Behold thy Mother!
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
A Meditation for Good Friday
Dear friends of the Cross, last night was a night of betrayal. Judas sold Christ for 30 silver pieces, and Peter denied Christ three times, saying, “I do not even know the man.” Yet Our Lord did not give up on either of them. The Divine Mercy of Our Lord sought out both Judas and Peter. Judas rejected God’s mercy and forgiveness and hanged himself in bitter despair, but St. Peter repented and was restored to grace.
This is good news for us. Just as soon as we sin God is looking for the chance to forgive and reconcile us. When Our Lord made Peter the first Pope, He knew that Peter would later deny Him and yet, Christ did not change His mind about Peter. Rather, Jesus strengthened him. He built him up. He gave St. Peter the grace to become a saint. That is the way Christ looks at you and me. We have betrayed Christ by sin, but God wants to give us the grace to become saints.
Imagine how unworthy St. Peter must have felt the day he entered heaven. When he came before Christ’s judgment seat, our Lord received St. Peter lovingly into heaven and embraced him. Christ gave Peter a beautiful crown and placed in His hands the keys of heaven. Then our Lord led St. Peter, our first Pope, over to the gates of the kingdom. Christ put Peter in charge of watching the heavenly gates to make sure that no one would enter who had not been found worthy.
A few days later as Our Lord was walking through the kingdom, he saw several people walking around heaven who had lived terrible lives on earth. Now they were wearing white robes and had faces that shone with brilliant white light. They came running over to Our Lord and kissed His feet in loving adoration and worship. Now, of course, Christ rejoiced to see them, for they had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
Our Lord made haste and went over to the gates to talk to St. Peter about this. He asked St. Peter when he had let them through the gates. St. Peter said he had not. Our Lord insisted. “Peter, were you sleeping again as in the garden? Peter, were you not paying attention? Don’t you remember when they came through these gates?” St. Peter asked our Lord to describe them. Jesus said, “Rather than describe them, I will bring them over here for you to see them.”
Christ called these new saints over to the gates so that Peter could see them. They came before the Apostle Peter, but he did not recognize them. Then St. Peter said, “My Lord, I have never seen these people before. But Lord, I think you know well the answer. It must be your mother again. I keep the gate carefully guarded, but, you know well, my Lord, she throws ladders over the walls, she opens every window. If someone is in trouble and calls out to Mary, your Mother will give them special graces to get into your Kingdom, Lord.”
Dear brothers and sisters, on this Good Friday, in the Apostle John’s account of Our Lord’s Sacred Passion, we hear the tender words of Our Lord to His mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Now Our Blessed Lady has taken very seriously her beloved Son’s words.
Christ has told Our Lady that we are her spiritual children. And just as human mothers always seek after their children to protect them, even hiding them in the folds of their apron, so Mary, our Mother in the spiritual order, never tires of seeking out her children who have run away from the Father’s house.
As human mothers know how to nurse back to health their sick children, so Mary knows – and knows well – how to apply the spiritual remedy of God’s grace to her children who have been mortally wounded by sin.
Pope St. Pius X tells us that Mary, “entirely participating in His passion,” has been given the unique honor of dispensing all the gifts of her beloved Son. While, of course, the strict right of distributing grace belongs to Jesus alone, nonetheless, due to her intimate union of suffering with the Redeemer.
Remember what St. Paul taught? Christ is the Head of the Church, the Head of the Mystical Body of Christ. Those who are baptized are the members of that Mystical Body. We are Christ’s hands to do the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We are his feet to take the Gospel to the furthermost parts of earth. Thinking about her part in the Mystical Body of Christ, Mother Theresa said she was the pencil in God’s hand, writing words of love wherever she went. Thus, each of us has a unique roll in the Mystical Body of Christ.
Now if Christ is the Head and we are the members of that Mystical Body, what is it that connects the Head and the Body? It is the neck. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, along with a host of the Fathers of the Church, teach that Mary is the neck. Mary is the neck that connects us to Christ the Head.
We know this well by looking to the miracle of water made wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana. Mary attended the wedding feast with Christ and His apostles and disciples. When the family ran out of wine, she knew the embarrassment that the couple would experience if there were no more wine. Everyone would talk about it for years, gossiping and causing trouble. Mary sees a problem and so she goes to Jesus in order to help the newlywed couple.
Mary says to Jesus, “Son they have no more wine.” Then He says, “Woman, what is that to me and to you?” At first this sounds rude to our ears. But if we look at the Greek text of the Gospel we learn that when Christ calls Mary Woman, he is spelling this with all capital letters. He is calling Mary the new Woman, the New Eve.
