52- THE TEN DRACHMAS

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Peter: Get up, guys, it’s daytime already! Hummm… Hey, Philip, Thomas, Judas!… C‘mon, Nathanael, don’t hide under that mat!… And you, Jesus, stop pretending you’re asleep, ’cuz I know your ol’ tricks already!… Up, up, everybody, and double time!

James: Damn you, Peter, you never let anyone sleep! At night, you’re even worse than a pig when you snore, and now you get up ahead of the cocks!

Peter: Stop grumbling, red hair, and get up now!

Peter woke us up when it was hardly dawn, while there were still a few stars roaming the sky. Grudgingly, we lazily stretched our limbs, then headed for the fountain at the corner of the yard, so that we could freshen up. Although it was still early, Lazarus’ inn at Bethany was already bustling with hundreds of pilgrims… As we left the yard, we passed through the inn’s kitchen. There was Martha, Lazarus’ sister…

Martha: Good morning, boys! So, did you sleep well last night?

Peter: Very well, madame! Now, we’re a little bit hungry… or better, we’re starved….!

Martha: Well, why don’t you get yourselves a handful of dates from that barrel? That’s precisely why they’re there, to appease a grumbling stomach…

Lazarus: Uff… This Dorothy gives more milk than the late Ingrid who fed all the children of Bethany…. Here, take it, Martha…. How are you, my friends? Do you want to try this milk? It’s still warm and creamy! There’s nothing better than goat’s milk. God bless her teats!

Peter: And our bellies! Yeah, why don’t you serve us some so we can try.

Martha: Serve them yourself, Lazarus, ’cuz I gotta get the bread ready. It’s getting late and I haven’t kneaded the flour yet…

Lazarus filled a pot with milk and gave it to us. The fresh goat’s milk passed from one mouth to another amid words of admiration… Meanwhile, Martha, with her striped sleeves rolled up, kneaded the bread, sinking her agile fingers into the flour. When the last of the thirteen guys raised the pot of milk, licking it with relish, Mary, Lazarus’ other sister, appeared in the kitchen, with tears coming down her eyes…

Mary: Lazarus! Martha!… Ay, ay, ay… ay! Oh, you won’t believe what just happened to me!

Lazarus: But is this the time for waking up, silly girl? Oh God, of hea¬ven, why did you give me such a sister! You overslept again, didn’t you?

Mary: Oh no, Lazarus. I was awake at the first cock crow and I started to work… But… you know how hard work brings bad luck… Oh!

Martha: What’s happened, Mary? Tell us!

Mary: Martha, help me look for it… I can’t find it anywhere… Oh!

Lazarus: What the hell are you missing?

Mary: One of my drachmas, one of my ten coins… I was bringing in fuel for the kitchen stove when I found out… I only have nine of them! I’m missing one of my coins!

In our town, the women would hang from their ears or on the tip of their scarf in front, ten coins, a remembrance of the dowry given to them by their parents on their wedding day. For all the women of Israel, those coins were of great value. Some, like Mary, from Bethany, never parted with them, even when sleeping.

Lazarus: Don’t cry anymore, woman, you’ll find it again…

Mary: I must have dropped it while gathering firewood from the woodshed… which is too dark… one hardly sees anything… Oh dear! What a misfortune, what bad luck!

Lazarus: What a pain in the butt you are!… When you’re happy, you’re like a whirlwind and when you’re sad, you’re like an earthquake… I don’t know which is worse.

Martha: Stop crying now, Mary… Later, we’ll sweep that corner and you’ll find that lost coin of yours… But first, let me finish with this flour. I’ve already put the yeast…

Mary: Oh my money!…. Oh my money!

When we left the inn, Mary was still weeping disconsolately over her lost drachma, while Martha was kneading the bread. We crossed the Mountain of Olives and entered the great city of Jerusalem, which as always, was bursting with people…

Peter: There are no more olives, fellas!…. Here goes the last one!

James: But there’s still some wine to last us for a while!… Well, unless this drunk, Matthew, finishes it off in just one gulp…!

Matthew: Will you mind your own business and leave me in peace!

Nathanael: Let’s buy some more olives… or cheese, perhaps…

Peter: Of course, Nata. C’mon, loosen up your pockets… and give your share!

At noontime, we went inside a tavern in the fullers’ street, to have lunch. The days in Jerusalem were passing rapidly, and we had a few days left before going back to Capernaum… Besides, we had little money left…

Peter: How ‘bout you, Philip…?

Philip: What d’ya mean?

Peter: Let go of your money… C’mon, don’t turn your face aside… Don’t you feel hungry at all?

Philip: Yes, but…

Matthew: But as always, you haven’t got any coppers to share, is that right?

