we left the synagogue, James, Jesus and I went to Peterís house. Rufina,
his wife, was preparing a good dish of lentils for us...
Peter: Come on in, fellows, and sit here in the shade. Food
will be ready in a jiffy... and I swear everyone will have a good share....
Come, Jesus, letís get some olives while Rufinaís tending the fire.
Simon Peter was a special type. Peter, the stone-thrower, as we all
called him, had a curly beard and a nose as big as a tomato. He was
the best rower on the lake and the noisiest, too. He had the stink of
a fish, but was always in good humor. With four sons to feed, and a
wife, he had to work himself to death. Peter loved Rufina, his wife,
very much, in spite of their constant bickerings....
Peter: Hey, lady, when will those lentils be ready? These fellows
are hungry!... For Godís sake, hurry up!
Rufina: What do you think Iím doing? You should have given me
the money earlier, you tightwad!... These lentils donít come from heaven.
One has to pay for them, big nose!
Peter: And that witch of a vendor simply couldnít trust you?
Rufina: That witch as you say she is, has been lending us food
for three weeks already, and if you donít pay her before Saturday, thatís
the end of it!
Peter: And what did you tell her?
Rufina: That she was right.
Peter: Oh, really?
Rufina: Yeh, sheís right!
Peter: Hey, donít raise your voice when youíre talking to me!
Rufina: And donít you raise that voice of yours, either, scandalous
man! Now I know why my mother is sick Ė because of your screamings!
Peter: Of course not! Itís your laziness that made her sick,
because if she were here, sheíd be tending the kitchen and the lentils
would be ready!
Rufina: Oh, Peter... Peter....
Peter: Now, what is it?..
Rufina: Donít accuse me of being lazy; itís not true...
Peter: And donít you call me tightwad, you know I hate it....
Rufina: Oh, Peter, what would I do without you?
Peter: Hmm... Thatís for me to say... what would I do without
Peter and Rufina had four sons: Little Simon was the first son. Then
came Alexander, who was five years old; Reuben, three; Ephraim, two
and.... well, another one was coming, whom we all hoped would be a girl....
Peterís brother, Andrew, the skinny one, and still unmarried, lived
with them, as well as their father, Jonas, a grumpy old man, and his
mother-in-law, Rufa, who had been ill for two months....
James: Well, Peter, where are the lentils? Are they coming or
not? Maybe a goat has eaten them before they could get to our table!
Peter: Donít be impatient, my friends. The food will be ready
soon. You see, my mother-in-law has been ill, and things have been difficult
Simon: Jesus, our grandmother is sick.
Jesus: Oh yes? Where is she, Little Simon?
Simon: Over there, in the corner.
Peter: Old Rufa is my mother-in-law. Itís really sad, you know;
a case of a bad fever.... Say, why donít you greet her and tell her
one of your stories, while my wife is cooking up the lentils?... Come
inside, Jesus, the old woman is there lying down.... Just donít mind
the mess around you. You know how it is to live in only one room, with
so many people around....
Jesus: How are you, Graníma? How do you feel?
Rufa: I canít sit. Iím dying.
Jesus: But how do you feel?
Peter: Sheís a little hard of hearing, Jesus.
Rufa: Who are you?
Peter: Heís a friend from Nazareth, do you hear me? I said,
from Nazareth. His name is Jesus and heís going to spend a few days
with us. He knows a lot of jokes. Ask him to tell you a funny story.
Rufa: Will that make me laugh? Iíd rather cry!
Jesus: Come on, Graníma. Donít be such a killjoy. What is ailing
you? Tell me, please....
Rufa: Oh, my son, what do I know? ...Iím not a doctor!
Peter: Okay, Jesus, Iíll leave the two of you. Iíll go ask Rufina
to hurry up. Iíll let you know when food is ready....
Rufa: Itís somewhat strange, son. Look, I feel I have fever
inside my body.... Do you hear?
Jesus: Yes, Graníma, I hear you very well.
Rufa: Outside, I feel terribly cold, even my skin cringes because
of the cold.
Jesus: It is nothing serious, Graníma. Itís just a simple fever.
Rufa: But my son, how can the heat and cold go together, and
then you say itís nothing?
Jesus: There is nothing strange about it, Graníma. Even affection
and hatred go together. Didnít you hear the bickerings between your
daughter and your son-in-law a while ago?
Rufa: Iím deaf, you know. I hear some noise but I know not
where it comes from.
Jesus: Directly from the kitchen, where Peter and Rufina were
Rufa: Ah, those two are like cats and dogs. I donít understand
the young people of today. They swear their love for each other, and
yet, they never cease quarreling.
Jesus: Well, itís like that. I guess, Graníma, have you had
this experience yourself?
Rufa: That was long ago.... Now, my teeth are almost gone....
Look... Ahhhh.... Iím like an old fishing net that wears out easily.
Iím not good for anything anymore.
Jesus: Donít say that, grandmother. Iím pretty sure, if you
just get up from there and fix yourself a little, and take a walk along
the village, someone will certainly notice and give you a compliment.
