Mark spent the morning reading over his manuscript again. His mind often drifted back to Peter, and that cell in Rome, where he had heard so many stories of the early days of life with Jesus. Which to include, which to leave out? How did you tell the story faithfully, and in such a way that it invited faithful response? He had once more felt a sense of urgency: how much longer before the Roman legions received orders from their new emperor, and the siege began? And do I stay, or return to Rome before those orders arrive? Or do I take this gospel back to the hills of Galilee where so many of these stories took place? He laid down the manuscript, and turned to prayer.
Later that afternoon Mark wandered into the courtyard, where he discovered his mother in animated conversation with Rachel and a few other young women he did not recognize. “Ah, Yohannan,” his mother greeted him, “come and meet my new friends.” Noticing the look of surprise on the face of one of the women, Miryam laughed, and laid her hand over the young woman’s. “As you will discover if you choose to spend time with our ecclesia, Jesus has profoundly changed the ways in which we relate to one another.” She turned to Mark. “Rachel came by to see me, and brought Adina, Devorah and Ya’el with her.” Mark greeted them before taking the cup of watered down wine his mother offered him.
“Adina was a servant in our household,” Rachel began, seeing Mark’s curiosity. “After my father died, and things became hard, we had to let our servants go, and Adina returned to her father’s household. I bumped into her and her friends in the marketplace today, and your gathering came up in conversation, so I brought them to meet your mother, and to ask if your hospitality can extend to three more in the evenings.” “And I just assured her,” said Miryam, “that all are welcome here, and that we each share what we can and somehow there is always just enough.”
Adina looked at her friends before speaking. “We would be grateful to join you in the evenings. Prices in the market continue to rise, and I have not found a new household to serve. None of us have. If you will extend your patronage to us, we will honor you in the marketplace, and serve you as you tell us how.” Rachel smiled, and addressed Miryam. “I keep trying to tell them that your household is different, and your ways are…not quite subversive, but certainly different.” “I heard you were subversive – and worse!” blurted out Ya’el. “I served in the household of a member of the Council. I have waited on your son, Benyamin. On more than one occasion after he left, I heard them speak of his family in…ungenerous ways.” Miryam smiled sadly. “I imagine you did, my dear.”
Miryam turned to Mark. “Yohannan, perhaps you can tell a story this evening that would introduce these young women to the Way of Jesus and how it has re-shaped our understanding of honor and shame and how we relate to one another.” “Do you have one in mind, mother?” asked Mark. A twinkle appeared in her eyes, and Mark felt a surge of affection and then…grief. Sudden grief. He knew how tenuous life had become. He had seen the consequences of proclaiming and embodying the gospel, of being part of the Way. And yet, as he held his mother’s compassionate gaze – for she saw the rush of emotions in his face – he was reminded once more that he had determined long ago that the life he had found with Jesus and the Way was worth any cost.
“Well,” said Miryam, “there are many such stories to choose from. But I am thinking that you could tell the story of the time the synagogue leader in Capernaum approached Jesus, desperately seeking his help. Although,” she said, the twinkle returning to her eye, “it is not really his story, is it…”