281. At the Temple They Are Aware of Ermasteus, of John of Endor and of
21st September 1945.
Jesus is on His way to Bethany with the apostles and disciples and is speaking to the disciples, whom He orders to part, so that the Judaeans will go through Judaea and the Galileans up Trans-Jordan announcing the Messiah.
The instruction raises some objections. I get the impression that Trans‑Jordan did not enjoy a very good reputation among Israelites. They talk of it as if it were a pagan region. And that offends the disciples from that area, among whom the most influential is the head of the synagogue of the Clear Water and then a young man, whose name I do not know, and both vigorously defend their towns and fellow citizens.
Timoneus says: «Come, my Lord, to Aera, and You will see how they respect You there. You will not find as much faith in Judaea, as there is there. Nay, I do not want to go there. Let me stay with You and send a Judaean and a Galilean to my town. They will see how they believed in You on my word only.»
And the young man says: «I believed without even seeing You. And I looked for You after my mother had forgiven me. But I am happy to go back there, although that means being mocked by wicked citizens as I was once, and being reproached by good people for my behaviour in the past. But it does not matter. I will preach You through my example.»
«You are right. You will do as you said. And then I will come. And you, Timoneus, are right, too. So Hermas will go with Abel of Bethlehem in Galilee to announce Me at Aera, while you, Timoneus, will stay with Me. But I do not want such disputes. You no longer are Judaeans or Galileans: you are disciples. That is enough. That name and your mission make you all equal with regard to birthplace, rank, everything. In one thing only you may differ: in holiness. That will be individual and in the measure which each of you will be able to attain. But I would like you all to have the same measure: the perfect one. See the apostles? They were divided like you by race and other things. Now, after a little over a year of instruction, they are simply the apostles. Do the same, and as among you, priests are together with old sinners and rich people with former beggars, and young men with old venerable people, cancel likewise divisions brought about by belonging to this or that region. By now you have one Fatherland only: Heaven. Because you have set off on the way to Heaven each of his own free will. Never give My enemies the impression that you are hostile to one another. Sin is your enemy, nothing else.»
They proceed in silence for some time. Then Stephen approaches the Master and says: «I have something to tell You. I was hoping that You would ask me, but You did not. Yesterday Gamaliel spoke to me...»
«I saw him.»
«Are You not asking me what he told me? »
«I am waiting for you to tell Me, because a good disciple has no secrets from his Master.»
«Gamaliel... Master, come a little ahead with me...»
«Well... let us go. But you could have spoken in the presence of everybody...»
They move away a few yards. Stephen blushing says:
«I must give You a piece of advice, Master. Forgive me...»
«If it is good, I will accept it. Tell Me.»
«In the Sanhedrin, they know everything sooner or later. It is an institution with a thousand eyes and one hundred ramifications. They penetrate everywhere, see everything and hear everything. It has more informers than there are bricks in the walls of the Temple. Many live thus...»
«Spying. You may say so. It is the truth and I know. So? What has been said, more or less true, at the Sanhedrin? »
«Everything... has been said. I do not know how they can find out certain things. Neither do I know whether they are true... But I will tell You literally what Gamaliel told me: "Tell the Master to have Ermasteus circumcised or to send him away for good. It is not necessary to say anything else".»
«In fact it is not necessary to say anything else. First of all because I am going to Bethany just for that and I will remain there until Ermasteus is fit to travel again. Secondly because no justification could demolish the prejudice and... standoffishness of Gamaliel, who is scandalised because I have with Me a man who is not circumcised in a member of his body. Oh! if he looked around and within himself! How many uncircumcised people in Israel! »
«He is the perfect representative of old Israel. He is not wicked, but... Look at this pebble. I could split it, but I could not make it malleable. He is like that. He will have to be crushed in order to be recomposed. And I will do that! »
«Do You want to oppose Gamaliel? Be careful! He is powerful! »
«Oppose? As if he were an enemy? No. Instead of fighting against him, I will love him, satisfying one of his desires for his mummified brains and spreading on him a balm which will dissolve him to recompose him.»
«I will pray also that that may happen, because I am fond of him. Am I wrong? »
«No. You must love him by praying for him. And you will do that. I am sure you will. Nay, you will help Me to prepare the balm... However, you will tell Gamaliel, to calm him, that I had already provided for Ermasteus and that I am grateful to him for his advice. Here we are at Bethany. Let us stop so that I may bless you all, because this is where we part. » And after joining the large group of apostles mingled with disciples, He blesses and dismisses them all, with the exception of Ermasteus, John of Endor and Timoneus. Then with the disciples left Jesus walks at a good pace the short distance to Lazarus' gate, which is already wide open to receive Him, He enters the garden raising His hand to bless the hospitable house, in the large park of which are the owners of the house and the pious women, who are laughing at Marjiam running along the paths adorned with the last roses. And with the owners and the women, also Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus come out of a path, when they hear the women shout; they also are guests of Lazarus, to be in peace with the Master. And they all make haste towards the Master; Mary with Her kind smile, and Mary of Magdala with her cry of love: «Rabboni! », and Lazarus limping, the two grave members of the Sanhedrin, and last, the pious women of Jerusalem and of Galilee: wrinkle‑furrowed faces and smooth faces of young women and, as gentle as the face of an angel, the virginal face of Annaleah, who blushes in greeting the Master.
«Is Syntyche not here? » asks Jesus after the first greeting.
«She is with Sarah, Marcella and Naomi laying the tables. But here they are coming.»
And they come, in fact, with old Esther of Johanna, two faces marked by age and by sorrow, between two serene faces and the grave yet bright peaceful face of the Greek girl, different by race and by something which distinguishes her.
And I could not say that she is a real and true beauty. And yet her dark eyes softened by a nuance of very deep indigo, under a high and very noble forehead, are more impressive than her body, which is definitely more beautiful than her face. A slender but not meagre body, which is well proportioned and has a graceful gait and carriage. But it is her expression that strikes one. An intelligent, frank, deep look, which seems to inhale the whole world, selecting it, keeping what is useful, holy, good, and rejecting what is evil; a look which allows its very depths to be searched and from which her soul looks out to scan those approaching her. If it is true that it is possible to know an individual through his eyes, I say that Syntyche is a woman with unerring judgement and firm honest thoughts. She kneels also with the other women and waits to stand up until the Master tells her.
Jesus proceeds along the green garden as far as the porch before the house and then enters a hall where the servants are ready to serve refreshments and assist guests in the ablutions before meals. While all the women withdraw Jesus remains with the apostles in the hall, and John of Endor and Ermasteus go to the house of Simon Zealot to leave the bags they are carrying.
«Is the young fellow who has gone with John, the one‑eyed man, the Philistine whom You have accepted? » asks Joseph.
«Yes, Joseph, he is. How do you know? »
«Master... Nicodemus and I have been wondering for some days how we know and how, unfortunately, the others of the Temple know about it. The fact is that we do know. Before the Tabernacles, in the meeting which is always held before such festivities, some Pharisees said that they knew for certain that among Your disciples, beside... ‑ forgive me, Lazarus ‑ known and unknown prostitutes and publicans ‑ forgive me, Matthew of Alphaeus - and former galley‑slaves, there were an uncircumcised Philistine and a heathen girl. With regard to the heathen girl, who is certainly Syntyche, one can understand how it became known, or at least guess so. The Roman made a great fuss about her and he became the laughing stock of his people and of the Jews, also because he searched for his runaway everywhere, complaining and threatening, and he even troubled Herod saying that she was hiding in Johanna's house and that the Tetrarch should order his steward to hand her back to her master. But it is strange, very strange that it should be known that among the many men who follow You, there is an uncircumcised Philistine, and a former galley‑slave!... Do You not think so? »
«It is and it is not strange. I will provide for Syntyche and the former galley‑slave.»
«Yes, do. Above all You ought to send John away. Your group of apostles is not a place for him.»
«Joseph, have you perhaps become a Pharisee? » asks Jesus severely.
«And should I humiliate a soul which has been regenerated, because of the silly scruple of the worst Pharisaism? No, I will not! I will provide for his tranquillity. His, not Mine, I will watch over his perfecting as I watch over innocent Marjiam's. Really there is no difference in their spiritual ignorance! One speaks for the first time words of wisdom, because God has forgiven him, because he is re‑born in God, because God has embraced the sinner. The other speaks the same words, passing from a forlorn childhood to a boyhood, watched over by the love of man beside the love of God, and opens his soul to the sun like a corolla and the Sun enlightens him with Himself. His Sun: God. And one is about to speak his last words... Can your eyes not see that he is wearing himself out with penance and love? Oh! I would really like to have many Johns of Endor in Israel and among My servants. I would like you, too, Joseph and you, Nicodemus, to have hearts like his and above all I wish his informer had it, the vile snake that hides under the appearance of a friend and is acting as a spy before becoming an assassin. The snake that envies the bird its wings, and lays snares for it to tear them off and enthrall it. No! The bird is about to change into an angel. And even if it could tear them off, which it will never be able to do, once they were put on to its slimy body, they would change into wings of a devil. Every spy is already a devil.»
«But where can such a rogue be? Tell me so that I may go at once and tear his tongue out » exclaims Peter.
«You had better pull his poisonous teeth out » says Judas of Alphaeus.
«No! It's better to strangle him! So he will not be able to hurt in any way. Such people can always be harmful » remarks the Iscariot firmly.
Jesus stares at him and concludes: «... and can always lie. But no one must do anything against him. It is not worth while letting the bird perish, to deal with the snake. With regard to Ermasteus, I am staying here, in Lazarus' house, just for the circumcision of Ermasteus himself, who is embracing the holy religion of our people for My sake and to avoid the persecution of narrow‑minded Jews. It is the passage from dark to Light. But it is not necessary to make Light come to a heart. But I have agreed to calm down the susceptibility of Israel and to show the true will of the Philistine to come to God. But I tell you, in the times of Christ, that is not necessary to belong to God. Will, love, and a righteous conscience are sufficient. And how can we circumcise the Greek woman? In which part of her spirit, if she was able to perceive God better than many people in Israel? It is true that among the people present many are in darkness as compared to those who are despised by you for being in darkness. In any case, both the informer and you, members of the Sanhedrin, can tell the people concerned that the scandal has been removed as from today.»
«With regard to whom? To all three? »
«No, Judas of Simon. With regard to Ermasteus. I will see to the other two. Have you anything else to ask Me? »
«Neither have I anything else to tell you. But I ask you to tell Me, if you know, what has happened to Syntyche's master.»
«Pilate shipped him back to Italy by the first boat available, to avoid having trouble with Herod and the Jews in general. Pilate is in a tight corner at present... and has enough worries » says Nicodemus.
«Is the news certain? »
«I can check on it, if You wish so, Master » says Lazarus.
«Yes. Do so. And then let Me know the true situation.»
«But in my house Syntyche is safe just the same.»
«I know. Israel also protects a slave who has run away from a foreign cruel master. But I want to know.»
«And I would like to know who is the spy, the informer, the pretty spy of the Pharisees... and I want to know, and this can be found out, who are the denouncing Pharisees. Let us have the names of the Pharisees and of their towns. I mean of the Pharisees who have done the lovely work of informing, following the betrayal of one of us, because we, old and new disciples, are the only ones to know things; a fine piece of work indeed it was to inform the Sanhedrin of the deeds of the Master, which are thoroughly honest, and who says or thinks the contrary is a devil and...»
«And that is enough, Simon of Jonah. It is an order.»
«And I obey, even if the veins of my heart should burst because of the effort. In the meantime the beauty of the day has gone...»
«No. Why? Has anything changed among us? So? O My Simon! Come here beside Me and let us talk of what is good...»
«They have come to tell us that dinner is ready, Master » says Lazarus.
«Let us go, then...»
282. Syntyche Speaks in Lazarus' House.
22nd September 1945.
Jesus is sitting in the porched courtyard, which is inside the house in Bethany, the courtyard which I saw crowded with disciples on the morning of Christ's Resurrection. Sitting on a marble seat covered with cushions, leaning with His back against the wall of the house, surrounded by the owners of the house, by the apostles and the disciples John and Timoneus, together with Joseph and Nicodemus, and by the pious women, He is listening to Syntyche, who standing in front of Him, seems to be replying to a question of His. All the people present are more or less interested and are listening in various postures, some sitting on benches, some on the floor, some standing or leaning against the columns or the wall.
«... it was necessary. In order not to feel all the burden of my situation. It was necessary not to be convinced, to refuse to be convinced that I was all alone, a slave banished from my fatherland. It was necessary to think that my father, mother, brothers and the so fond and kind Ismene were not lost for ever. And that, even if the whole world persisted in separating us, just as Rome had divided and sold us like baggage animals, although we were free citizens, a place would gather us all together again in the next life.
I had to think that our life is not only matter to be chained. On the contrary it has a free power that no chain can bind, except the voluntary one to live in moral disorder and in material revel. You call that "sin". Those who were my light in my night as a slave, give it a different definition. But they also agree that a soul nailed to a body by wicked corporal passions will not reach what you call the Kingdom of God, and we call living together with the gods in Hades. It is therefore necessary to abstain from falling into materialism and strive to achieve freedom from the body, procuring for oneself a heritage of virtue in order to possess a happy immortality and be reunited to those whom one loves.
And I could but think that the souls of the dead are not prevented from helping the souls of the living, so that a daughter could feel her mother's soul close to her and see her face and hear her voice speaking to the daughter, who could reply: "Yes, mother. So that I may come to you. Yes, not to upset you. Yes, not to make you weep. Yes, in order not to darken Hades where you are in peace. For all that I will keep my soul free. It is the only thing which I possess and which nobody can take away from me. And I want to preserve it pure so that I may reason according to virtue". It was freedom and joy to think thus. And that is what I wanted to think. And act accordingly. Because it is only a half and sham philosophy to think one way and then act in a different one.
