Sunday, July 29, 2012
Witness: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman of the time of Jesus.
Story n. 12 (see previous posts)
The synagogue is lit by flickering torches. People’s faces glow reddened by the flames. The farther corners of the large room are swallowed in darkness. Anya is sitting on the floor between Neri and Heli. She has persuaded them to come and listen to Jesus’ teachings.
“Aren’t you even curious?” she pressed them. “We have seen him working miracles! Ask Simon if you don’t believe me. Come tonight. Do it to make me happy if nothing else.”
But now she’s wondering if they’ll be able to open their mind to Jesus. He made clear how difficult it is to be receptive to his message. One day, a few weeks earlier, a small group of young mothers approached Jesus asking him to touch their nursing infants, so that they could live a blessed life. The apostles wanted to send them away, but Jesus said:
“Let the children come to me and do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
“What do you mean, Master?” Andrew asked him. “Should we become as pure and innocent as them?"
“Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
Later, while Jesus was praying in solitude, the disciples sat around the fire and pondered his words.
“Children have clarity of vision, “said James" They have no preconceived ideas. To them everything is possible. That‘s what it takes to believe”
Anya gazes at her husband. He’s not at all like a child, she thinks. He’s self-asserted and full of pride. And Heli is just like him. Please, God, open their hearts!
She looks for Jesus in the crowd. He’s sitting on the steps, his arms around his knees. The torches’ light outlines his figure in dramatic contrasts of black and iridescent white. His face seems sculpted in bronze, but is voice is sweet like honey:
“You have heard that it was said, ’You shall love you neighbor and hate your enemy‘. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even the sinners love those who love them. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Give to everyone who asks you, and offer no resistance to the one who is evil.”
Anya can feel the disappointment rising in her husband and her son. Heli is the first one to express it.
“What’s he talking about, mother?” he whispers. “I don’t care if he gives sight to the blinds or turns water into wine. This man is no Messiah. The Messiah is supposed to free us from our oppressors, not to pray for them!”
“Only when you’ll learn how to forgive your soul will be free,” Anya protests. But Neri and Heli are already headed for the door.
Later at home, Anya must say good-bye again. Her heart is heavy, but she knows that she’s doing the right thing.
“You want justice,” she tells her husband, “but there is something nobler than that, and it is the universal love, the mercy that Jesus preaches. You are enslaved by your thirst for revenge. And you know no justice either, for there is no such thing as a just person. Jesus said that we must stop judging and we must remove the wooden beam from our own eye before we can see clearly.”
“Words, words and more words!” Neri exclaims. “That man has filled up your head with crazy ideas. This nonsense has been going on long enough! Besides, there are only a handful of women among many men who follow Jesus. How do I know that you are not sleeping with one of his disciples? Maybe that’s why you are so eager to follow them!”
“Oh Neri, that’s absurd!”
“Moreover, I am tired of living without a woman!”
“You are the one who first decided to go,” Anya retorts, “and I don’t agree with your motives either. Yet, I love you more now than I did before I met Jesus. He taught me how to love you and accept you as you are. I’ve learned to forget, bear and forgive. But my love for you is an earthly love. It won’t fulfill my soul. That’s why I must go.”
She had no doubts this time, but still cried many tears.
at 8:27 PM