Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
(Acts 1:12-14; John 19:25-34)
Today’s gospel is usually understood as an indication of Jesus’ love for his mother. He does not leave her helpless but entrusts her care to his beloved disciple. Insightful commentators, however, find an even more significant meaning in the passage. They compare it to Jesus’ inclusion of his mother in his company of disciples in Luke’s gospel. When Mary comes to see him, Jesus remarks that his mother and his brothers are “’…those who hear the word of God and do it’” (Luke 8:21).
Mary stands with the beloved disciple at Jesus’ cross. The two comprise Jesus’ most faithful support group. They bear with the ignominy of association with a condemned man. They also endure the pain of seeing their loved one suffer and die. When Jesus expires, the text reads, “…he handed over his spirit.” This handing over may be validly interpreted as sending the Holy Spirit to this new community of love that he has just formed. In other words, by this action Jesus is establishing his church.
We should not underestimate the role of Mary in the Church. By virtue of her closeness to Jesus she is its greatest intercessor. By virtue of her presence at significant events in his life, she is one of its leading witnesses. And by virtue of her reflection and action on the word of God, she is its model disciple.