To think thus was to rebuild a fatherland also in exile. An intimate fatherland, with its altars, faith, teaching, affections in one's ego... A great mysterious fatherland, yet not even so, because of the mystery of the soul which is consciously aware of the next world, even if at present it knows it only as a sailor at sea can see the details of the sea‑coast in a misty morning: vaguely, in a rough draft, with only a few spots clearly outlined and which are enough for the tired seaman tortured by storms to say: "There is the harbour, peace is over there". The fatherland of souls, the place of our origin... the place of Life.
Because life is generated by death... Oh! I could understand only half of that until I heard one of Your words. Later it was as if a sunbeam struck the diamond of my thought. Everything became enlightened and I understood to what extent the Greek masters were right and how later they became confused, as they lacked one datum, only one, to solve the theorem of Life and Death. The datum was: The True God, the Lord and Creator of everything existing!
May I mention Him with my heathen lips? Of course I may. Because I come from Him, like everybody else. Because He gifted the minds of all men with intelligence, and the wiser ones with a superior intelligence, whereby they seem demigods with a superhuman power. Because He made them write the truths which are already religion, if not a divine religion like Yours, a moral one, capable of keeping souls "alive", not only for the period of time we remain here, on the earth, but for ever.
Later I understood the meaning of: "Life is generated by death". He who said that was like one not completely drunk, whose intelligence had already become dullish. He spoke a sublime word, but did not understand it fully. I, forgive me my pride, Lord, I understood more than he did and I have been happy since that moment.»
«What did you understand? »
«That our present life is but the embryonal beginning of life and that true Life begins when death gives birth to us... to Hades, as a heathen, to eternal Life, as a believer in You. Am I wrong? »
«You are right, vroman » approves Jesus.
Nicodemus interrupts: «But how did you hear of the Master's words? »
«He who is hungry, seeks food, sir. I was looking for my food. I was a reader, and as I was learned with a good voice and pronunciation, I was in a position to read much in the libraries of my masters. But I was not yet satisfied. I could feel that there was something else beyond the walls decorated with human science, and as a prisoner looking for gold, I hammered with my knuckles, I forced doors open to get out, to find... When I came to Palestine with my last master I was afraid I was going to fall into darkness... I was going instead towards the Light. The words of the servant at Caesarea were like as many blows with a pick which demolished the walls making wider and wider breaches through which Your Word came in. And I picked up those words and the news. And like a child stringing beads, I lined them up and adorned myself with them, drawing strength to become more and more purified in order to receive the Truth. I felt that by purifying myself I would find it. Even on this earth. At the cost of my life I wanted to be pure to meet the Truth, Wisdom, Divinity. My Lord, I am speaking foolish words. They are looking at me as if they were thoroughly confounded. But You asked me...»
«Speak. Go on speaking. It is necessary.»
«I resisted external pressure with strength and moderation. I could have been free and, happy, according to the world, if I had wanted. But I would not barter knowledge for pleasure. Because it is of no avail to have other virtues without wisdom. He, the philosopher, said: "Justice, moderation and strength separated from knowledge are like painted scenary, virtues befitting slaves, without anything firm and real". I wanted to have real things. The master, an imbecile, used to speak of You in my presence. Then the walls seemed to become a veil. It was enough to want to tear the veil and join the Truth. I did it.»
«You did not know what you were going to find » says the Iscariot.
«I knew how to believe that the god rewards virtue. I did not want gold, or honours, or physical freedom, no, not even that. But I wanted the truth. I asked God for that or to die. I wanted to be spared the humiliation of becoming an "object", and even more, of agreeing to become one. Renouncing everything which is corporal in looking for You, o Lord, because a research through senses is never perfect ‑ as You noticed when seeing You I ran away, deceived as I was by my eyes ‑ I abandoned myself to God Who is above us and within us and informs souls of Himself. And I found You because my soul led me to You.»
«Yours is a heathen soul » remarks once again the Iscariot.
«But a soul always has something divine within itself, particularly when it has striven to be preserved from error... It therefore tends to things of its own nature.»
«Are you comparing yourself to God? »
«Why do you say that, then? »
«What? Are you, a disciple of the Master, asking me? Me, a Greek woman and only recently freed? Do you not listen to Him when He, speaks? Or is the ferment in your body such that it blunts your mind? Does He not always say that we are the children of God? So we are gods if we are the children of the Father, of His and our Father, of Whom He always speaks to us. You may reproach me for not being humble, but not for not believing or not paying attention.»
«So you think that you are worth more than I am? Do you think that you have learned everything from your Greek books? »
«No, neither one nor the other. But the books of wise men, wherever they come from, have given me the minimum necessary to support myself. I do not doubt that an Israelite is worth more than I am. But I am happy with the destiny which comes to me from God. What else could I wish for? In finding the Master I found everything. And I think that was my destiny, because I really see a Power watch over me and it has fixed a great destiny for me and I have done nothing but comply with it, as I feel it is a good one.»
«Good? You have been a slave, and of cruel masters... If the last one, for instance, had recaptured you, how could you have complied with your destiny, you very wise woman? »
«Your name is Judas, is it not? »
«Yes, and so? »
«And so... nothing. I want to remember your name besides your irony. Bear in mind that irony is not advisable even in virtuous people... How would I have complied with my destiny? Perhaps I would have killed myself. Because in certain cases it is better to die than to live, although the philosopher says that that is not right and it is impious to procure welfare by oneself because only the gods have the right to call us to stay with them. And this waiting for a sign of the gods to do it, has always kept me from doing it, even in the chains of my sad fate. But now, in being recaptured by my filthy master, I would have seen the supreme sign. And I would have preferred to die rather than live, I, too, have my dignity, man.»
«And if he recaptured you now? You would still be in the same situation...»
«Now I would not kill myself. Now I know that violence against the flesh does not injure the spirit that does not consent. I would now resist until I were bent by force and killed by violence. Because I would take that as a sign from God that through such violence He would call me to Himself. And I would now die tranquilly, knowing that I would be only losing what is perishable.»
«You have replied very well, woman » says Lazarus and Nicodemus gives his approval as well.
«Suicide is never allowed » says the Iscariot.
«Many are the things which are forbidden, but the prohibition is not complied with. But, Syntyche, you must consider that as God has always guided you, so He would have prevented you from doing violence to yourself. Go now. I will be grateful to you if you look for the boy and bring him here » says Jesus kindly.
The woman bows to the ground and goes away. They all follow her with their eyes.
Lazarus whispers: «She is always like that! I fail to understand how what in her has been "life" is instead "death" for us Israelites. If You still have the chance of examining her again, You will see that whilst Hellenism corrupted us, though we already possessed Wisdom, it saved her. Why? »
«Because the ways of the Lord are wonderful. And He opens them to whoever deserves it. And now, My friends, I will dismiss you because night is falling. I am happy that you all have heard the Greek woman speak. As you have ascertained that God reveals Himself to the best people, you must conclude that it is hideous and dangerous to exclude all those who are not Israelites from the people of God. Bear that in mind for the future... Do not grumble, Judas of Simon. And you, Joseph, do not have unjustified scruples. None of you are contaminated for approaching a Greek woman. Make absolutely sure that you do not approach or give hospitality to the devil. Goodbye, Joseph; goodbye, Nicodemus. Will I be able to meet you again, while I am here? Here is Marjiam... Come, boy, say goodbye to the heads of the Sanhedrin. What do you say to them?»
«Peace be with you... and I say also: pray for me at the hour of incense.»
«You have no need for that, child. But why just at that hour? »
«Because the first time I entered the Temple with Jesus, He spoke to me of the evening prayer... Oh! It is so beautiful!...»
«And will you pray for us? When? »
«I will pray... in the morning and in the evening. That God may preserve you from sin during the day and the night.»
«And what will you say, my child? »
«I will say: "Most High Lord, let Joseph and Nicodemus be true friends of Jesus". And that will be enough, because he who is a true friend, does not grieve his friend. And he who does not grieve Jesus is sure to possess Heaven.»
«May God preserve you thus, child! » say the two members of the Sanhedrin caressing him. They then greet the Master, the Blessed Virgin and Lazarus individually and all the others in a body and go away.
283. The Mission of Four Apostles in Judaea.
23rd September 1945.
Jesus is on His way back from an apostolic trip in the neighbourhood of Bethany. It must have been a short trip, because they are not carrying any food bags.
They are speaking to one another saying: «The idea of Solomon, the boatman, was a good one, Master, wasn't it? »
«Yes, it was.»
The Iscariot, of course, disagrees with the others: «I do not see much good in it. He gave us what is no longer of any use to him as a disciple. There is no reason why he should be praised...»
«A house is always useful » says the Zealot gravely.
«Yes, if it were like yours. But what is his house? An unhealthy shanty.»
«It is all Solomon has » retorts the Zealot.
«And as he grew old in it without aches and pains, we shall be able to stay there now and again. What do you expect? All the houses to be like Lazarus'? » adds Peter.
«I do not expect anything. I cannot see the necessity of that gift. Once you are there you can be in Jericho just as well. There are only a few stadia between the two places. And what are a few stadia for the like of us, who are compelled to wander about all the time, like persecuted people? »
Jesus intervenes before the others lose all patience as clear signs indicate is about to happen: «Solomon, in proportion to his riches, has given more than anybody else. Because he has given everything. He gave it out of love. He gave it to let us have a shelter in case we are caught in the rain, or in a flood, in that not very hospitable area and above all in case the Judaean ill‑will should become so strong as to advise us to stay on the other side of the river. And that is with regard to the gift. That a humble, coarse but so faithful and willing disciple has been able to be so generous, which is clear evidence of his firm will to be a disciple of Mine for good, fills Me with great joy. I can truly see that many disciples, with the few lessons which they have received from Me, have excelled you who have received so many. You cannot sacrifice, particularly you, Judas, even what costs nothing: your personal opinions. You maintain yours stubbornly, unyieldingly.»
«You said that the struggle against oneself is the hardest...»
«And thus you want to tell Me that I am wrong when I say that it costs nothing. Is that right? But you have understood perfectly well what I mean! According to men, and you really are a true and proper man, only what is marketable is valuable. One's ego cannot be sold for money. Except... when a man sells himself to someone hoping to make a profit. An illicit trade like the one stipulated by a soul with Satan, even worse. Because it involves not only the soul but also man's thoughts, or judgement or freedom, you may call it as you like. There are some wretched people like that... But for the time being, let us forget about them. I praised Solomon because I see how good his deed is. And that is enough.»
There is silence, then Jesus resumes speaking: «In a few days' time Ermasteus will be able to walk without any trouble. And I will go back to Galilee. But you will not all come with Me. Some will remain in Judaea and will come up later with the Judaean disciples, so that we shall all be reunited for the feast of the Dedication.»
«Such a long time? Oh dear! Whose turn will it be? » the apostles ask one another.
Jesus hears their whispering and replies: «It will be the turn of Judas of Simon, of Thomas, Bartholomew and Philip. But I did not say that you will have to be in Judaea until the feast of the Dedication. On the contrary I want you to gather the disciples and inform them to be there for the feast of the Dedication. So you will now go and look for them, gather them together and tell them; in the meantime you will watch over them and assist them and later you will come up after Me, bringing with you those you have found, and leaving instructions for the others to come. We have now friends in the main places in Judaea and they will do us the favour of informing the disciples. And on your way up to Galilee through Trans‑Jordan, remember that I will be going through Gerasa, Bozrah, Arbela, as far as Aera, and collect also those who did not dare to come to Me asking for a miracle or doctrine, and later have regretted not doing so. Bring them to Me. I will stay in Aera until you arrive.»
«In that case we had better go at once » says the Iscariot.
«No, you will leave the evening before My departure and will stay with Jonah at Gethsemane until the following day, and then you will set out for Judaea. You will thus be able to see your mother and help her just now that she is selling her farm produce.»
«She learned to do that by herself years ago.»
«Don't you remember that last year she could not do without you at vintage time? » asks Peter rather slyly.
Judas becomes as red as a poppy and looks ugly in his anger and shame. But Jesus provides against any possible reply by saying: «A son is always of help and comfort to his mother. She will not see you again until Passover and after Passover. So go and do as I tell you.»
Judas does not reply to Peter, but he gives vent to his anger against Jesus: «Master, do You know what I must tell You? That I am under the impression that You want to get rid of me, or at least keep me away from You, because You suspect me and You wrongly think that I am guilty of something, because You lack charity towards me, because...»
«Judas! That is enough! I could tell you many words. But I say only: "Obey!"» Jesus is majestic in saying so. Tall as He is, with shining eyes and severe countenance, He strikes everybody with fear...
And Judas trembles. He goes behind all the apostles, while Jesus, all alone, walks ahead of them. The speechless apostolic group is thus between them.
284. Jesus Leaves Bethany for Trans‑Jordan.
24th September 1945.
«Lazarus, My dear friend, I ask you to come with Me » says Jesus appearing at the door of the hall where Lazarus is reading a roll, half reclining on a little bed.
«I will come at once, Master. Where are we going? » asks Lazarus getting up immediately.
«Into the country. I need to be all alone with you.»
Lazarus looks at Him with a worried expression and asks: «Have You sad news to give me secretly? Or... No, I do not even want to think of that...»
«No, I only wish to seek advice from you and not even the air must be aware of what we shall say. Order a wagon, because I do not want you to get tired. When we are out in the open country I will speak to you.»
«In that case I will drive it myself. So no servant will know what we say.»
«Yes, do that.»
«I am going at once, Master. I'll soon be ready » and he goes out.
