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Christ on the Cross with Mary as Intercessor and a Donor - Unknown Flemish Master - 1420-30
By Deacon Keith Fournier
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (The Gospel of St. Matthew 12:48-50). This biblical passage is sometimes misinterpreted by some Christian whose communities grew out of the Protestant reformation. Some argue that it stands for the proposition that Jesus was making a comment intended to lessen the importance of his earthly mother. This "mother is unimportant" interpretation is textually inaccurate and theologically mistaken. It ascribes a minimalist role to Mary in the Christian revelation and consequently in the life of every Christian.
It can also cause one to miss a profound truth concerning the Christian vocation and the mission of the Church. The Christian Tradition rooted in the Patristic literature (writings of the early Church fathers), offers the opposite interpretation. The passage reveals a framework for an authentically human and relational spirituality, a spirituality of communion and relationship which finds its true expression within the Church, a communion of love. Through our Baptism, we are all invited into the very "family" of God. When we choose to be obedient to the will of God we enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; becoming "mother," "sister," and "brother" to the Lord. This interchange was recorded for all time for a purpose. Through it Jesus has invited us into an intimate and eternal communion. Mary is a woman on a mission, to bring the world to her Son, the Savior, Jesus Christ, by bringing them into the family.
"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home" (John 19:26-27).
In His final act of Self-giving love revealed on Golgotha's Hill, Jesus explained the importance of His mother. From antiquity the Fathers of the Church have taught that this encounter was about more than the relationship between the Apostle John and Mary. It is about the expanded family of the Church, the community that Jesus came to found and of which He is the Head. Jesus was not minimizing His relationship with His mother, He was expanding it. He intends to include all men and women in the "family circle" of God. That is the mission of Mary, she is the first Evangelizer, committed to bringing every man, woman and child into the family by bringing the whole world to His Body, the Church, of which she is a sign. All who are incorporated into the Body of Christ through Baptism can experience the intimacy of the very inner life of the Trinity. Jesus' Father becomes our Father. He underscores this truth right before He ascended when He tells the disciples "I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17).
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