arrived in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. I travelled with him from
Capernaum. It was Saturday, a rest day. At the first hour of the morning,
the Nazarenes were all jammed into their small and dilapidated synagogue.
The men were wrapped in sheets with black and white stripes. Some entered
the synagogue chewing dates to stave off hunger, something which was
prohibited. The women, as was customary, stayed in one corner behind
the dividing screens. Among the rest of the village women was Mary,
the mother of Jesus.
"Listen Israel / the Lord is our God / only the Lord. / Love the
Lord your God / with all your heart / with all your soul and with all
your might. / Remember these words as I command you today....
started the ceremony by reciting aloud the morning prayer. Then followed
the eighteen ritual prayers. When it was time for the reading, the old
Rabbi signalled to Jesus, who was by my side. Jesus made way through
his townmates and went toward the lectern where the sacred books were
young man opened the sandalwood box and took out the scrolls where God's
Law was written in black and red letters. It was the Holy Scripture
where the wise men of Israel, for over a thousand years, scrutinized
the meaning behind every word and every syllable, the will of the Lord.
Jesus took the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll, raised
it with his two hands and started to read haltingly, the way peasants
did, for lack of schooling...
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me.
spirit of the Lord has called me to bring good news to the poor: their
broken hearts shall be mended,
the slaves shall be set free,
the prisoners shall see the light of day
I come to proclaim the Year of Grace of the Lord, the Day of Justice
of our God:
to console the weeping,
and put a crown of triumph on their humiliated heads,
they shall be garbed in party dresses and not in
they shall sing songs of triumph and not lamentation."
finished reading. He rolled up the scroll and returned it to the assistant
of the synagogue, then sat down in silence. All our eyes were glued
on him, awaiting a commentary of the text. Jesus likewise, seemed to
be waiting for something. His head was cupped between his hands, and
he was noticeably nervous. After a while, he stood up and began to speak...
Brethren... I.... I.... the truth is, I don't know how to speak before
so many people... Pardon me for not speaking like the priests or the
doctors of the Law... Well, I'm just a peasant like you, and I don't
talk much. Still, I thank our Rabbi for having invited me to comment
on the Scripture...
Don't be nervous, young man! Say anything, whatever occurs to you. Then
tell us what happened in Capernaum, about the leper.... People keep
on saying many strange things...
Well, brothers and sisters, I would like to say that... that these words
of the prophet Isaiah are... really great. I heard the prophet John
say the same words in the desert. He said: "This is going to change.
The Kingdom of God is near." And I thought: yes, if God has something
in His hands, but... but what? What is it that God has to change...?
Where will the Kingdom of God begin?... I don't know, but now, after
reading the words of the Scripture, I think I have understood what it
smell of sweat of the Nazarenes mixed with the burned incense, and one
could hardly breathe. Everybody felt the warm air that enveloped the
whole synagogue. Jesus was perspiring tremendously....
Brothers, sisters.... listen to me... I... I'm bringing you great joy:
our liberation. We, the poor, have spent our whole life bent like animals
over our land. The powerful have placed a very heavy yoke on our shoulders.
The rich have robbed us of the fruit of our toil. The foreigners have
taken over our country and even the priests have joined them and threatened
us with a religion based on laws and on fear. And so we are like our
ancestors in Egypt during the time of the Pharaoh. We have partaken
of bitter bread, and drunk lots of tears. They have given us so many
beatings that we even thought that God has already forgotten us. No,
my brothers and sisters. The time has come and the Kingdom of God is
near, very near.
Ananias, the owner of a press house and an oil mill, and all the lands
bordering the hills of Nazareth, which extended up to Cana, raised his
cane like a long accusing finger:
Ananias: Hey, you, young man, son of Mary, what stupid things are you
talking about? Will you explain to me what it is that must change? Whom
are you alluding to?
Everything has to change, Ananias. God is a parent who does not
want to see his children treated like slaves nor dying of hunger. God's
like a carpenter who uses a plane to level off a wall: everyone shall
be equal, there'll be no rich nor poor; no pharaohs nor slaves; everyone's
family to everyone. God'll come down from heaven to be with us, the
most trampled upon on earth. Haven't we always heard that God ordered
the Year of Grace? Haven't we just heard it?... God wants a year of
truce every fifty years. God wants to tear up all titles of property,
all debt contracts, and all deeds of sale and purchase; he wants the
land to be divided equally among all of us, because this land belongs
to God, and everything in it. There are not to be any differences among
us. That no one shall have more nor less. This was what the Lord commanded
Moses a thousand years ago, and is still waiting, because no one's complied
with it. Not even the rulers, the landowners, nor the usurers wanted
to fulfill the Year of Grace. Now's the time for it to be fulfilled!
was silent. We were all amazed at how well Jesus, the son of the carpenter,
Joseph and the peasant woman, Mary, had expressed himself.
