BEFORE READING OF THE PASSION: As we read the Passion of St John today, I ask you to pay attention to when Jesus knew that everything was finished.
The Passion according to St John is majestic and perfectly integrated into his whole gospel. I asked you to listen to when Jesus found everything finished. Let us ask what was finished and why then.
The moment was after Jesus had told Mary to “Behold her Son” the beloved disciple, usually called John, and John to behold Mary as his mother. Both too much and too little can be made of this passage.
There is an obvious sentimental and practical interpretation. Mary is portrayed as a poor woman without a defender and Jesus is assuring her of protection. However, satisfying this is going beyond the evidence. The key to its meaning may be found in Jesus’s referring to Mary as “Woman”. Jesus called Mary Women once before at the wedding in Cana. “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4) This is intentionally jarring; indeed, a son calling his mother “woman” is unprecedented in Greek literature. The reader would turn back to Cana, the first miracle of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry. Mary speaks for us to Jesus, telling him that we need to be nourished with sustenance only he can provide. His hour had begun. Now Jesus speaks to us through Mary.
He joins Mary and John together as the first members of the Church. The purpose of his ministry, the work of his hour was to bring all the people together. Thus, He had already told his disciples: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (12:32). He is now lifted up on the cross and Mary and John the are the first fruits. His earthly ministry is finished.
This is the formation of a community but not on purely human terms. Everything was, however, in place. Jesus does all things in accordance with the scriptures and when he says that he thirsts he recalls a Psalm (68:22) “for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” They used a hyssop sprig to give it to him. Hyssop was used to mark the doors of the dwellings of the Jews when the angel of death went through Egypt. He killed the firstborn at the first Passover but literally passed over the houses of the Jews. These are all reminders that the community that Jesus has founded is based on a new covenant, a new relationship between God and all who follow Him. He then cries out “It is finished” and “Hands over the spirit”. This would be better translated as “entrusts the spirit”. He entrusts the spirit of God to this new family – the church – at the foot of the cross so that they will be forever bound to Him and each other.
John wishes us to pause a moment at this scene and contemplate its meaning. We will see in next Sunday’s gospel that Jesus will give the spirit again in the upper room. This outpouring of the Spirit gives them their mission to bring forgiveness to the whole world. Here we are to look at the basic reality that God himself has brought us together and told us that we are to treat each other as family members. This is why he came to us; this is why he endured so horrible a death.
This is a death we cannot forget. It does not disappear at the Resurrection. John especially emphasizes the marks of crucifixion. It is the clearest reminder that the love of Jesus is truly inexhaustible and is never finished.