The Grateful Mother

On Palm Sunday, Lauren Burnett blessed us with a dramatic reading of this monologue written by Eileen Hodgets.

The Grateful Mother

Oh, I am so relieved. I should do something. Something to show how grateful I am… I could make an offering, or light a candle, or… or... I don’t know what. I’m not used to being so grateful. It usually goes the other way. It’s usually worse than I expect, and this time… this time I thought he’d had it. I said to him, “You’ve really done it this time… There’ll be no mercy for you. This time you’re really going to die.” “I know Ma.” That’s all he said. I know Ma. And I thought that was goodbye.

I can’t help loving him. He’s my son, my boy, my baby. I know he’s done terrible things, but I still love him. It would break my heart to lose him, but I really thought this was the end.

He was arrested last week. The Romans came in the middle of the night – they always do. They never come pounding on your door in the daylight. It’s always dark of night with their great thumps on the door echoing through the house and when I hear it my blood runs cold. “What’s he done this time?” I asked myself, and I start to curse the day he was born. Once they locked him up. Twice they flogged him, but he won’t learn. He’s been a thief since he was eight years old. At first it was just little things stolen from the neighbors, and I’d find them and return them, and nothing said. No harm done. But then he moved on to stealing chickens, and food, and God forgive me, I used to eat it. I knew where it came from, but we were glad of it, and nothing said, and no harm done.

And then when he was old enough to be called a man, he joined a gang. He said they were his friends, and they meant more to him than any blood brothers. They call themselves revolutionaries, but the Romans call them robbers, and they act like robbers. They’ll take anyone’s money. They don’t care. They don’t care if the people they rob are just as poor as they are. And they kill. You get in their way, and they’ll kill you. I don’t think it was him. I don’t think he did the actual killing this time, but it doesn’t matter. He’s the one they caught. He’s the one they sentenced to death.

I went to the Court. I was there when they passed sentence, and they started to lead him away. He was wearing one of those prison suits and his hands and feet were shackled. He couldn’t walk. He could only shuffle and he kept his head down, and he looked so young. I thought my heart would break. And then… and then… Pilate said that as it was a holiday… I’d forgotten about that, I’d forgotten it was a holiday. Anyway, Pilate said that he could release one prisoner and he offered the people a choice. My son Barabbas, or a man named Jesus. So they brought out this other man. It was hard to look at him; he’d been flogged, just like my son, but you could see that underneath the blood and the humiliation, he was a good man, a kind person. I don’t know how to describe it, but he looked innocent. Barabbas hasn’t looked innocent since the day he was born, but this man looked somehow pure, untouched by all the evils of this rotten world. I don’t know what his crime was, they never said, but I can’t imagine that he’d done anything very bad. I thought it was hopeless. Of course, the crowd would choose Jesus. But they didn’t. They chose Barabbas. They released Barabbas. Right then and there, they took off his shackles and let him go. It was a miracle. I wanted to go home, and cook the biggest dinner, and bake a cake, and… but I didn’t.

On the way out, I passed a woman in the hall. She was with a little group of people and they were all gathered round her, like they were protecting her. And she looked at me and I knew that look. I’ve seen that look on my own face in the mirror. She was the mother of Jesus. She’s a mother, just like I am, and her son is dying so that mine won’t.

I don’t know where my son is now, but tomorrow I’m going to task him to come with me, to the place where the Romans perform their horrible executions. And I’m going to ask Barabbas watch that man die, and I’m going to say to him, “That could have been you. That man is dying instead of you.” I hope he understands.