In the early morning of the next day, after that scuffle in Nazareth, Jesus and I traveled north to Capernaum. Soon the heat of the sun began to pervade the Galilean plains, made golden by the ripe wheat grain, promising an abundant harvest…. There was a cheerful air in the field…. We, too, were happy, in spite of the blows we received the day before….
John: I can’t help but laugh every time I remember… When that old man, Ananias, raised his cane…. he was furious…. He was red like… like….
Jesus: Like your nose, John, which is as red as a tomato.
John: The truth is, and this isn’t because they’re neighbors or relatives of yours, Jesus, they’re an impossible lot, and damn them!… They’re all also starving like us. You tell them about the Year of Grace and the liberation for all, and instead of being happy about it, they kick you in the ass… not even the devil can understand them!
Jesus: The laws of Moses are antiquated, John, but since they were never complied with, they look new. New wine bursts the skins. And that is what happens. Of course, they will always tell us that some have more and others less, because that is life, and that is how God wants it. We ought to have more patience…. And, then somebody suddenly shouts no, because if all the laws of God were complied with, and the world would be available for everyone, the same poor people would be shocked and couldn’t stand it. Well, they also claim that our grandparents complained to Moses, dreaming of eating the garlic and onions of Eygpt!
John : Hey, Moreno, don’t talk to me about food at this moment, because my belly’s rumbling…. We better walk fast so we can get there in time for the soup!
Although tired and beaten, the road seemed short. We were dying to tell our companions everything that happened in Nazareth… After crossing the valley for several hours it was already noontime, and the palm trees of Capernaum were already within our sight…
Zebedee: Look who’s coming, the rascals!… Just in time!
John: We’re back, old man!
Jesus: How’s life around here, Zebedee?
Zebedee: Very well, a lot better than yours, I guess. Here, we were already thinking that the soldiers laid their hands on you!
John: Not the soldiers, but the neighbors of this Moreno, who’re more hostile than a bitch giving birth!
Zebedee: Salome, leave that stove and come over here fast; your son and the Nazarene are back!…. And how’re things in your town, Jesus?
Jesus: Oh, there… the same thing that happened to King Neco, who went for wool, but came out sheared himself!
Salome: Oh, John, my son… and you too, Jesus…. Tell me, what happened to you? You seem to have come from battle.
John: ’Twas a mauling session, Mother. In Nazareth, they gave us a good beating…!
Salome: Really? And may I know why?
John: For no reason at all, Mother… The truth is, we….
Salome: Hum!… It must be something serious, I must say…
Jesus: They invited us to speak, Mam, ….and we did.
Zebedee: And what the hell did you say?
Jesus: Nothing. That the reason why there’s poor people is because there are rich people, and that the poor’ll only go up if the rich go down.
Salome: And you claim you said nothing. Have you ever seen a more vicious tongue than yours, Nazarene?…
Jesus: But that was what Isaiah and Jeremiah, Amos and Hosea and the rest of the prophets announced…
Salome: Like I told you, Zebedee. Anytime, this guy will simply get himself killed…. And look at this son of yours… Look what’s happened to your nose, John…
John: Don’t worry, Mother, it doesn’t hurt anymore…
Jesus: They hurled a sandal at us, Mam Salome… I bent over just in time, while this poor guy nearly swallowed it!
Salome: Praise be the Lord! Let me get a piece of raw meat, it’ll help reduce the swelling!
Zebedee: I hope it’s not the slice that I’ll have to eat later, woman!
Salome: C’mon inside. Better wash your feet, so we can cure those welts…
Zebedee: Then you can tell us about the squabble in your village!… Damn! Had I known it, I would’ve gone with you!
That night, we got together to talk about the usual thousand things… It was not only our group that was present. The news that Jesus had returned spread through the whole village, and some fishermen and other neighbors from the market slipped into the house….
James: So, what now, Jesus. Are you going to stay here for good?
Jesus: Well, if you don’t kick me out, can I stay?
Zebedee: I think the Moreno likes it here!…
Jesus: It isn’t that, Zebedee. In Nazareth there’s less work and….
Ruffa: Poor guys!