Jesus also goes out after standing somewhat pensive in the middle of the magnificent hall. While engrossed in thought, He mechanically moves two or three objects and picks up a roll which had fallen on to the floor, and when putting it in its place in a cabinet, because of His inborn instinct for order, which is so deeply rooted in Jesus, He remains with His arm raised, looking at the strange art of some objects lined up in the cabinet, which are different from the current art in Palestine. By the embossed work and design imitating the ornaments of the temples of ancient Greece and of funeral urns, they appear to be very old amphoras and cups. What He sees beyond the articles themselves, I do not know... He leaves the hall and goes into the inner yard, where the apostles are.
«Where are we going, Master? » they ask when they see Jesus tidy His mantle.
«Nowhere. I am going with Lazarus. You will stay here and wait for Me. I shall soon be back.»
The Twelve look at one another. They are not very happy...
Peter says: «Are You going alone? Be careful...»
«Do not be afraid. While waiting, do not be idle. Teach Ermasteus, that he may have a better knowledge of the Law and be good company to one another, without arguments or rudeness. Bear with and love one another.»
He sets out towards the garden and they all follow Him. A closed cart soon arrives with Lazarus in it.
«Are You going in that cart? »
«Yes, so that Lazarus may not tire his legs. Goodbye, Marjiam. Be good. Peace to you all.»
He climbs into the cart, which grinding the pebbles of the avenue leaves the garden and turns into the main road.
«Are You going to the Clear Water, Master? » Thomas shouts after Him.
«No, I am not. Once again I tell you to be good.»
The horse starts at a steady trot. The road going from Bethany to Jericho runs through the country, which is becoming bare. The more they descend towards the plain, the more the fading of the greenery in the fields becomes noticeable.
Jesus is pensive. Lazarus is silent and intent only on driving the cart. When they are down in the plain, a fertile plain, which is ready to nourish the seed of future corn, and where all the vineyards seem to be asleep, like a woman who has recently given birth to her fruit and is resting after her pleasant labour, Jesus beckons Lazarus to stop. Lazarus stops at once and leads the horse into a side road, which takes to houses far away... and he explains: «We shall be safer here than on the main road. These trees will conceal us from the eyes of many people.» In fact a thicket of low trees acts as a screen against the curiosity of passers‑by. Lazarus is standing before Jesus, waiting.
«Lazarus, I must send away John of Endor and Syntyche. You can see that both prudence and charity advise Me to do so. It would be a dangerous test and useless grief for both of them to be aware of the persecutions set in motion against them... and which, for at least one of them, could bring about most grievous surprises.»
«In my house...»
«No. Not even in your house. Perhaps they would not be troubled materially. But they would be humiliated morally. The world is cruel. It crushes its victims. I do not want those two beautiful and powerful souls to get lost like that. So, as one day I joined Ishmael to Sarah, I will now join My poor John to Syntyche. I want him to die in peace, I do not want him to be left alone, and he must go away feeling that he is being sent elsewhere, not because he was formerly a galley‑man, but because he is the proselyte disciple who can be sent away to announce the Master. And Syntyche will help him... She is a beautiful soul and will be a great strength in the future Church and for the future Church. Can you advise Me where to send them? I do not want them to stay in Judaea or in Galilee and not even in the Decapolis, where I go with My apostles and disciples. Nor in the heathen world. So, where? Where, so that they may be safe and usefull? »
«Master... I... how can I give You advice! »
«No, tell Me. You love Me, you do not betray Me, you love those whom I love, you are not narrow‑minded like the others.»
«I... well... I would advise You to send them where I have some friends. To Cyprus or to Syria. Make Your choice. I have trustworthy people in Cyprus. And even more in Syria!... I have also a little house, watched over by a manager, who is as faithful as a pet lamb. Our old Philip! He will do for my sake anything I tell him. And, if You do not mind, those who are persecuted by Israel and are dear to You, will be my guests as from now on, and will be safe in the house... Oh! It is not a palace! It is a house where Philip lives alone with a nephew, who looks after the gardens at Antigonium. The beloved gardens of my mother. We have kept them as a remembrance of her. She had taken there the plants of her Judaean gardens... plants of rare essences... Mother!... How much good she did to the poor with them... It was her secret domain... My mother... Master, I will soon be going to say to her: "Rejoice, my good mother. The Saviour is on the earth". She was expecting You...» Tears stream down Lazarus' drawn face. Jesus looks at him and smiles. Lazarus recovers his strength: «But let us speak of You. Do You think it is a good place? »
«I think it is. And I thank you once again, also on their behalf. You have relieved Me of a heavy burden...»
«When will they leave? I am asking so that I may prepare a letter for Philip. I will say that they are two friends of mine, from here, in need of peace. And that will suffice.»
«Yes, that is enough. But, I beg you, not even the air is to be aware of this. You can see that yourself. They are spying upon Me...»
«I know. I will not mention it even to my sisters. But how will You take them there? You have the apostles with You...»
«I will now go up as far as Aera without Judas of Simon, Thomas, Philip and Bartholomew. In the meantime I will teach Syntyche and John thoroughly, so that they may go with large provisions of Truth. I will then go down to lake Merom and later to Capernaum. And when I am there, I will send the four apostles away once again, on some other mission, and in the meantime I will send the two off to Antioch. That is what they are compelling Me to do...»
«To be afraid of Your own people. You are right... Master, it grieves me to see You worried...»
«But your kind friendship is of great comfort to Me... Lazarus, I thank you... I am leaving the day after tomorrow and I will be taking your sisters away. I need many women disciples to conceal Syntyche amongst them. Johanna of Chuza also is coming. From Merom she will go to Tiberias, where she will be spending the winter months. Her husband has decided so to have her close to him, because Herod is going back to Tiberias for some time.»
«It will be done as You wish. My sisters are Yours, as I am, as my houses, servants and belongings are. Everything is Yours, Master. Make use of it to do good. I will prepare Your letter for Philip. It is better if I give it to You personally.»
«Thank you, Lazarus.»
«That is all I can do... If I were well... Cure me, Master, and I will come.»
«No, My dear friend ... I need you as you are.»
«Even if I do not do anything? »
«Yes, even so. Oh! My Lazarus! » and Jesus embraces and kisses him.
They get on the cart and go back.
Lazarus is now silent and engrossed in thought, and Jesus asks him why.
«I was thinking that I am going to lose Syntyche. I was attracted by her science and goodness...»
«Jesus will gain her...»
«That is very true. When shall I see You again, Master? »
«Shall I not see You again until spring? Last year You were here with me for the feast of the Dedication.»
«This year I will satisfy the apostles. But next year I will be with you quite a lot. It is a promise.»
Bethany appears in the October sunshine. They are about to arrive when Lazarus stops the horse to say: «Master, You are right in sending away the man from Kerioth. I am afraid of him. He does not love You. I do not like him. I never liked him. He is sensual and greedy. And thus he may commit any sin. Master, it was he who denounced You.»
«Have you any proof? »
«No, I have not.»
«Well, in that case, do not judge. You are not very clever at judging. Remember that you considered your Mary as inexorably lost... Do not say that it was My merit. She sought Me first.»
«That is true, too. However, beware of Judas.»
Shortly afterwards they enter the garden, where the apostles are curiously awaiting them.
The absence of four apostles, and above all of Judas, makes the remaining group more intimate and happy. The group which leaves Bethany on a clear October morning on its way to Jericho, to cross to the other side of the Jordan, is just like a family, the heads of which are Jesus and Mary. The women are gathered round Mary, only Annaleah is absent from the group of the women disciples, which comprises the three Maries, Johanna, Susanna, Eliza, Marcella, Sarah and Syntyche. Peter, Andrew, James and Judas of Alphaeus, Matthew, John and James of Zebedee, Simon Zealot, John of Endor, Ermasteus and Timoneus, are grouped round Jesus, while Marjiam jumping about like a little kid, goes to and fro from one group to the other, which are only a short distance apart. Although laden with heavy bags, they proceed joyfully in the mild sunshine, through the country so solemn in its rest.
John of Endor proceeds with some difficulty under the weight hanging from his shoulders.
Peter notices it and says: «Give your useless load to me since you have decided to carry it round. Were you missing it? »
«The Master told me to bring it.»
«Did He? How lovely! Why? »
«I don't know. Yesterday evening He said to me: "Pack your books again and follow Me with them".»
«Lovely indeed!... But if He told you, it must be for a good reason. Perhaps it is for that woman. How accomplished she is! Are you as learned? »
«Almost as much as she is. She is very clever.»
«But you are not going to follow us with this load all the time, eh? »
«Oh! I don't think so. I don't know. But I can carry it myself.»
«No, my dear friend. I don't want you to be taken ill. You are looking very poorly, you know? »
«I know. I feel as if I were dying.»
«Don't be silly! At least wait until We arrive in Capernaum. It is so lovely now that we are by ourselves without that... Curse my tongue! I have failed once again in my promise to the Master!... Master? Master? »
«What do you want, Simon?»
«I have spoken ill of Judas, and I had promised You that I would not do it any more. Forgive me.»
«Yes, I do. But try not to do it again.»
«I still have 489 times to be forgiven by You...»
«What are you talking about, brother? » asks Andrew who is obviously utterly amazed.
And Peter, whose placid countenance is humorously bright, twisting his neck under the weight of John of Endor's bag, exclaims: «Don't you remember that He said that we have to forgive seventy times seven. So I am still to be forgiven 489 times and I must keep an accurate account of them...»
They all laugh; Jesus cannot help smiling either. But He replies: «You had better keep count of all the times you are capable of being good, you big boy.»
Peter approaches Him and embracing with his right arm Jesus' waist he says: «My dear Master! How happy I am to be with You without... Come on, admit it! You are happy, too... And You know what I mean. We are all friendly here. Your Mother is here. There is also the boy. We are going towards Capernaum. The season is beautiful... Five good reasons to be happy. Oh! And it is beautiful to travel with You! Where are we staying tonight? »
«Last year we met the Veiled woman there. I wonder what has happened to her... I am rather curious to know... And we found also the man of the vineyards...» Peter's laughter is so loud that it is contagious. They all laugh remembering the scene of the meeting with Judas of Kerioth.
«You are really incorrigible, Simon! » remarks Jesus reproachingly.
«I did not say anything, Master. But I had to laugh remembering his countenance when he found us there... in his vineyards...» Peter laughs so wholeheartedly that he is compelled to stop, while the others proceed laughing against their will.
Peter is joined by the women. Mary asks him kindly: «What is the matter with you, Simon? »
«Ah! I cannot tell You or I will be lacking in charity once more. But, Mother, tell me, since You are so wise. If I throw out innuendos against someone, or worse still, if I utter slander about someone, I obviously commit a sin. But if I laugh at something, at an event, which is known to everybody, something which makes people laugh, for instance, if we remember the surprise, the embarrassment and excuses of a liar when he was found out and we laugh again as we did in the past, is that still wrong? »
«It is an imperfection against charity. It is not a sin like backbiting, or slander or innuendo, but it is still lack of charity. It is like a thread pulled out of a piece of cloth. It does not tear or wear the cloth out, but it affects the firmness and beauty of the fabric and makes it subject to tears and holes. Do you not think so? »
Peter rubs his forehead and feeling rather humiliated he replies: «I do. I had never thought of that.»
«Think about it now and do not do it any more. Laughter may be more offensive to charity than slaps in the face. Has someone made a mistake? We have found someone guilty of lying or of other faults? So? Why remember it? Why remind other people? Let us cover with a veil the faults of our brother, saying: "If I were the culprit, would I like another person to remember my fault or remind other people of it?". There are people who blush in their inmost heart, Simon, and suffer so much because of it. Do not shake your head. I know what you want to say. But, believe Me, also guilty people may blush thus. You must always think: "Would I like that done to me?". You will then see that you will no longer sin against charity. And you will always have so much peace in your heart. Look how happily Marjiam is jumping and singing, because his heart is not worried. He does not have to think about itineraries, expenses or what to say. He knows that someone else takes care of all that on his behalf. Do the same yourself. Abandon everything to God. Also judgement on other people. As long as you can be like a child led by God, why take upon yourself the burden of deciding and judging? The day will come when you must be judge and arbitrator and then you will say: "Oh! How easier and less dangerous it was formerly" and you will say that you were foolish in burdening yourself before the time with so much responsibility. How difficult it is to judge other people! Did you hear what Syntyche said some days ago? "A research through senses is never perfect". She is quite right. We very often judge according to the reactions of our senses. That is, with the utmost imperfection. Give up judging...»
«Yes, Mary. I sincerely promise You. But I do not know all the beautiful things which Syntyche knows! »
«And are you worried about that, man? Do you not know that I want to get rid of all that, in order to have only what you know? »
«Do you? Why? »
«Because science may support you on the earth, but through wisdom you gain Heaven. Mine is science, yours is wisdom.»
«But by means of your science, you were able to come to Jesus! So it is a good thing.»
«It is mixed with so many errors, that I would like to divest myself of it and clothe myself with wisdom only. I do not want ornate vain dresses. Let the severe inconspicuous dress of Wisdom be mine, as it clothes like an everlasting garment not what is corruptible, but what is immortal. The flame of Science flickers and quivers, The flame of Wisdom shines unvaryingly and steadily and is like the Divinity from which it originates.»
Jesus has slackened His pace in order to hear. He turns round and says to the Greek woman: «You must not yearn to divest yourself of everything you know. But you must select from your knowledge what is a particle of eternal Intelligence conquered by minds of undeniable value.»
«Have, therefore, those minds repeated within themselves the myth of the fire stolen from the gods? »
«Yes, woman. But it was not stolen in this case. They were able to pick it when the Divinity grazed them with its fire, caressing them as specimens, spread among decayed mankind, of what man is, gifted with reason.»
«Master, You should tell me what I must keep and what I must leave. I would not be a good judge. And then You ought to fill with the light of Your Wisdom, the spaces left empty.»
«That is what I intend doing. I shall point out to you to what extent is wise what you know and I will develop it from that point to the end of the true idea. So that you may know for certain. And that will be useful also to those who are destined to have many contacts with the Gentiles in future.»
