We are Family
‘… near the cross where Jesus hung stood his mother, with her sister, Mary wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Jesus saw his mother, with the disciple whom he loved standing beside her. He said to her, “Mother, here is your son” and to the disciple, “There is your mother”; and from that moment the disciple took her into his home.’ (John chapter 19, from verses 25-27)
The words of Jesus here are sometimes known as one of the “seven words” from the cross: so not individual words exactly, but sentences.
All are worth reading, but I’ve chosen the address to Mary and the beloved disciple because it highlights family.
One of the recurring themes in this pandemic is the importance of family and, just like Jesus’ “word”, we are interpreting “family” in a broader context than usual: family means looking out for one another.
Family today might be flatmates, our fellow residents and our carers in a nursing home, our workmates in the surgery or supermarket, or our cat.
As for those relatives from whom we are necessarily separated, we look to others to provide “family” for them, through such acts of kindness as delivering groceries, waving like mad from the garden path, or a cheerful message or picture taped to the window pane.
In the midst of the fear, illness, dying, death and grief brought about by Covid-19, we are also being made aware of the enormous range of loving actions devised and carried out by children and adults alike. People are thinking of others before themselves, as our Lord Jesus continually taught. And of course demonstrated.
Perhaps nowhere more than on the cross was that evident. In the word to his mother and beloved disciple, Jesus embodies Old Testament law as well as fulfilling the words of the old man Simeon in the Gospel.
It is very likely that Mary was widowed by this time, and so Jesus’ concern for her future welfare, as her eldest son, is absolutely correct. Her anguish at the foot of the cross must have been almost unbearable – I wonder whether Simeon’s prediction came back to her: “This child is destined to be a sign which people reject; and you too shall be pierced to the heart.” (Luke chapter 2, from verse 35).
“He is your son … She is your mother.”
These words are a moving example of the fact that, even for our Lord Jesus in his last moments, family life and love matter more than anything. So it is for us. Family life, and love, are the most precious of gifts.
“Who is my mother?
Who are my brothers?”
He looked at the people sitting round him and said,
“Look! Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does what God wants him to is my brother, my sister, my mother.”
(Mark chapter 3, verses 33-35)