Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple ~ The Twelfth Station

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalen. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, This is your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27

A woman (Eve) figures prominently in the Book of Genesis story of our human fall. And in John's Gospel, as Jesus begins his work of reclamation for God, another woman plays prominently, as Mary is present at Jesus' first miracle at Cana. And here is Mary again, standing beneath the foot of the cross with the one disciple who didn't run away.

Following Jesus' instruction from the cross, Mary and the disciple take each other in as family. That's how it is with the followers of Jesus - to think of each other as family. Blood is thicker than water, the saying goes, as if blood family is the tightest and highest bond. Not so! Rather, baptism-water is the binder between us.

In the 1990's the African nation of Rwanda lost over 800,000 people to civil war and genocide. Often the weapon of choice was a machete, leaving scores more wounded and disabled. Many thousands wandered as refugees, while still thousands more died of cholera and dysentery in the country's destabilization. 

At the end of the war a new monastery of nuns was begun on a hillside that, like the rest of the landscape, was defoliated, scorched and robbed of life. The founding sisters were from Tutsi and Hutu tribes - the principle enemies of each other in the deadly conflict. 

Each sister knew the death of relatives at the hands of the other tribe. Along with friends, they greened the hillside, making the convent a place of reconciliation and hope, reaching out as new family to the orphaned, the elderly, the disoriented and abandoned. Woman, this is your son; son, this is your mother.


  1. We can think of our friends as family, but you can replace your friends, you cannot replace your family. We may have bonds that tie us to our friends, but our friends can leave us and life goes on. But our family is always our family, no matter what happens. These are unbreakable bonds.

  2. This isn't about family vs friends. It's much more radical (radix = root) than that. Jesus expects us to think of each person as family. The Catholic Worker practices this kind of hospitality. The risks are great - that person might steal the silverware or my credit cards. Hence the "own nothing" injunction of Jesus. If you own nothing, there's nothing to lose to theft. YIKES! The Catholic Worker enjoins us to create a "Christ room." Actually it comes down to a spare bed for anyone who needs one. "Take each other in" Jesus says from the cross. How do we do this? There are mentally unbalanced people, dangerous people. I was at Mass once at St; Francis of Assisi church in NYC years ago and a homeless man was nearby. I couldn't imagine a smell could be so bad. A priest asked me once, 'Stephen, who's your favorite saint?" I answered, "St. Benedict Joseph Labre." The priest said, "Oh, you'd never be able to be friends with him - he was a beggar and smelled so bad you'd never be able to stand it." I understand. I'm not proud of it - but I understand. The Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica, West Indies have a rule: after morning prayers go out into the streets and find the dirtiest person you can find and wash them up. That means maggots, feces, urine, vomit. One young brother said, "I realized after awhile that I was only washing up dirty kids and it was too much fun with the soap flying and the sprayer. So I changed my mind and started looking for the dirtiest old, homeless people."

  3. This is so true Father Stephen. I am thankful for your insights here. You examples of helping these homeless really bring it home for me. I don't know that I could be as extreme as the Catholic Worker, but I have an appreciation for what they do and I can look for ways in which I can lend myself to someone in need. God willing, I will be pointed in the right direction.

  4. Amen! Often our desire is filled with love, "I wish I could forgive that way..." "I wish I could be that generous..." "I wish I could offer that kind of hospitality..." I think the desire itself is loving and that pleases Jesus.

  5. This is one of the more beautiful paintings of the Crucifixion. It is all about the greatest act of love ever given to anyone. He did it for all of us, no matter who we are or what we are. Poor Mary, her heart broken so she could bring us to a better place. I guess Father, what you are saying is now we have to bring others in need, to a better place. We always need to be reminded, don't we?