Mary: Don’t think I know everything… That is not true, dear neighbor…. Jesus was a bit bothered when he left; he was teeming with strange ideas…. But don’t you ever think it was a matter of the heart… How I would have wanted it!… Ay, this son of mine…. I’m afraid you are wrong, my dear neighbor… I guess these are bad times… Please don’t get up. Lie down…. that’s it… this hot soup will do you good…. take it while it is hot… My mother used to prepare this concoction… it is very good…
Ever since Jesus left Nazareth to look for the prophet John by the river Jordan, the days seemed very long for Mary. She spent her afternoons in the company of her neighbor, the wife of Naphtali, who was then a bit indisposed…..
Mary: You know, I feel like I have aged seven years these days…. Imagine, I eat all by myself…. at night, there is silence all over this hut… Jesus snores a lot, alright, …but it is this noise that keeps me company… and lulls me to sleep. Now, I wake up at night and get startled in the dark…. The other night, I heard a noise…. and I asked: “Who is there? Who is there?” …I even lit a lamp to see who was there….. Oh, my dear neighbor, when our children are away, half of our life seems to have been taken away too….. Wait till I pour these mint leaves in the soup…. This will cure you as if you were cured by the heavens above… What if Jesus stays in the Jordan and leaves me here?…. That idea has been here in my heart, pricking me like a needle…. Well, God knows each one of us, and has a purpose for everyone… He knows what road He wants Jesus to take…. All I pray is for God to protect him from all dangers, for my son is so stubborn…. He took after his father, don’t you think so, my friend?… Oh, there you are, you have fallen asleep… I shall leave you now… Sleep well…
Mary left Naphtali’s wife and walked to her house. Inside, she had a few bites of a piece of black bread because she didn’t feel like eating. Then she lay down on a mat. She was so exhausted that day, and soon she fell asleep….
The sun was beginning to peep through the horizon, stripping the sky of the last of the stars that shone. The cool morning breeze greeted the plants on the farm and caused them to sway and dance. It was dawn in Nazareth. Jesus, though exhausted, was elated with what he had seen and heard in the Jordan and in the solitude of the desert. He was now on his way back home.
Jesus: Hey, what are you doing here so early in the morning, Tonin, my boy…?
Tonin: I’m gathering some shells. It rained yesterday, and so many of them came out. Look….
Jesus: You would like the lizards I saw in the desert! They were this big….
Tonin: You’ve been in the desert?
Jesus: That’s right. I came from there.
Tonin: Why did you go there?
Jesus: Nothing. I just searched for something…
Tonin: Did you look for these lizards?
Jesus: Lizards, no, but something else.
Tonin: Did you find what you wanted?
Jesus: Of course. Goodbye, Tonin. Show me those shells later.
Tonin: See you around, Jesus!
Mary, as always, was already up very early in the morning. She was boiling water on the stove for the lentils. She sat on the floor to grind wheat to be made into bread flour.
Jesus: Madame, could you spare some milk to drink for a poor traveller…?
Mary: Why, yes…. but …who are you?…. Oh, Jesus, my son! It’s you! You’re back!
Jesus: Yes, I’m back, Mother!
Mary: Oh, thank you, Lord, thank you! I have been praying everyday for your well-being. Praise the Lord! I was so worried about you, Jesus!… Why, it took you so long and…. how is John? …I heard he was taken prisoner. Were you there when this happened?
Jesus: No, I had already gone… Yes, they nabbed him… They finally silenced the prophet.
Mary: Just like I told you, Jesus. Do you think they will kill him?
Jesus: I don’t think so. Herod won’t dare. He will eventually set him free. In the meantime, someone will have to take his place. John has kindled the fire and we must keep it burning.
Mary: It is now up to God to bring us another prophet…. You must be hungry and thirsty. What do you want to eat?
Jesus: Whatever you have.
Mary: Look, son. When you left, I went to Cana and bought some good wine. I told myself we would have a drink when you get back. Here you are!… Here, take it… and some dates to go with it…
Jesus: Ah….. It smells very good…. Drink with me, Mother… Today is a joyful day.
