The first service today was an Ecumenical service, once again held at our local Catholic parish. Each of four of us pastors/priests took one of the last 7 words and spoke on it. So for the second time in three months I preached in a Catholic church. Truly an honor to lead with my brothers of other faith traditions today. Here is my sermonette on the words "Woman, here is your son....(Disciple), here is your mother."
“And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” And it was right and good that he did so. And yet, it also shows a continuing misunderstanding of Jesus. He had very little breath left. He could not again spend it explaining everything he had taught to them, once more, from the beginning. So he summed it up as concisely as possible with these words, “Woman behold your son.” And to his disciple, “Behold your mother.” And they made a start towards understanding it. But they didn’t go far enough.
The reality for women at that time was that they were supported by the men in their lives. Unattached to a male, their lives were nothing. Without Jesus, without her first son, it is likely that Mary would have had no living, no life, no support. But perhaps more than that, she had lost this person whom she loved, her child, her everything. And Jesus was trying to comfort her, trying to reassure both her and the disciple whom he loved that they would not be alone, that they would not be without support. I’m sure it was a huge comfort to both to have each other, to have one another, to be together. But it was only part of the picture.
Mitch Albom in his book, Have a Little Faith: A True Story (Hyperion, New York, 2009) shared that the Reb, or the Rabbi, whom he loved and who was the focus of the story, struggled with what seemed to be an increasing lack of community.
“When I was growing up in the Bronx,” the Reb said, “everyone knew everyone. Our apartment building was like family. We watched out for one another. I remember once, as a boy, I was so hungry, and there was a fruit and vegetable truck parked by our building. I tried to bump against it, so an apple would fall into my hands. That way it wouldn’t feel like stealing. Suddenly, I heard a voice form above yelling at me in Yiddish, ‘Albert, that is forbidden!’ I jumped. I thought it was God!” Who was it? I asked. “A lady who lived upstairs… (the point is) We were part of each other’s lives. If someone was about to slip, someone else could catch them…. We’re losing that now… everyone has a car. Everyone has a million things scheduled. How can you look out for your neighbor? You’re lucky to get a family to sit down for a meal together.” (p 62,63)
Again and again, Jesus called us to love one another. Again and again Jesus reminded us that this is what our call is all about: caring for each other. And not as an abstract concept but as a concrete, real idea, practical and necessary. Jesus tells us later in John 17:20-23: "...that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, … The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.” Jesus’ whole ministry centered on how to do that, how to love one another. He healed, he fed, he touched the untouchable, he uplifted the down trodden, he cared for those no one else even SAW, he talked to and honored women, children, Samaritans, Syrophoenicians, Gentiles – anyone and everyone he encountered. He stood up for those others would reject. But people still didn’t get it. They still treated each other as strangers, as people we encounter but don’t really, truly LOVE. So Jesus said it again, here, at the end of his life, in the most practical way he could to those who loved him the most. “This is your mother.” “This is your son.”
I say those words to you again, for all to hear, “The woman sitting in front of you whom you do not know is your mother. The child sitting in school struggling to understand his math is your son. The man in prison whom you have never considered except to condemn or fear is your brother. And the woman who hears voices, who talks to herself, is unbathed and uncombed, the one who lives on the street - she is your sister. This is your family. This is our family. And we are called to love one another in that same way.“Woman, behold your son.”
“Disciple, behold your mother.”