«We shall not understand anything, my Lord » moans James of Zebedee.
«You will understand little, for the time being, but one day you will understand both the present lessons and their necessity. And you, Syntyche, will expound to Me those points which are most obscure to you. And I will clarify them when we stop to rest.»
«Yes, my Lord. It is the desire of my soul which merges in Your desire. I am the disciple of the Truth, You the Master. It is the dream of all my life: to possess the Truth.»
285. Arrival at Ramoth with the Merchant from the Other Side of the
25th September 1945.
After walking a long way across a fertile plain on the other side of the Jordan ‑and it is pleasant to walk in the serene mild season as it is now at the end of October ‑ and after resting in a little village lying at the foot of the lower slopes of a rather bulky chain of mountains, some summits of which can really be called mountains, Jesus sets out once again, following a long caravan of many quadrupeds and well armed men, to whom He had previously spoken while they were watering their animals at the fountains in the square. They are mostly tall swarthy men, with typical Asian features. The head of the caravan is riding a very strong mule and is armed to the teeth and weapons are hanging from his saddle. And yet he had great respect for Jesus.
The apostles ask Jesus: «Who is he? »
«A rich merchant from the other side of the Euphrates. I asked him where he was going and he replied politely. He will be passing through the towns where I intend to go. Which is providential in these mountains, when we have the women with us.»
«Are You afraid of something? »
«I am not afraid of being robbed, as we possess nothing. But it would be enough to frighten the women. A handful of robbers will never attack so strong a caravan, which will be most useful to us because we shall also find out the best passes and shall be able to cross over the difficult ones. He asked Me: "Are You the Messiah?" and when he heard that I was, he said: "I was in the Courtyard of the Heathens some days ago and I heard You more than I could see You, because I am a small man. Well, I will protect You and You will protect me. I have a very valuable load".»
«Is he a proselyte? »
«I do not think so. But perhaps he is of our extraction.»
The caravan proceeds slowly, as if they did not want to exhaust the strength of the quadrupeds by going too far. It is therefore easy to follow them and sometimes it is necessary to stop as the drivers let the laden animals pass one by one holding them by their halters in the most difficult spots.
Although a true and proper mountainous area, it is fertile and well cultivated. Perhaps the high mountains to the north act as a protection against the cold northern winds or the harmful eastern ones and that helps cultivation. The caravan marches along a stream which flows into the Jordan and is rich in water which comes down from I wonder which top. The view is beautiful and becomes more and more beautiful as one climbs up, stretching westwards across the plain of the Jordan and reaching, beyond it, the graceful hills and mountains of northern Judaea, while to the east and north the view changes continuously, stretching far out and wide, or showing overlapping rounded hills and green or rocky mountain tops, which seem to obstruct the road like the sudden wall of a labyrinth.
The sun is about to set behind the mountains of Judaea, colouring sky and slopes with a deep red, when the rich merchant, who has stopped to let the caravan pass, says to Jesus: «We must reach the village before night. But many of Your people look tired. This is a long hard leg. Let them mount the spare mules. They are quiet animals. In any case they will be resting all night and the weight of a woman is no burden to them.»
Jesus agrees and the man orders the caravan to stop to let the women mount the mules. Jesus makes John of Endor get on horseback as well. And those on foot, including Jesus, hold the reins to make the women feel safer. Marjiam wants to be... a man, and although he is exhausted, he refuses to go on horseback with anyone and he takes one of the reins of the Blessed Virgin's mule, Who is thus between Jesus and the boy, and he walks bravely.
The merchant has remained near Jesus and he says to Mary: «See that village, Donna? That is Ramoth. We will stop there. I am well known at the hotel because I come this way twice a year, and I go along the coast, also twice a year to purchase and sell. My life is a hard one. But I have twelve children and they are all young. I got married late. The last one was nine days old when I left him. And he will have cut his first teeth when I see him.»
«A lovely family...» comments Mary, and She adds: «May Heaven preserve it for you.»
«As a matter of fact I cannot complain of its help although I do not really deserve it.»
Jesus asks him: «Are you at least a proselyte? »
«I should be... My ancestors were true Israelites. Then... we became acclimatised there...»
«A soul becomes acclimatised in one atmosphere only: in Heaven's.»
«You are right. But You know... My great grandfather married a woman who was not an Israelite. His children became less faithful... The sons of his children once again married women who were not from Israel and their children were respectful only of their Jewish names; because we are of Jewish extraction. Now I, a grandson of grandsons... I am nothing. Being in touch with everybody I have taken after everyone, with the result that I belong to no one.»
«That is not a good reason and I can prove it to you. If going along this road, which you know to be a good one, you should meet five or six people who said to you: "No, don't go this way!", "Go back", "Stop", "Go eastwards", "Turn westwards", what would you do? »
«I would say: "I know that this is the right road and the shortest, and i am not going to leave it".»
«Likewise: if you are negotiating some business and you know the best way to do it, would you listen to those who either through boasts or interested cunning advised you to act differently? »
«No. I would follow the method which my experience tells me is the best.»
«Very well. Millennia of faith are behind you, a descendant of Israel. You are neither stupid nor uneducated. So why are you influenced by contacts with everybody in matters of faith, whereas you reject them when money or road safety is concerned? Do you not think it is dishonourable also from a human point of view? To place God after money and the road...»
«I do not postpone God. But I have lost sight of Him...»
«Because business, money, your life are your gods. But it is still God Who allows you to have such things... Then, why did you go to the Temple? »
«Out of curiosity. Coming out of a house where I had negotiated some goods, I saw a group of men pay their respects to You and I remembered the words I had heard at Ashkelon from a woman who made carpets. I asked who You were, as I suspected You might be the One of Whom the woman had spoken to me. And when I found out that it was You, I followed You. I had done my business for that day... Then I lost sight of You. I saw You once again at Jericho. But only for a moment. Now I have found You again... That's it...»
«So God has joined and interlaced our ways. I have no gifts to offer you to thank you for your kindness. But before leaving you I hope to be able to give you a present, unless you leave Me beforehand...»
«No, I will not. Alexander Misace does not take back what he offers! Here we are. The village begins after that turn. I will go ahead. We will meet at the hotel » and he spurs his mule leaving almost at a gallop on the edge of the road.
«He is an honest unhappy man, Son » says Mary.
«And You would like him to be happy according to Wisdom, would You not?»
And they smile kindly at each other in the first shadows of the evening.
...The pilgrims are all gathered in a large hall of the hotel, waiting to go to bed, in the long October evening. The merchant is in a corner, all by himself, intent on his accounts. Jesus, with His group, is in the opposite comer. There are no other guests. Braying, neighing and bleating can be heard coming from the stables, which makes one assume that there are other people in the hotel. Perhaps they are already in bed.
Marjiam has fallen asleep in Our Lady's arms, forgetting all of a sudden that he was «a man ». Peter is dozing and is not the only one. Also the whispering elderly women are half asleep and are silent. Jesus, Mary, Lazarus' sisters, Syntyche, Simon Zealot, John and Judas are well awake.
Syntyche is searching John of Endor's bag looking for something. But she prefers to come close to the others and listen to Judas of Alphaeus who is speaking of the consequences of the exile in Babylon and concludes: «...and perhaps that man is still a consequence of that. Every exile is a ruin...». Syntyche nods unintentionally but does not say anything and Judas of Alphaeus concludes: «However, it is strange that one can so easily divest oneself of what has been a treasure for centuries to become entirely new, particularly in matters of religion, and a religion like ours...»
Jesus replies: «You must not be surprised if you see Samaria in the lap of Israel.»
There is silence... Syntyche's dark eyes are staring at Jesus' serene profile. She looks at Him intensely, but does not speak. Jesus perceives her glance and turns round to look at her.
«Have you not found anything to your liking? »
«No, my Lord. I have got to the point that I am no longer able to reconcile the past with the present, former ideas with present ones. And I feel as if it were a defection because my former ideas have helped me to have the present ones. Your apostle spoke the truth... But my ruin is a happy one.»
«What is your ruin? »
«All my faith in heathen Olympus, my Lord. But I am somewhat upset because on reading Your Scriptures ‑ John gave me them and I read them because there is no possession without knowledge ‑ I found out that also in your history... of the beginning, shall I say, there are events which do not differ much from ours. Now, I would like to know...»
«I have already told you: ask Me and I will answer your questions.»
«Is everything wrong in the religion of the gods? »
«Yes, woman. There is but one God, Who does not originate from anybody else and is not subject to human passions and needs: one Only, Eternal, Perfect God, the Creator of everything.»
«I believe that. But I want to be able to reply to the questions which other heathens may ask me not in a way which does not admit any discussion, but by discussing in order to be convinced. I, by myself and by virtue of beneficent paternal God, have given myself informal answers, but sufficient to give peace to my spirit. But I was willing to reach the Truth. Others may be less anxious than I am in that respect. But everybody ought to be keen in such research. I do not want to be inactive with souls. I would like to give what I have received. But I must know in order to be able to give. Grant me knowledge and I will serve You in the name of love. Today, on the way, while I was watching the mountains and certain views reminded me of the chains of Hellas and of the history of my Country, by association of ideas the myths of Prometheus and Deucalion crossed my mind... You have something similar in the fulmination of Lucifer, in the infusion of life into clay, in the Flood of Noah. Light concomitances, yet they are a remembrance... Now tell me: how could we be aware of them if there was no contact between you and us, if you certainly had them before we did, and although we had them, we do not know how we got them? We still ignore one another, in many things. So how could we, thousands of years ago, have legends which are remembrances of Your Truth? »
«Woman, you ought to be the last one to ask Me. Because you have read works which could answer your questions by themselves. Today, by association of ideas, from the remembrance of your native mountains you have gone on to the remembrance of native myths and comparisons. Is that right. Why? »
«Because my awakened thought remembered.»
«Very well. Also the souls of the very ancient people who gave a religion to your land remembered. Vaguely, as someone who is imperfect can do, someone separated from the revealed religion. But they have always remembered. There are many religions in the world. Now, if we had here in a clear picture all their details, we would see that there is something like a golden thread, lost in much mud, a thread with many knots in which fragments of the real Truth are enclosed.»
«But do we not all come of the same stock? You say so. So why were the very ancient ones, who came of the original stock, why were they not able to bring the Truth with them? Was it not unjust to deprive them of it? »
«You have read Genesis, have you not? What have you found? A complex sin at the beginning, a sin embracing the three states of man: matter, thought, spirit. Then a fratricide. Then a double homicide to counterbalance the work of Enoch to keep light in hearts, then corruption, when the sons of God, out of lust, married the daughters of man. And notwithstanding the purification by the Deluge and the remaking of the race from good seed, not from stones as your myths state, likewise the first clay modelled by God to His image and in the shape of man was endowed with life through the work of God by the infusion of vital Fire, and not through the theft of vital fire by man, there was a fresh outburst of pride, an insult to God: "Let us touch the sky" and the divine curse: "Let them be scattered and let them no longer understand one another"... And the only stock became divided, like water clashing against a rock is divided into little streams and does not come together again, and the race was divided into races. Mankind driven away by its sin and by divine punishment was scattered and never came together again, carrying with itself the confusion created by pride. But souls remember. There is always something left within them. And the most virtuous and wise see a light indistinctly, a feeble light in the dark of myths: the light of Truth. It is the remembrance of the Light seen before life, which inspires them with some truth, in which are fragments of the revealed Truth . Is that clear to you? »
«Only partly. But I will think about it. Night is the friend of those who meditate and collect their thoughts.»
«Well, let us go and collect our thoughts. Let us go, My friends. Peace to you, women. Peace to you, My disciples. Peace to you, Alexander Misace.»
«Goodbye, my Lord. God be with You » replies the merchant bowing...
286. From Ramoth to Gerasa.
26th September 1945.
The peculiarity of this village lying on a raised rocky platform in the middle of a crown of mountain tops, some of which are higher, some lower than it, appears in all its typical beauty in the rather hard light of a somewhat windy morning. It looks like a huge granite tray with buildings, little houses, bridges, fountains lying on it, for the amusement of a gigantic child.
The houses seem to be engraved in calcareous rock which is the basic matter in the area. They are square shaped and built with blocks laid one upon another, some are not plastered, the blocks of some are still in their rough natural state, they really look like the little houses decorating a Christmas crib built with cubes by a big clever boy.
And around the little village one can contemplate its fertile country, covered with trees, variously cultivated, so that from above it looks like a carpet of squares, trapezia, triangles, some of which are brown owing to the recently hoed earth, some emerald green because of the grass grown after autumn rain, some reddish because of the last leaves of vineyards and orchards, some grey-green because of poplars or willows, or enamel green because of oaks and carobs, or bronze‑green owing to cypresses and conifers. Beautiful, really beautiful!
And one can see roads which, like ribbons parting from a knot, run from the village to the remote plain, or towards the high mountains and dive under woods or divide with a grey line the green meadows or brown ploughed fields.
And there is a pleasant stream of water, which is silvery beyond the village towards its spring, and blue fading to jade on the other side, where it flows down to the valley between gorges and slopes, and it appears and disappears playfully, and it grows stronger and stronger and bluer and bluer as its water increases, thus preventing the reeds and grass, which have grown in its bed during the droughty months, from tinging it green and it thus reflects the sky, after burying the stalks in its deep water.
The sky is unreal blue: a precious scale of deep enamel blue, without the least impure flaw in its wonderful texture.
And the caravan sets off again, with the women still on horseback, because, as the merchant says, the road is very difficult after the village and it is necessary to walk fast in order to get to Gerasa before night. They are all muffled up and they proceed swiftly, as they are well rested, along a road which climbs up through wonderful woods, skimming the highest slopes of a solitary mountain, which rises like a huge block resting on the shoulders of the other mountains under it. A real giant as one can see in the highest parts of our Apennines.
