Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Woman, Behold Your Son. Son, Behold Your Mother."

Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You are invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week.

I was surprised when I first learned that our word atonement is simply the combination “at-one-ment.” We tend to think of atonement as something God does with us or Jesus does for us or the Holy Spirit does inside us to join us to God. But these words of Jesus to his mother Mary, “Woman, behold your son,” and to his beloved disciple, “Son, behold your mother,” suggests the at-oneing is among us as well.

“Isn’t that nice that Jesus would provide for his mother in this way,” we might think. But what if we’re taking the story only at face value, a literal reading?

What if the intention of the story is to open our eyes that every woman should be valued as our mother and that every man should be cared for as the beloved disciple? What if the hope of the story is that we create family outside familiar criteria?

“Behold,” Jesus says, “behold!”

Behold the grieving mother. Behold the starving girl. Behold the sexually assaulted female. Behold the woman awaiting execution. Behold a female fetus about to be aborted for being the “wrong” gender. Imagine women in all kinds of suffering and imagine Jesus saying to us, “Child, behold your mother.”

Behold the abandoned son. Behold the uneducated boy. Behold the adolescent male in poverty. Behold the man being tortured. Behold the man unjustly imprisoned. Imagine men in all kinds of suffering and imagine Jesus saying to us, “Mother, behold your son.”

It’s not so far-fetched when we remember Jesus’ parable of final reckoning, “As much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it so to me.”

The spiritual life for Christians is about stretching our imaginations, wrapping our minds around the “new thing” that God is doing, opening our hearts to share our common wealth, seeing others as if for the first time, living “as if” Jesus is in charge.

Our spirituality is sterile if it’s just “me and Jesus” or just “me and God.” Spirituality becomes fertile if it’s “me and everyone and everything else.” Spiritual growth is possible only as our spirit expands to include all there is. Yes, we may focus, but we can’t forget that every body and every thing carries its own sacred value.

“Behold,” Jesus says, “behold!”

Yes, we may gaze at the cross and contemplate Jesus’ passion, but we may also look around at one another with his compassion. That too is at-one-ment.

For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “My Loneliness Led Me to God.”

Thanks be to God for the life, writings, ministry, and friendship of Malcolm Boyd. Our prayers are with his partner, Mark Thompson. Malcolm still runs with Jesus!
A post about Malcolm: Everybody Has a Story

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  1. Chris, I do understand what you are trying to say, and I have often thought of it more at Christmas, when we adore this beautiful baby, who happens to be called Jesus. Why can't we treat every baby or child as precious and with the potential to be wonderful, amazing at least in the eyes of his family and friends. The same goes for Mary his mother, and every mother who commands respect from us because she brings the child into the world. In Australia at the moment there are many cases of domestic abuse, and many women are being killed. It seems that not everyone has this respect for mother and child. How do we grow respect in our boys and men, and yes women as well? It is a big question.

    1. Absolutely, Merilyn, thanks for your comment. I have the same thought at Christmas. So many of our religious/spiritual holy days we revere such figures without realizing the same reverence should apply to everyone around us, which I believe those holy days and figures are there to remind us. Great to hear from you again all the way from Australia!