Why? It is because Christ is the New Adam. Christ has made his Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, the new Eve in His work of re-creating the order of grace. In Jesus’ saving work He make Mary His co-worker. Adam and Eve we co-workers in the first creation. Now Jesus and Mary are the New Adam and the New Eve in the new work of God’s re-creation.
Contrast Eve and Mary for a moment. Eve is manipulative, cunning and sly. She misuses her womanly beauty to charm Adam into tasting the forbidden fruit. Now look at the New Eve, Mary. She is not pushy, manipulative or dictatorial at all. She goes to Christ and simply presents the problem in the most simple and straightforward terms possible. She does not tell Him what to do about it. Why? It is because Mary knows Jesus will not refuse her request. He was a good Jewish son after all. But more, she knows Jesus loves us. She knows Jesus will work a miracle if she asks it. What more, she knows that whatever He does will be the best so she does not bother telling Him how to do it.
Let us look at this again. When Jesus the new Adam turns to Mary, He identifies her as the new Eve, so He calls her Woman. Mary says nothing further to Christ. In perfect trust of Christ she turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever He tells you.” In other words Mary as the New Eve leads her children to perfect obedience of Christ, and that perfect obedience leads to virtue and to heaven. In contrast Eve led the children of Adam to disobedience, sin and everlasting death. St. Pius X clearly teaches that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary is the source of all grace, and that Mary’s role in the salvation of the world is limited. Yet, she is the one specially chosen by her Son to distribute His graces of redemption.
Dear friends of the Cross, because Mary sees us as her spiritual children she opens every window and unbars every gate so that we can encounter the shower of God’s redeeming graces. She will not allow any obstacle to prevent us from encountering the grace of God. Pope Benedict XV assured us that Mary distributes the fruits of Christ’s redemption in a spirit of generosity. He said: “For with her suffering and dying Son, Mary endured suffering and almost death…One can truly affirm that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race…For this reason, every kind of grace we receive from the treasury of the redemption is ministered as it were through the hands of the…sorrowful Virgin.”
At the very moment that the act of the redemption of mankind is underway on hill of Golgatha, Christ speaks these words: “Woman, behold your son.” Ah! There it is again. Did you miss it? Jesus, the new Adam, calls Mary, the new Eve – WOMAN. He identifies Mary as the Woman in the Order of Grace, for she is the one who is full of grace. When Our Savior identifies Mary as the Woman of Salvation at the foot of the Cross, Jesus is making Mary our spiritual and heavenly Mother. Therefore, St. Irenaeus says that Our Lady is the “cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race.” We are disciples of Our Lord. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ by virtue of Baptism. But Mary is the first and best disciple of Our Lord.
Many in history have wondered what she was like standing by the foot of the Cross. St. Ambrose tells us, “Whereas the Apostles fled away, the Blessed Virgin stood at the foot of the Cross, lovingly contemplating her Son’s wounds, for her mind was set not so much on the death of her Child as the salvation of the world.”
St. Frances de Sales tells us that, “We must notice that our Lady stood at the foot of the Cross. For some have been gravely mistaken in this matter, thinking of her as so overcome with grief that she fainted away...” Surely, Mary’s “affliction was greater than any woman ever before felt at the death of a son…but since her love for Christ was according to the [Holy] Spirit, her love was governed and guided by reason...Thus, she remained…completely submissive to God’s good pleasure, who had decreed that our Lord should lay down his life for the salvation and redemption of mankind.”
As disciples of Our Blessed Savior, what is our main task today on this Good Friday? We are to crucify our pride, our anger, our avarice, our unchastity, our greed. We are to nail to the Cross all of our sins. We are to undergo a spiritual crucifixion. Mary underwent a spiritual crucifixion at Calvary. But she had no sin. At Lourdes she told St. Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Mary was conceived without any stain of sin. She has no original sin. She has no mortal sin. She has no venial sin.
So how can Mary be the refuge of sinners? How can Mary even begin to understand you and me when we sin? For when you and I commit a mortal sin we lose the presence of Christ. A mortal sin is like a spiritual suicide. When we commit a mortal sin we give Christ an eviction notice and kick him out of our soul. How can Mary have any idea what it is not to have the presence of Christ?
Consider this. No one had a more intimate communion with Christ than Mary. She carried Jesus in her womb for nine months. She nursed Him at her breast. She taught Him at her knee and raised Him up to manhood. She was not only His best disciple and most obedient servant. She was His very mother. And she knew from the day of the Annunciation who He was. She knew Jesus her son was God incarnate.
