124- The Great Sabbath

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The first morning lights hanging on a narrow window slowly woke us up. That Saturday, the day following Jesus’ death, was a day of rest and a grand holiday in Jerusalem and in all the land. Since the afternoon of the previous day, the eleven of us and the women were hidden in the basement of the house of Mark, who was Peter’s friend. We were all hoping to return to Galilee. Our eyes, heavy from a terrible night and so much weeping, had soon become used to the darkness of our hiding place, where the old wine-presses and some barrels of oil were kept…

Peter: It must be morning now, buddies…

John: Did you get some sleep, Mary…?

Mary: Just a little… but…

Magdalene: C’mon, lie down again and get some more rest… Susana and Salome are preparing something warm for us… We’ve got some olives and loaves of bread… Just relax…

Soon my mother and Susana brought a bowl of soup and a handful of olives… We sat down to eat in silence and with little appetite. The sadness of what we had lived the day before hovered over us like a heavy cloud….

John: Mark was here a while ago, when it was still dark… He left again… but he’ll be back at noon to bring some food…

Susana: He’d better… knowing how hungry we are… Hey, Mary, eat some more bread…

Mary: No, Susana, I can’t…

James: Any news in the city…?

John: They…er… they’ve found Judas… hanging…

Peter: What did you say, John? Where?

John: In Gethsemane… where we had been last Thursday evening… He hanged himself from an olive tree…

Magdalene: Oh my God, what’s all this about?! A nightmare? Damned city! I swear by my dead ones that never again shall I set foot in this city of the devil for the rest of my life!

John: Cool it, Magdalene… It’s no good to make such blabber…

Andrew: Poor Judas… he was a good fellow…

James: No use to regret, Andrew… He was the culprit of all this.

Andrew: Really, James?… He was a crazy man who allowed himself to be used, only God knows why… but he wasn’t the only one to blame for this…

John: We already know who the culprits were… May we all be confounded, damn!

Peter: That’s right, red head… With Judas, we could have ended up understanding each other… He was one of us… but the group from the Sanhedrin and the Roman dogs…. But why didn’t we do anything, why did we behave like we were imbeciles, with all our arms akimbo…? And I was the first to act like one, yes, yes… don’t look at me… but I was the first to act like a fool… Damn it, we’re simply a bunch of good for nothing fellows. We’re nothing but scum…!

Nathanael: Let’s not talk about it anymore, Peter… What for? It’s all over…

The incessant rain of Friday caused a little flood to the small terrace facing our hiding place. Since that night, the dripping waters had formed into pools on the ground…

Susana: Why don’t we all pray, huh? Prayers are good in terrible moments like this… Let’s ask the Lord for better days ahead… What do you think?… Mary, do you want to begin?

Mary lifted her face, which seemed to have aged from pain, and looked at Susana with her weary eyes….

Mary: No, you do it… We will follow…

Susana: Well, then… “God, at daytime we seek your help and at night we invoke you… Come to our aid….”

Some: Come to our aid, for we are calling you…

Susana: I’m waiting for you, Lord, please answer me…

Some: I trust in you, Lord, please answer me…

Susana: You are my God, I seek you, help me, for my enemies… have set a trap for me…

We found it difficult to pray. The words did not come out from our lips, even when they were uttered. They were empty and without meaning. On the floor were the half-filled jugs, and we had barely eaten the pieces of bread…

John: Mark says he’ll come for us tomorrow at dawn, so that we can go back to Galilee through the coastal road… He knows the road very well, so we shall have less problems… Besides, since a number of pilgrims are going back to the north on Sunday, then we can conceal ourselves better…

Matthew: Won’t it be risky…? Maybe it’s better to wait for a few days more…

John: No, Matthew, it’s more dangerous for us to stay here… At this time, they’re probably looking for us…

Philip: Bah, what more do they want to get from a bunch of cowards like us?

John: To finish off the group, Philip….

James: There’s nothing to finish off, John… The group is no more…

Peter: Is that right, red head? And where did you get such an idea? Do you think we can’t go on doing things together?

James: What things are you talking about, Peter? Tell me…? Now everyone is going his own way….

Peter: This can’t be… We must continue what Jesus had started….

