The sun was already high when we left Capernaum for Jerusalem… We were twelve in the group, with Mary, Jesus’ mother, Susana, their neighbor, my mother, Salome, and Mary, from Magdala. Jesus led the trek. He walked fast. The spring, with its colors, clothed the fields of Galilee. It was already dark when we reached Ginae, and we decided to spend the night in one of the fields surrounding the small city, at the border between Samaria and Galilee….
Salome: With these chicken bones I brought, I can make some delicious soup…. What do you think?
Susana: That’s a good idea, Salome…. This is going to be a cold night. These rascals will sleep well with a warm stomach…. Hey, young lady, go and bring me a handful of thyme….. for the soup flavoring….
The woman from Magdala went to get some thyme, while Susana, Salome and Mary stayed by the fire, preparing the dinner that first night of the trip…..
Salome: Look at this Magdalene….. how she walks and steals glances…
Susana: And how! Salome. Jesus says she has changed a lot, although my grandmother used to say that the leopard cannot change his spots…
Magdalene: Here’s the thyme…
Salome: Here, give it to me… Hey, what grass is this, young woman?… This is not thyme…
Magdalene: Yes, it is, M’am Salome…. smell it…. it is thyme…
Salome: Okay, okay, drop it in the pot… if it doesn’t kill us, then it will only make us fat.
Mary: Shall we get some cheese, too?
Salome: No, Mary, with this soup and some olives, we already have enough…
Magdalene: Peter says he’s starved….!
Salome: He always is. He’s never satisfied. He’s always hungry.
Magdalene: But the man is quite strong!… He’s not Jesus’ right hand man for nothing…
Salome: Right hand for what?
Magdalene: Well, he’s the second man, after Jesus.
Salome: Tell me, where did you get that idea, Magdalene?
Magdalene: Everyone knows about it. Didn’t you know that, M’am Mary….. you’re Jesus’ mother… Hasn’t he told you about it?
Mary: No, but…..
Salome: You’re a gossip, Magdalene. Such a malicious tongue you’ve got!
Magdalene: Who, me, a gossip? But, isn’t it true that Jesus is close to Peter?
Mary: I don’t know, I think…… he’s close to everyone, Magdalene. The truth is, I haven’t noticed that….
Magdalene: Look, either I’m a gossip or Salome is a distrustful person, my goodness! I heard somewhere, precisely from James and John, these good sons of yours, that should anything happen to Jesus, heaven forbid, the guy to man the helm of the ship is Peter….
Susana: Hey, young woman, stop talking of misfortunes now…!
Magdalene: Okay, I’ll shut up, but the truth is, this trip to Jerusalem is putting us in such a big mess…. Yeah, Jesus is in charge now, but if anything happens to him, then it will be Peter…
Salome: Here you go again!…Why does it have to be Peter, tell me. Why?
Magdalene: Look, m’am, Jesus has got a sure eye, and among these rascals he would choose someone a little more decent, of course. For all his defects, Peter has word of honor…. unlike….. the “others.”
Salome: Are you referring to someone in particular?
Magdalene: No…. no one.
Mary: Okay, will you stop that silly talk. C’mon, young woman, tell those men that the soup is ready….
Magdalene: Hey, Jesus! Everybody, come over!….. It’s dinner time!…. C’mon!!
Salome: Have you noticed, Mary and Susana, how this woman defends Peter?… How insolent! She wouldn’t be a whore for nothing……. What nerve she’s got…
Mary: Forget it, Salome. I don’t think she said it with malice….
Salome: Stop defending her, Mary…. This woman doesn’t waste time maligning my children…… whore! After all that she has done to my sons!
Susana: If that’s the case, then she would have to charge them.
Mary: Shut up, Susana, don’t make matters worse…
Salome: I don’t know, Mary, but I don’t trust her being with our men….
Philip: This soup is marvelous, yes siree!
Nathanael: It’s so good, I almost forget about the corns on my feet!
Peter: I find the taste rather strange for me…..
John: It’s your weird ideas, Peter….
James: What we need now is wine!
Mary: Tomorrow we’ll buy some in Shechem, where they sell good wine.
James: Puah! The Samaritan wine tastes like castor oil…
Philip: There goes James with his idiosyncrasies again! Why don’t we leave the Samaritans in peace and play dice instead….. Are you gonna play, Jesus?
