Jesus was fastened to the cross with three big nails

DEAR reader, I would like to share with you a fictional story from a fellow brother of mine that seems very appropriate for Lent.

Ethan, a 14-year-old boy, ran to his father who was calling him. “Take these three big nails to Legionary Pompilius. You will find him near the Antonia Fortress.” Ethan’s father was the best blacksmith in Jerusalem, and his son often made deliveries for him. The boy ran to the place to meet the legionary, making his way through the crowds thronging the narrow, winding alleys.  Upon reaching the Fortress, he immediately recognized the legionary and handed him the nails.

He was about to return home when he saw three condemned men, and he stood petrified staring at the youngest of them. Unlike the other two he had been tortured mercilessly – he was stumbling and his face was covered in blood. Ethan recognized him immediately. He was Jesus, the rabbi from Galilee, the one who taught the love of God and neighbor. He was Jesus, the most loving man in the world.

Now Jesus was nailed to a cross with the three nails forged by his father. The Pharisees mocked Jesus, while Pompilius scoffed and humiliated him mercilessly. How could so much hatred lodge in the legionary’s heart?

His face streaked with tears, Ethan ran home, but returned to the scene of the ordeal a few hours later. It was dark and an icy wind was blowing. There were few people, and Jesus had already been taken down from the cross. The soldiers had handed him over to his mother and his few friends. The boy took courage, approached Pompilius and asked him, “Sir, may I have one of the nails of the crucified man?” “Take it if you want, we don’t need it anymore,” replied the legionary. Ethan took it and wrapped it in a cloth. From that moment the nail became his most cherished possession.

A few weeks later, his father, returning home, said, “Legionary Pompilius is a goner. I don’t think he will live until tomorrow.” Ethan was seized by a sudden decision: he took his little treasure and ran to the soldiers’ barracks and they let him pass. Reaching Pompilius’ room, he saw him pale and trembling. Approaching him Ethan placed the nail before his eyes, “Do you remember it, sir?” The man nodded, his hands tightened around the nail, and then murmured, “Thank you.” Immediately afterward Pompilius’ face took on color, his breathing became calm and regular, and he said, “It took me several days to understand it, but now I know that it is as true that he has risen as it is true that he has forgiven me.” Ethan confirmed everything with a smile.

On February 14, Ash Wednesday, we enter the season of Lent – the privileged time for conversion in which prayer, almsgiving and fasting give us great help. Like Pompilius, we too must admit that we are often not ready to accept Jesus, and that we therefore need a healthy spiritual journey. Remember that Jesus himself went through this too when he was tempted by the devil in the desert. On the one hand it would seem a puzzling fact, but on the other hand it makes us understand that the Lord wanted to be like us human beings who experience temptation every day.

It is therefore legitimate to ask ourselves: is our life useful to someone or are we solely concerned with personal satisfaction? Do we just want to impose our ideas on others or do we also accept other people’s views? Are we only aiming for success and money, or are we also trying to reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves?

No one is born an expert, which is why we all need to take the Lenten journey. It will help us go through the darkest moments of our lives: the mourning, conflicts, misunderstandings, betrayals, rejections and pain, to arrive at Easter in order to celebrate salvation as the amazing fruit of God’s love.

Have a good journey, dear reader!

Updated on January 31 2024