As we commemorate Good Friday, I wanted to offer reflections told from the point of view of Jesus’ mother, Mary…who witnessed his life, passion, ministry, ups, downs, and radical inclusivity from beginning to “end” to ascension to pentecost. What was going on in her mind and heart as her baby boy was tortured, abandoned, humiliated, and executed? Many have portrayed her as quietly accepting, but I wonder of the rage, confusion, and pain she must have felt as any parent who witnesses their child suffer. Like within many families, when one suffers, all suffer–the passion was not only Jesus’ experience but was lived by those he loved and who loved him, especially the person who truly was flesh of his flesh…who first hand knew the hardships and joys of being chosen to be a prophet…who understood that living God’s will did not always come with clear instructions. Mary gave birth to Jesus, witnessed the birth of his ministry at Cana, and would eventually experience his rebirth at the resurrection. Below are reflections by writers Robin of the blog “robin’s journey” and Kathryn House of “Feminism and Religion.” Each captures different moments from Mary’s experience of Good Friday.
I also wanted to share a play, The Testament of Mary…it is a one woman show portraying Mary years after the painful events of Good Friday reflecting on her experience. To learn more, visit: http://www.testamentonbroadway.com. The feature image comes from the play’s poster/playbill.
On this day may we live into solidarity with all who suffer, the individual and their loved ones, as we wait in hope for the birth of new possibilities at the Resurrection.
Good Friday Reflection: Mary’s Journey
From the blog: robin’s journey (http://walkingwithyeshua.blogspot.com/2010/04/good-friday-reflection-marys-journey.html)
As I entered Mary’s story, the Mother of Jesus, and reflected upon her mother’s heart and considered how she must of felt watching her son be crucified, my own mother’s heart broke.
What mother could bear the pain and suffering of watching helplessly as people mocked, ridiculed, spit upon, and tortured their precious child?
Somehow, I thought Mary would have been spared some of the anguish most parents face. However, her anguish and body numbing pain, was the kind that cuts deep into the heart and soul. Mary’s story is one of incredible faith and trust, in the midst of immense mystery, rejection, humiliation, suffering, and sorrow.
Numerous times throughout Mary’s life journey she pondered and treasured within her heart all the events that took place.
The words spoken by the angel Gabriel concerning how she had found favour with God, that she was not to be afraid, she would give birth to a son, he would be great and would be called Son of the Most High. His kingdom would never end, and with God all things are possible.
When Jesus went missing and after his return, he said to her that he was doing his fathers business, her heart was broken, he had disappeared, and he was gone for days.
It was in this moment, the sword the old man Simeon had predicted started to prick her heart.
When Jesus left her home and entered his ministry she knew the long years of silence where coming to an end. Mary saw and heard how he was rejected by her own people.
She now had to relate to her child not just as an adult, but as “Immanuel” God with us. Her role as mother had now moved into a role as a disciple and follower of Christ.
At the wedding at Cana, Jesus asked the question, “Dear woman why do you involve me?” That must have hurt! Really, really hurt!
Another prick from the sword Simeon predicted.
When Mary went to look for him, he had asked the crowd, “Who is my mother, brothers and sisters?” What a crazy question to ask! Deeper the sword went leaving an invisible wound no one could see but a mother could totally feel.
Mary was at the cross, she did not leave. She stood silently as the sword cut her heart entirely. She stood there, lost in grief, with sorrow covering every part of her mind, body, and soul.
Then the words came from her son’s mouth, “It is finished.”
The sword went completely into her heart breaking her spirit totally.
Then she remembered Jesus speaking words from the cross that comforted her soul: “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to John he said, “Here is your mother.”
In these last words Jesus’ love for her covered all the wounds from the predicted invisible sword.
Jesus gift to his mother was to restore her role as mother in a new way. Feelings of rejection and humiliation were removed completely from her soul. Mary never gave up. She pushed through the rejection and pain and quietly followed her son. She knew within her mother’s heart Jesus was born for greatness.
She pondered and treasured within her heart Simeon’s words of praise, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
This part of the journey was finished, but Mary knew this was just the beginning of a new God story and with him all things are possible.
Jesus’ kingdom will never end.