Jesus: Wait till I finish licking this bone, Philip. Just go ahead….
Jesus remained seated near the fire, while the women collected the leftovers and put away the pieces of bread for the following day. The twelve of us went a little distance away, where the light of the half-moon could shine over us, so that not one of us could cheat with our dice….
Jesus: Are you tired, Mother…?
Mary: No, son. It’s been quite sometime that I have walked this far, but as you can see, I can still manage…
Susana: You know something, Jesus? Your mom may be old, but she’s got strong legs like a young woman’s…. On the other hand, look at me, I’m too darn sleepy….. Ahuuumm…!
Philip: Number eight! This time I win! Boy, am I lucky, fellas!
James: To hell with you, Philip! C’mon, Peter, open up, it’s your turn….
Peter: No….. let somebody do it….. I….. I’ve got to go…..
James: Hey, what’s bugging you, man?
Peter: Uff…. After having felt too much hunger for hours…. and then…… zas!… it’s the soup with the weird taste……
Philip: But it was very good……. it really warmed my stomach….
Peter: It has upset mine…. Uff… just like a turbulence on the Lake of Tiberias…. Look, I’d better do something about it, somewhere……. over there… or else….. uff!
John: Better do it far from here, naughty man!
Philip: Be back soon, will ya?
Peter headed for a small olive grove till he got lost among the trees….
Salome: Look at these three women….. they already snoring…..
Jesus: Yeah…… they’re too dead tired, they couldn’t even say a word.
Salome: Say, Jesus, now that we’re alone, I’d like to tell you something.
Jesus: What is it, Salome?…
Salome: Let’s go over there…. so we don’t wake the sleepy heads up…. Come….
Jesus and my mother went toward the grove and sat beside a tree…
Salome: It’s about that Magdalene, Jesus…. To hell with that “girl”!
Jesus: What happened? Have you been quarreling?
Salome: I hate to say this, Moreno, but, that woman and Peter…..! I don’t want to be malicious, but…. either it’s Peter who’s flirting with her, or the other way around…… Something seems odd around here.
Jesus: Don’t say that, M’am Salome….
Salome: Oh, if only Rufina had come along!…… Right, the problem is with Peter…. Magdalene thinks Peter is everything… He’s strong, most courageous, the best…. It’s too obvious, Jesus…. She can’t deny it….. Of course she should know!…. having been in the business for years…Well, I don’t want to malign her, but that woman is dangerous….
Jesus: Do you think so, M’am?
Salome: That’s not the worst of it. She’s been telling everyone what you said, that this delinquent is your right hand man. That Peter is second to you. I say that can’t be, and I can’t believe it. Everyone knows Peter too much. He barks but never bites. He’s a little scatterbrained, all right….. And she says he’s courageous! A simple sneeze can scare the wits out of him!… Oh, pardon me for being catty!
Jesus: No, no, go ahead….
Salome: Look, Jesus, they say there’s nothing like the old horse for the hard road. Look at my white hair, Moreno. You want some advice?
Jesus: Go ahead. What is it?
Salome: With Peter as your right hand….. you had better be a one-handed person! Jesus, you need a right arm and a left arm. Two strong arms that are willing to help and defend you…
Jesus: Who do you have in mind?
Salome: My two sons. It’s not because they are my children, but because they deserve it. James and John are willing to give the last drop of their blood for you, Jesus, believe me. Forget about that dirty old man, Peter, and count on my sons, who’ll be by your side. One on your right and the other one on your left.
Peter: You treacherous witch, I want to strangle you! Damn you, Salome! Hey, all of you, come over here!!!
Peter’s thunderous voice shook the entire olive grove. We all stood up from our game, while the three women roused from their sleep. Everyone ran toward Peter, who was calling to us at the top of his voice…
Jesus: Peter, where’ve you been?
Peter: I was behind that tree and I heard everything!
Salome: And what were you doing there, you wretch?
Peter: Something more decent than what you were doing. Over here everyone! Hurry and pull out the tongue of this old hag!
James: What’s going on here, damn it?! What’s all this shouting about, Peter?
Peter: Why don’t you ask your mother about all the intrigues she’s making up? Do you know what she said? That there’s “something” between me and the Magdalene.
Magdalene: What? How did I get into this mess? Hell, what have I done? Tell me, Salome, what have I done to be dragged into this muddle?
James: You better shut up, Mary, you’re just making things worse!
