+JMJ+ Welcome to Part 36 and the final chapter in the story, the rough draft version, anyway. After I revise it, there may be more to Jonah’s story than what we’ve seen here. Nope, no hints.
And now the journey continues.
A Journey – Part 36
Evening into Morning, Fourth Day for the Fifth Time, Wednesday
Out of the depths have I called Thee, O LORD.
Lord, hearken unto my voice;
Let Thine ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications…
My soul waiteth for the Lord,
More than watchmen for the morning;
Yea, more than watchmen for the morning.
I awoke to the sound of Gaius calling my name. He was shaking me, or maybe I was shaking already, I am not sure. But his face was full of concern and I was embarrassed. I have been wallowing in self-pity and grief. He was right when he told me that I have to pull myself together because we must leave and I will be no help to anyone in the state in which I have allowed myself to sink. But it is so hard, Rachel. Ah, Rachel, my sister. I know I must shake off this gloom. We must leave this place as he says, but my limbs feel heavier than the stones at Sepphoris, and my heart, even heavier.
You journeyed without me to a land where I cannot find you. But I must find you, Rachel, I must lay you to rest as is proper, with the bones of our ancestors, with the words and prayers as is right. I will bury you with the shredded remains of my heart and my mind.
I did not protect you. I should be the one who paid with his life, not you. I am hard-pressed not to sob as I shove what I need to take with me into the bag I will take with me. This bag and some water are all I will need. My body will reject whatever else I attempt to force upon it. The day is beautiful when we set out and the horse I am given is beautiful, too, but these thing barely register in my mind as I am numb.We are heading to Jerusalem.
Titus came to Gaius last night and told him that his men intercepted a message telling the guards under the rule of the Sanhedrin to bring Rachel’s remains there. So you were here the whole time and I did not know it? And are you to be denied the rites to which you are due? You have been labeled a heretic and a blasphemer for following and encouraging the delusion that fooled so many and endangered our people. They say you supported the rabbi with a part of the wealth I knew I should not have given to you. Their patience has run out with both of us, but I am as much at fault as you are. No, more so. I am the head of our household. The blame is on me. And those who deceived you.
The more I thought on these things the more overcome I was with emotion. I was at once hot and cold. White-hot with anger. Cold as the blood drained from my face and I thought for certain I would lose what awareness of my surroundings yet remained. Titus thinks I have gone mad and blames the Furies. This is pagan nonsense, of course, but, truly, I am hounded by my guilt. I did not correct him.
Raphael says it is a trap to return to the city of the Great Council. Titus says there is no reason to believe that you were here at all and to stop being so hard on myself and that I should stay in Capernaum or in Nazareth, any place where I have friends, and rest. No, Titus, I thought but did not say, I have no friends, just deceivers and the deceived. Gaius. Titus. Joseph. Nicodemus. Raphael. Yaakov. Yaakov! What must be going through his mind? I have not seen him, have not even asked after him. I disappoint myself every minute. When I mentioned to Gaius that I should speak to Yaakov, he told me that he left with the others, all still obeying the desires of their absent and never to return master. So we shall all meet again in Jerusalem. And, whatever our Good God wills, He wills, and so it shall come to pass, in spite of their master. Blessed is He, the Lord our God, King of the Universe. Amen.
We are leaving now. I will not be able to write to you until we reach Jerusalem. (Yes, I write to you now. What I do, I do for you, even though you will not know it.) We do not plan to stop along the way except to change horses if we need to. And Gaius says we will. Though I am still numb and not eager, I want to get on the road and away from here. I am willing to ride all day and night for as many days and nights as needed to reach you. Let nothing stand in my way, O Lord, least of all myself.
If only I had any hope of finding you alive, that when I reach you, you were waiting for me, were, perhaps, trying to reach me, too. Alas, this hope I do not have. All I can legitimately expect is to find you and give you the burial you deserve before too much time has passed. Gaius understands, as much as anyone whose ways are not our ways can understand, and promises me that we will not stop until we have rescued your body from its present captors. And this gives me some small measure of not comfort but something resembling peace.