(Scripture Passages for Reflection: Luke 1-2; John 2:1-11; Mark 3:31-35; John 19:27)
“Reflections on Good Friday” by Kathryn House
from Feminism and Religion (http://feminismandreligion.com/2013/03/28/reflections-on-good-friday-by-kathryn-house/)
…this year I agreed to preach at a Good Friday service that will reflect on Jesus’ final words. I have thus spent the last few weeks reflecting on and studying John 19.26 and 27 which read, “And 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.” What follows here is where my sermon has started. It is influenced by the questions and work of feminist theologians and by my coursework this semester on body, gender, and sexuality, and on theopoetics, too. It is offered in remembrance and reclamation that there is goodness in our flesh and bones, bodies and breath.
Jesus dies betrayed, but he also dies beloved. The women were there, four of them – his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. His beloved disciple was also there. There they were at the foot of the crosses, huddled together, holding each other, be-holding Jesus, be-holding the precious flesh and blood of this one who is and was their friend, teacher, nephew, child. Jesus sees and speaks to his mother:
“Woman, behold your son.”
“Woman, here is your son.”
With these words, we are reminded that the foot of the cross is a borderland, a liminal space. His mother is with him at this, the end, as she has been with him since the beginning. She is there when it all begins: the wedding at Cana, when he turns the water into wine, when he transforms scarcity and impossibility into abundance, extravagance, celebration. But she has been with him before that, too. He is flesh of her flesh, after all. There was a time when her breath was his breath, when her body nourished and sustained his own. How many sleepless nights and endless days did she hold, rock, feed, sing to, pray over, and bless this one, this child, her son? And the other women, too: they are his family and his friends. No doubt that over the years, some of them rocked a crying Jesus to sleep, or when he was older, lingered over just one more glass of wine, to parse out stories of coins and sheep, of things lost and found, of vines and branches, bread and fish. Do they remember while they stand there? Is there only static? Silence?
To behold is to view, to regard, to acknowledge, and it involves not just our minds, but our bodies, too. “Behold” also means to keep hold of, to belong to – it is an invitation to consider the flesh and blood of another, not to possess or define, but to cherish, to honor, to hold, to love.
In these last few, fleeting, ragged moments, Jesus sees these beloved, these bewildered, these shocked, and mourning ones and his words are an invitation not just to behold him, but to behold each other. After speaking to his mother, he turns to the beloved disciple and says to him: “Behold, your mother.” “Here is your mother.”
His words are brief, but the relationship they imply is one of possibility for the most crucial question of all: Who is my neighbor? Whom must I love like my own flesh and blood? Whom must I behold?
We follow one whose last will and testament involves a radical invitation to behold one another. To be beloved by one another. To be here to one another. To love each other, broken as we all are, scared as we all are, bewildered as we all, as they must have been as they beheld their friend, as she beheld her son.
Is there flesh and blood we do not see, do not behold as we could?
I think so. There are mothers who rock their babies, who hold and behold their babies just as gently as Mary rocked her own – while drones drop around them, while their homes and neighborhoods and schools shatter. There are mothers who rock their babies, who hold and behold their babies just as gently as Mary rocked her own – in detention centers, at border-crossings. There are mothers who rock their babies, who hold and behold their babies just as gently as Mary rocked her own – in refugee tents along the Syrian border. And there are women who love their friends, who stay up late to parse out stories of coins and sheep, of things lost and found, of vines and branches, bread and fish – and who are attacked, who are mercilessly brutalized when they take the bus home. And there are women who love their friends, who stay up late to parse out stories of coins and sheep, of things lost and found, of vines and branches, bread and fish – who cannot visit their partners in the ICU or adopt a baby or get married if they so choose.
There is other flesh and blood we do not love, will not see. Prefix people. People fixed by what they are not, human beings defined in the very first syllable. Un. In. Non. Il. It is breathtaking to realize how many ways we have to say that someone is not like us, not quite right, not deserving. Undocumented. Incarcerated. Uninsured. Un-American. Illegal.
Unbind what seems fixed. In the end, we are asked to hold one another as beloved – to behold one another. Here is a radical invitation to consider what it means to be kin to, what it means to care for, honor and love one another. Here is an invitation to abide with each other, to not be limited by the names and titles and ways of relating you once thought were the only ones available.
Jesus sees the ones he loves. He asks them to behold him and to behold each other. What would it mean to behold each other’s beings, whatever those beings might be? What would it mean to love each other, broken as we all are, scared as we all are, bewildered as we all, as they must have been as they beheld their friend, as she beheld her son?