Philip: Well, the truth is, yesterday, there was a rogue who held me up in the street and took away the little money I had… Damn, if I could only grab him by the neck…!

Jesus: Oh, a rogue, really, huh? What number did you bet on, Philip? C’mon, tell us the truth….

James: It’s even worse than that, Jesus. Do you know what happened to this fat head? Seeing how stupid he was, they lured him into this doves competition in the square…!

Nathanael: How is it possible, Philip? Even nursing children know it’s all a hoax!

Philip: Well, they told me I was going to win a fortune…

James: And they stripped you naked of your money instead!

Nathanael: Don’t you come to me and ask for even a single centavo, do you hear? I don’t feed stupid people like you!

Philip: What do I do now, Nata!

Matthew: Why don’t you look for that coin Mary lost? At least you would have something for tomorrow’s breakfast!

Philip: Hey, don’t talk to me about that fool! Yesterday she made a big fuss about a rat and now, her coins. I don’t know how this cross-eyed woman manages, but she’s always in for trouble or involved in a mess…

Jesus: If I told you what she said last night, you wouldn’t believe…

Peter: Who, Mary?

Jesus: Yeah, she was asking a lot of questions about us and I was taken aback when she expressed her desire to do something for the Kingdom of God.

James: And you told her just to play the flute somewhere.

Jesus: No, I told her we hadn’t thought of it, but it wasn’t a bad idea, after all.

Peter: What was it that we hadn’t thought about, Jesus?

Jesus: That Mary should come with us.

Peter: Are you out of your mind, Moreno? Putting women in our group?

Jesus: Why not, Peter? What’s wrong with that?

Peter: No, no, no, this is going too far!… Since when can a woman take part in mens’ affairs?

Jesus: Not one, but two, because Martha is also very enthusiastic about joining. There’s no question about Lazarus. The three could help us a lot here in the South.

Peter: With Lazarus, there’s no problem. But the women, no. The women’s place is the kitchen, dammit, that’s where they belong.

Jesus: What do you say, red hair?

James: Well, Adam took his siesta at a bad time…. We could have had one rib more and less problems… I don’t want to have anything to do with women. What can these two dishwashers do, tell me?

Jesus: They can work for us, they can give us their opinion… In the Kingdom of God, everyone is needed.

James: Their opinion!… Listen, Jesus, this crazy woman, Mary, what does she know that we don’t know?… And this chubby-cheeked Martha, what new things can she teach us?… No, no, Moreno, get back your senses, and forget it.

Jesus: And what do you say, Matthew? Don’t you welcome the idea?

Matthew: All I can say is that with or without women, this group is going to fail. Yeah, and I say this not because I’m drunk. Open your eyes, you guys: we’re a handful of good for nothing guys amid a multitude with problems. What the hell can we do, huh? Tell me.

Jesus: Look, I guess Martha could answer your question. Didn’t you see her this morning? Didn’t you see how she prepared bread?

Philip: How else, Jesus? As every woman knows: with water, with flour, oil and…

Jesus: …and a bit of yeast. Martha knows how, with that piece of yeast, the whole dough rises, and this, she can teach us very well.

James: And what has it got to do with us, Jesus?

Jesus: We’re like that yeast, James. God is like the woman who kneads the dough.

Philip: Therefore, God is the baker. I’ve never heard of this before!

Jesus: A male baker, no. A female baker, yes. The women’s hands are made for the kitchen.

James: Watch your tongue, Moreno. As far as I know, God is a male!

Jesus: Oh yeah? And when have you seen him to find out if He’s a male or a female?

Nathanael: At least, the Scriptures say that God is male.

Jesus: What I remember is that the Scriptures say that God created us in his own image. And He made us as man and woman. If man is God’s image, then the woman ought to be too.

Peter: Okay, okay, what the Scriptures say is one thing, and Martha’s legs are another!

Philip: And the other worse thing is Mary’s tongue!… Don’t tell me God is also as scatterbrained as she!

Jesus: Well, look…. well, yes! Listen, Philip: didn’t you notice how desperate Mary was, over her missing coin?

Philip: Right, Jesus. That woman is always restless.

Jesus: And so is God. This is where they are alike. God also despairs when a child of His gets lost. He looks for her everywhere. Just like Mary, who is not content with her nine drachmas. She loses one, as if she had lost everything. She doesn’t want to lose a single coin.

Peter: Hey, Moreno, has the wine gotten into your head?

We left the inn when we had consumed everything, the wine, bread and the olives. We went around the city four times, and then, returned to Bethany, at sunset…. When we were near Lazarus’ place, we began to hear the unmistakeable voice of Mary. As we went inside, she welcomed us, dancing…

Mary: Hey, guys from Capernaum!… Look!… I’ve found my coin!… Look at my missing drachma!

