The Gospel lectionary reading for today focuses on Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a woman of sorrow. But we get a picture of more than just Mary in this brief passage....
John 19:25-27I think it is important to take note of each of the "companions of the Passion" as I call them....
Meanwhile, standing near 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 beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
There were four women at the cross. One was Jesus’ mother Mary. Simeon had prophesied to Mary at the beginning of Jesus’ life, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:35) Certainly, as the sword pierced Jesus’ body, it also pierced Mary’s soul. Mary suffered at least as much as any mother who has lost a child, perhaps more because of the horrific nature of Jesus’ death and the contrasting goodness she knew belonged to her son.
The second woman mentioned at the cross was Mary’s sister, Jesus’ aunt. In the Gospel of John, she does not have a name. However, when one studies the parallel passages in Mark 15:40 and Matthew 27:56, it is clear that her name is Salome and that she is the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John.
On one occasion, Jesus gave a very stern answer to his aunt. Salome had asked Jesus if her sons could sit on his right and on his left in the kingdom. Jesus told her she had no idea what she was asking. Then he asked a counter question of James and John, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:20 ff.) Now Salome was seeing the very bitter cup that Jesus had to drink.
The third woman at the cross we know nothing about: Mary the wife of Clopas. However, the fourth woman at the cross we know a little bit more about. Her name was Mary Magdalene, and according to Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2, Jesus drove seven demons out of her. No wonder she followed Jesus all the way to the cross! She could never forget the great thing he had done for her.
The final companion of Jesus we see at the cross is “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. By the end of this Gospel, we will learn that this is John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, the cousin of Jesus and the author of this Gospel.
Right through to the end of his life, Jesus was not thinking about himself, but about others. He knew someone would need to care for his mother Mary. He entrusted that job to his beloved cousin John, even while he was suffering great physical torment on the cross.
What might it look like for each of us to be "companions of the Passion" in our world today? How devoted are we to Jesus? Do we stay with him in the good times and the bad? How might we, like Jesus, care for others, even in the midst of suffering?