Mary: I see you are very happy. You have lost weight, but you look good…
Jesus: You are right again…. There is nothing I can hide from you.!… Yes, I won’t deny it, I’m happy… but worried about John… He’s great, this cousin of ours… Mother, the truth is, God’s hand was behind this whole trip…
Mary: You were so nervous. I was thinking about what you said, that you were confused, that you didn’t know what to do…. All these, I kept in my heart…. now what, have you found what you wanted?
Jesus: John helped me see things clearly. Do you know something, Mother? I was baptized in the Jordan… It was… It was something great. I have lots of stories to tell you… I also stayed in the desert….
Mary: You were in the desert? But, what did you do there?… Oh, my dear son, that explains why you lost weight… They say that only beetles can stand the heat of the desert sun…
Jesus: Bah, that’s not true. I found a place where I meditated a lot… Mother, can you imagine how it would be to tell the poor that God is offering us his Kingdom, to proclaim to the unfortunate ones who weep in our land that they shall all be comforted soon? Can you imagine what it would be to fight for justice, knowing that God is our leader and is side by side with us?
Mary: That would be great, Jesus, very great!… There wouldn’t be enough wine in Cana with which to celebrate that day… Your joy is contagious… But, look, son, you must put your two feet on the ground… That day will come, but not for us to see…. It will take a long, long time…
Jesus: John says that the Liberator of Israel is coming soon.
Mary: Yes, and the zealots say so, too, and he will cut the necks of all the Romans. Watch your tongue, son. There are more soldiers now in Galilee than you can imagine. With the prophet’s imprisonment, they are afraid that people may retaliate, so everyone is being watched.
Jesus: Look who is coming… Your close pal, Susana.
Susana: Where is this moreno who just got back from the Jordan?… Hey, young man, I missed you! Your mother and I were scared to death when we learned about John. They say they dragged him out from the river like a wild beast…. Now, what is to become of this country?
Jesus: Take it easy, Susana. You don’t have to be that scared…. No one, not even Herod, can silence the prophets. We must continue shouting, with the voice of John.
Susana: See what I told you, Mary. See what has become of him…. a revolutionary… he even challenges King Herod!
Jesus: Easy, Susana, easy. Why don’t you try this wine a little, and see how it will make you happy…
Susana: Tell us, Jesus, what happened in the Jordan? Tell us what you saw there…
Jesus: Great things. It’s been a long time since the truth has been spoken in Israel, a long, long time during which Israel has not looked up to heaven with much hope.
Susana: And what must come from heaven to make us look up to it? Young man, we must look on earth, for it is this land that Herod and Pilate are lording over. They are going to kill John, the prophet, and if you get involved with these troublemakers, they will kill you too.
Mary: Well, let us forget about it now, Susana… Today is a joyful day. Let us rejoice now and do not dampen this party with….
Susana: Now, now, Mary, don’t get me wrong. Remember how you ate your heart out when you learned about John…Not for anything, young man. Why shouldn’t we worry?… We remembered your father, Joseph… and how he was beaten, oh God!…. all because of having defended those who had escaped and gone into hiding…
Jesus: My father was a just man who did not run away when the time came. I am proud of him, and so is the Lord…. You know what it would mean, Susana to be announcing to the four corners of Galilee, that he and all those who died for the sake of justice are the very ones paving the way for the Kingdom of God?
Susana: Oh, my son, he who shouts gets killed! Also don’t scream too much, Moreno. Don’t poke your nose into other people’s lives. Get to work and be calm… this is what God wants – peace and tranquility.
Jesus: Or better, this is what some people want, that we continue in our slumber, like Noah inside his tent, leaving us stark naked.
Susana: Don’t talk that way, Jesus. Mary, you better advise this young man. He might give you trouble someday, what with having so much politics on his mind. Listen to me, Moreno, get rid of those strange ideas and concentrate peacefully on your hammer and nails. Learn from the example of your father Joseph.
Jesus: Not again. You don’t seem to know my father. Do you remember when Boliche and he went to Nain to protest the price of flour? …Who rose to his feet in the synagogue when this skunk, Ananias, wanted to claim all the lands of Balthazar?