«Galaad » says the merchant, pointing at it; he has remained near Jesus Who is leading the Virgin's little mule holding its reins. And the merchant adds: «After this the road is much better. Have You ever been here? »
«No, never. I wanted to come here in springtime. But I was rejected at Galgala.»
«You rejected? How dreadful! »
Jesus looks at him and is silent.
The merchant has taken Marjiam up on his saddle, as the boy with his short legs was finding it difficult to keep up with the quick pace of the horses. And Peter is well aware that it is a quick pace! He is plodding along with all his might, imitated by the others, but he is always outdistanced by the caravan. He is perspiring, but is happy because he can hear Marjiam laugh, he sees that Our Lady is resting and the Lord is happy. He puffs and blows while speaking to Matthew and his brother Andrew, who are left behind with him, and he makes them laugh saying that if in addition to his legs, he had wings, he would be happy that morning. He got rid of all loads, like the rest, tying the bags to the saddles of the women's mounts, but the road is really frightful, the stone being slippery with dew. The two Jameses with John and Thaddeus are more clever as they are keeping up with the pace of the women's mules. Simon Zealot is speaking to John of Endor. Timoneus and Ermasteus are also leading mules.
At last the worst of the road is over and an entirely different scenery is displayed to their amazed eyes. The Jordan valley has definitely disappeared. To the east one's eyes rove over an imposingly wide tableland, where only a ripple of hills attempt to rise in order to interrupt the evenness of the landscape. I would never have thought there could be any such thing in Palestine. It seems that after the rocky storm of mountains, the storm itself has calmed down and become petrified in a huge billow which has been left hanging between the bottom level and the sky, with only one remembrance of its original fury in the tiny lines of hills, the foam of the crests solidified here and there, whilst the water of the billow has spread out over a wonderful and magnificent plain surface. And one reaches this bright peaceful area through a last gorge, as wild as the abyss between two clashing billows, the last two waves of a sea‑storm, in the depths of which there is a fresh foaming torrent flowing westwards and coming from the east, in a tormented enraged way between rocks and waterfalls in dire contrast with the remote peace of the huge tableland.
«The road will be good now. If You do not mind I will give the order to stop» says the merchant.
«I am being guided by you, man. You know that.»
They all dismount and spread out along the slopes in search of wood to cook the food, and of water for their tired feet and parched throats. The animals, once relieved of their loads, graze the thick grass or go down to the limpid torrent to water. The smell of resins and roast meat rises from the little fires lit to cook some lambs.
The apostles have lit a fire of their own on which they heat some salt fish after washing it in the cool water of the torrent. But the merchant sees them and he comes bringing a little skinned lamb, or a little kid, whichever it may be, and makes them accept it. And Peter gets ready to roast it after stuffing it with fresh mint.
The meal is soon prepared and is soon over. And under the perpendicular midday sunshine they resume marching along a better road, which follows the torrent north‑eastwards in a wonderfully fertile and well cultivated area, rich in sheep and swine herds, which run away grunting before the caravan.
«That walled town is Gerasa, my Lord. A town with a great future. It is now developing, and I don't think I am wrong in saying that it will soon be competing with Joppa, Ashkelon, with Tyre and many more towns, in beauty, trade and wealth. The Romans have realised its importance, on this road which from the Red Sea, that is, from Egypt goes to the Euxine Sea through Damascus. And they are helping the Gerasenes to build... They are sharpsighted and have a good nose. For the time being it only has a very good trade, but later!... Oh! It will be beautiful and rich! A little Rome, with temples, piscinae, circuses, thermal baths. I only traded with them. But now I have bought much ground, to build emporia, which I will sell later at a high price, and perhaps I will build a real gentleman's house there, where I can stay in my old days, when Balthazar, Nabor, Felix and Sydmia will be able to look after and manage respectively the emporia at Sinope, Tyre, Joppa and Alexandria on the mouth of the Nile. In the meantime the other three boys will grow up and I will give them the emporia at Gerasa, Ashkelon and perhaps at Jerusalem. And the rich and beautiful girls will be sought‑after and they will make very good matches and give me many grandchildren...» the merchant has golden and rosy day‑dreams for the future.
Jesus asks him calmly: «And then? »
The merchant rouses himself, looks at Him perplexedly and then says: «And then? That is all. Then death will come... It is sad. But that is it.»
«And will you leave all business? Your emporia? Your affections? »
«My Lord! I would not like to. But as I was born I must also die. And I shall have to leave everything » and he heaves such a long sigh as to push the caravan forward with it...
«But who told you that once you are dead you leave everything? »
«Who? The facts of life! Once you are dead... that is all. You have no hands, no eyes, no ears...»
«You are not only hands, eyes and ears.»
«I am a man. I know. I have other things. But they all end with death. It is like the setting of the sun. Its setting destroys it...»
«But dawn creates it once more, or rather it presents it again. You are a man, you said so. You are not an animal like the one you are riding. An animal, once it is dead, is really finished. Not you. You have a soul. Do you not know? Do you not even know that any more? »
The merchant hears the sad reproach, a sad but kind reproach, and he lowers his head whispering: «I still know that...»
«So? Do you not know that the soul survives? »
«Well, then? Do you not know that it still has an activity in the next life? A holy activity if it is holy. A wicked one if it is wicked. And it has its sentiments. Oh! It has them indeed! Loving ones, if it is holy. Hateful ones, if it is damned. Hateful against whom? Against the causes of its damnation. In your case: your business, the emporia, your exclusively human affections. Loving affections for whom? For the same things. And what blessings can a soul bring upon its children and their activity when it is in the peace of the Lord! »
The man is pensive. He says: «It is late. I am old, now.» And he stops his mule.
Jesus smiles and replies: «I will not force you. I advise you » and He turns round to look at the apostles, who in the halt before entering the town are helping the women to dismount and are picking up their bags.
The caravan sets out again and soon enters the busy town through the gate watched over by towers.
The merchant goes back to Jesus: «Do You want to remain with me? »
«If you do not drive Me away, why should I not want to? »
«Because of what I said to You. I must make You, the Holy One, sick.»
«Oh! no! I have come for people like you, whom I love because you are the most needy. You do not know Me as yet. But I am the Love who passes by begging for love.»
«So You do not hate me? »
«I love you.»
Tears shine in the man's deep eyes. But he says smiling: «In that case we shall stay together. I am stopping at Gerasa on business for three days. I leave the mules here and take camels. I have a caravan stage in the major halting places and a servant looks after the animals I leave in each place. And what will You do?»
«I will evangelize on the Sabbath. I would have left you, if you had not stopped, because the Sabbath is sacred to the Lord.»
The man knits his brows, is pensive and with some difficulty he agrees: «...Of course... It is true. It is sacred to the God of Israel. It is sacred... it is indeed...» He looks at Jesus: «If You allow me, I will consecrate it to You.»
«To God. Not to His Servant.»
«To God and to You, by listening to You. I will do my business today and tomorrow morning. And then I will listen to You. Are You coming to the hotel now? »
«I have no option. I have the women and I am not known here.»
«Here it is, it is mine. It is mine because my stables are here year after year. I have large rooms for the goods. If You wish...»
«May God reward you. Let us go.»
287. Preaching at Gerasa.
27th September 1945.
He thought He was unknown! When He sets foot outside Alexander's building the following morning, He finds people already waiting for Him. Jesus is with the apostles only. The women and disciples are still in the house, resting. The people greet Him gathering round Him and they say that they know Him because a man He had freed from demons has spoken to them about Him. The man is not there now because he has gone on with two disciples, who passed by some days ago.
Jesus listens kindly to what they say and at the same time He walks through the town in some areas of which the noise of building yards is dreadfully loud. Masons, diggers, stone‑cutters, blacksmiths, carpenters are working building, levelling, filling gaps, chiselling stones for walls, working iron for various purposes, sawing, planing, making poles out of strong trunks. Jesus passes by watching, He crosses a bridge on a babbling torrent flowing in the middle of the town, with a row of houses on each side pretending to form a riverside. He goes up to the higher part of the town, which is built on a rising ground so that the south east side is higher than the northern one, but they are both higher than the town centre, which is divided by the little stream.
The view from the point where Jesus has stopped is beautiful. The whole town is displayed before the onlooker, and behind it, on the eastern, southern, western sides there is a horse‑shoe shaped chain of low green hills, whereas to the north the eye roves over a wide open plain, with a ground elevation on the horizon, so tiny that it cannot even be called a hill, but it is beautifully golden in the morning sunshine, which tinges with a yellowish hue the leaves of the vines which cover the ground, as if it intended to mitigate the melancholy of the withering leaves with the splendour of a touch of gold.
Jesus is admiring the view and the people of Gerasa are looking at Him. He wins the regard of the people by saying to them:
«This town is really beautiful. Make it beautiful also in justice and holiness. The hills, the stream, the green plain were given to you by God. Rome is now helping you to have homes and beautiful buildings. But it is up to you only to have your town called holy and just. A town is what its citizens make it. Because a town is a part of society closed within its walls, but it is the citizens that make the town. A town in itself does not commit sin. The stream, the bridge, the houses, the towers cannot sin. They are matter, not souls. But those who are within the town walls, in houses, shops, those who cross the bridge or bathe in the stream they can all sin. If a town is factious and ruthless, people say: "It is a very bad town". But that is wrong. It is not the town, it is the citizens who are very bad. Those individuals by joining together become one complex thing, as well as one thing only, which is called "town".
Now listen. If in a town ten thousand inhabitants are good, and only one thousand are not good, can we say that that town is wicked? No, we cannot. Likewise: if in a town of ten thousand inhabitants there are many parties and each struggles to favour his own, can we say that that town is still united? No, we cannot. And do you think that that town will thrive? No, it will not.
You people of Gerasa are now all united striving to make your town great. And you will succeed because you all want the same thing and you vie with one another in achieving your purpose. But if tomorrow opposed parties should arise among you and one said: "No, it is better to expand eastwards" and another party said: "Not at all. We will build in the north where the plain is", and a third one should say: "Neither here nor there. We all want to live close together in the centre, near the river", what would happen? It would happen that the work you have started would stop, those who have lent capitals would withdraw them, those who intended to settle here would go to another town with more agreeable people, and what you have already done would go to rack and ruin, as it would be exposed to the inclemency of the weather, before being completed, as a result of the quarrels of citizens. Is that right or not? You say it is, and you are right. So the harmony of the citizens is required for the welfare of the town, and consequently of the citizens themselves, because the welfare of a society is the welfare of its members.
But there is not only the society of which you are thinking, the society of citizens, of fellow‑countrymen, or the little dear family society. There is a vaster society, an infinite one: the society of spirits.
Each living man has a soul. The soul does not die with the body, but survives for ever. The idea of God, the Creator, who gave each man his soul, was that all the souls of men should be gathered in one place only, in Heaven, forming the Kingdom of Heaven, whose monarch is God and whose blissful subjects were to be all men, after a holy life and a placid limbo of expectancy. Satan came to divide and upset, destroy and grieve God and spirits. And he set sin in the hearts of men and with sin he brought death to the body at the end of its existence, hoping to give death to spirits as well. But the death of spirits is their damnation, which is still existence, but devoid of what is true life and eternal joy, that is, devoid of the beatific vision of God and of His eternal possession in eternal light. And Mankind became divided in its desires, like a town divided by opposed parties. And it was thus brought to ruin. I said elsewhere to those who were accusing Me of expelling demons with the assistance of BeeIzebub: "Every kingdom divided in itself will be brought to ruin". In fact if Satan expelled himself, he and his gloomy kingdom would ruin.
I have come, for the love that God has for mankind created by Him, to remind people that one Kingdom only is holy: the Kingdom of Heaven. And I have come to preach it, so that the better people may go towards it. Oh! I would like everybody, even the worst ones, to come to it, becoming converted, freeing themselves from the demon who keeps them enslaved, either openly, through corporal and spiritual possession, or secretly through a mere spiritual one. That is why I move about curing sick people, expelling demons from possessed people, converting sinners, forgiving in the name of the Lord, preaching the Kingdom, working miracles to convince you of My power and prove that God is with Me. Because no one can work a miracle unless God is his friend. So if I expel demons with the power of God, and I cure sick people, I cleanse lepers, convert sinners, announce and preach the Kingdom and I call people to it in the name of God, and God's compliance with Me is clear and indisputable, so that only disloyal enemies may assert the contrary, it is a sign that the Kingdom of God is among you and must be established because the hour of its foundation has come.
How is the Kingdom of God established in the world and in hearts? By going back to the Mosaic Law or by becoming acquainted with it if one is ignorant of it and, above all, by abiding by it absolutely, in every event and moment of our life. Which is that Law? Something so severe as to be impracticable? No. It is a set of ten holy easy precepts, which even a really morally good man feels he must respect, even if he lives in the most impervious forest of mysterious Africa. It says:
"I am the Lord Your God, you shall have no gods except Me.
You shall not utter the name of God in vain.
You shall keep the Sabbath according to the commandment of God and to the needs of the human body.
Honour your father and mother so that you may have a long life and be blessed both on the earth and in Heaven.
You shall not kill.
You shall not steal.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour's wife.
You shall not covet your neighbour's goods".
Which good natured soul, contemplating what is around him, even if he is a savage, will not say: "All this was not formed by itself. Therefore there must be One, more powerful than nature and than man himself, who made this"? And he worships the Powerful One Whose Most Holy Name he may or may not know, but he feels He must exist. And he has such reverence before Him, that when he utters the name which he has given Him or has been taught to utter to name Him, he trembles with respect and he feels that he prays when uttering it reverently. In fact it is a prayer to utter the Name of God with the intention of worshipping Him or making Him known to those who do not know Him.
