Jesus carrying the cross himself
went out to what is called the Place of the Skull,
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved,
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
It never feels quite right to me to proclaim parts of Christ’s Passion at funerals. Three other such passages are given in the funeral Lectionary, one from Mark and two from Luke as options. My own sense is that I would not want to be identified with the Lord as someone who also died. It also seems that Holy Week is a more fitting time to recall the Passion, and not an ordinary weekday.
That said, we are given these options, so when might they be utilized? Perhaps when a funeral outside of Mass is celebrated during the Triduum. Perhaps on another day of Holy Week. Note that this passage above excludes the snark of Pontius Pilate when questioned about the inscription as well as the soldiers dividing the garments of Jesus. It does contain the tender scene of Jesus entrusting Mary and the Beloved Disciple to each other. So let’s focus a bit on that.
When it comes to John’s Gospel, I go to Raymond Brown. His commentary from the Anchor Bible:
His mother, the symbol of the New Israel, was denied a role at Cana because his hour had not yet come. Now that his hour has come, she is given a role as the mother of the Beloved Disciple, i.e., of the Christian. We are being told figuratively that Jesus was concerned for the community of believers who would be drawn to him now that he is lifted up from the earth on the cross (cf. John 12:32).
Professor Brown offers several pages of commentary on these few verses. Most important for the funeral setting would be to draw out the notion that Jesus’ last task on the cross was to provide for the well-being of his disciples. This provision extends to our death and beyond. Jesus, even in his moment of suffering, was concerned about us, about those he loved.
Perhaps a devout Catholic takes comfort in knowing Mary as mother. If so, this passage provides a moving reinforcement of that reality. It is a comfort along the lines of that expressed in John 14:1-6–the Lord’s promise that he prepares a place for us.
On second thought, this passage may well be an appropriate proclamation for the funeral. I don’t think I would choose it for my funeral. But perhaps you would. If so, why?