Peter: Your beloved mother started all this, do you hear? You too, redhead, and you, John, hypocrite! Scoundrels!
It took us a great deal of effort to appease Peter and convince him to explain what he had heard behind those trees. While he was talking, my mother Salome barely looked up….
Philip: Really? Your mother could say that?
Peter: You bet! This old hag should be hanged.
James: Wait a minute, Peter. If the cap fits, then wear it. The truth hurts, after all.
Peter: Are you insinuating something?
James: It’s you who’s insinuating a lot of weird things. Tell me, who the devil told you that you were somebody else’s right hand man?
Peter: Jesus said so during our trip to the north! Don’t you remember anymore?
John: The Moreno didn’t say that! That’s what you wanted to be, big nose! But he didn’t say that!
Peter: You see? They’re just like their mother! Scheming fools! You sent her here in order to speak ill of me!
James: One more mention of my mother, Peter, and I’ll tear you to pieces!
Peter: You just dare, James, and you’ll be dead before the night ends!
Magdalene: Okay, so it’s all my fault, isn’t it? If that’s it, I’m leaving… right now… I’m going back…. to Capernaum!
Jesus: No, Mary, you’re not going anywhere.
Peter: If there’s anyone who should leave, it’s that old gossip monger and her two sons!
Jesus: No one is leaving, Peter. Neither Salome, nor Mary, nor the two of you. Damn it, that’s enough! It’s only our first night together and we’re already fighting like two angry cocks. We’re going to Jerusalem, and things will be very difficult for us. We’ve got to be united. When the most trying moment comes, we shall all have to drink from the same cup. Everyone. Let’s forget about this right arm and left arm. Here no one is better than anyone else. We’re all in the same boat and everyone must help in order to go on. Either we all come out afloat or we all end up sinking and drowning!
John: We’re all coming out alive, Moreno! Guys, Jesus is right. And now….. why don’t we get out of here, this place stinks like hell!
That night, we could not sleep. Peter’s grumbling seemed to have no end. My mother, Salome, tossed and turned often before she fell asleep. We were all very tired. We had to wake up early the next morning to resume our journey to Jerusalem.
The gospel puts on record that some women formed part of Jesus’ group who followed him from town to town in proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Mk 15:40-41). There is great novelty in the fact that Jesus was followed by these women in the company of his disciples. Salome, Susana, Mary Magdalene – and still others who probably formed part of the group – thus become a symbol of the revolutionary character of the gospel in a totally male chauvinistic society. Jesus’ words and his attitude toward the women deeply clashed with the customs of his time. The Christian church, in order to be faithful to Jesus, ought to be a venue for authentic equality among men and women, where no one feels discriminated against because of sex while rendering service to the community.
In Jesus’ group, as in any other human group, not everything turned out smoothly. There probably were ambitions, bickerings, suspicions, distrust and dishonesty. These were not always dramatic. They were everyday conflicts, full of ups and downs. This is true of all human relationships. Magdalene’s presence in the group would surely result in clashes because of the implication of her job. Jesus did not elude such conflicts. In gathering such a diverse group, he even provoked them. Such crises within the community may sometimes be healthy if the members confront them, thus helping them grow in the knowledge of their capabilities as well as their limitations.
Jesus does not intend to avoid all these conflicts. What he expects of his group is that no one should be above anyone else. No one should appear to be favored nor oppressed in the community; no one should be different because of having greater intelligence, more ability, or for any other reason. The gospel offers itself as an alternative to the “master-slave model” which the world powers are trying to preserve – not only in Jesus’ time but also in our days. This alternative tries to create communities where this system of dependency will be totally wiped out, where all its members will live in equality, where the only authority is God, where the only competition is geared toward better service to others. The Christian communities should be the critical conscience of societies founded on power, favors, and inequality.
This episode attempts to focus more on the daily life situation, rather than presenting a plot to “take power,” or as a significant intrigue with a political color, a problem arising from Salome’s envious attitude. The typical moral prejudice (against prostitutes), the maternal ambition to see her sons honored, and that obvious feeling of envy are the causes of the conflict. The comic scene, as played out by Peter is inspired from a text in the Old Testament where David experiences a similar situation when he is pursued by Saul (1 S 24:1-8). The Bible ihas many picturesque scenes of everyday life which are anything but insipid, colorless, and odorless….
(Mt 20:20-28; Mk 10:35-45)