126- A Familiar Laughter

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James: But Mary, for God’s sake, how are we to believe such a thing?

Mary: Oh yes, it was he, I’m sure! How should I not recognize my son, Jesus?

Magdalene: And I saw him too, my golly!

Mark: What I see is that you two are even crazier than King Saul!

The sun of that first day of the week started to warm the roofings of the city of David and to paint the Oriental walls with golden color. Jerusalem was still sleeping, weary from the holiday spree and from having drunk too much wine, after the great feast of the Passover. We, who had been hiding in the dark basement of Mark’s house, were jolted by the women’s news that Jesus’ tomb was open and empty. To top it all, after Mary of Magdala came Mary, the mother of Jesus, claiming she had seen her son alive, and had talked to him…

James: Well, well, I’ve heard enough of your stories. We’ve got to leave for Galilee as soon as we can and there’s no time to lose.

Philip: I agree with James. So, get your cane and your sack and let’s get moving!

Peter: We can’t leave just like this, buddies, without knowing what has happened.

James: Nothing’s happened, Peter, don’t you understand? Are you telling me that you buy the stories of these two crazy women?

Magdalene: It was Jesus and nobody else! I saw him and talked to him!

Mark: Shut up, young woman! Shame on you, you’re like a parrot, always repeating the same thing!

Peter: Listen, buddies, whatever it is, we must look into this. John, come with me. First, we go to the tomb and see what the hell is happening. All of you, wait here. No one moves from here and don’t open the door for anyone, not even for the prophet Elijah, if he comes!… John, cover your head with a rag, so no one recognizes you…

John: Don’t be a coward, Peter. There’s no one in the street yet…

Peter: So what… After what had happened, I don’t trust even my own shadow anymore…. Hurry up!

Peter and I crossed the patio and headed for the solitary streets of Barrio Zion… Up ahead, at the back of the aqueduct, shone the white marbles of the Temple… Around it were piles of houses where thousands of pilgrims, with the holidays over, would start going back to their villages in the interior within a couple of hours…

John: Hey, Peter…

Peter: What is it, John?

John: Peter, do you think the… the…?

Peter: Nonsense, John. Who is to believe the stories of these women?

John: What if it were true…?

Peter: If it were true, if it were true! Ha!… If my mother-in-law too, had a wick on her head, she would be a candle!… No, John, if anyone dies, he dies. That is the only truth… Hey, let’s run, so we don’t lose time!

We started to run down the street. We passed through the plaza of the fruit vendors, through the marketplace, leaving behind us Herod’s palace. We crossed the first wall…

Peter: Hell, John, don’t run too fast, wait for me…!

I was always ahead of Peter. Without looking back, I crossed the gate of the Angle and headed for Golgotha. Behind that hill, round and bald like a skull, was the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea where we had placed the crushed body of Jesus last Friday, at nightfall…. The round stone door, which I myself had pushed, was now moved, as the women had claimed…. I peeped through, but didn’t dare enter alone through the dark and humid opening of the cave… In a few seconds, Peter came, gasping….

Peter: To hell with you, John, you run faster than a hare!

John: Psst…. Don’t shout…. Look, troublemaker…. The women were right…. The tomb is open….

Peter: That’s true… Who could’ve done it…?

John: There’s not a single soul around, not even the guards…

Peter: They must be still sleeping, drunk from yesterday’s feast…

John: What do you think, Peter?… Shall we go down…?

Peter: Pff…! I dunno…

Juan: Are you scared of the dead?

Peter: The dead, no, but the living… Hello!… Anyone down there?… Hear something, John?

John: Nothing.

Peter: Well, then… go down, John… I’ll wait for you here….

John: No, man, you first, Peter… I… I’ll be the rearguard…

Peter: Oh, yeah?… Fine… I’ll go ahead. But don’t stay far from me. Hold on fast to your dagger… just in case… Let’s go!

We groped through the humid steps of the tomb… The first rays of the sun timidly sneaked through and we saw that the cave was empty…

John: Look, Peter, the shroud and the sheets are here… but not the body…. Here, take a look…

Peter: Something fishy’s going on here…. What a big fool I am! Why didn’t I realize that at once?

John: Hey, what’s wrong? What’s the matter with you?

Peter: John, let’s get out of here fast!

John: Yeah, and better to inform the rest to come over and….

Peter: No, John! That’s exactly what these people want! The mouse is caught by baiting it with cheese. They have left the tomb empty… and this is a trap! They’re not interested in a dead man…. they’re after us, the living…. Don’t you see?

John: Do you think so, Peter?

Peter: I’m dead sure! This is a trap!… If we don’t get out of here fast, then we’ll be buried alive!… Hurry, John, let’s go!

Filled with fear, we crawled through the slippery steps and hurriedly left the cave….

