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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jerusalem

Witness: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman of the time of Jesus.

Story N. 14 (see previous posts).

Jerusalem was Jesus’ destination and aim. He came down from the Mount of Olives riding a colt, and as he rode the people were spreading their cloaks on the road so that the dust wouldn’t touch him. The all multitude of his disciples praised him, the king who came in Yahweh’s name, but he wept over the city:
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace! But it is hidden from your eyes.”

And now, having left the crowds behind, Jesus and his disciples are entering the temple. Anya is dumbfounded at the sight of its grandiosity and magnificence. Its walls are higher than anything she has ever seen before: Layer after layer of stone, they climb towards the sky. But the inside of the temple is not what she had expected. In her imagination the sacred place was silent, and the sound of the footsteps echoed the humming of the prayers. Instead people are bargaining in loud voices. Doves are bought to be sacrificed for worship and the money changers are piling coins on the tables.

Jesus grows furious. He has never acted with so much violence before. He paces the floor with heavy strides. He overturns the tables of the money changers and  vendors and drives them out, crying out:
“It is written, ’my house shall be a home of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”
He threatens the teachers of the law with harshness:
“You brood of vipers! How can you say good things when you are evil? From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. I tell you, by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned!”

Flattened against the wall, Anya is trembling in fear. Maybe this is the moment, she thinks. Maybe these wicked sly men dressed in dark robes will arrest him right now. The Pharisees wear tall black hats which frame their menacing faces and, by contrast, their complexion appears cadaveric. In spite of her fear Anya lingers in their proximity. She listens to broken but unequivocal conversations, learning that they are plotting to kill Jesus. They’ll wait for the right moment, when his followers won’t be around. They’ll find a way.

Jesus and his disciples have left the temple unarmed. It’s a starry night and they are resting by a stream. The moon is shining on the flowing water, drawing silvery lines on the dark blue surface. Anya is listening to its murmur, unable to sleep. She longs for someone who can understand her pain, offer advice. Mary of Magdala is also awake, keenly aware of her friend’s restlessness.
“Anya,” she calls softly, “are you troubled tonight?”
“Oh Mary! How could I not be? Jesus is taking great risks, putting his life at stake! Why, in the name of God! Why?”
“I don’t know, Anya. I don’t understand, but I trust him.”
“I know I’m being selfish,” Anya goes on, “but I feel so lonely. I’ve left my family to follow him, and it’s so hard not to be part of their life anymore. I don’t know if my husband is alive. I miss my son terribly. I never stopped thinking about them, but I used to find comfort in Jesus’ presence. Now there is no relief for me, only worries and pain. Maybe I should go back home.”
“Yes, maybe you should,” answers Mary, “but I don’t think you will. Jesus is our life. How can we leave him?”
Anya remains silent, pondering upon Mary’s words. And suddenly she realizes how truthful they are. She can’t go. Where would she go? She would lose herself. Her home wouldn’t be her home anymore. Jesus is part of her deepest essence. The love that she has inside her can only be bestowed through Jesus, for he is the one who made it blossom. She left her family, yet she can’t leave Jesus, not because she loves him more but because she wouldn’t be herself without him. He has given her a new heart and a new mind and he inhabits them
I’ll stay, she thinks. I’ll stay until the end.