Fifth Day for the Fifth Time, Thursday
We rode all night and all day and into the next, stopping only when necessary to tend to the horses or to walk with them where the path was too difficult for them to pass with speed. By the time we rode into the city I could barely feel my arms or legs and the saddle had become one with my backside. My eyes were bleary, I had been unable to eat much of anything for days, and as much as I wanted to eat now, all I could think about was finding you, taking you with me, forcibly if necessary. Care for myself would have to wait.
Our friends were waiting on the Mount of Olives where they expected some sign as forty days had passed from the time of the imagined resurrection until now. I could only shake my head at this lunacy but I followed Gaius there in the faintest hope of discovering a clue to your whereabouts, Rachel.
At the base of the mountain, as we were preparing to begin our ascent, I was stopped once again by one of the tentmaker’s spies. I was to come to his house and he would tell me where you were. I told Gaius to go ahead without me, then followed the spy to the tentmaker’s house. He met me at the door and bade me enter. I did so and as I did, I saw a cloak thrown carelessly on the floor. It was one of yours, Rachel. I tried to pretend that I did not see it, did not recognize it, but he was not deceived, I saw it in his eyes, but he said nothing.
He offered me food and drink but I turned him down. Why give him another opportunity to gloat? I have never cared less than I do now about the fine things he possesses. If he has a reason for calling me here, let him tell me and soon.
As I was thinking about this I heard a sound, Rachel. I dared to hope. I dared to offer a prayer to the Lord that this sound I heard was the familiar sound of your voice. But the sound was as of one weeping and my heart broke within me each time I heard it.
While our host was out of the room, seeking to impress me with more of his possessions empty of meaning, I sought the source of the sounds I had heard. The cloak, the weeping. Rachel, I knew, was near. My heart, though barely holding together in my chest, and receiving new wounds with each sob that reached my ears, pounded against my ribs with such force that I thought they would shatter. But I moved through the house, trying the doors until I came to one that was locked. And putting my ear to the door I heard the sound I thought I would never hear again. You were alive!
I pounded on the door, tried to break it, and though I nearly broke my arm and shoulder, but the door did not move.
O Lord, my God, my Deliverer, Thou hast given me new life, Thou hast brought me up from the netherworld. But not to leave my sister in her captivity, not to leave her like this! Oh, Lord, the blame is mine, not hers. Set her free and take me, I have nothing left to give, but somehow I will gladly pay the penalty!
Just then a light shone all around me. I recognized that light. I would not let the demon rob me of this moment or of the opportunity to rescue my sister and take her away from these possessed ones and their possessors.
“Be not afraid, Jonah. I have plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Or your sister. Take her out of here at once. Be at peace. Remain in Jerusalem with the others.”
Before I could argue–and believe me, I wanted to argue–the light was gone. In anger I threw myself against the door once more and my shoulder did break this time, but the door opened. It opened all the way as I was running toward it, and I fell into the room and hit the floor, that is how I broke my shoulder. “I think you forgot something. Not to harm me!”
“Jonah? Jonah! How did you find me? Oh, Jonah, I prayed you would find me. I never gave up, I knew you would find me! But–who were you talking to?”
“Yes, who were you talking to?”
Oh, no. Not him. I had to get her out of here, but my shoulder was sending waves of pain through my arm, blinding in intensity. I gathered up my courage to stand up against the pain and ran at him, shoving him backward into the wall and knocking him unconscious.
“Hurry, Rachel, we must leave before he awakes.” I went to her to help her stand. That was when I saw the shackles. Her wrists and ankles were nearly raw where the metal had rubbed against her skin. I wanted to cry out but I made a mental note to make the weasel pay for what he had put her through. Then I searched him for the keys. Found them. Unshackled her.
Together we helped each other to the door, down the hall, and out into the street. Riding a horse was out of the question. I could not manage it, yet walking was also painful, for both of us. But there was nothing for it, so we set out for the nearest friendly house. I hoped Nico was home but as we neared the house, we saw a crowd coming our way. It was the rabbi’s disciples and something had happened, had excited them all. Rachel waved them down and as they began to crowd around us, and she explained what had happened, the scene grew dim around us. And then all was dark.