Likewise, out of moral prudence alone every man feels that he must grant some rest to his limbs, so that they may resist as long as his life lasts. By deeper reason, a man who knows the God of Israel, the Creator and Lord of the Universe, feels that he must consecrate his bodily rest to the Lord, so that he may not be like a beast of burden which rests, when tired, on litter crushing fodder with its strong teeth.
Blood also calls for love for those from whom we originate, as we can see in that colt that is now running braying towards its mother which is coming from the market. It was playing in the herd, it saw its mother, it remembers it was fed by her and licked with loving care, defended and warmed by its mother, and see? It rubs her neck with its tender nostrils and jumps joyfully rubbing its young crupper against the sides that carried it. It is a duty and a pleasure to love one's parents. And there is no animal which does not love the mother which gave birth to it. What? Will man be more vile than worms living in mud?
A morally good man does not kill. He has a strong dislike of violence. He feels that it is not lawful to take anybody's life, and that God only, Who gave it, has the right to take it. He abhors homicide.
Likewise, he who is morally sound does not take advantage of other people's property. He prefers to eat plain bread with a clear conscience near a silvery fountain, rather than have a rich roast which is the fruit of a theft. He prefers to sleep on the ground with his head on a stone and friendly stars above him, pouring peace and comfort on his honest conscience, rather than toss about in a stolen bed.
And if he is morally sound, he is not eager for more women, which are not his, and he will not cowardly disgrace the nuptial bed of his neighbour. And he will consider his friend's wife as a sister and will not cast lustful glances at her, as no one does at a sister.
A man with a righteous soul, even if only naturally righteous, with no other knowledge of Good but what comes to him from his honest conscience, will never take the liberty of giving false witness, as he would consider that the same as homicide and theft, which it is. But his lips are as honest as his heart, and his glances are honest, so he does not desire his neighbour's wife. He does not crave for anything, as he knows that that is the first incentive to sin. And he is not envious. Because he is good. A good man is never envious. He is happy in his lot.
Do you think that this law is so exacting as to be impracticable? Do not wrong yourselves! I am sure that you will not do that. And if you do not, you will stablish the Kingdom of God within yourselves and in your town. And you will be happily joined one day to those whom you loved and who like you have gained the eternal Kingdom in the everlasting joy of Heaven.
But we have within us passions, which are like citizens closed within the circle of town walls. It is necessary for all the passions of men to want the same thing: that is, holiness, Otherwise some will tend to Heaven in vain, if others leave the doors unguarded and let the seducer enter or counteract the actions of part of the spiritual citizens through disputes or laziness, making the interior part of the town perish and abandoning it to nettles, poison, couchgrass, snakes, scorpions, mice and jackals, and owls, that is, to wicked passions and to Satan's angels. You must be unceasingly vigilant, like sentries placed at the walls, to prevent the Evil one from entering where we want to build the Kingdom of God.
I solemnly tell you that as long as the strong man watches in arms the hall of his house, he is sure of everything which is in it. But if one stronger than he is comes, or if he leaves the door unguarded, then the stronger man will defeat him and disarm him, and when he is deprived of the weapons on which he relied, he loses heart and surrenders and the stronger man makes him a prisoner and takes his spoils. But if man lives in God, through loyalty to the Law and justice practised holily, God is with him, I am with him, and no harm can befall him. Union with God is the weapon which no strong man can overcome. Union with Me is certainty of victory and of abundance of eternal virtues through which he will be given an eternal seat in the Kingdom of God. But he who turns his back on Me or becomes My enemy, rejects thereby the weapons and certainty of My Word. He who rejects the Word, rejects God. He who rejects God invokes Satan. He who invokes Satan destroys what he had to conquer the Kingdom.
Therefore, he who is not with Me is against Me. And he who does not cultivate what I have sown, will reap what the Enemy has sown. He who does not harvest with Me, dissipates and will be poor and nude when he comes to the Supreme Judge, Who will send him to the master to whom he sold himself by preferring BeeIzebub to Christ.
Citizens of Gerasa: build the Kingdom of God within yourselves and in your town.»
The trilling voice of a woman is clearly heard like the song of a skylark above the whispering of the admiring crowd, and it sings a new beatitude, that is the glory of Mary: «Blessed be the womb that bore You and the breast that suckled You.»
Jesus turns towards the woman who extolled His Mother admiring Her Son. He smiles, because He is pleased with the praise for His Mother. But He then says: «More blessed are those who listen to the word of God and practise it. Do that, woman.»
He then blesses the crowds and goes towards the country, followed by the apostles who ask Him: «Why did You say that? »
«Because I tell you solemnly that in Heaven they do not use the same measure as is used on the earth. And My Mother will be blessed not so much because of Her immaculate soul as for listening to the word of God and practising it through obedience. It was a prodigy of the Creator "that Mary's soul was immaculate". And He is to be praised for that. But the "let what you have said be done to Me" is a prodigy of My Mother. Her merit therefore is great. So great that the Saviour of the world came only because of Her capability of listening to God, speaking through Gabriel's lips, and because of Her will to practise the word of God, without weighing the difficulties and the immediate and future sorrows connected with Her assent. You can thus see that She is My blessed Mother not only because She bore and suckled Me, but because She listened to the word of God and practised it through obedience. But let us go home now. My Mother knew that I was going to be out for a short while and She may be worried because of My delay. We are in a half‑pagan country. But in actual fact it is better than others. But let us go. And let us go round the walls to avoid the crowds which would keep Me back. Come down quick behind this thicket...»
288. The Sabbath at Gerasa.
28th September 1945.
The hours of the day are long when one does not know what to do. And those who are with Jesus do not know what to do on that Sabbath, in a town where they have no acquaintances, in a house where they do not feel at home because of different languages and habits, without taking into account the Jewish prejudices which keep them apart from Alexander Misace's camel‑drivers and servants. Many, therefore, have stayed in bed or are dozing in the sun that makes the large square yard of the house comfortably warm. It is a yard suited to receive caravans, as it is fitted with basins and rings fixed to the walls or columns of a rustic porch, which runs along the four sides, with many stables and lofts for hay and straw on three sides. The women are in their rooms. I do not see even one of them.
Marjiam amuses himself also in the closed yard, watching the work of the stable‑men, who curry mules, change litters, examine hoofs, fasten loose horse‑shoes, or, what is of greater interest to him because it is something entirely new, he is spellbound watching how the cameleers deal with the camels, preparing in advance the load for each animal, in proportion to each of them, balancing it, and how they make a camel kneel down and rise in order to load and unload it, rewarding each one with a handful of dry legumes, which I think are broad beans, and at the end they gave them carobs, which the men also chew with relish.
Marjiam is utterly amazed and he looks round to find someone with whom he may share his amazement. But he is disappointed because adults are not interested in camels. They are either speaking to one another or dozing. He goes to Peter who is sleeping blissfully with his head resting on soft hay, and shakes his arm. Peter half opens his eyes and asks: «What is it? Who wants me? »
«I do, Come and see the camels.»
«Let me sleep. I have seen so many of them... Ugly animals.»
The boy then goes to Matthew, who is checking his accounts, as he is the treasurer during this trip: «You know, I have been to see the camels. They eat like sheep, did you know? And they kneel down like men and they look like boats moving up and down. Have you seen them? »
Matthew, who has lost his count owing to the interruption, replies sharply: «Yes » and resumes counting his money.
Another disappointment... Marjiam looks round... There is Simon Zealot speaking to Judas Thaddeus... «How lovely camels are! And how good! They loaded and unloaded them and they lay down on the ground so that the cameleer should not have to work too hard. And they eat carobs. The men also were eating them. I would like... But I cannot make myself understood. Come with me...» and he takes Simon by the hand.
Simon, who is engrossed in peaceful conversation with Thaddeus, replies absent‑mindedly: «Yes, dear... Go... and watch that you do not hurt yourself.»
Marjiam is astonished... Simon has not replied to the point. The boy is almost weeping. He goes away down- heartedly and leans against a column...
Jesus comes out of a room and sees that he is sulky and alone. He goes towards the boy and lays a hand on his head. «What are you doing all alone and so sad? »
«No one will listen to me...»
«What did you want from them? »
«Nothing I was speaking of the camels... They are lovely... I like them. It must be like being on a boat to be up there... And they eat carobs; the men also eat them...»
«And you want to go up there and eat carobs. Come, let us go to the camels » and Jesus takes him by the hand and goes to the end of the yard with the child, who has become cheerful once again.
He goes straight to a cameleer and greets him with a smile. The man bows to Him and continues examining his animal, adjusting its halter and reins.
«Man, do you understand Me? »
«Yes, Lord. I have known Your people for twenty years.»
«This boy has a big desire: to climb up on a camel... And a little one: to eat a carob » and Jesus smiles once again more lively.
«Your son? »
«No, I have no children. I am not married.»
«You, so handsome, so strong, You have not found a woman? »
«I have not looked for one.»
«You have never felt the desire of a woman? »
The man looks at Him and is spellbound. He then says: «I have nine children at Ischilo... I go: one son. I go: another son. Always.»
«Do you love your children? »
«They are of my blood! But my work is hard. I am here, my children are there. We are far apart... But I do it for their bread. Do you understand? »
«I do. So you can understand the boy who would like to mount a camel and eat carobs.»
«Yes. Come. Are you afraid? No? Good. Lovely boy! I have one, too, like you. Dark like you. Here. Take and hold it tight » and he puts into Marjiam's hand the strange handle which is in the front part of the saddle. «Hold it. I will come on now. And the camel will stand up. You are not afraid, eh? » And the man climbs up on the high saddle, he makes himself comfortable and spurs the camel, which stands up obediently with a heavy pitch.
Marjiam laughs happily. And he is all the more happy because the cameleer has put a delicious carob into his mouth. The camel ambles along the yard, then the driver puts it into a trot, finally, seeing that Marjiam is not afraid, he shouts something to one of his companions, who opens the very wide door at the rear of the yard and the cameleer disappears with his load in the green country.
Jesus goes back towards the house and enters a large room where the women are. He smiles so happily that Mary asks Him: «What has happened, Son, that You are so happy? »
«I am as happy as Marjiam who is galloping on a camel. Come out so that we may see him coming back.»
They all go out into the yard and sit on the low wall near the basins. The apostles who are not sleeping approach them. Those who are at the windows in the rooms upstairs, look down, they see the group and go down to join them. Their shrill youthful voices, they are in fact the voices of John and of the two Jameses, awake also Peter and Andrew and arouse Matthew. They are now all together because John of Endor and the two disciples have also joined the group.
«But where is Marjiam? I don't see him » asks Peter.
«He has gone for a run on a camel. None of you would listen to him... I saw that he was so sad and I took care of him.»
Peter, Simon and Matthew remember: «Of course! He was talking about camels... and carobs. But I was sleepy! »; «I had to cheek my accounts as I wanted to inform You of what I had received from the Gerasenes and what I had given to the poor »; «And I was speaking of faith with Your brother.»
«It does not matter. I saw to it. But, incidentally, I tell you that to take care of children's games is also love... But now let us talk of something else. The town is full of merriment. The only remembrance of our Sabbath is general mirth. So it is better to stay indoors. So much so because if they want, they can find us as they know where we are. There is Alexander inspecting his camels. I will now tell him that one is missing through My fault.» And Jesus hastens towards the merchant and speaks to him.
They come back together. The merchant says: «Very well. He will enjoy himself and a run out in the sun will do him good. You may rest assured that the man will treat him well. Calipius is a clever man. In exchange for the run, I ask You to tell me something. Last night I was thinking of Your words... those I heard at Ramoth, which You exchanged with the woman, and those You spoke yesterday. And I thought I was climbing up a high mountain, like those where I live, the tops of which reach up to the clouds. You were carrying me higher and higher. I was under the impression of being caught by an eagle, one of those eagles of our highest mountain, the first to emerge from the Deluge. I saw entirely new things, of which I had never thought before, all made of a light... And I understood them. Then I became confused. Tell me more.»
«What shall I tell you? »
«I don't know... Everything was so beautiful. What You said about meeting again in Heaven... I understood that we will love there in a different way, and yet it will be the same. For instance: we shall not be worried as we are now, it will be as if we were one family only: one for all and all for one. Am I wrong? »
«No. On the contrary! We shall one family also with the living. Souls are not separated by death. I am speaking of the just. They form one large family. Just imagine a large temple in which some worship and pray, and some work. The former pray also for those who are working, the latter work for those who are praying. The same applies to souls. We work on the earth. They help us with their prayers. But we must offer our sufferings for their peace. It is a chain which does not break. It is Love that ties those who were to those who are. And those who are must be good to be able to join those who were and want us to be with them.»
Syntyche makes an involuntary gesture, which she soon cheeks. But Jesus notices it and invites her to come out of her habitual self-restraint.
«I was thinking... I have been thinking about it for some days, and if I must tell the truth, I am worried, because I feel that if I believe in Your Paradise, I will lose my mother and sisters for ever...» a sob breaks the voice of Syntyche, who stops to stifle tears.
«What thought worries you so much? »
«I now believe in You. I can only think of my mother as a heathen. She was good... Oh! very good! And my sisters, too. Little Ismene was the best daughter there ever was on the earth. But they were heathens... Now, when I was like them, I thought of Hades and I used to say: "We will meet there again". Now Hades no longer exists. There is Your Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven for those who have served the True God in justice. And what about those poor souls? It is no fault of theirs if they were born in Greece! None of the priests in Israel ever came to say: "Our God is the True God". So? Are their virtues and sufferings worth nothing? Will they be in eternal darkness and separated from me for ever? I tell You: it is a torture! I seem to have almost disowned them. Forgive me, my Lord... I am weeping...» and she falls on her knees weeping disconsolately.
Alexander Misace says: «There You are! I also was wondering whether, if I become a just man, I will ever find my father, mother, my brothers and friends...»
