What pain and what agony Jesus must have felt when He said those words to his loved ones. What pangs of loss and anguish that Jesus must have experienced knowing that He would be (momentarily) separated from His mother and His beloved disciples. Separation: have we all not experienced this in one way or another before? Have we all not felt pain through separation, death and loss? Separation implies a dis-connection – to separate is to break away, to break apart, to be divorced from community; indeed the oft-used phrase “to go our separate ways” is undeniably tinged with melancholy and sadness. Here, then, we see a visceral portrayal of Jesus’ humanity – His desire for community and intimacy. Indeed, apart from being the savior of the world, Jesus was also a beloved son, a beloved brother, and a loving friend. Similar to you and I, Jesus also wanted to love and be loved by those around Him, especially in seasons of sorrow and loss.
Yet, what is most significant to me about these seven words spoken by Jesus on the cross is the theme of unity: Jesus brings people together, even in moments of death. As Jesus hung on the cross and waited the dawn of death, He still ministered to and cared for others. Through this selfless and sacrificial act, Jesus reminds us that there is new life not just after death but also during death itself. Paradoxical as this may seem and sound, Jesus proves to us that death does not have the final say even when despair looms near and hopes prove futile. At Calvary, then, new relationships are brought to life even in the face of death and darkness.
Interestingly, then, observe how funerals also tend to unite and bring family members back together. I have noticed how family members who have not talked for a long time may somehow engage in some form of conversation at such a somber setting – renewed life in the face of death. Indeed, akin to how Jesus catalyzed the relationship between Mother Mary and the Beloved Disciple – who “from that hour” “took her into his home” (John 19:27) Jesus, too catalyzes our relationships and brings people together – if we let him, that is. In Jesus’ sacrificial act, He embodies and concretizes what he formally shared in the abstract that we “love one another” as he has (first) loved us (John 13:34).
Hanging from the cross and bringing Mary and his beloved disciple together, Jesus reminds us that death has no hold over any relationship that is rooted in Christ, lubricated and anchored in His name. Furthermore, just as how Jesus brought his Mother and the Beloved Disciple together, Jesus also brings us to God together. Jesus, then, catalyzes our relationship with God.
Jesus hanging on the cross and saying these words to both Mary and John touches me deeply because this image is essentially a metaphor for the priesthood. Love and sacrifice, sacrificial love, to “lay down one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13) and to bring people together, are all characteristics of the priesthood. To include, to unite and to love – such are the elements of a universal, Catholic Church.
May we, then, strive to bring people together in a world that is ridden with division and disunity. May we seek to love selflessly and sacrificially, uniting the various divisions within our families and communities. Just as how boundaries between friend and mother were collapsed and infused with Jesus’ love, may we also collapse the many boundaries and remove the walls that we have erected against each other and recognise the inherent commonality of one another: the face of humanity as sons and daughters of God. May we remember that like Jesus who hung on the cross, we too desire community and intimacy – all of us want to love and be loved. And therefore, may Jesus continually catalyze and lubricate our love for each other as we anchor ourselves in His love.
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok