Sunday, July 8, 2012
Witness: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman of the time of Jesus.
Story n. 9 (see previous posts)
“How are you feeling? Would you like some water?”
Anya is nursing an old dying man who wishes to see Jesus before the coming of his last hour. He stretches his callused hand to get the cup.
“Thank you, my dear”, he answers in a raucous voice.
He is dreadfully pale, but his eyes are full of tenderness. He’s awaiting death peacefully. Every remaining moment on earth carries him closer to everlasting repose. His body is just a shred that hangs on to life, but in his eyes Anya sees his soul shining through.
For the first time she’s not afraid of the corruption of the flesh.
She had never witnessed so much physical pain and decay before embarking on her journey as one of Jesus retinues. The sick gravitate toward him, but they are not the only ones. All sort of people seek him; some need hope, others look for answers.
Today, in the synagogue where Jesus is teaching, there are many scribes and Pharisees who have come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.
Leaving the old man asleep on his pallet Anya blends with the crowd. People are marveling at Jesus’ familiarity with the scriptures. Unnoticed, she listens to their comments:
“Isn’t he the son of Joseph? How can a carpenter be so knowledgeable?”
Hearing some commotion, Anya looks around: A paralytic on his stretcher is being lowered through the roof, right at Jesus’ feet. The place is so crowded that it was impossible to bring him in through the door. Jesus observes the maneuver in silence, then he kneels down next to him. When he finally speaks, his voice is filled with compassion.
“Your sins are forgiven”, he says.
Anya feels the tension rising in the room. Jesus’ words have engendered an immediate reaction among the teachers of the law. Scandalized, they turn to each other whispering:
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
As if reading their minds, Jesus addresses them from the center of the synagogue.
“Which is easier to say, ’Your sins are forgiven’, or to say ’Rise and walk’?”
Standing above the lying man, Jesus lifts up his arms and commands:
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher and go home.”
For a long moment the paralytic remains still. Then, levering up on his elbows, he slowly sits up. Uncertain, he stretches out his trembling hand and Jesus grabs it. The man gets on his feet and, shedding tears of joy, he exclaims:
“Blessed is the Lord, whose power is with you!”
The crowd is struck with awe and many cry out to Jesus:
"Son of David, have pity on us!”
A blind man falls on his knees in front of him. Moved, Jesus touches his eyes and they open up. Then lays his hands on a mute and he finds his voice. Many reach out to him and are restored to health. Mesmerized, Anya is watching the unfolding of the events. Her heart is galloping, but her mind is on alert. The scribes are afraid of Jesus’ charismatic power and they might try to have him arrested. It has happened before, but she soon realizes that it’s no going to happen today. What they have witnessed today is just too incredible for them not to glorify God.
Relieved, Anya goes back to the dying man’s bedside. He’s awake, but there is something ethereal about him.
“Don’t you wish that you could live longer?” she asks him, wondering why he never pleaded to Jesus for healing.
“No”, he answers. ”My children are gone and my wife passed away. My time has come.”
Upon hearing these words Anya bends under the weight of her past. The years she has left behind wrap her in a heavy mantle of sadness. The comfort and the emptiness of her life overwhelm her once again. Why did she leave? Was it really because of Jesus or was it wanderlust? It’s so difficult to discern true faith from selfish needs! Tonight, she decides, I’ll talk to Jesus.
When the afternoon begins to give away before the night and the disciples are resting around the fire Anya approaches him, feeling that her whole life is suspended within that moment.
“Lord, why did I leave?” she asks him.
Invisible birds begin to sing as the truth is revealed, crystal clear, through Jesus’ words:
“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Shrouded by a new certitude, Anya lies down and goes to sleep at last.
at 8:03 PM