Jesus lays His fingers on Syntyche's brown‑haired head and says: «One is at fault when one knows the Truth, but persists in Error. Not when one is convinced of being in the Truth, and no voice has ever come to say: "The Truth is what I am bringing you. Forsake your chimeras for this True God and you will gain Heaven". God is just. Can you believe that He will not reward virtue which was perfected all by itself in the corruption of the heathen world? Do not worry, My daughter.»
«What about the original sin? And their nefarious cult? And...»
More objections would come from the Israelites to grieve Syntyche's already desolate soul, if Jesus with a gesture did not impose silence.
He says: «The original sin is common to everybody, whether one is from Israel or not. It is not a peculiarity of heathens. The pagan cult will be sinful after the Law of Christ has been spread throughout the world. Virtue will always be virtue in the eyes of God. And in virtue of My union with the Father I say, and I say this in His name, translating His Most Holy Thought into words, that the ways of God's merciful power are manifold, and they are so intent on giving joy to virtuous people that they will remove barriers between souls, and peace will be given to those who deserve peace. Not only, but I say that in future those who follow the religion of their ancestors with justice and holiness, convinced of being in the Truth, will not be disliked and punished by God. Wickedness, bad will, deliberate refusal of the known Truth, above all refutation of the revealed Truth and opposition to it, vicious living will really separate for ever the souls of the just from those of sinners. Take heart, Syntyche. Such dejection is an assault of hell due to Satan's wrath against you, as you are a prey he has lost for ever. There is no Hades. There is My Paradise. But it is not the cause of grief, but of joy. Nothing of the Truth is to be the cause of dejection or doubt, on the contrary it must give you strength for a greater faith and cheerful certainty. Always inform Me of your anxieties. I want the light in you to be as certain and steady as the light of the sun.»
Syntyche, still kneeling, takes His hand and kisses it...
The cry of the cameleer makes the group understand that the camel is about to come back, at a slow pace, without making any noise on the thick grass outside the rear door, which a servant opens at once. And Marjiam comes back, he is happy and his face is flushed after the run. He is a tiny little man hoisted onto the high back of the camel, and he laughs waving his arms, while the camel kneels down and he slides down from the odd saddle, caressing the swarthy cameleer. He then runs towards Jesus shouting: «How lovely! Did the Wise men come from the East on those animals to worship You? I will go on them to preach You all over the world! The world seems larger when seen from up there and it says: "Come, you who know the Gospel!". Oh! Do You know?... That man also is in need of it... And you, too, merchant, and all your servants... How many people are waiting and die without receiving it... More people than the sand in the river... They are all without You, Jesus! Oh! Make haste and announce it to everybody! » and he clings to Jesus' sides looking up at Him.
And Jesus bends kissing him and promising: «You will see the Kingdom of God evangelized as far as the most remote borders of Rome. Are you happy? »
«I am. And then I will come and say to You: "This, that, and that other Country... they all know You". I will then know the names of those remote Countries. And what will You say to me? »
«I will say: "Come, little Marjiam. Have a crown for every country in which you have preached Me and then come here beside Me, as on that day at Gerasa, and rest after all your work, because you have been a faithful servant and it is right that you should be happy in My Kingdom".»
289. From Gerasa to the Fountain of the Cameleer.
29th September 1945.
The caravan leaves Alexander's large courtyard, in perfect order as if it were on a military parade. Jesus is at the rear with all His group. The camels are proceeding, their heavy loads swaying rhythmically and their heads, on their arched necks, seem to be asking at each step: «Why? Why? » in their silent but familiar gait, like the movement of doves, which at each step seem to be saying: «Yes, Yes » to everything they see. The caravan has to cross the town and it does so in the clear morning air. Everyone is all wrapped up because it is cool. The harness‑bells of the camels, the cries of the camel‑drivers, the screech of a camel regretting the idle stable inform the Gerasenes of Jesus' departure.
The news spreads as fast as lightning and some Gerasenes rush to greet Him offering fruit and other foodstuffs. There is also a man with a sick little boy. «Bless him, that he may recover. Have mercy on us! »
Jesus raises His hand and blesses the child saying: «Go and do not worry. Have faith.»
And the man says «yes » so trustfully, that a woman asks: «Would You cure my husband whose eyes are ulcered? »
«I will, if you can believe.»
«Well, I will go and bring him here. Wait for me, Lord » and she runs away as fast as a swallow.
Wait! Easier said than done! The camels are moving on. Alexander, at the head of the caravan, does not know what is wanted at its rear. The only thing to be done is to send word to the man.
«Run, Marjiam. Go and tell the merchant to stop before going out of the walls» says Jesus. And Marjiam dashes away to fulfil his mission.
The caravan stops and the merchant comes towards Jesus. «What is the matter? »
«Stay here and you will see.»
The woman of Gerasa is soon back with her husband whose eyes are diseased. It is much worse than ulcers! His eyes are two holes full of suppuration. They look dimmed, reddened, half‑blind in the centre of the holes, among repulsive dripping tears. As soon as the man lifts the dark bandage dimming the light, tears flow more copiously as the light increases the pain of the diseased eyes.
«You have also sinned very much. Are you not complaining of that? Are you only grieved at the possibility of losing the poor sight of the world? Do you know nothing about God? Are you not afraid of eternal darkness? Why did you sin? »
The man is weeping and he bends without speaking. His wife is also weeping and she moans: «I have forgiven...»
«And I will forgive him as well, if he swears to Me that he will not relapse into his sin.»
«Yes, I do! Forgive me. I now know the consequences of sin. Forgive me. Forgive me as my wife did. You are the Good One.»
«I forgive you. Go to that stream, wash your face in the water and you will be cured.»
«Cold water will make him worse, Lord » moans the woman.
But the man is not concerned with anything else and he begins to grope until the apostle John pitifully takes him by the hand and leads him by himself at first, until the wife supports him by the other hand. The man goes down as far as the edge of the ice cold water babbling among stones, he bends. He takes some water cupping his hands and washes his face. He does not show any sign of pain. On the contrary, he appears to be relieved.
He then climbs up the bank, with his face still wet, and goes back to Jesus, Who asks him: «Well? Are you cured? »
«No, Lord. Not yet. But You said so and I will be cured.»
«Well, remain in your hope. Goodbye.»
The woman collapses weeping... She is disappointed. Jesus beckons to the merchant that they can go on. And the merchant, who is also disappointed, passes the word on. The camels march off again with their motion resembling a boat which raises and lowers its prow with its cut‑water on the waves; they go out of the walls and take to the wide dusty caravan‑route south‑westwards.
The last couple of the apostolic group, that is, John of Endor and Simon Zealot, have just left the walls a few yards behind, when a shrill cry is heard in the silent air. It seems to spread all over the world, and is repeated in a higher and higher pitch, singing hosannas happily: «I can see! My blessed Jesus! I can see! I believed. I see! Jesus! Jesus! My blessed Jesus! » and the man, whose face is completely cured, with two beautiful eyes: two carbuncles full of light and life, rushes to Jesus' feet and falls almost under the camel of the merchant, who manages to move his mount away from the prostrated man just in time.
The man kisses Jesus' garment repeating: «I believed! I believed and I can see! My blessed Jesus! »
«Stand up and be happy. And, above all, be good. Tell your wife to believe unreservedly. Goodbye.» And Jesus frees Himself from the grasp of the miraculously cured man and resumes His way.
The merchant strokes his beard pensively... At last he asks: «And if he had not persisted in believing, after his disappointment in washing? »
«He would have remained as he was.»
«Why do You exact so much faith to work a miracle? »
«Because faith witnesses the presence of hope and love of God.»
«And why did You want repentance first? »
«Because repentance makes God friendly.»
«Since I have no disease, what should I do to testify that I have faith? »
«You should come to the Truth.»
«And could I come without God's friendship? »
«You could not come without God's goodness. God allows those who look for Him to find Him, even if they are not yet repentant; because man generally repents when he knows God, either consciously or even with a faint consciousness of what his soul wants. Before he is like a blockhead led only by instinct. Have you ever felt the need to believe? »
«Many a time. Well, I was not satisfied with what I had. I felt there was something else. Something stronger than money, than my children, my hope... But I did not bother to try to find out what I was unknowingly seeking.»
«Your soul was seeking God. God's kindness has let you find God. Repentance for your remote idle past will give you the friendship of God.»
«So... in order to have the miracle of seeing the Truth with my soul, I should repent of my past? »
«Certainly. You ought to repent and decide to change your life completely...»
The man begins to stroke his beard once again and he stares so intently that he seems to be studying and counting the hairs on his camel's neck. He unintentionally strikes with his heel the camel which takes the stroke as a spur to quicken its step and it obeys taking the merchant towards the head of the caravan.
Jesus does not keep him back. On the contrary He stops thus allowing the women and apostles to overtake Him, until Simon Zealot and John of Endor reach Him. Jesus joins them.
«Of what are you speaking? » He asks.
«We were speaking of the depression that those must feel who do not believe in anything or have lost the faith they had. Syntyche was really dejected yesterday, although she has come to a perfect faith » replies the Zealot.
«I was saying to Simon that if it is grievous to pass from Good to Evil, it is also disconcerting to pass from Evil to Good. In the former case one is tortured by one's reproaching conscience. In the latter case one is... tormented... Like one who is taken to a completely unknown foreign country... Or it is the dismay of a man, who being a poor unlearned wretch, should find himself at a king's Court, among learned people and gentlemen. It is a pain... I know... Such a long suffering... One cannot believe that it is true, that it can last... that one can deserve it particularly when one's soul is stained... as mine was...»
«And now, John? » asks Jesus.
And John of Endor's worn out sad face brightens with a smile which makes it look less emaciated. He says: «Now, it is no longer so. Only gratitude to the Lord remains, nay, it increases. This the Lord wanted. There is still the memory of the past to keep me humble. But there is certainty. I feel acclimatised, I am no longer a foreigner in this kind world of forgiveness and love which is Yours. And I am serene, happy and in peace.»
«Do you consider your experience a good one? »
«Yes, I do. If I were not sorry for having sinned, because I grieved God through my sin, I would say that I feel that my past was a good thing. It can help me considerably to support willing but mislaid souls, in the first stages of their new belief.»
«Simon, go and tell the boy not to jump about so much. He will be exhausted this evening.»
Simon looks at Jesus, but he understands the truth behind the order. He smiles intelligently and goes away leaving the two all alone.
«Now that we are alone, John, listen to this desire of Mine. For a number of reasons, none of My followers have the breadth of judgement and thought which you have. And your culture is wider than the average learning of Israelites. So I ask you to help Me...»
«Am I to help You? How? »
«On behalf of Syntyche. You are such a clever teacher! Marjiam learns quickly and well with you. So much so that I am thinking of leaving you together for some months, because I want Marjiam to have a wider knowledge than that of the little world of Israel. And it gives you pleasure to take care of him. And I rejoice seeing you together, you teaching, him learning; you growing young again, him maturing in learning. But you should take care of Syntyche as well, as if she were a lost sister. You said it yourself: one feels lost... Help her to become acclimatised in My atmosphere. Will you do Me this favour? »
«It is a grace for me to do it, my Lord! I did not approach her because I considered myself superfluous. But if You wish so... She reads my rolls. There are some which are sacred, some are only cultural: rolls from Rome and Athens. I see that she goes through them and meditates... But I never intervened in order to assist her. If You want...»
«Yes, I do. I want you to be friends. Like Marjiam and you, she will be staying in Nazareth for some time. It will be lovely: My Mother and you the teachers of two souls opening to God. My Mother: the angelical Teacher of the Science of God; you: the experienced master of human knowledge, which you can now explain with supernatural references. It will be lovely and useful.»
«Yes, my blessed Lord! Too beautiful for poor John!...» and the man smiles at the thought of the oncoming peaceful days with Mary, in Jesus' house...
And the road winds along a beautiful country, which is now completely flat after skirting a few little hills just out of Gerasa, in the mild sunshine which is becoming warmer and warmer. It is a well kept road on which it is comfortable to travel and to take to it again after the midday rest.
It is almost evening when I hear Syntyche laugh wholeheartedly for the first time; Marjiam in fact has said something to her which makes all the women laugh. I see the Greek woman bend to caress the boy and kiss him lightly on his forehead. The boy then resumes jumping about as if he did not feel at all tired.
But all the others are tired and are glad for the decision to spend the night at the Fountain of the Cameleer. The merchant says: «I always stop here overnight. The leg from Gerasa to Bozrah, is too long both for men and animals.»
«The merchant is humane » remark the apostles, comparing him to Doras...
The «Fountain of the Cameleer » is only a handful of houses around several wells. It is a kind of oasis, not in the arid desert, because there is no aridity here, but an oasis in the vast uninhabited fields and orchards which follow one another for miles and which, as the October evening draws on, give the same sad sensation as the sea at twilight. Thus, the sight of houses, the noise of voices, of crying children, the smell of smoking chimneys and the first lights to be lit are as pleasant as one's arrival at home.
While the cameleers stop to water the camels for the first time, the apostles and the women follow Jesus and the merchant who enter... the rather prehistoric inn which will shelter them during the night...
...They are all gathered near a very large fireplace which takes up the whole of the narrow wall of a large smoky room where they have taken their meal, and where the men will sleep and servants are already preparing straw beds on mats. The fire is on because it is a cold damp evening.
«Let us hope that it will not start raining » says Peter with a sigh.
The merchant reassures him: «The bad weather will not begin until this lunation is over. It is always like this in the evening here. But it will be sunshine tomorrow.»
«It's for the women, you know? Not for me. I am a fisherman and I live in water. And I can assure you that I prefer water to mountains and dust.»
Jesus is speaking to the women and His two cousins. John of Endor and the Zealot are also listening to Him. Instead Timoneus and Ermasteus are reading one of John's rolls and the two Israelites are explaining to Ermasteus the Bible passages which are more obscure to him.
