A month passed,
and then another. Jesus stayed with us in Capernaum. Every night when
work was over, we would gather in Peter’s house to have a chat and make
plans. Our friendship grew by the day, like the fruit in the fields
of Galilee that ripened at the right time. One Saturday we went to the
synagogue with Jesus. Bartholomew, the madman was at the door....
Bartholomew: Pray to God! Pray to God!... Look at theeeemm!... Look
at theeeem!.... Glori, gori, gori, uuuu! I want to go inside and pray
to the Lord! I want to pray to the Lord!..... Gori, gori, gori, uuuuu!.....
Bartholomew was always dirty and smelled like rancid wine. His eyes
were yellowish and his voice like that of a squawking crow, as it crossed
the sky. He clapped his hands and wept as he begged permission to enter
the synagogue. Everybody in Capernaum made fun of him....
Bartholomew: Let me in!.... Gori, gori, gori, uuuu!
Peter: Here comes Bartholomew again, the one we saw at the market
the other day.
Jesus: Oh, yes, I remember...
Peter: A truly cursed man, nobody can stand him when he comes
Jesus: What if they let him in, in the synagogue? Would he be
James: How can you let this crazy man in here? He’s dangerous,
Jesus. Once, he stripped a lady naked right in the street.
Peter: On that same day, he wanted to drown himself in the lake....
James: I wonder why they ever saved him. They should have let
him go right down the bottom of the lake! Men like him are good for
After a little chat on the patio, we all went inside the synagogue,
which was our temple. Every Saturday, we would gather in the Temple
to worship the Lord, singing psalms, asking the Lord of the heavens
not to abandon His people. The women stayed on one side, behind the
wooden grills, while the men stayed at the center. Everyone focused
attention on the sacred Book of Law, which was located in a place looking
towards Jerusalem, the holy city of God.
Rabbi: “Lord, who will enter your house? Who will reside in
your sacred mountain? He who has no stain, he who is pure, he who has
a clean heart, clean hands, he who does not taint his tongue with deceit...”
After the readings and the prayers, one of the men stood to explain
the meaning of the Scripture we had just heard. That Saturday, it was
Saul’s turn, an old businessman from the village of artisans who never
failed to go to the synagogue....
Saul: Brethren, we have heard, very clearly, the message in
the psalm, that in order to enter the house of the Lord, one must be
pure and clean. Therefore, we must not forget that in the Lord’s house,
no slaves nor orphans can enter. Neither are the lepers, nor the lame
allowed to enter. Not even the prostitutes nor the adulteresses, nor
the women in their period. Only the clean and the pure. The bastard
children can’t enter the house of God, not even
the abandoned ones, nor the shepherds with their reputation as thieves.
Neither can the castrated enter the house of God, nor madmen, nor those
possessed by an evil spirit. The psalm says it very clearly: “He who
has no stain, only he shall be able to enter the house of the Lord...”
Saul’s homily was quite long and boring. When I looked on my side, I
saw that James was already half-asleep, while Peter was snoring. So
were the others. Outside, Bartholomew, the madman, continued to scream.
At one time, his yelling drowned the nasalized voice of Saul, and we
could hardly understand what the preacher was saying....
Woman: What an impertinent fellow. Will someone please shut
Man: Jair, will you tell him to keep quiet? We can’t hear
a word here!
Saul: As we were saying, the Lord’s house is only for the clean
and pure, in body and in spirit, and....
Peter: Let that man in, so he won’t make noise!
James: Keep your mouth shut, Peter!
Rabbi: This man who is screaming outside is impure!... In no
way can he be allowed inside. It’s the devil who has sent him to keep
us from worshiping God. But the evil spirit will not leave him!
Woman: Well, with all this yelling, how can we go on praising
the Lord, Rabbi?
Peter: If we allow him inside, I think he will be calm!
Jesus: I think so, too. So, why don’t we let him in?
Rabbi: That’s enough. That man is not clean. He’s crazy! Why,
he can’t even distinguish his right from his left hand. How can he know
God so he can praise Him?
Jesus: But God surely knows him!
Rabbi: The Lord only wants the pure in His midst!
Man: The Rabbi is right!
Jesus: Well, I believe the Lord wants everyone in His presence.
He will take care of cleansing them. He loves all of us...
Peter: Very well said, Jesus! So, let Bartholomew in!
James: You are just wasting your time, Jesus. This crazy man
is not worth your effort.... And you, Peter, stay out of this!
Peter: Shut up, James, will you? Jesus is right.....