Jesus: Where did you find it, Mary?

Mary: Over there in the woodshed. I had to light some lamps and sweep the place well… And I found it! That’s why I tell the good news to anyone who enters through that door!

Peter: Well, one doesn’t have to go through any door to hear you… Your voice can be heard from Bethbasi…!

Jesus: See what I mean, Peter? Look how happy she is! God also leaps with joy for the life of each of His children, He dances for us, like it was a feast day. That’s also true of Mary.

We slept very late, when only cricket sounds could be heard all over the yard of the Beautiful Palm Tree… The creamy light of the full moon of the Passover slipped through the cracks of every roof…I think, that night, everyone thought that for the first time, we all slept on the huge lap of our mother God…

*Comments*
In Jesus’ time and even at present, in several Arab territories, the women adorn themselves with coins. These were sewn to veils that covered their faces or hair, or they were embedded in various head ornaments or they simply wore them as necklaces or earrings. On several occasions, these coins were given to them as dowry by their parents on their wedding day. That is why they considered these coins as their most precious property. Some women would not even part with them at any time, not even when sleeping. That the ornament – the dowry – consisted only of ten drachmas was a sign of poverty. This was the case with Mary in the episode. There are Oriental headdresses where hundred of pieces of gold or silver coins are used. For an Israelite woman, losing a coin of the dowry brought great pain, largely because of its sentimental value. The woman of Israel had no role in public life, with respect to participation, decision making and responsibilities. Her responsibilities at home were also secondary in nature. Her training restricted her role to domestic chores: She learned how to sew, how to weave, and how to cook. Generally, she was not taught how to read. In the farm and in similar situations, the woman worked side by side with the man in harvesting crops, selling them, etc. Vis-à-vis her husband, her father or her brother, her category became that of a servant. “The woman – as a Jewish historian said in Jesus’ time – is, in every aspect, of a lesser category than man”.

This discrimination against woman, this “machismo” in the Jewish society, was justified in many ways. One was along moral lines, given this kind of thinking: The woman is weak and dangerous at the same time, and therefore, must situate herself within the margin of public life, for she may provoke temptation, or man may abuse her, when overcome by his passions. When there is too much insistence on woman’s debility, with respect to man, just as her ability to tempt is highlighted, then a radical inequality between the two sexes was estabished. Jesus, in his words, and much more in his attitude toward different types of women, had on several occasions, shattered this idea and this false morality, in an absolute way. That was how he came to accept women in his group because – from his vision of life – man is not a mere pawn of his sexual instincts, but can have full control of the same. It is not merely an ascetic control of his instincts, of repression, but is something that is born out of a new scale of values: Men and women are indeed brothers and sisters because they are equal in the eyes of God. The kingdom of justice is capable of touching man and woman in similar ways, and in so doing, of transforming their lives. Even one’s looks can be purified (Mt 5:28). In no other sphere of social life during his time has Jesus shown his obviously radical attitude as in the manner by which he treated women.

In doing so, Jesus not only elevates the position of women, but also puts them on equal footing with men. This act gives us a new image of God. In the parable of the lost drachma and that of the yeast, Jesus presents two women as his protagonists in the analogy, and the ending appears surprising. In the story of the lost drachma, the parable simply means: God is like this. This is how He becomes happy and worried. Jesus compares God’s feelings with those of a woman. It is a way of saying that God has no gender, that He reveals Himself through a man as well as through a woman. In the parable of the yeast, Jesus talks of what happens in the Kingdom of God: From the smallest – a bit of yeast – God takes the greatest: Too much dough for a growing bread. That is to say, by making use of a group of poor men and women, God will create a new history of humankind. In the parable, this process starts with a woman, the mediator of that transformation of the mass (dough) is a woman baker in this episode, Martha. The two parables are an indication of Jesus’ enormous freedom as he speaks of the realities of the kingdom. The woman is part of the same, just as the man is. If all this is characteristic of the gospel, then we can affirm, parting from this same freedom, that God is our Father and our Mother as well. In so doing, we not only find inspiration in Jesus, we also find basis for it in the Old Testament, where God’s love is compared to that of a mother, on several occasions. (Is 49:14-15; 66:13).

In a number of countries, there exists, side by side with marked “machismo” in dealing with women, (as well as the social opportunities afforded the women,) a profound love for a mother. For many men and women, to say that God is Father, is, either not to say anything or to give a more or less negative comparison, represented by a paternal figure in some families, of a father who has abandoned his family or been guilty of violence. While, to say that “God is mother” may evoke, for a portion of our people, images of an immense affection, an absolute surrender, a great concern. All these are theological realities of the first order, in our understanding of God.

(Mt 13:33; Lk 13:21 and 15:8-10)

52- THE TEN DRACHMAS

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