Susana: But that happened a long, long time ago….
Jesus: That’s right, but people have not forgotten….
Susana: I didn’t say that people have forgotten…
Mary: Well, well, enough of these discussions. You’re like cats and dogs…. Hey, where is the jug?…
Jesus: Come on, Susana, take some more wine and all your fears will be gone…
Susana: Say, Mary, is this the wine that you bought from Cana?
Mary: Exactly. They sell it very cheap there, and it is very good.
Jesus: If you wish, I can bring you some more liters of wine when I pass by the place….
Mary: Will you journey to Cana, Jesus?
Jesus: Yes. In a few days, I’d like to go to Capernaum. I will pass by Cana.
Mary: But there’s work waiting for you here. I have three pending errands for you. Do you know that the Roman soldier came back and ordered more horseshoes?
Jesus: Do you mean to say that they liked my work?… Well, that means we shall have more dinars to buy lentils and oil.
Mary: You must do them soon…
Jesus: Sure, I will. Say, I met some friends from Capernaum near the Jordan. These are fishermen from the lake and we got along very well. I would like to see them again…..
Susana: Could Simon be one of them, the one they call Peter?
Jesus: Yes, he is one of them. Do you know him, Susana?
Susana: Why, of course! He is the son of the old Jonas. I am even a distant relative of his mother, may she rest in peace. As a little boy, he was already quarrelsome!
Jesus: This Peter is okay, just like his brother.
Susana: They call him the skinny Andrew….
Jesus: That’s right.
Mary: Were there many people by the Jordan, Jesus? Tell us more about it….
Jesus: The place was like an anthill. It was swarming with people. The river was filled with people, men and women who were full of hope, wishing for change in our land. I too, believe that there can be change in this country, but we should make it happen!
Mary: I am happy to see you so contented, Jesus. Don’t you think he looks good, Susana?
Susana: I would say that the steam has got into his head, and…
Jesus: Come on, Susana, let’s not talk about it. Sit down here for I have so many stories to tell about my trip….
Susana: Wait, Moreno, I’ll go run and tell Simeon and old Sarah…. Naphtali too, and the children.
Jesus: Yes, tell everyone to come.
The whole neighborhood gathered in Mary’s house to hear the news about the prophet, John… Jesus had lived in Nazareth for about thirty years in the company of his townmates, doing some carpentry, iron works, tilling the land, and everything. For him, the time had come to clear the furrows for the Kingdom of God in Capernaum, along the lake of Galilee. That spring morning, everything seemed new. The grain promised to yield bread, and the trees, fruit. A great hope was awaiting Israel.
One day, Jesus left Nazareth, his hometown, and lived in Capernaum, a city by the lake. During that time, it was a big and significant city. Although Capernaum was not too distant from Nazareth (about 45 kilometers), the decision entailed a gesture of farewell to his mother and his townmates. This moment, which was Jesus’ initiation to “public life,” is traditionally a topic of reflection for all Christians. Everyone making a decision must say goodbye and give up something. A vocation of service always signifies some form of sacrifice. It is the price of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus shared with his mother his experiences in the Jordan while listening to the Baptizer and being alone in the desert. Mary, like Jesus, was growing in her faith, her understanding of Jesus’ vocation, and her acceptance of the mission that God destined for her son. For her, this process meant uncertainties, sufferings, fears, anxieties and insecurities, just as it has for many mothers who share with their sons’ commitment to fight for justice at the risk of their own lives.
The gospel hardly mentions Joseph as a “just man” (Mt 1:19). On the basis of this very simple yet profound phrase, it is good to reconstruct Joseph’s image that will serve as a model for Christians not only of honesty but also of commitment, courage, dissent, and in other words everything that would mean being a just man. This exemplary life was the best legacy of Joseph to Jesus. He witnessed how his father sided with the needy and participated when necessary. There is no historical nor theological basis for presenting to us an image of Mary’s spouse as an old, passive man who was resigned and totally lacking in dynamism.