Woman, Behold Your Son

Faithful Catholics are familiar with the command to behold your Mother. But I’d say fewer of us have really pondered our Lord’s command to Mary: Woman, behold, your son!

On the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, several of us at the parish renewed, or made for the first time, our total consecration to Mary. This is not something new in my life. I made my first entrustment to Mary before going to seminary in 2008 and have renewed it several times since.

The usual go-to Scripture verse regarding total consecration to Mary is John 19:27, when Jesus said to His beloved disciple, “Behold, your mother!” But this year, as I renewed my consecration, a different verse came to mind—not 19:27 but John 19:26: “Woman, behold, your son!”

Faithful Catholics are familiar with the command to behold your Mother. It’s a catchy slogan for different events. It’s the title of many books. Heck, I even used it as a chapter title in my own book. But I’d say fewer of us have really pondered our Lord’s command to Mary: Woman, behold, your son!

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This may actually be the deeper reality behind true devotion to Mary. We live in a society that likes to put skin in the game. We are happy to receive gifts as long as we did our part to earn them. This is basically a Pelagian hangover that thinks grace is a nice complement to our own works.

Though good Christian theology knows otherwise, we still have a tendency to want to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Beholding our Mother Mary without first acknowledging that she has beheld us falls into this heretical trap. The only way we can have a personal relationship with Mary as our spiritual mother is because Jesus first commanded her to have a relationship with us.

The knowledge of this is important—not just so we stay out of the way of the Inquisitors but, more importantly, so that we can have the peace and security of experiencing Mary’s deep love for us. 

The second half of our Lord’s command on the Cross is just as important to this equation as is the first. We must behold our Mother. But this is not done by our intellectual or spiritual efforts. Our beholding Mary is a response to her beholding us. We are not jumping into her arms as much as she is bending down to pick us up. However, in our free will, we have to surrender ourselves to her loving embrace. Our beholding Mary is a response to her beholding us. We are not jumping into her arms as much as she is bending down to pick us up.Tweet This

True devotion to Mary is all about fully surrendering ourselves to her. Sure, it is modeled after St. John the Apostle, St. Louis de Montfort, Pope St. John Paul II, and the like. But ultimately, true devotion to Mary is patterned after Jesus Himself. Our Lord was totally abandoned to and dependent upon Mary as His Mother. 

The only way Jesus was able to behold Mary as His Mother is because she first said yes to the Father’s invitation for her to behold Him. Jesus’ relationship to Mary was a gift that He received. This gift was given to Him at His Incarnation, but it continued to remain all throughout His earthly life and beyond.

Such experienced knowledge had to be part of our Lord’s success against Satan. Jesus didn’t have to remind Himself that Mary was His Mother or put forth effort to deepen this reality. It just was. Jesus existed on earth because He was the son of Mary (Mark 6:3). 

No doubt this reality brought our Lord tremendous human security. Sure, the devil had no authority over Jesus, God incarnate. But Mary, being sinless, had to help Him experience that truth. In her arms, Jesus not only experienced eternal security for who He was, but also for who she was.

After the fall of humanity, God put enmity between the mother of the Messiah and the serpent (Genesis 3:15). In Mary, there is no admixture of evil. Through Jesus’ prevenient grace merited on the Cross, Mary is full of grace, she is sinless (Luke 1:28). I can only imagine the sense of childhood peace that Jesus would have experienced growing up in the home of a mother who was full of grace. 

This peace is what our Lord is foremost inviting us to in His last commandment from the Cross. In her sinlessness, Mary’s will is communion with God’s will. So, when Jesus tells Mary to behold her son, there is no need to doubt that she did. She welcomes the beloved disciple, as well as all disciples, to come into her loving arms just as she welcomed Jesus into her immaculate womb. 

Mary is not only our Mother because Jesus said so; theologically, she is our Mother by virtue of our baptism. St. Paul says, “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). By being incorporated into the Body of Christ in our baptism, we are objectively sons of God through the Son of God. Therefore, Jesus’ Father is now our Father. And following the same logic, His Mother is now our Mother

All Mariology is ordered toward us experiencing deeply the mystery of the Trinity. The concept of Mary being our Mother is objectively true. But the beauty of us hearing our Lord’s command for Mary to behold us and for us to behold Mary is that we are called to live it, not just know it. Through this final gift of the Lord to His disciples, we can stay peaceful in our sonship, as beloved sons and daughters of God our Father.

The beauty of our beholding Mary as a response to her beholding us is that it provides us with the same childlike security as it did Jesus. This is not something we have to work for in order to earn; this is something we surrender to in order to experience. Then the peace that Jesus knew, we can know as well. 

I find great comfort in this truth. The tenets of our faith are in place to provide a firm foundation for the rest of our lives to stand on. True devotion to Mary is one of these pillars. The more we live life from the perspective of being children of Mary, the more we can find stability in an ever-changing world.

This teaching might not sound too earth shattering until the going gets tough in life. I think of little Juan Diego in the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When he was bogged down with his duties in life, Mary appeared to him and simply said, “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” Oh, how many times I have found comfort in hearing Mary repeat these words to me. 

Mary is our most pure and perfect Mother. Surrendering ourselves to her safeguards us against evil. There is enmity between Mary and Satan. The more we allow her to lift us up into her arms, the less the evils of this world can reach us. Being full of Grace, Mary is our home away from Home. 

I’m convinced that Mary is the way forward. It is from the perspective of her arms that we can then carry out the Father’s will with the peace and security of children. Life is about imitating Jesus, who fully surrendered Himself to Mary in the Incarnation. We would do well to follow His final command to behold our Mother, Mary, who has first beheld us.  

[Image: The Crucifixion with the Virgin, St. Mary Magdalene, St. John the Evangelist and St. Vitus by Garofalo (Benvenuto Tisi)]


  • Fr. Bryce Lungren

    Fr. Bryce Lungren was blessed to grow up in a family with deep Wyoming roots. After graduating high school in Worland, WY in 1998, he moved to Montana where he worked in the world and grew in his Catholic faith. In 2008 he entered seminary, earning a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, OR, followed by a Master of Divinity and Bachelor of Sacred Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cheyenne on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2018, and is currently the Associate Pastor of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church and surrounding missions in Gillette, WY. Fr. Bryce is also the author of The Catholic Cowboy Way.

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