First Day for the Seventh Time, Sunday, Shavuot
Some time has passed since I wrote in this account of our journey. Rachel and I have been staying in the homes of our friends, always moving after a few days, keeping them and ourselves safe from the prying eyes of the Sanhedrin and others who do not accept our ways. I long to go to the synagogue and offer my prayers, I long to go to the Temple and offer my gifts. But I do not dare show my face right now and neither do the rest of us. We move about only when we must and stealthily under cover of night. One day it will not be like this, I hope, but for now we must do what we must do.
Today we will join with our friends for prayers. I tried to remain angry with them, but they have taken such good care of us, and my heart is so full of joy at having Rachel returned to me, I find that I cannot be angry with them anymore.
My shoulder does not ache as much as it did, but it is still sore and I am limited in what I can do. Riding is still out of the question. I have to take care in the way I walk. A misstep that I would hardly have noticed before now results in blinding pain. But whenever Rachel fusses over me and apologizes (again!) for the pains she has caused me, I tell her the truth: that I would do it all over again just to have her alive and safe and nagging me once more.
“But you have lost so much, Jonah. Are you not angry with me still?”
“Angry? Still? Whatever do you mean, Rachel?” I feigned innocent surprise.
She squinted her eyes at me. “I know you thought I was crazy and I know you blamed us all for what happened. The Sanhedrin stripping you of your good name, your honors. The false claim of debt that allowed them to steal your money.”
“Our name and honors, our money. But our true wealth is not measured in things that can be taken from us, Rachel. Our ancestors cannot be taken away from us, our love of the Lord, our fidelity to Him and to each other. Nothing else matters.” I marveled that I could say these things. And meant them.
“I know you are putting up with me and with living this way. For now. Will you come with me today? It’s almost time for prayers.”
I long to go to the Temple. But I will go with my sister to see our friends and pray with them. Rachel helped me finish dressing and put on my cloak. As she does so, I catch a glimpse of her wrists and am reminded of the awful way she suffered at the hands of that fanatic–I must stop myself thinking about it. I get too angry. I must work on forgiving him.
We left the house early in the morning before most people were awake, and made our way to the room where the disciples were gathered. Not long ago I could not stand the thought of them, did not want to be anywhere near them. But they have been attentive to our needs, especially Rachel’s, even mine. And they do seem to genuinely care about us. It is hard not to respond in kind.
And it is difficult not to like them, some of them, anyway. So I have tried to learn more about them, about their views regarding the Messiah and this one they thought was the Messiah. No, that is not right. They still do think he is, was, the one. I have decided to listen and learn for now and deal with that when I have to. I deal with many things this way now, deal with it when I have to and let it play in the back of my mind until then.
I have many things on my mind. Things such as, what did happen to me in the jail cell, and in the house of the tentmaker? I do not think all of this happened for no particular reason. But I do not know what the reason was. I keep asking the Lord to help me understand. To please enlighten me, show me the truth. And somehow I know that He will. I will wait for Him to reveal Himself to me, to reveal His will to me. If He wills it, it will be.
We sneak through the streets this morning the way we do on those periodic occasions we have to change houses. On this morning there is something in the air. Besides what is usually in the air. How I miss our time in Galilee. True, the smell of fish can be overwhelming, but go a little further and the air is cooler and not quite so badly scent-laden. I hope to settle there one day. I suspect that Rachel and Yaakov will marry soon, and then I do not know where they will live. I imagine they will want a home of their own. Truthfully, I hope they do. I miss having time to myself. I have noticed that I become irritable when I do not have enough time to think and daydream.