Salome: Don’t feel bad for them, Ruffa. After all, who told them to get themselves into trouble, huh? Serves ’em right!
Peter: But Salome, you heard your son… Jesus and he didn’t do anything…
Salome: You too, shut up, Peter, for not one of you’s an angel!…. Tell me folks, who among you would speak before so many people in a synagogue saying that this world is topsy-turvy and must be set right.
Jesus: And how do you suppose you’d say it, Salome?
Salome: You don’t have to say it. It can’t be said, Jesus, because in this country, they put a muzzle on whoever talks a lot!
John: Oh, yeah? In other words, we just let them do their thing, while we relegate ourselves into a corner, like a dust bin?
Salome: And what do you want to do, John? For this world to exist, there must be the poor and the rich. Even the rabbi says that in the synagogue!
Peter: No, Mam, not necessarily so. That’s the story they forced down our throats to silence us. Yes, and don’t tell me you’re shocked. Okay, what did the law of Moses say? For every fifty years, a year of truce. Tear up those property titles, write off those debts, set the slaves free…. Let’s begin anew, the way it was at the start. Everything belongs to everyone and to no one. That was the year of Grace that Moses wanted, do you hear? ….the year of Grace…!
Salome: Well, that’s funny….! Look, Peter, don’t you believe it, ever since Eve ate that forbidden fruit, things have been that way and will continue to be so. That’s the only thing I’m aware of.
James: I know it’s very convenient to say that. Of course, it’s easier to complain about the darkness than light a candle. And that’s what happens.
Salome: That’s not so. The truth is, there’s a certain restlessness in your being, which I can’t figure out, and I’m not happy about it. This feverish feeling has grown ever since this Nazarene came around… Yes, yes, and don’t put on that face, Jesus, for you know damn well it’s true…. Look, guys, listen to me, forget about these crazy ideas for now. If this time they just punched your noses, next time around they’re gonna break all your bones!
Jesus: As John was telling you before, the wine is new…
Salome: What wine are you talkin’ about, you fool?
Jesus: The Kingdom of God, Salome. He’s talking about the Kingdom of God that’s come, and will burst the old wineskins!
The moon shone during the night, as the south wind began to blow… Eyes sparkled with curiosity as they were illuminated by the flickering light from the lamps hanging on the wall… Jesus was sitting on the floor, with crossed legs, in the middle of the group. He was perspiring, but smiling.
Jesus: Friends, in spite of the beatings we got, John and I were very happy when we left Nazareth. We have this great feeling inside and don’t like to keep it to ourselves. It’s the good news that the prophet Isaiah wrote about, many years ago, and which we read about in my village and is now being fulfilled. The Kingdom of God has come! Yes, my brothers and sisters, the time has come. When the time comes for the sheep to rear its young, then the lamb is born, and she can’t wait, for it is time. This is the time of the Lord, who can’t wait. Small group though we are, God’s gonna show us the way and we’ll move on if we can push one another onward!
Peter: That’s well said! You have my support, Jesus!
James: That’s the way to talk, Moreno!
Salome: Just a minute, just a minute, you crazy bunch! The flute sounds beautiful, alright. All that’s fine. And I’ll be the first to lend a hand, if need be, in a fight. I’m well trained for this, what with all the blows I’ve had to give my rogue husband!…
Zebedee: Hey, hey, now what are you saying…
Salome: Nothing, old man, but one has to put feet on the ground. Who’s gonna set this world aright?… You?… You, with a hole in each sandal and two patches on your trousers?… Come on, don’t aim so high ’cuz you don’t know the consequences…!
Peter: Well, Mam, one should start with something, isn’t it?
Salome: Sure, by staying put, for God’s sake, without interfering in places you’re not needed!
Zebedee: You’re wrong, old woman. These young men are right. We spend the whole day and half of the night complaining that things are going from bad to worse, and we don’t lift a finger to improve them. Now, what does that lead to?
Salome: But, God, you gotta open your eyes, for you could end up in the grave. Since when have you seen a dove challenging an eagle?… Tell me… Put that in your head, young men!
Philip: Well, at least, I’ve done that already.
