Behold, Your Son
Every Good Friday, we read the Passion according to St John. Since we can’t be together this year, I have been reading the passion on my own this Holy Week, and reflecting on these words of Jesus from the cross from in John 19:25-27—
When Jesus saw his mother and 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.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine almost lost her son. He was using dangerous street drugs, and even though he was in and out of treatment, could not seem to get clean. Things seemed to take a turn for the worse when he caused a terrible car accident, and wound up in prison.
As my friend coped with this new reality, she began to see the world in a different light. She had always thought of drug addicts as people who lived in cities, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, people not ‘like us.’ But coming to grips with her own son’s addiction changed the way she looked at things. Suddenly she felt a kinship with other mothers sitting in the waiting room, hoping to see their sons behind the glass in their prison jump suits. She understood the kids she worked with in an inner-city school, that this was a reality they lived every day, just like her. When she heard police reports of drug activity in the North End, she no longer tuned it out, but remembered instead that her own son used to go there to use. She felt the people in the news story were no longer strangers to her, but a kind of family.
From the cross, Jesus said, Woman, here is your son.
It is probably no coincidence that it is from the place of suffering that Jesus issues this statement. The fact that we are one human family is true all the time, but often it is only in the place of suffering or difficulty that we recognize and accept this truth.
This is a time of global suffering: economic suffering as businesses shutter and lay off workers; physical suffering as people struggle with the coronavirus; the emotional suffering of anxiety and isolation. The injustices of the world are magnified as the people lowest on the economic totem pole are also the most vulnerable to disease and financial catastrophe. However, this virus can strike anyone, anywhere, at any age, of any economic class. It is a great leveler. And so across the world we are all doing the same thing—sheltering in place; praying for the vulnerable, for care givers, for leadership; doing what we can to alleviate the suffering of another. Now We are all mothers. Now We are all sons.
We see what was already true: our fate is tied with everyone else’s. We are intimately interconnected. And in this, there is gift: we are not alone. We have each other, mothers and sons, united in experience and purpose, united in prayer and compassion.
This cross of Jesus is not the end. It is our connection, where heaven meets earth, where death meets life, and finally, where we meet each other as the family we are. The cross of Jesus is the lens of faith through which we see this time, and in this suffering, there is also resurrection.
I would like to close with a poem shared with me by this same friend. It was written last month by Lynn Ungar, and is called Pandemic.
What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
View a virtual choir recording of this poem performed by CONCORA