thinking. But it is radical - in the sense that it gets to the root of things and makes things totslly different.

Let's go out into the world and be kind to each other. And let's all look forward to a better day. It is coming.

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