Peter: Wait, John… don’t leave me alone here…!

John: I’ll see you in Mark’s house! Goodbye!

Peter: To hell with you, John…!

Without looking back, I ran as fast as I could, getting lost among the narrow streets of Jerusalem…. Peter was trailing behind, trying to overtake me, in vain…. Soon, I stopped running. I was tired. I continued walking slowly, waiting for Peter… While we were almost at the house, I felt him right behind me… He came like an arrow, unaware that he was overtaking me….

John: Hey, where have you been, troublemaker…? And whatever happened to the big nose?… Was he bitten by a bug or something? Peter, wait for me…!

I hastened my pace and in a couple of minutes, I was in the house. Peter, who had overtaken me at the last minute, was seated on the basement floor, panting and surrounded by the whole group. Susana and Salome were fanning him with a piece of rag…

James: Now, John, tell us what happened…

John: What do I know, James! I know nothing…!

Susana: Weren’t you with him, young man?

John: Well… Peter was left behind… then, he came speeding by, for reasons I’m not aware of…. I dunno what’s the matter with him…

Philip: Neither do we… but ever since he came, he hasn’t stopped laughing… something must be tickling him to the bones…

James: Damn you, Peter. It’s okay now!… C’mon, what’s the joke, huh?… What the hell has happened to you?

Peter: Buddies… listen… I… I thought it was an ambush… so we left hurriedly… John went ahead of me… I was behind him, as always, no matter how I try, this brute always beats me… Then I leaned against the wall of a house to catch my breath…. And there, breathless as I was, with my tongue sticking out, I turned my head and saw a man in the other street… he was kind of weird… and was looking at me….

Philip: Who was he, Peter?

Peter: How would I know, Philip?… I continued to walk, as if I had seen nothing… but I was all alert… and then, I felt his footsteps behind me… I quickened my pace, and he did the same… I reduced my speed and he did likewise… Damn it, he was trailing me!

Susana: So what did you do, Peter?

Peter: What did I do? When I got to the corner of the street, I turned at once, ran as fast as I could and sneaked through the first patio I saw… Psst! Then I hid behind some barrels and waited…. He walked past me…. I thought I had lost him… Then I tiptoed my way to the wall where I leaped quietly, and walked the opposite direction up to the street of the potters…. I looked from one side to the other… there was no one… So, I continued walking up to the corner where I was going to cross… then I felt a hand on my shoulder!… Holy God, all my hair stood on end…! There he was again, this fellow, right in front of me!

Mark: So what did you do?

Peter: What was I to do? I gave a leap but he had me cornered… I stepped back and glued myself against the wall like a slug… but the man was getting nearer and nearer… After swallowing hard, I asked: Who… who are you?… What do you want from me?… Then I could speak no more…. Now, I can’t help but laugh at it…. Ha, ha, ha…!

Reclining against the basement wall, Peter continued laughing…. All of us surrounded him, as we bit our nails, waiting for every word he would utter….

Susana: Give him room, damn… He needs some air…

Philip: Go ahead, Peter…

Peter: …Can you imagine this man getting too close and asking me: “And you, who are you?… What’re you doing here?” Then I realized he spoke like all of us, from the north… He was a Galilean… I thought he was one of Herod’s policemen, those who go under cover, you know….

James: Did he carry a sword?

Peter: No, but it seems I’ve heard his voice before,…

Susana: Finish it, man, you’re putting us all on tenterhooks!

Peter: That’s exactly what had happened to me! I was hoping somebody would pass by to give me assistance, but there wasn’t a single soul in the street. Then this man asked me again: “Who are you?” He was much closer now, and every time, I moved closer to the wall…. His eyes were fixed on me and he had a certain smile that terrified me no end…. Again he said: “You’re Peter, aren’t you, the troublemaker, as they say, the fisherman from Lake Tiberias?”…. Having said this, I got tongue-tied, my blood rushed to my feet, believe me, buddies, like what happened to Lot’s wife. He recognized me.

James: So, what did you say?

Peter: I told him: “No, no, no, I’m not that man you’re saying I am.” “Oh yeah, you are.” I said no, but he said yes. So I said: “Look, buddy, you’re mistaken, my name is Jullian, the potter, and I haven’t been in the sea.”

Mark: You’re a coward, Peter!

Peter: That’s exactly what he said: “You’re a coward, Peter!…” And he began to laugh! The more he laughed, the more horrified I became!

Susana: And so…?

Peter: I closed my eyes and pretended to be dead. But the man laughed and continued laughing… filling the entire street with his laughter… damn it… where did I hear that laughter before, where?… Suddenly, it dawned upon me…. Do you know who this man was before me?

All: Who was it, Peter?

Peter: Jesus! It was Jesus! Ha, ha, ha…!

James: What did you say…?

Peter: It was Jesus! That laughter belonged to the Moreno, and nobody else!

