There is something inescapably sacred about a person’s last words. When a dying person speaks, their last words reveal the true intentions of their hearts: who and what mattered most to them in this world, and what they thought most important to say before passing over into the silence of death.
The same thing is true of Jesus’s last words from the cross. Jesus had no possessions left: no money, no land, no home, even no clothes! The only earthly ‘possession’ Jesus had left was his mother. And He even gives her away. As a result, Christ died in complete poverty.
In ancient Judaism, adoptive relationships were real and legally binding. In other words, Jesus is not just expressing a fleeting wish on his part for someone to look after Mary before he died, he is making a formal declaration of His most Holy Will: Mary will become John’s Mother, and therefore mother of all Christians.
As Protestant commentator Edwyn Clement writes: Mary the Mother of the Lord becomes the mother of the faithful, and the ‘Beloved Disciple’ here seems to denote the ideal Christian convert.
It is the suffering of Jesus’s ‘Hour’ that makes Mary our Mother. We are the children of the ‘birth pangs’ Mary experienced at the foot of the cross (c.f. Jn 16:20-21, Rev 12:1-6). If every Christian is called to imitate the ‘beloved disciple’, then Jesus IS inviting every Christian to take Mary to be his or her own mother.
Image: Luini Bernardino, Crucifixion with Intercessors (The Crucifixion with Sts Paul and Francis).