When I was a five year old, my best friend and I wandered off into a wooded forest while we were playing and we got lost. We were gone for about five hours. Our mothers started a search party and turned the world upside down looking for us. And when we were found they rejoiced. But imagine the heartache of a mother who loses her child for a few hours. Now think how Mary lost the Child Jesus for three days and found Him on the third day in the temple teaching the doctors of the law and asking them questions. Scripture records Mary’s words, “Did you not know your father and I sought you sorrowing?”
Mary physically lost the presence of Christ for three days and she was greatly troubled in spirit. Now there was no sin in this. Rather I think Christ hid Himself from Mary for two reasons. Firstly, He did this so that Mary would understand what you and I go through when we commit a mortal sin. We lose the spiritual presence of Christ from our souls when we commit a mortal sin. If we could only feel that spiritual loss as much as Mary felt the physical loss of Christ perhaps we would not commit mortal sins so easily and so frequently.
Secondly, this event of Mary losing the Christ child in the Temple for three days mystically points to three more days when Mary would later lose Jesus again. I am talking about that first Holy Triduum. Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Jesus was taken away from Mary’s presence as His Body lay in the tomb, and as His Spirit descended to the Limbo of the Fathers to reveal the saving redemption of the Cross. And so, we learn on this Good Friday that we need a spiritual crucifixion like Mary. We have to become one with the Cross of Christ by embracing our own cross.
The documents of Vatican II put it this way: “Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son, [Mary] contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she ‘lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth.’ She fulfills the will of the Father on our behalf. She accepts all of us as her children, in virtue of the words of Jesus from the Cross: ‘Woman, behold your son.’” And so over and over we call out to Mary, “pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”
As we have seen, Jesus manifested His glory for the first time at Cana’s Wedding Feast because of Our Lady’s request. And the connection between that miracle at Cana and the miracle of Calvary becomes absolute. This means that the miracle of changing water into wine at Cana is the more significant because the wine obtained by Mary’s intercession at Cana mystically points to the Precious Blood that our Lord poured forth today into the chalice of salvation.
As Mary once petitioned Her Divine Son for a miracle at Cana, so at Calvary, the Mother of God stands at the foot of the Cross and asks her Son for another miracle. You are wondering, what miracle did Mary request Jesus to work? Notice that when Mary looked up at Jesus on His cross she saw two criminals, thieves, one on His rights and one on His left. Traditionally, we know the “good thief” as Dismas, and the “bad thief” as Gestas.
According to the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich our Lady recognized these two thieves who were at Jesus left and right. She had met them before. But when you may wonder? Why would Mary know two thieves? As you will recall, when Jesus was born, King Herod commanded all boys under the age of two to be slaughtered to ensure that the newly born King of Israel would be killed.
Because of Herod’s murderous intent, St Joseph put Mary on a donkey with the gold, frankincense and myrrh the three kings had offered as presents to the Christ Child and he led Mary and Jesus into Egypt to seek refuge. As they fled Bethlehem, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich tells us that she saw the Holy Family “exhausted and helpless.”
In these very difficult circumstances, St. Augustine says the Holy Family encountered two young thieves on the road. They met Dismas and Gestas. Dismas was a young man at this point who had already fallen into a bad life. He had joined a gang of bandits, learning how to rob travelers and passers-by. Young Dismas had a companion with him from that gang named Gestas who was about the same age. They were companions in crime. But when Dismas saw the beauty of Mary and Christ Child, he was moved with compassion. Dismas wanted to leave the Holy Family unharmed, but Gestas still wanted to rob and hurt them. So, Dismas bribed Gestas with 40 drachmas to leave them in peace.
So as Mary looked up at the Cross perhaps, she remembered these two rotten characters. Yet in her charity, Mary began to pray for Dismas and Gestas. Amazing! As her own son is dying an agonizing death she has the kindness and love to pray for these scoundrels. That should give you and me some hope. She obtained the graces of conversion and contrition that Dismas needed to be saved. But Gestas ultimately refused God’s grace. Notice that Mary served both Gestas and Dismas by presenting them grace on a silver platter.
It is as if she set a heavenly banquet table of grace for each of them richly adorned. But Gestas spurned God’s grace, turned on his heel and walked away. He would not have it. And when you walk away from the heavenly wedding feast like Gestas did, that means you accept an invitation from Satan to join his banquet in hell. And the bad news is if you join that banquet of iniquity, Satan and his fallen angels will eternally feast on your soul. So the New Adam and the New Eve, Jesus and Mary set a choice before Gestas and Dismas. Life or Death. Gestas choice eternal death but Dismas chose eternal life.