Rufa: What did you say?
Jesus: Compliments, Graníma, words of admiration.
Rufa: Hi, hi, hi... Good heavens, my son. That might have been
true before, when I had all my teeth, and my hair was smooth and...
Jesus: ...and they were saying beautiful things as you walked
through the streets of Capernaum, is that right, Graníma?
Rufa: The last compliment I received was when I was forty years
old, can you imagine? I was still attractive then.
Jesus: Really? Tell me, Graníma, what did they tell you?
Rufa: Bah, I donít remember. ĎTwas such a long time ago.
Jesus: Now Iím curious to know the secret of your charm, Graníma.
Come on, tell me.
Rufa: Oh, one of those foolish things of men. Imagine, I was
on my way to the market, with a rose in my hair.... Then I heard someone
say: ďEvery time I see you, I tell my heart: what a beautiful sight
that makes me stumbleĒ. Hi, hi, hi,... ĎTwas a fruit vendor who told
Jesus: Say, Graníma, youíve got very pretty hair.
Rufa: And soon, it will be falling off too. Everything in us,
old people, falls off, like dried fig leaves.
Jesus: Their leaves fall during winter, but they grow again
in spring and begin to have flowers.
Rufa: Thereís no more spring for old people like us. Now you
see me here; when you come back
tomorrow, perhaps, Iím no longer here.
Jesus: Our body wears out, Graníma, but not the heart. The spirit
never grows old. What matters is to keep the spirit young. Look at our
Lord.... oh, the years that Heís lived since the creation of the world!
God is young, for He is young at heart, just like you, Graníma.
Rufa: God does not remember old people.
Jesus: Donít say that, Graníma. God cares about all of us: the
big and the small ones, the young and the old. God never abandons us.
Rufa: Well, sometimes I feel abandoned, my son, like those
old dried logs floating in the water, with nowhere to go....
Jesus: No, Graníma. Youíre still strong enough to go on. And
when the Lord finally calls you, donít be afraid, because weíre not
to stay on this earth. Weíre gonna join the Lord in His big house, where
there is a place for each one of us.
Rufa: You speak very well, young man. God bless your tongue!
Jesus: And God bless those bones that you may become still stronger.
Rufa: Thank you, my child. But thatís no longer necessary.
Nobody needs me in this world..
Jesus: How can you say that, Graníma? Your grandchildren need
you. Your son-in-law would be more at ease right now, if you were to
give your daughter a hand in the kitchen. Sheís having a hell of a time
cooking the lentils right now, which are taking forever.
Rufa: Ah, my son. No one will ever beat me in the kitchen.
As you can see, until two weeks ago, I was kneading bread, gathering
firewood and attending to the laundry. Sewing is not for me anymore;
my eyes are tired. But the rest of the household chores I still carry
out the way a newly-wed does.
Jesus: And you were saying that you are good for nothing anymore....
Rufa: Yes, but now I am down with this illness. I donít even
have the strength to sing a tune.
Jesus: You mean you can sing, too, Graníma?
Rufa: Why, yes, my son. I loved to... I was a happy person
Jesus: My grandfather, Joachim used to sing to us on the farm.
His favorites were the songs of yesteryears, those of your time....
Rufa: Are you fond of old songs?
Jesus: Very much, grandmother.... Say, do you happen to know
the song ďThe Lilies of
Rufa: Sure! A friend of mine taught it to me, during our trip
to Jerusalem for the trade fair.
Jesus: Can you sing it, Graníma?
Rufa: I am sick, young man. How can I sing?
Jesus: Of course, you can, Graníma. Címon, sing it, please...
May be you will be more comfortable when seated... Come, give me your
hand... cheer up..
Rufa: Just a minute, young man. I feel faint...
Jesus: You look good, Graníma... Now, try to stand.... yes...
uupps!... thatís right... slowly now...
Rufa: Hold it, young man.... my bones are... oh....
Jesus: You see, you can do it!... Donít you feel a little better
Simon: Graníma, are you well now?
Peter: Mother, why are you on your feet? Go back and lie down
Jesus: Leave her alone, Peter; sheíll sing ďThe Lilies of King
DavidĒ for us, wonít you, Graníma?
Peter: The Lilies of.... Now, I donít know which of the two
of you is sick with fever. Or have the two of you gone crazy? You better
see this for yourself... Rufina..!!
Rufa: Leave me in peace, Peter, will you? I feel a lot better
Children: Graníma is cured! Graníma is cured!!
Rufina: But, Mother, why are you up, now? Go back and lie down
on the mat!
Rufa: Go, lie down yourself, if you want, and donít pester
me. I feel alright, and right now Iím going to the kitchen to give you
a hand. Then they will see that the old Rufa can still be useful at
something, my goodness!
Jesus gave old Rufa a strong desire to live. Peterís mother-in-law got
up that day and succeeding days. She helped in the kitchen, did the
laundry and served at the table... while she sang the melo dies of old,
as taught to her by her grandparents, which she, in turn, taught to