Mark: Oh, Peter, please…

Peter: Ha, ha… Yeah, it was his… And I asked: “Is that you, Moreno?…” He said: “Of course, Peter. Can’t you see? God always ends up winning. He always laughs last…” When he said this, I rubbed my eyes to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. I wasn’t, I was even more awake than Jeremiah when they stepped on his corn. So, that’s it, buddies. I came here running to tell you about it!

James: Open your mouth, Peter… c’mon… You’re drunk, Peter.

Peter: Who, me?… I haven’t even tasted a drop since Thursday!… No, no, it’s not that… Mary was right!… So was Magdalene! Ha, ha, hay…!

Magdalene: So, it’s all woman’s talk, right?

Philip: What’s all this nonsense? One scratches his back and all the rest follow!

Peter: So, you don’t believe me, huh? Do you think I’m out of my mind? Well I’m not, I’m very lucid and I’m not seeing visions! I’ve seen Jesus with my own two eyes!

Philip: Look, Peter, how can we believe such a crazy idea?

Peter: Ha, ha, ha…! Fine, I don’t give a damn. Don’t believe it, if you don’t want to… but I saw him!

Susana: Pour cold water on him, it might bring back his senses!

Peter: Ha, ha, hay…! Hot or cold, it doesn’t really matter! But I saw him!… It was Jesus!!… It was he!!! Ha, ha, hay!!!

James: Shut up, Peter, you’re waking up the whole city.

Peter: Well and good, so they will know!… But I saw him!… It was Jesus! It was he!…

Peter was acting crazy. He ran through the streets of Jerusalem to bring us the good news that Jesus was alive. And now, he was laughing incessantly, looking at everyone with a joyful glow in his eyes that we had never seen before…

How beautiful are the messenger’s feet standing on the mountains to bring peace.

He brings the good news,

and proclaims salvation.

He tells us: The Kingdom of God has come!…

Laugh and rejoice,

you forlorn of Jerusalem,

because the Lord has consoled your people.

He has freed them from bondage!

The idea that the Jewish leaders had stolen the cadaver of Jesus – the first interpretation offered by the group to the news brought in by the women when they saw the empty tomb – was perfectly logical. That Pilate had allowed a decent burial for a political criminal had surprised the Jewish authorities. That was something unusual. That is why, it would not be surprising that some of them should carry out the ultimate revenge by taking the corpse from the tomb to be thrown into the common pit, the ultimate destiny of the delinquents, according to the laws of the Sanhedrin.

*Comments*
Jesus’ appearance before Peter is solidly anchored on the most ancient Christian tradition, although in the gospel there is no account of such an encounter. Peter’s confession of faith (1 Cor 15:1-5) mentions it especially, and the first clamor of the Passover particularly highlights this act: the Lord has appeared to Simon! (Lk 24:34). This can offer us a clue to help us understand that the apparitions were not only the ones narrated in the gospel, but that with them is an attempt to summarize an experience of faith which certainly is extended through the passing of time. These accounts tell us in narrative form what is essential of the feelings among the disciples as a result of the resurrection: hope, surprise, disbelief, the overcoming of fear, the spirit of community, etc.

Jesus did not return to life in order to die again. His life now is definitive, new and whole. But this does not mean that there is a rupture between his life before death and his life now, as if one had nothing to do with the other. In the resurrected Jesus, there is a continuity between the past and the present. Because of his Passover, Jesus is not stripped of his previous human condition. Resurrected, he becomes the new man, with a human condition brought to its plenitude. In his new life, he assumes all his past history.

That is why Jesus continues to be a funny person, one who is fond of telling jokes, who keeps on making fun of Peter. He is the same, with the same laughter, just as when he was in Capernaum. The resurrection brings his life, his way of being to fullness. What is new is that this laughter will never end. Jesus’ laughter is a sign of God’s joy in forgiving, in uniting with the poor (Zep 3:17) and it is also a sign that God laughs at the unjust men plotting the death of people (Ps 2:4; 59:8-9; 37:12-13). He laughs at them because he knows they are not going to succeed, and that victory belongs to the humble. That is the resurrection of Jesus: a fruit of the definitive laughter with which humans will see the conclusion of history; a joyful message of God announcing this end, where we expect to laugh with him in his house, without fear of any failure.

If the whole gospel of Jesus is good news for now, for history, his resurrection also finds an echo in this society that we are building today. After the resurrection, those who pretended to be the judges became the culprits. The condemned was right after all, and consequently, those who dared commit the injustice were definitely condemned by God. The end shall be life. It will be by means of struggle and death, but the ultimate word shall be an enormous and endless laughter, of which the risen Jesus is the messenger (Is 52:7-9).

(Lk 24:12; Jn 20:3-10)

126- A Familiar Laughter

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