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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Baptism of Jesus

Matthew Chapter 3
Narrator: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman of the time of Jesus

Story N. 1

The Jordan River flows calmly between whitish rocks, murmuring echoes of ancient prayers. Its tiny waves spread in ripples around every stone emerging from the water. Here and there shrubs of green grass color the landscape. Anya is kneeling on the river bank. Her hands cover her face and a veil hides her long chestnut hair. Now and then she raises her eyes toward the sky, imploring:
“Lord, oh Lord, save their souls!”

She left her home early in the morning, after her husband and her son went out to work in the fields. She has been spying on them and she knows that they haven’t joined the rebels, but for how long will they resist the temptation? They are so full of hatred! Anya no longer knows happiness. When Heli was still a child she and Neri had many good moments together. Who wouldn’t enjoy life with such a joyful little boy around the house? But he grew up fast and he realized that he wasn’t free. His people are under the dominium of the Roman emperor and if they try to rebel they pay with their lives. Anya is afraid. She worries about her family’s well being, but even more about her husband and son’s salvation. Neri and Heli don’t pray anymore. They are angry at their God.
In the distance Anya sees a crowd bathing in the Jordan River. She rises and walks along the bank.

People are standing in line before a wild looking man dressed in camel’s skin. One by one he casts them under the water surface in a sort of baptismal rite. Anya has heard about him:
He’s John the Baptist.
“Repent!” he’s crying out, “Repent and your sins will be forgiven!”
Captivated, Anya observes the people emerging from the river. There is something about them, like a new light into their eyes. Maybe this is Yahweh’s answer to my fear, she thinks. Maybe tomorrow I’ll talk Neri and Heli into receiving baptism and they’ll be saved.

And then a man in a white robe approaches John who remains still, as if transfixed. Everything is still, even the grass doesn’t bend in the wind. The river is sparkling in the sun and that man seems to absorb its brightness. In that light Anya can’t see clearly the contours of his body. His dark wavy hair is so shiny that she has to turn her gaze away. Dazzled, Anya looks around. Every single wave carries its glitter. Every single leaf reflects the sunshine. In the breeze a myriad of sparkles tremble on the man’s face and all around him. Anya looks into his eyes and a wonderful peace takes over her soul. Not for a moment do they rest on her, yet she feels his love. He knows her and he loves her. A white dove flies above his head while he plunges into the water. Anya kneels on the river bank and prays:
”Lord, oh Lord, be my light!”

Almost two months have passed since that day on the Jordan River and Anya hasn’t seen that man anymore. She has left her home every time she had a chance, walking tirelessly on the dusty roads looking for him. After so many days, the impact that the sight of him had on her soul has faded. She reasons that the luminosity that emanated from his body was just an optical illusion triggered by the sun sparkling on the water. Nevertheless she keeps looking, to find out if there is still so much love into his eyes. And one day she sees him on Capernaum beach. He’s talking to a small group of fishermen. Anya is quite familiar with them because they occasionally offer her some fish. She could approach them, but she chooses to observe the stranger from a distance. She can’t see his eyes from where she stands, but she feels inexplicably drawn to him. The sense of peace that she experienced the first time she saw him overwhelms her again. When Simon, one of the fishermen, leaves the group and starts walking along the beach she runs after him.
“Simon, wait!” Who is that man?” she asks him.
“His name is Jesus of Nazareth.”