James: Well, why don’t you just go back to your stone-throwing job like before… and continue boasting around… let’s see if this will bring you somewhere…

Peter: Hey, look who’s talking, huh?… And what are you, huh?

James: Bah, Peter, you’re a barking dog that never bites…

Peter: Oh, yeah? You talk as if you’d done something to save Jesus… Yeah, you were hiding through all nooks and corners…

James: Yeah, fine, but… at least…

Peter: At least, what?… C’mon, say it, say it once and for all… Damn you, James! It’s always the same…. Yes, fine, I was a coward! I denied having known him! But, what would you have done if a sword had been aimed at you and…?

Susana: For God’s sake, for God’s sake, will you shut up…. Do you really have to fight today? Can you just keep quiet, out of respect for Jesus, may he rest in peace!

Mary looking blankly beyond those four dirty walls, heard us and she continued weeping in silence. She was inconsolable. She was distraught… Seeing her, all the tears that I had tried to contain the previous day flowed from my eyes….

Philip: Hey, John, man, don’t cry… Just think that in a few days we’ll be at the lake once again, far from all this hassle…

John: That’s why I’m crying, Philip. It’s because of that….

Susana: It’s okay, son. Let him pour it out…

John: I can’t believe we’ll be casting nets again, going fishing again, then to the tavern… and that Jesus… as if nothing had happened… as if everything had been a dream…

Philip: And it was, for me, it was… Wasn’t it a dream to believe that the Kingdom of God was near, and that we, a bunch of hungry rascals, were pushing it…? This will be the first and the last time they’ll get me for the same stuff….

Susana: Life is like this, it’s just like this… It’s more bitter than an almond before it ripens….

Thomas: Why do g..g..good men always end up like this?

Andrew: It’s not yet over, Thomas… Jesus can’t be finished…. It’ll be difficult for the people to forget the Moreno…

Susana: Son, everything will be forgotten with time… Time takes care of putting everything into oblivion….

Peter: But Susana, it can’t be the same with Jesus… He was… different… a great man, this son of yours, Mary… The best friend I ever had in all my life…

James: Do you remember when we met him at the Jordan, Peter? That was the time of John the baptizer…?

Andrew: Of course, James. I’ll never forget that…

Philip: And you, Nat…? We walked with him from Magdala to the river… He was a great talker… He was always tellings jokes and stories… That’s why the people understood so well… Who would ever think he would end up this way…?

Matthew: But Jesus had sensed it… That night, when we were in Caesarea, on our way to the North…. He was already having some premonition… And when we came to Jerusalem….

Susana: We shouldn’t have come….

John: The Moreno was a courageous man. Yesterday, I heard one of the soldiers… He was beaten up in jail, you saw how he was, but not a word from him….

Peter: And the truth about this thief Annas, he told it to his face… And according to this friend of yours, John, this old cheat was there when the devils took Jesus away…

Andrew: He did the same to Pilate and Caiphas… he told them what had to be said… That was what we had planned, do you remember?… After the incident at the Temple, we’re supposed to confront the rich of Jerusalem, to expose their crimes to their faces… Jesus complied with the plan… only he, did…

John: The Moreno did not yield, up to his last… They tore him to pieces, yes, but they did not bend him…

Mary: But why, my God, why? Why didn’t you save him from death. Why?…

Mary, who until that moment, just listened to us in silence, drowning herself in tears and sorrow, began to weep like a river that had overflowed. Her forehead almost touched the ground, her hands covering her face. Susana and my mother were supporting her…

Mary: Why, my God? He was a good man… He didn’t have to die… I needed him…. The poor of this country needed him… Why, oh why?… He didn’t deserve such a horrible death… Why did he have to end up this way?… With so much death, Oh, God, so many abuses, so many crimes by those people… Why did they win? They must be rejoicing by now, and my son is dead… Until when, oh God, until when will you allow the unjust to get away with their sins…. Until when…?

Susana: Come now, Mary, easy… Bring her some water, Magdalene… C’mon, c’mon….

Exhausted, Mary rested her head on my back, shut her eyes and her memory went back to the previous day, to the dead and bloody face of Jesus whom she would never see again…

James: Do you think the people from Capernaum know what had happened…?