While we were arguing whether or not to allow Bartholomew inside the
synagogue, the door suddenly flew open, as if a hurricane had blown
to push it open. Rolling like a ball of yarn, Bartholomew, bathing in
sweat and laughing boisterously, gained entrance to the synagogue.
Bartholomew: Ha! ha! Ha!.... I’m here!.... Gori! gori! gori! uuuu!!!
The women started to scream and there was pandemonium in the synagogue...
Bartholomew: I wanna pray! I wanna pray!... Gori! gori! gori! uuuu!!!
His eyes were blazing like burning coals....
Man: Get him outta here!... Why is everybody not moving? Damn!!
James: Get outta here! Get outta here!
Bartholomew: I wanna pray!.... I wanna...! Gori! gori!
Woman: This is too much!... We need a rope to tie him up!...
Man: With or without a rope, we’ll get him out of here!...
Gimme a hand, fat man. Let’s kick this wretched man outta here!
Bartholomew: Gori! gori! gori! uuuu!!!
James: But he’s stronger than Samson!
Woman: Then cut off his hair!
Man: Tie him up good...! Damn!
James: All you women! Stay away from him! He’s dangerous!
Man: Give him a punch to silence him!
Man: Outta my way, you idiots, and leave him to me!
Julian, the blacksmith, whose brown arms were as hard as steel, grabbed
Bartholomew by the nape and dragged him towards the door. The madman
resisted, kicking with all his might, on all sides...
Man: Out you go, intruder! Devil!
Jesus: Hey, let go of that man!... Leave him alone!...
Jesus finally gained his way through the crowd.
Jesus: Can’t you see he’s a miserable man?.. Leave him alone...
and give way... so he can get some air...
Little by little, the crowd began to disperse. Bartholomew was panting
like a horse after a race, whimpering, with his face flat on the ground.
Rabbi: Don’t touch him! The man is impure. Stay away from him!
I told you, no one is to go near him!
Jesus ignored the Rabbi’s warning and stayed beside the madman.
Jesus: Why should I keep away from him, Rabbi?
Rabbi: Because he’s impure! Such impurity sticks like scabies!
Jesus: He’s not impure. He’s a poor creature, who’s tired of
people making fun of him and rejecting him. That’s why he’s acting this
way. But God doesn’t want him outside His house.
Jesus leaned towards him....
Jesus: Bartholomew, Bartholomew, do you hear me? What is wrong
The madman opened his eyes and looked at Jesus defiantly....
Bartholomew: Leave me alone!... Leave me alone!
Jesus: Hey, didn’t you say you wanted to pray with us?
Bartholomew: I know you! You wanted to kill me!... I know you!...
Jesus: Will you shut up!
Bartholomew: I know you!.. Gori! gori! gori! uuu!! I know you! You
are a friend of God! You are a friend of God!
Jesus: And so are you, Bartholomew!
Bartholomew: Uuuu!!! Uuuuu!!!
Jesus: Come on, man, be calm now...
Bartholomew was weeping, and his body was shaking. Jesus bent over to
help him stand....
Jesus: Come on, stand up and come with me... Okay, that’s it...
When he was on his feet, Bartholomew gave a loud cry.... and fell...
Man: Bartholomew’s dead!
Peter: He isn’t moving!... Jesus, what’s happened?...
Woman: Poor fellow...
Rabbi: God has punished him for wanting to enter His house!...
He was a sinner!.... Impure!... All of you, stay away from him!
Bartholomew, the madman, lay on the ground, pale as a sheet. He was
Jesus: He’s not dead, Peter. Why should he die?...
Peter: Yes, he is, Jesus. Look at his face... He’s gone... When
he gave out that loud cry, his soul left his body.
Woman: Did you hear what the Rabbi said? God killed him...
Man: That’s right. God punishes the insolent!
Jesus: God didn’t punish him. He’s not dead...
Jesus went near him and shook him.
Jesus: C’mon, brother, get up!... You’ve scared all of us out
of our wits, and we have to continue with our praying... Come now, Bartholomew!
The madman got up. He wasn’t pale anymore. He looked tired but was smiling,
showing a couple of broken and dirty teeth...
Jesus: Come with us inside, Bartholomew. You can stay with us...
The madman took a seat between Peter and me, and prayed and sang with
us. From that day on, he would go to the synagogue, to the market and
to the plaza. He was more relaxed. Eventually, we understood that that
man whom we had ridiculed and ignored all along had a place among us
too. That poor man, wretched and dirty as he was, was a brother of ours.