ANOTHER BIBLICAL QUESTION A. M. D. G.
John 19: 23 -34 “ The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him took his garments (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from top throughout.
“They said then one to another: let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: The have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lot. And the soldiers indeed did these things.
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.
“When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman behold thy son.
“After that, he saith to the disciple: behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.
“Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.
“Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, put it to his mouth.
“Jesus therefore when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.
“Then the Jews, (because it was the prasceve,) that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that was a great Sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
“The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him.
“But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead they did not break his legs.
“But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water.
“And he that saw it, hath given testimony and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true ; that you also may believe
First, I would like to point out that the phrase: “The disciple that Jesus loved” is a kind of signature of St. John. The reason is that all love, especially Divine Love is a personal experience; a sort of communication. That is why a verbal declaration of love is inadequate while an action of kindness is the way love is experienced. Love, really, is an act. I assume that everyone else is loved by God, but I have directly experienced it. I know that God loves me personally. The other I know by analogy. Therefore, John is saying that the one who is reporting this is he who has the experience of Divine love, himself. In no way can we say that Jesus loved John more that he loved Peter or any other of the Apostles.
The words, transcribed above from the Douay version of the Lain Vulgate, are the most important words in history. This describes an event that is at the very heart of the meaning of existence itself.
The reason is that the man who was dying on the Cross between two thieves, had been delivered by the leaders of the Jewish people because he was a man who claimed to be Divine. However, when he rose from the dead three days later he proved his claim.
Therefore when John reports that “ Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished..” he is talking about the reason for the coming of God on this earth as this man Jesus.
Considering the existential reality of the present Creation, it really exists so as to provide the venue for the Incarnation.
Thus, the “all things were now accomplished” refers to the reason for,and all the events that led to the birth of Jesus ( who is the reason, and logic, of reality itself) and his death on the cross. Every act of His life from the time of his conception led to this moment and every event in the History of the present Cosmos since its inception took place to produce the Incarnation of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Thus, what is happening here is the reason for Creation itself.
We have the tendency to assume that this refers to the whole series of events labeled “the passion and death of the Lord”. This is true enough, but the words are recorded by John immediately after the commission of John to take care of the Virgin Mary as his mother and her commission to adopt John as her son.
The purpose of the coming of God among us humans, as the Church teaches, is to heal the corruption of His Creation that we and the Angels have wrought by our sins. As creatures tainted with the results of Original Sin, we humans ( all of us – with the possible exception of Our Lady ) have failed to return to the Creator that which is due to Him as his Creatures. We have been formed to love and serve our Creator here on earth and to be happy with him forever. That is what we must do in simple justice. Somewhere Jesus says that when we have done all we have been told we are doing only what we must do and so we confess ourselves as unprofitable servants. With the exception of Mary , the handmaid of the Lord, every single human has failed this responsibility except Jesus who “went (to the cross) because he loves the Father and DOES HIS WILL” (John 14:31). In this way He Glorified the Father and so atones for our basic debt to the Creator.
It is the Will of the Creator that Jesus would not only atone for our not giving God the Glory due Him, but also to save us and heal the defects of our Nature and the nature of matter itself so the “God will be all in all” (Romans 8; 18 -25; Ephesians 1:20 -23; Colossians 1:12 -20; etc.).
The instrument of this great work of Redemption is the Church into which we enter by being baptized into the death of the Lord and his Resurrection.
Now when we look at John 19:27, the action immediately preceding the statement that now all was accomplished, thus the action that completed His work on earth was the community formed by the Virgin Mary and John : a community of Caritas — the Church of Jesus Christ at its birth.
Then, after the demonstration of our complete lack of Charity by giving this tortured man vinegar instead of water to drink, he bowed his head and “delivered up his spirit”.
Now it is true that most exegetes assume this refers to the human soul of the Lord, but nothing in the record necessitates this only — the Spirit of Jesus which he gave to his Church is the Holy Spirit. This is the essential feature of the Church of Jesus, and that it is the way the Holy Spirit works in History : in and through the Church.
In the Preface for the Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart we are reminded that the blood and water that flowed from the wounded side of the dead Lord is the “fountain of Sacramental Life in the Church”.
Thus we have in the community of the Virgin Mother and John all the elements that are characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ: Mary, the First and Model of all Christians and John the Minister who takes care of the Christian. Note that the first Minister of the Church, as all the ministers, is a son of the Church , symbolized by Mary. The Holy Spirit entrusted to the Church and subsists in the Charitable relationship of Christians. This is why the Lord exhorts us to love one another. Finally, the Sacraments, are entrusted to the Church.
This is the Catholic Church at its inception, born from the side of the New Adam, asleep on the altar of the Cross.
NOTES: see Mystici Corpus Christi, encyclical from Pius XII , 29 January 1943.