With these words Jesus gave the Blessed Virgin Mary a new mission and
established a special relationship of love between her and all the
"The universal motherhood of Mary, the 'Woman' of the wedding at
Cana and of Calvary, recalls Eve, 'mother of all living' (Gn 3:20).
However, while the latter helped to bring sin into the world, the new
Eve, Mary, co-operates in the saving event of Redemption. Thus in the
Blessed Virgin the figure of ‘woman' is rehabilitated", the Holy
Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 23 April, as he
continued his catechesis on the Virgin Mary, focusing this week on her
universal motherhood. Here is a translation of his reflection, which was
the 49th in the series on the Blessed Mother and was given in Italian.
1. After recalling the presence of Mary and the other women at the
Lord's cross, St John relates: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the
disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman,
behold, your son!'. Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!’"
These particularly moving words are a "revelation scene":
they reveal the deep sentiments of the dying Christ and contain a great
wealth of meaning for Christian faith and spirituality. At the end of
his earthly life, as he addressed his Mother and the disciple he loved,
the crucified Messiah establishes a new relationship of love between
Mary and Christians.
Interpreted at times as no more than an expression of Jesus' filial
piety towards his Mother whom he entrusts for the future to his beloved
disciple, these words go far beyond the contingent need to solve a
family problem. In fact, attentive consideration of the text, confirmed
by the interpretation of many Fathers and by common ecclesial opinion,
presents us, in Jesus' twofold entrustment, with one of the most
important events for understanding the Virgin's role in the economy of
Jesus completes his sacrifice by entrusting Mary to John
The words of the dying Jesus actually show that his first intention
was not to entrust his Mother to John, but to entrust the disciple to
Mary and to give her a new maternal role. Moreover, the epithet
"woman", also used by Jesus at the wedding in Cana to lead
Mary to a new dimension of her existence as Mother, shows how the
Saviour's words are not the fruit of a simple sentiment of filial
affection but are meant to be put at a higher level.
2. Although Jesus' death causes Mary deep sorrow, it does not in
itself change her normal way of life: in fact, in departing from
Nazareth to start his public life, Jesus had already left his Mother
alone. Moreover, the presence at the Cross of her relative, Mary of
Clopas, allows us to suppose that the Blessed Virgin was on good terms
with her family and relatives, by whom she could have been welcomed
after her Son's death.
Instead, Jesus' words acquire their most authentic meaning in the
context of his saving mission. Spoken at the moment of the redemptive
sacrifice, they draw their loftiest value precisely from this sublime
circumstance. In fact, after Jesus' statements to his Mother, the
Evangelist adds a significant clause: "Jesus, knowing that all was
now finished...." (Jn 19:28), as if he wished to stress that he had
brought his sacrifice to completion by entrusting his Mother to John,
and in him to all men, whose Mother she becomes in the work of
3. The reality brought about by Jesus' words, that is, Mary's new
motherhood in relation to the disciple, is a further sign of the great
love that led Jesus to offer his life for all people. On Calvary this
love is shown in the gift of a mother, his mother, who thus becomes our
We must remember that, according to tradition, it is John whom the
Blessed Virgin in fact recognized as her son; but this privilege has
been interpreted by Christians from the beginning as the sign of a
spiritual generation in relation to all humanity.
The universal motherhood of Mary, the "Woman" of the
wedding at Cana and of Calvary, recalls Eve, "mother of all
living" (Gn 3:20). However, while the latter helped to bring sin
into the world, the new Eve, Mary, co-operates in the saving event of
Redemption. Thus in the Blessed Virgin the figure of "woman"
is rehabilitated and her motherhood takes up the task of spreading the
new life in Christ among men.
In view of this mission, the Mother is asked to make the acutely
painful sacrifice of accepting her only Son's death. Jesus' words:
"Woman, behold your son" enable Mary to sense the new maternal
relationship which was to extend and broaden the preceding one. Her
"yes" to this plan is therefore an assent to Christ's
sacrifice, which she generously accepts by complying with the divine
will. Even if in God's plan Mary's motherhood was destined from the
start to extend to all humanity, only on Calvary, by virtue of Christ's
sacrifice, is its universal dimension revealed.
Mary becomes the Mother of all disciples
Jesus' words, "Behold, your son", effect what they express,
making Mary the mother of John and of all the disciples destined to
receive the gift of divine grace.
4. On the Cross Jesus did not proclaim Mary's universal motherhood
formally, but established a concrete maternal relationship between her
and the beloved disciple. In the Lord's choice we can see his concern
that this motherhood should not be interpreted in a vague way, but
should point to Mary's intense, personal relationship with individual
May each one of us, precisely through the concrete reality of Mary's
universal motherhood, fully acknowledge her as our own Mother, and
trustingly commend ourselves to her maternal love.