Before I realize it we have reached the house with its room on the upper floor. We make our way up the stairs and see that we are not the first ones here. Our cloaks are taken, feet are washed. No food or drink at this time. Most of us are fasting, at least part of the day, until nightfall. Some are fasting even then, into the night. Some are fasting all the way through the festival. Yes, today is Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, or the Harvest, also the Giving of the Law at Sinai. Oh, how I long to go to the Temple. I have no gift to offer. But I long to fulfill the command to make my pilgrimage to the Temple and to offer my gift and to pray. But for now we must stay out of sight and meet together to pray when we can. This has become our synagogue. Unlike other synagogues, in this one I can sit and pray with Mary, the mother of the rabbi. For all the trouble he has caused me, I am grateful for his mother. When she tells me about him, I almost believe her. I can tell she believes what she is saying and the others believe it, too. The way they look at her. For some reason when she looks at me, I feel tears well up in my eyes. And when I pay attention to them, I can see that she affects the others the same way.
On this day she is telling stories about her son when he was a boy, then stories about him as a young man. Then she counsels us to pray and to be faithful, studying the Scriptures. I do my best to do these things. And then she says we are to do whatever he tells us to do. This last part confuses me. He is gone, strange apparitions in stressful situations aside, the man is dead. He cannot tell us to do anything.
But then why am I here? Did he not help me rescue my sister? Did he not tell me to remain in Jerusalem? I have not told anyone yet about all that happened. I cannot. They will think I am insane. They will think that I am one of them. I have tried to be. I have tried to understand. But I cannot accept that a dead man appeared to me. I cannot accept that the laborer I knew in Nazareth is the long-awaited Messiah come to restore the kingdom of David, I cannot accept this. Lord, if You want me to accept this, You will have to give me a sign. How else can I believe any of this?
Now the leader is talking, the one they call Peter. Such a strange name. Rock. Who ever heard of calling someone such an insulting name? Rock? I have heard that it is because he has such a hard head. Peter himself told me that. I laughed before I could stop myself and he looked hurt for a moment and then laughed with me. Every time I hear his name now I think of that moment.
He exhorts us to stay in Jerusalem. I almost get the sense that he knew I wanted to leave. That I was beginning to halfway make plans to do just that. How could he have known? Was he talking to me? Or was he talking to others? Or to me and to others? How does he do that? I wonder if he knows how much my shoulder hurts. Or how much it hurts me to see Rachel’s wrists and ankles, still bruised from the shackles that bound her not long ago.
Just then as Peter spoke, the strangest light came over the room. Not the light that I saw twice before when I imagined that the rabbi appeared to me. No, this was different. But it was related. Do not ask me what I mean. The lights are just…related. I do not know how I know this. At first I was afraid but then we watched as fire came down from heaven. I am not lying. Fire came down from heaven, there is no other explanation. Fire came down and danced on the heads of those gathered in prayer. I watched, amazed, uncomprehending. And then I saw the fire dance on Rachel’s head and I was glad for her. I did not understand what was happening but I was glad for her and glad I was witnessing it.
And then I watched in disbelief as a tongue of flame came down from heaven above and landed to dance on my own head. And the pain fell from my shoulder and the weight I had carried there fell away, too. And I fell to my knees and gave thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever and He had shown me a sign that He did have plans for me, though I do not know what they are. But I know I will prosper and I do not care if He means to prosper me with wealth in material things but I know He will prosper me in spiritual things because He has done so on this day in the sight of my friends and soon within the sight of my enemies, too. For we are going out into the street to proclaim that now is the acceptable time. Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as you also know: This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that he should be holden by it…
And we all went out into the street and Peter preached to those who were there and three thousand believed that day and were baptized, as was I. And so I who had lost everything received now more than what I had lost.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and the Lord giveth back again. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page.
Note: Quote at the beginning is from Psalm 130, the one at the end is from Acts 2, both from the Douay-Rheims Bible, public domain.
Thank you for visiting and reading. And if you read all the way to the end, well, bless you and thank you! Just remember this has been an experiment and a learning experience for me. I don’t know what it’s been for you but I hope it wasn’t too painful. ;) After I finish the Rosary ebooks I will begin revising this. I have so many ideas now and that’s why I did this whole thing. I’ve been wanting to write this young man’s story for years. I never got this far any of the other times I tried. It’s far from perfect but now I have plenty of material and ideas to work with. Woohoo!
Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So pick up your cross daily and follow Him, so you can become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Image in the cover: From the east, Nazareth, Holy Land, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.