Sunday, August 5, 2012
Witness: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman from the time of Jesus.
Story n. 13 (see previous posts)
A few months have passed and Anya has witnessed many events. The apostles have been traveling on their own, proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven to the Jews. Before sending them on the road Jesus warned them that they might have been persecuted, but told them not to fear anything, for the Spirit of the Father would be with them. He gave them authority to heal and teach, and said to them:
“Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”
When they returned from their mission they learned that John the Baptist had been beheaded.
King Herod had him arrested and killed because he had condemned his illicit relationship with his brother’s wife. John’s disciples gave him proper burial and informed Jesus of the execution. He withdrew to a desert place to pray, but the crowds followed him by the thousand. He was like a shepherd who knows his sheep, and stilled their hunger with bread and fish that materialized like manna from the heavens. They claimed him as their Messiah, but he said to them:
“It is I who am the bread of life; he who comes to me will never be hungry; he who has faith in me will never thirst.”
He wanted them to seek spiritual nourishment, and told them many parables so that their heart may be stirred and tore from its rest. But to the apostles Jesus revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and they saw them with their eyes and heard them with their ears.
Then they resumed their journey.
Majestic mountains look down upon the broad valley crossed by the Jordan River. Reddish hills and gray rocks stand in every direction. The Sea of Galilee draws a cobalt blue stripe. Everything is part of a colossal whole, seemingly sentient and in tune with the Creator. Solitary figures walk on the sand, dragging blue shadows under their feet. They are Jesus and his disciples on the road to Jerusalem. Spent by hours of incessant march, they sit under a sycamore tree to rest. Jesus leans against the trunk and closes his eyes. A light breeze is messing up his hair. Anya wonders what unimaginable thoughts are taking form behind his frowning forehead. When a sudden gust of wind brings him back to reality, Jesus stares at the apostles one by one.
Finally he asks:
“Who do people say that I am?”
“Some say that you are Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” James answers.
“Elijah has already come,” he replies, “and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.”
Anya brings her lips near Andrew’s ear and whispers:
“What does he mean?”
“John the Baptist. Elijah was John the Baptist,” he answers in a low voice.
“But who do YOU say that I am?” Jesus presses on.
After a long silence, Simon replies gravely:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus stands up and stretches his hands toward him.
“Blessed are you, Simon,” he says, “for my heavenly Father has revealed this to you. And so I say to you, your name is Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
Peter falls on his knees and buries his face in Jesus’ cloak. Not another word is spoken as the sun sinks into the sea. A single cloud spreads on the horizon, like a long stripe of pinkish vapor. The moon appears in the darkening sky, its rays glowering in the mist. It is at that moment that Jesus speaks again.
“My hour is about to come,” he says. “I, the Son of Man, will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes in Jerusalem. They will condemn the Son of Man to death and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified. And behold, he will be raised on the third day."
Flabbergasted, the apostles remain silent, but Peter takes him aside and whispers:
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing will ever happen to you!”
“Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus utters in a hoarse voice. “You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’
Trembling and humiliated, Peter retreats to his pallet. Anya lies down and stares at the black sky. She doesn’t comprehend Jesus’ words. About to fall asleep, she’s incapable of attributing to them the right weight. He can’t be willing to be tortured and die. And no one can he be raised from the dead. That can’t be true, she thinks while the singing of the nocturnal birds lull her to sleep.
Anya wakes up in the middle of the night with the vivid memory of an event that took place a few
months earlier. A man named Jairus, an official of the synagogue, begged Jesus to come to his house to heal his daughter, who was only twelve years old and was dying. As Jesus went large crowd followed him, pressing on him and forcing him to slow down his pace. After a while someone from the house reached the grieving father and said:
“Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.”
The man burst into tears, but Jesus laid his hands on his shoulders and told him not to cry.
“Do not be afraid,” he said. “Just have faith and she will be saved.”
Finally they arrived at the house, where all the relatives were already mourning the girl. She was lying on her back, her delicate body dressed in white. On her hands and temples blue veins were visible under the transparent skin. The color had disappeared from her lips, and her cheeks were as pale as wax. Jesus looked at her with infinite compassion, then took her by the hand and told her:
Immediately a feeble glow flushed up her features. Her limbs relaxed and moved slightly as life returned flowing through her frame. She emitted a deep breath and arose, opening her dark wondering eyes on the unknown man who was still holding her hands.
“Give her something to eat,” he said.
Death is not irredeemable, Anya thinks. Jesus showed us that it isn’t. He said that he will die and rise again. I believe him, because I’ve always believed him. He shall be with us, always.
at 7:50 PM