Marjiam is listening spellbound, but he looks sleepy. Mary of Alphaeus notices it and says: «That child is tired. Come, dear, let us go to bed. Come, Eliza, come Salome. Old people and children are better in bed. And you had all better go as well. You are tired.»
But besides the elder ones, with the exception of Marcella and Johanna of Chuza, no one moves.
After they have gone, after being blessed, Matthew whispers: «Who would have told these women, only a short while ago, that they were to sleep on straw beds, so far from their homes! »
«I have never slept so well » states Mary of Magdala resolutely. And Martha confirms her statement.
But Peter admits that his companion is right: «Matthew is right. And I wonder why the Master has brought you here, something I fail to understand.»
«Because we are His disciples! »
«Well, if He went where... lions are, would you go? »
«Of course, Simon Peter! What an effort to go for a little walk! And with Him!»
«Well: in actual fact it is a long walk. And for women who are not used to it...»
But the women protest and Peter shrugs his shoulders and becomes silent.
James of Alphaeus, on looking up, sees such a bright smile on Jesus' face, that he asks Him: «Will You tell us, privately, the real purpose of this journey, with the women... and with so little fruit, as compared to its fatigue? »
«Could you expect to see now the fruit of the seed buried in the fields which we have crossed? »
«I could not. I will see it in springtime.»
«I also say to you: "You will see it in due time".»
The apostles do not reply.
The silvery voice of Mary is heard: «Son, we were talking today of what You said at Ramoth. And each of us had different impressions and reflections. Would You tell us Your thought? I said that it was better to call You at once. But You were speaking to John of Endor.»
«In actual fact I raised the question. Because I am a poor heathen and I do not have the splendid light of your faith. You must sympathise with me.»
«I would like to have your soul, my dear sister! » says the Magdalene impulsively. And exuberant as she is, she embraces Syntyche clasping her with one arm. Her wonderful beauty seems to give light by itself to the miserable dwelling and to decorate it with the wealth of her sumptuous house. The Greek woman, who is entirely different and yet has such a singular personality while embraced by the Magdalene, adds a meditative note to the cry of love which seems to be always bursting forth from passionate Mary, meanwhile the Blessed Virgin, sitting with Her gentle face raised towards Her Son, Her hands clasped as if She were praying, Her most pure profile outstanding against the black wall, is the perpetual Adorer.
Susanna is dozing in the shadow of a comer, while Martha, who is active notwithstanding her weariness and the pressure of the others, takes advantage of the light of the fireplace to fasten some buckles on Marjiam's garment.
Jesus says to Syntyche: «But it was not a grievous thought. I heard you laugh.»
«Yes, because of the boy, who solved the question easily, saying: "I do not want to come back unless Jesus does. But if you want to know everything, go to the next world, then come back and tell us whether you remember".»
They all laugh again and say that Syntyche was asking Mary for a clarification on the explanation, which she had not understood properly, of the remembrance which souls have and which explains a certain possibility for heathens to have vague recollections of the Truth.
«I was saying: "Does that perhaps confirm the theory of reincarnation in which many heathens believe?" and Your Mother was telling me that what You say is something entirely different. Will You explain also this to me, my Lord? »
«Listen. You must not believe that the fact that souls have spontaneous recollections of Truth proves that we live several lives. By now you have already learned enough to be aware of how man was created, how he sinned and was punished. You have also been told that God incorporated a single soul in each man. That soul is created from time to time and is never again used for subsequent incarnations. This certainty would seem to cancel My statement concerning the recollections of souls. It should cancel it with regard to any other being with the exception of man, who is gifted with a soul made by God. Animals cannot remember anything, as they are born once only. But man can remember, although he is born once only. He remembers with his better part: his soul. Where do souls come from? The soul of each man? From God. Who is God? The most intelligent, powerful, perfect Spirit. This wonderful thing which is a soul, a thing created by God to give man His image and likeness as an unquestionable sign of His Most Holy Paternity, shows signs of the qualities characteristic of Him Who creates it. It is therefore intelligent, spiritual, free, immortal, like the Father Who created it. It is perfect when it originates from the divine thought and in the instant of its creation it is identical, for a thousandth of instant, with the soul of the first man: a perfection which understands the Truth through free gift. A thousandth of an instant. Then, once it is formed, it is stained by original sin. To make it clearer for you I will say that it is as if God were pregnant with the soul which He creates and the creature, in being born, were wounded by an indelible mark. Do you understand Me? »
«Yes, I do. While it is thought it is perfect. The creating thought lasts a thousandth of an instant. The thought then becomes actual fact and the fact is subject to the law brought about by Sin.»
«Your reply is correct. A soul becomes thus incarnate in a human body, bringing with it the memory of the Creator, that is of the Truth, as a secret gem in the mystery of its spiritual being. A baby is born. It may become good, very good or wicked. It may become anything because it is endowed with free will. The angelical ministry throws light on its "memories" and the tempter darkness. If man craves after light and thus for a greater and greater virtue, making his soul the master of his being, the faculty of remembering increases in the soul, as if virtue made the wall interposed between soul and God thinner and thinner. That is why virtuous people in every country perceive the Truth, not in a perfect way, as they are dulled by contrasting doctrines or by lethal ignorance, but in a sufficient manner to give pages of moral perfection to the peoples to whom they belong. Have you understood? Are you convinced? »
«Yes. In conclusion, the religion of virtue practised heroically predisposes the soul to the true Religion and to the knowledge of God.»
«Exactly. And now go and rest and may you be blessed. And You, too, Mother, and you sisters and disciples. May you rest in the peace of God.»
290. Going to Bozrah.
30th September 1945.
The merchant was right. October could not have granted the pilgrims a lovelier day. After the sun had dispelled the haze which veiled the country, as if nature had laid a veil over the sleeping plants at night, the country appears in its solemn stretch of cultivated fields warmed by the sun. The fog seems to have gathered together on remote mountain tops decorating them with a transparent foam, thus softening them even more against the serene sky.
«What are those? Mountains we have to climb? » asks Peter anxiously.
«No. They are the Hauran mountains. We shall be on the plain, on this side of the mountains. Before evening we shall be at Bozrah in Hauran. A beautiful good town. Much trade » says the merchant encouraging Peter and praising the town, considering, as usual, commercial prosperity as the basis of the beauty of a place.
Jesus is all alone, in the rear, as He is wont to do at times when He so wishes. Marjiam turns round several times looking at Him. When he can resist no longer, he leaves Peter and James of Zebedee, he sits on the edge of the road, on a stone which must be a Roman military landmark, and waits. When Jesus is at his level, the boy stands up and without speaking he goes beside Jesus, remaining a little behind Him so as not to annoy Him, and, he watches Him...
And he continues watching until Jesus comes out of His meditation and turns round on hearing the light footstep behind Him and He smiles stretching His hand out to the boy and saying: «Oh! Marjiam! What are you doing here all alone? »
«I was looking at You. I have been looking at You for days. Everybody has eyes but not everybody sees the same things. I have noticed that now and again You want to remain all alone... On the first days I thought You were hurt by something. Then I noticed that You do it always at the same time and that Mother, Who always comforts You when You are sad, does not say anything to You when Your countenance is like that. On the contrary, if She happens to be speaking, She becomes quiet and concentrates on meditation. I notice things, You know? Because I always look at You and Her, in order to do what You do. I asked the apostles what You do, because You certainly do something. They said to me: "He prays". And I asked them: "What does He say?". No one replied, because they do not know. They have been with You for years, and they do not know. Today I followed You every time I noticed that countenance and I watched You while You were praying. But Your countenance is not always the same. This morning, at dawn, You looked like a bright angel. You looked at things with such bright eyes that I think they dispelled darkness more than the sun did. And You looked at things and people like that. And then You looked at the sky and Your face was the same as when You offer the bread at table. Later, when we were crossing that little village, You remained alone, in the rear, and You seemed to me a father, as You were so anxious to say kind words to the poor people of the village, while passing by. You said to one: "Endure your suffering with patience, because I will soon relieve you and others like you". He was the slave of that bad man who set his dogs on us. Then, while the food was being prepared, You looked at us with eyes full of kind love. You looked like a mother... But Your countenance was now sorrowful... What do You think, Jesus, when You are always like that?... But also in the evening, at times, if I am not asleep, I see that You are very serious. Will You tell me how You pray, why You pray? »
«Of course, I will tell you. So that you can pray with Me. The day is given to us by God. The whole day: the bright one and the dark one: day and night. It is a gift to live and have light. Our way of living is a means of sanctification. Is that right? So we must sanctify the moments of the whole day, to persevere in holiness and have the Most High and His bounty present in our hearts, and at the same time, keep the Demon away. Watch the little birds. They sing at sunrise. They bless the light. We must bless the light as well, because it is a gift of God, and we must bless God Who grants it to us and Who is the Light. We must crave for God as from daybreak to put a seal, a note of light on the whole oncoming day, that it may be entirely bright and holy. And we must join the whole creation in praising the Creator. Then, as the hours go by, and going by they make us aware of how much sorrow and ignorance there is in the world, we must pray again that sorrow may be relieved and ignorance may vanish and God may be known, loved and prayed to by all men, who, if they knew God, would be comforted in their sufferings. And at the sixth hour we must pray out of love for our family, to enjoy the gift of being united to those who love us. That is also a gift of God. And we must pray that our eating, instead of being useful, may not become an occasion of sin. And at sunset we pray remembering that death is the inevitable end waiting for all of us. And we must pray that our end, be it today or later, may take place with our souls in grace. And when the lights are lit, we must pray to thank for the day which is over and to ask for protection and forgiveness, so that we may go to sleep without any fear of a sudden judgement or assaults of the demon. And, finally, we must pray at night ‑ but this applies only to adults ‑ to make amends for the sins of the night, to keep Satan away from weak people, and that culprits may ponder, repent and make good resolutions which will become facts at sunrise. That is how and why a just person prays during the whole day.»
«But You have not told me why You are so absorbed, so grave and imposing at the ninth hour...
«Because... I say: "Through the Sacrifice of this hour, let Your Kingdom come to the world and may all those who believe in Your Word be redeemed". Say the same yourself...
«What sacrifice is it? You said that incense is offered in the morning and evening, and the victims at the same hour, every day, on the altar of the Temple. And that the victims for vows and expiation are offered at any hour. There is no indication of a special rite for the ninth hour.»
Jesus stops and takes the boy with both hands, and lifts him holding him in front of Himself, and as if He were saying a psalm, with His face raised, He says: «"And between the sixth and ninth hour, He Who has come as Saviour and Redeemer, He of Whom the prophets speak, will consume His Sacrifice after eating the bitter bread of betrayal and after giving the sweet Bread of Life, after crushing Himself like grapes in a vat and quenching with His whole being the thirst of men and plants, and making for Himself a Royal purple with His own blood, and putting on a crown and seizing the sceptre, and taking His throne on the high place, so that Zion and Israel and the world might see it. Lifted up in the purple garment of His numberless wounds, in the dark to give Light, in death to give Life, He will die at the ninth hour and the world will be redeemed".»
Marjiam is frightened and pale and looks at Him with dismayed eyes and trembling lips on the point of bursting into tears. With faltering voice he says: «But You are the Saviour! So will You be dying at that hour? » Tears begin to stream down his cheeks and his little mouth sips them, while he awaits a denial.
But Jesus says: «I will, My little disciple. For you, too.» And as the child bursts into convulsive sobs, He presses him to His heart and says: «Are you sorry that I die? »
«Oh! My only joy! I do not want that! I... Let me die in Your place...»
«You are to preach Me all over the world. That is settled. But listen. I will die happily because I know that you love Me. Then I will rise from the dead. Do you remember Jonah? He was more handsome when he came out of the belly of the whale well rested and strong. So will I, and I will come to you at once and I will say to you: "Little Marjiam, your tears quenched My thirst. Your love kept Me company in the Sepulchre. I have now come to say to you: 'Be My priest' " and I will kiss you with the scent of Paradise still on Me.»
«But where will I be? Will I not be with Peter or Mother? »
«I will save you from the evil waves of those days. I will save the most weak and innocent ones. Except one... Marjiam, little apostle, will you help me to pray for that hour? »
«Oh! Yes, I will, Lord! And the others? »
«That is a secret between you and Me. A great secret. Because God loves to be revealed to the little ones... Do not weep any more. Smile at the thought that afterwards I will suffer no more and I will only remember all the love of men, and yours first. Come. Look how far the others are. Let us run and join them » and He puts him down and holding him by the hand they start running until they reach the group.
«Master, what have You done? »
«I was explaining the hours of the day to Marjiam.»
«And has the boy wept? He must have been naughty, and You are excusing him out of kindness » says Peter.
«No, Simon. He watched Me praying. You have not done that. He asked Me why. I told him. The boy was moved by My words. Now leave him alone. Go to My Mother, Marjiam. And you all, listen to Me. The lesson will do no harm to you either.»
And Jesus explains once again the usefulness of prayer at the main hours of the day, leaving out the explanation of the ninth hour and concluding: «Union to God is to have Him present every moment to praise and invoke Him. Do so and you will make progress in the life of the spirit.»
Bozrah is now close at hand. Stretched out on the plain it looks a large beautiful town with walls and towers. The evening which is drawing on, tones down the shades of houses and country into a greyish languid lilac, in which all contours become vague, while grunting pigs and bleating sheep in the enclosures outside the walls, break the silence of the country. The silence comes to an end as soon as the caravan goes through the gate entering a labyrinth of narrow streets which disappoint those who from the outside thought the town was beautiful. Voices, smells and... stench stagnate in the twisted lanes and accompany the pilgrims as far as a square, the market square, where the inn is.
They thus arrive at Bozrah.