Neighbor: Those words sound beautiful, Jesus, but they can't be
eaten. "Liberation, liberation...!" But when, tell me. Is
it for the other life, after death....?
No Esau. That would be too late. The Year of Grace is for this life.
The Kingdom begins on this earth.
Neighbor: So when? When the rich become compassionate and distribute
their accumulated wealth among us?
Stones don't melt from the inside, Simeon. You gotta have a hammer for
Susana: So when do we see the fulfillment of the word you've just read?
Right now, Susana. Right now. We're going to start today. Of course,
this isn't a one-day struggle. You don't crush a stone by one stroke
of a hammer. Maybe it's gonna take us another thousand years, like Moses.
Or it could even take two more thousand years. But we'll also cross
the Red Sea and be free. We gotta start today!
was no longer trembling. With his large calloused hands, he firmly supported
himself on the edge of the lectern breathing profoundly like someone
who was to take a deep plunge.... He was about to say something significant.
I'd like to tell you this... I feel, cramming up in my throat, like
arrows in the archer's hand, the voices of all the prophets who spoke
before me, from Elijah, that valiant one from Carmel, to the last prophet
we've seen in our midst: John, the son of Zacariah whom that skunk,
Herod, holds as prisoner in Machaerus. Brothers and sisters, God's patience
has come to an end! The Scripture I've just read isn't for tomorrow,
but for today. Don't you see? It's being fulfilled right before your
old Rabbi scratched his head with uneasiness....
What do you mean by, "It's being fulfilled right before our eyes?"
I have before me the Sacred Book of Law, praise the Lord Almighty. And
you're right beside this Book, commenting on what you've read in it.
I claim those words written in this Book. Pardon me for the way I've
spoken, brothers and sisters, but....
paused. He looked at us slowly, as if asking permission to say what
he was about to say....
When John, the prophet baptized me in the Jordan, I felt God was
calling me to proclaim the good news. That's why, now, I wanna....
Neighbor: Watch your words, Jesus. Who do you think you are? From
the way you talk, you're putting yourself at par with the prophet Elijah
and John the baptizer!
I'm not comparing myself to anyone. I'm simply proclaiming liberation
for us, the poor!
old man with a hunched back like a camel burst with laughter:
Old Man: Hey, Doctor, heal yourself first!
What did you mean by that?
Man: Because we're all bad, but you're worse!.... What misery will
you liberate us from, when you're the most miserable in Nazareth? Look
at your mother over there, behind the dividing screen... Hey, Mary,
don't hide yourself, for everybody knows you here. Who is your father,
Joseph?... May he rest in peace... a wretched man, like us. And look
at your cousins here... For the love of Abraham, how can you free us
when you don't even have a copper in your pocket?
Woman Neighbor: I think this Moreno has become presumptuous!
Wait, my brothers, let him speak! Let him speak!
Enough of that silly talk! Make a miracle!
That's it, a miracle!
Tell us what happened in Capernaum! Did you learn some witchcraft to
cleanse the lepers and cure the widows with bad fever?
Tell us, Mary, who taught these tricks to your son?
One moment, one moment!.. Jesus, do you hear what they say? They're
right, son. Aren't you talking of liberation? Well, it must start here
in your town; after all, charity begins at home.
You cured the lepers in Capernaum, why don't you cure the ones who're
what are you waitin' for? Do you know that my legs are full of wounds?
Neighbors, history repeats itself. During the time of the prophet
Elijah, there were a number of needy widows, but he was instead sent
to the city of Zarephath in a foreign land. During Elijah's time, there
were lots of lepers in Israel and the prophet cured Naaman, the Syrian,
who was also a foreigner.
Hey, what do ya mean by that?
Nothing, but this is what usually happens. No prophet is welcome
in his own land. Fine, I'm going back to Capernaum.
Nazarenes started to kick and whistle at Jesus...
No, you're not going back to Capernaum: You go to hell! Have you
ever seen a charlatan worse than him?
You're a fake!.... a liar!.... Take him away from here!.... Out! Out!
men with fists in fighting position rushed towards the lectern where
Jesus was, while the women were yelling behind the dividing screens.
The fight had begun and the old dilapidated synagogue shook with the
uproar of the Nazarenes.