Philip, the vendor, who had been quiet all along, scratched his huge head, and looked at everyone, as if predicting a bad omen…
Philip: I don’t intend to sink the boat, but in all sincerity, Mam Salome is right. What the devil can we do, being the last in line? I think the best thing that we can do is forget all about this, and go back home. So, if there’s nothing else….
Jesus: Hold it, Philip, don’t leave yet… Come here, big head….
Philip: What do you want now, Jesus?
Jesus: Tell me one small thing…
Philip: Enough of those stories of yours, Moreno, we already know each other….
Jesus: No, Philip, just name me one small thing…
Philip: Oh, well, …let me see… a comb…..
Jesus: No, something smaller…
Philip: Smaller than a comb?… well, what do I know… a ring.
Jesus: Smaller, still….
Philip: Let me see… a pin! That’s the smallest I have in my cart.
Jesus: That’s still very big, Philip. Think of something as big as the size of the pin’s head… What’s that smallest thing a peasant can hold in his hand?….
Philip: The smallest….
Ruffa: A mustard seed!
Jesus: That’s it, exactly, Gran’ma Ruffa. A mustard seed.
Ruffa: That was very easy to guess, Jesus. The mustard seed is so small, it can hardly be seen….
Jesus: However, when it falls to the ground and takes root, it grows into a big tree, as tall as the height of two men… It is such a big tree that the birds come looking for rest and food…
Salome: I see your point, Moreno…. A small group and yet, it can accomplish great things…
Jesus: Yes, Salome. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
Peter: Very well said! And we are the sowers, ready for anything! The cowards, like Philip, should stay for awhile, blazes!… ’cuz we’re already a small group!
We continued talking and arguing up to the wee hours of the evening. Outside, the wind stirred the waters on the lake and shook the dried leaves of the mustard trees that grew along the shore….
After that failure in Nazareth. Jesus undertakes his activity in Capernaum, in the small house of the old man, Zebedee, in the company of the group of first disciples and the residents of the village. He tells them the parable of the mustard seed. It is a story typical of the beginnings of Jesus’ activities in Galilee. It is a classic parable of contrast: The beginning is small, insignificant; the end, a beautiful bush will be the marvelous result of what God has in His hands.
The mustard is a plant that grows wild in Palestine. Along the lakeshore, it grows as high as three meters tall. That image of a tree that serves as a resting place for the birds and provides shade to whoever goes near is a symbol of God’s kindness and generosity (Ezk 17:22-24). In the old sayings of the Jewish rabbis, the mustard seed was considered the smallest of seeds. Although it is no more than a bush, Jesus calls it a tree, an exaggeration, to emphasize how God’s plans surpass ours, take us by surprise, much more than we can imagine. When we undertake a difficult and risky project, and for our part put in all we can, God enriches and makes what is great out of the smallest. The Kingdom of God is born of anything small, among the poor and with them, God forms his community. This community is a call to lead in the truly important events of history.
The Kingdom of God is new wine. Jesus proposes this idea in the beginning of his activity as the fulfillment of the social laws during the time of Moses. Those laws – the Year of Grace being one of them – focused on equality, the overcoming of social classes, the avoidance of accumulation of wealth by a few at the expense of those who were starving to death. These were old laws that turned out to be new since they had never been complied with. In Jesus’ time, differences among the Israelites were still being ignored.
The existence of social classes, the rich and the poor, for many, is “God’s will,” a “fate,” a natural event that defies change, an irremediable reality that can never be altered. This manner of thinking, like Salome’s, is common among the rich for it suits them to believe so. It is the same among the poor because the rich and their servers (the school, the false religion) have taught them this attitude of resignation, have made them believe that God wants it that way, and promises heaven in the other life if on earth they accept their misfortune. Nevertheless, “in the beginning this was not so; poverty and wealth came to people later” according to St. Gregory Nazianzen (Discourse 14 M.G. 35, 857-910). The Kingdom of God begins here on earth precisely when there exists no more differences among people, when the earth’s properties are distributed equally among us, when human beings are no longer considered rich nor poor. Instead, they are living as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, enjoying the same rights and the same opportunities.
(Mt 13:31-32; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13:18-19)