When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
At a moment where Jesus could have been absorbed in his own pain and suffering, and found himself utterly alone, our Lord called on his followers to be family for each other.
Jesus knew how much his followers would need each other, and how each could be a blessing for the other in the days to come. For upon his death, his own mother would have no one to rely on for her day-to-day subsistence. Widows were particularly low on the socio-economic ladder in Palestine, but widows who had no sons to support them were as good as homeless. She would need the daily care of a family.
And those disciples who had followed him from village to village, then on to Jerusalem, would be distraught and discombobulated without their teacher by their side. They would need the ongoing consolation of a family.
“Jesus said to his mother; ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple: ‘This is your mother.’”
Do you see how our Lord and Savior provided for them?
On this Good Friday perhaps we can reflect upon those times in our lives where our Lord provided family for us.
My brother Danny, who was my only sibling, died in car accident when he was 23. I was 21, and graduating from college. My parents and I were shaken to the core. Our strong, close band of 4 was basically ripped asunder. Mom, Dad and I were all grieving, but in different ways, so we seemed out of step with one another, the 3 of us remaining. We just couldn’t connect in those couple of years after Danny died, and I felt isolated from them and alone in the world.
But in those two years, there was family I knew who enveloped me with their love. They didn’t replace my parents and Danny, but for that time they helped me journey through my grief by providing a community of companionship, laughter, and joy—which were things I needed at that time, and which my parents were not capable of giving. I’d sit at this family’s kitchen table and feel like I was part of a whole again. I don’t know if this family realized what it was doing for me, but, in hindsight, I realized the healing of my heart occurred because they gathered me in with them. And having received that healing through their familial love, I was better able to reach out once more to my own parents. Eventually, we would journey forward together—the three of us—with wonderful memories of Danny, and the blessed assurance that the three of us could still be family.
Now, you and I are not always on the receiving end of such grace. Sometimes our Lord calls on us to be family for someone else, and it may be a challenging call.
Twelve years ago, my mother became seriously ill, and needed to be hospitalized. She was my father’s caregiver, as he was blind and beginning his struggle with Parkinson’s. We were able to make arrangements for my dad to be in a local nursing home temporarily, until my mom recovered and was discharged from the hospital, but until that nursing home bed was ready, I had to become his caregiver. It was only a few short days, but it seemed longer than that. I think of so many of you who have borne that daunting caregiver role for great periods of time, and I am humbled. Organizing his medicines, assisting him with eating, helping him navigate the house, serving as chief cook and bottle-washer…my few days were full. But the most challenging moment was when it came time to wipe him—to wipe his bottom after going to the bathroom. How does a daughter take on that role to help her father? Only by understanding how much he needed my care in those days, and how I needed to be “family” in a brand new way.
The Lord does provide for his family…and we should not be surprised that, so often, you and I will become his instruments of care and love. AMEN.
- Pastor Nancy Easton