“Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, 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 to his own home (John 19: 25-27).
Mary’s journey to the cross begins with her Fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary’s humble, “Yes”—her complete faith and trust in God—counters Eve’s “no” in the Garden of Eden. Mary’s consent to the will of God sets in motion reparation for original sin culminating in Christ’s redemption of all sinners through his death. In the creation story, God refers to Mary when he says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God chooses Mary to share in the salvation of the entire world, in a unique way, by becoming Christ’s mother.
From Jesus’ birth in a manger until his death on the Cross, Mary embodies true selfless fidelity in her maternal care. Her devotion comes at a great price. St. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary at the Presentation of Jesus in the temple reveals “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s heart is filled with continuous sorrow yet she remains steadfast in faithfulness because she loves so deeply. This love anchors Mary at the foot of the cross, compassionately witnessing the death of her son and the fulfillment of his earthly mission. Her heart is breaking. Christ looks down from the cross and remembering the tender care of his mother’s loving hand commands, “Woman, behold, your son!” and to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” At this moment, Christ entrusts the Church to Mary and she becomes our spiritual mother.
The magnitude of Christ bestowing Mary as our spiritual mother multiplies when reflecting on the Wedding Feast at Cana. The correlation between the two events is significant because they are the only two times Christ refers to Mary as “woman.” At Cana, Mary and Jesus are guests at a wedding when the wine runs out. Mary advocates, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus answers, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4) (When Christ refers to his “hour,” he is speaking of his crucifixion.) Mary, undeterred, bids the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Christ performs his first miracle turning water into wine through the intercession of Mary. Fulton J. Sheen expounds, “That is where devotion to Mary comes in. The people at the table did not know what they needed to maintain the joy of the marriage feast, even when the Lord was in their midst.”
In our daily trials, Mary offers consolation and intercedes on our behalf. She knows our suffering. As a young girl, Joseph nearly divorces her because she is with child even though they have vowed virginity. She gives birth to a son destined for rejection in the cold night of a stable. She is pursued to Egypt by an evil king determined to kill her baby. She loses the comfort of God when Christ in her midst is lost for three days only to be found in the temple doing his Father’s work. She bears the heavy burden of knowing her son is the Messiah and his life is the ransom for these lost souls. Her heart ponders all these things. Finally, she watches her son scourged, crucified, and pierced through, then holds his lifeless body in her arms.
Mary is steadfast in her devotion to Christ. She knows the joy of total union with Jesus and longs to bring souls to him. She aids in his redemption by interceding on our behalf in the role of loving mother. She longs to hold us in her arms upon our heavenly arrival, presenting us to Jesus to share in his heavenly glory.
It is a beautiful and consoling thought that our Blessed Lord, Who came to teach, sacrifice and urge us to take up our cross daily, should have begun His public life by assisting at a marriage feast. ~Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love
1. Reflect on the Stabat Mater Dolorosa.
2. Bring Mary into your home as Christ’s faithful disciple—as a couple say the Memorare every day for your marriage.
3. At Cana, Christ tells the servants “Fill the jugs with water.” Christ wants us to act. He accepts our offerings changing them from water into wine. Do not be passive in the protection, enrichment and enjoyment of your marriage. Though our efforts may be feeble, presented to Christ, he transforms them.