John: There’s no time, James…

Matthew: Don’t be so sure. News spread faster than fire…

Thomas: Y…y…you’re right…

Peter: The moment they find out in Capernaum…

Philip: Nothing will happen, Peter, nothing… The people won’t do anything… We, the poor are so used to drowning our tears…

Magdalene: This is precisely what we’ve got to do. We stop weeping and go on… I’m not saying this because of you, Mary. You’ve got all the right, more than anyone else, to cry all you want… But I believe that, if Jesus were alive, he wouldn’t want to see us like this, looking forlorn and whimpering… something must be done… we’ve got to go on fighting…!

James: Stop that yelling, Magdalene! What do you want? Do you want to get caught?

Magdalene: I don’t care anymore, whether they catch me or even kill me! He died for a worthy cause…! And if only for this, they can kill me if they want…! I don’t give a damn anymore!

Susana: My child, what’re we going to do now…? Everything is over… Tomorrow, we wash his body as God wants us to do, then put some perfume on him…. Then, we all go back to Galilee… May God help us all! There’s nothing else we can do, young woman, nothing we can do…

The long hours we had spent during the Great Sabbath, were like long years spent in hiding in the basement of Mark’s house. We stayed there together, sometimes in silence, other times, weeping, remembering every word and gesture of Jesus, who was reunited with his people, in the silent kingdom of the dead….

*Comments*
Our faith tells us that Jesus’ death was not the end of his life, but that it was the coronation of his activity and the road to his glorification. Through the cross, he passed from death to life and by resurrecting him, God made of that peasant who was killed by the Roman empire and by the religious institution, the Lord of history and the hope of all. But neither his disciples nor his mother, Mary, knew about this. For them, what happened was the end of all their hopes and the failure of the plan of the Kingdom of God, for which they had worked with Jesus for several months.

The apostles never thought nor did they imagine that Jesus would resurrect. Proof of this was the fear they felt and their desire to flee to Galilee to start life anew in their region, without worrying anymore about the Kingdom. With Jesus’ death, they thought everything had ended.

Sometimes, in a simplistic manner it is affirmed that Jesus had announced his resurrection, that he knew about it, but that his disciples would not believe him until they saw with their own eyes. Thus, the three predictions in the gospels (Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19) made by Jesus about his death stand out. Jesus, who was constantly threatened and persecuted during all his life by the authorities, had to expect a violent death, that his fate could never be different from that of the prophets: that of persecution and death. But this is no reason for us to say that they are seers, but that they simply are aware of the risks they run into, because of their honesty and courage. In these predictions of the passion of Jesus, there is reference to a period of “three days,” after which “he will resurrect.” By writing it this way, the evangelists are interpreting the events after they have taken place, after they experienced the new life of Jesus. That is why they put these words in his mouth, thus giving a complete idea of what really had happened, of everything that was to take place.

On the other hand, we must realize that in Aramaic, “three days” means “soon,” “in a short time.” In languages like Aramaic, there is no word equivalent to “various,” “a couple,” “some.” The lack of these words was often supplemented by the phrase “three days.” This phrase, “on the third day, he will resurrect,” which the evangelists had put in Jesus’ mouth, must be read as: “in a short time the Kingdom will come.” For Jesus, this coming was at hand, it was something imminent. But he could not count on an individual or immediate resurrection.

In this episode, despair dominates the whole scene. There is fear, too, as well as deceit, pessimism, wonderful memories of Jesus, and also the impossibility of finding a way to continue his work; confusion, etc… These are feelings born out of despair, of lack of hope. In order to show, liturgically, this emptiness created by Jesus’ death, “Holy Saturday” is never celebrated in any of the Christian temples or gatherings. There is no eucharistic celebration, there is no assembly. It is a way of symbolizing the void that Mary, the women and the apostles felt during that Saturday in Jerusalem, when Jesus had just been buried.

No word suffices upon the death of our loved ones. It is difficult to find consolation in prayer or in what our faith teaches us. Only one question matters: Shall we see our beloved dead again? Shall we meet each other again? The name that we wish to find in God at the threshold of death is the name of a God who saves life. Only in a God who resurrects our dead, who allows us to embrace them once again, can we find solace for our sorrows. (Lk 24:1)

124- The Great Sabbath

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