Mary, if you will, opened the window of heavenly grace for Dismas the good thief, and in he climbed. But she also prayed for salvation of the other thief. Alas, he rejected God’s grace and chose eternal death. Mary opened the window, but he slammed it shut! That choice is put before you and me every time we are confronted with a temptation to some mortal sin. And since we don’t know the day or the hour of our death, we should avoid the near occasions of sin. We should avoid any person, place or thing that might lead us to commit a mortal sin. Because if we are careless with our soul, we might foolishly stumble upon the moment of our last hour unprepared for it.
Rather, let us cling to the Sorrowful Virgin Mother now that she will assist us to make frequent good confessions, to receive the Lord in Holy Communion worthily very often and to live a life of virtue. Today, even now, Mary is praying at the feet of Christ for all her sons and daughters. She is praying for you and for me. She is praying for the conversion of sinners. It is as if Our Lady in heaven has found several ladders and she has thrown them over the side in order for us to climb the rungs of one of these ladders in order to ascend to heaven, even scaling its walls to get in.
St. Vincent Ferrer in his writings says she has let several ladders down and that these ladders have rungs on them. St. Vincent says Mary can help us secretly scale the walls of Paradise by helping us ascend by the ladder of penance, climbing the rungs of that latter which are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Mercy is another ladder; its rungs are the seven corporal works, and the seven spiritual works of mercy. Chastity is another ladder; its rungs are the custody of the five senses, avoiding bad company, and occasions of sin.
If we need the Virgin Mother’s special help to attain entrance into heaven, she will help us to secretly do these works of virtue, and secretly enter the fortress of the King of heaven. There is even a prophetic verse about this in the Book of Psalms. We read, “Blessed is the man whose help is from you: in his heart he has disposed to ascend by steps, in this vale of tears.” (Ps 84:6-7).
Dear Company of the Cross, on this Good Friday, we have come to Calvary, we have come to the place of the skull, Golgotha. And as you make your entrance to Calvary, you may find posted some rather sobering words: Hinc humilibus venia. Hinc retributio superbis. (From this point, there is forgiveness for the humble, but from this point there is retribution for the proud). Those words we ought to keep close to heart as you go up to the Altar of God, because we are approaching Calvary. And behold there your Mother. See her. What is she doing for you?
Mary is opening every window; she is unbarring every gate; the Sorrowful Mother has taken ladders of grace on thrown them over the walls of that heavenly city so that you might climb in. She had does this in order to let God’s grace into your life. Our Lady of Grace has opened heaven for you. Climb through Mary’s window, ascend her ladders. Follow Dismas, my friends, and steal Paradise once again. And then, one day as you enter that Kingdom of Heavenly bliss, you meet your Merciful Lord and Savior and He will introduce you: “Son, behold, your Mother.” 
 Jn. 19:26  “Mary is…the neck by which the Body [of Christ] is joined to the Head and by which…[Christ] communicates to His Mystical Body all spiritual gifts.” Ad diem illum, AAS 36, 1904, p. 453  Pope St. Pius X (Ad diem illum, AAS 36, 1904, p. 453), quoting St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Serm. De temp. in Nativitate B.V. de Aquaeductu, n. 4), and St. Bernadine of Sienna (Quadrag. De Evangelio aeterno, Serm. X, a.3, c.3)  Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter, Inter Sodalicia, AAS 10, 1918, p. 182.  St. Ireneus, Adversus Haereses III, c. 22, n. 4: PG 7, 959.  St. Ambrose, Exp. In Luc. P.L. 15, 1930.  St. Frances de Sales, Sermon for Good Friday  Gal. 2:20  Lumen Gentium, 58.  Jn. 19:26  Pope John Paul II, Papal Address at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Alborada in Guayaquil, 31 January 1985, L’Osservatore Romano, 11 March 1985.  The Blessed Mother said to Dismas, “The Lord God shall sustain you with His right hand and give you remission of sins.” Thereupon, the Infant Jesus added, “After 30 years, mother, the Jews will crucify me in Jerusalem, and these two robbers will be lifted on the cross with me, Dismas on my right hand, Gestas on my left, and after that day, Dismas shall go before me into Paradise.” According to tradition, the Good Thief was crucified to Jesus' right hand and the other thief was crucified to his left. For this reason, depictions of the crucifixion often show Jesus' head inclined to his right, showing his acceptance of the Good Thief. In the Russian Orthodox Church, both crucifixes and crosses are usually made with three bars: the top one, representing the titulus (the inscription that Pontius Pilate wrote and was nailed above Jesus' head); the longer crossbar on which Jesus' hands were nailed; and a slanted bar at the bottom representing the footrest to which Jesus' feet were nailed. The footrest is slanted, pointing up towards the Good Thief, and pointing down towards the other.  Jn. 19:26