421. The Repentant Sinner Is always To Be Forgiven.
25th April 1946.
They are now on the other bank. On their right are mount Tabor and the little Hermon, on their left the mountains of Samaria, the Jordan is behind them, and in front of them, beyond the plain in which they are, the hills in front of which is Megiddo; (if my memory does not fail me, I heard this name in a remote vision, the one in which Jesus joins Judas of Kerioth and Thomas, after the separation brought about by the necessity of concealing the departure of Syntyche and John of Endor).
They must have rested all day in some hospitable house, because it is evening once again and it is evident that they have rested. It is still warm, but dew is already beginning to form, mitigating the heat. And violet shadows of twilight are falling after the last red flares of a blazing sunset.
«We can walk without difficulty here » remarks Matthew happily.
«Yes. If we proceed this fast, we shall be at Megiddo before cock‑crow » the Zealot replies to him.
«And at dawn we shall be beyond the hills, in sight of the plain of Sharon » concludes John.
«And of your sea, eh? » says his brother teasing him.
«Yes. Of my sea...» replies John smiling.
«And with your spirit you will depart on one of your spiritual wanderings » says Peter pressing his arm with strong fatherly affection. And he concludes: «Teach me as well, how to draw certain... angelical thoughts from the sight of things. I have looked at water so many times... I have loved it... but... but it has never been of any avail to me other than to earn my living by fishing in it. What do you see in it?...»
«I see water, Simon. Like you and everybody else. As I now see fields and orchards... But then, beside the eyes of my body, I have other eyes in here, and I no longer see grass and water but words of wisdom come out from those material things. It is not I who think. I would not be able. It is somebody else who thinks in me.»
«Are you perhaps a prophet? » asks the Iscariot somewhat ironically.
«Oh! no! I am not a prophet...»
«What then? Do you think that you possess God? »
«Even less so...»
«You must be raving then.»
«It might well be so, I am so small and weak. But if it is so, it is pleasant raving and leads me to God. My disease then becomes a gift and I bless the Lord for it.»
«Ha! Ha! Ha! » Judas guffaws maliciously.
Jesus, Who has been listening, says: «He is not ill, he is not a prophet. But a pure soul possesses wisdom. It is wisdom that speaks in the heart of a just man.»
«In that case I will never get there, because I have not always been good...» says Peter, somewhat discouraged.
«What about me, then? » replies Matthew.
«My friends, only few people, too few could possess wisdom because they have always been pure. But repentance and good will make man, previously guilty and imperfect, just, and then the conscience is purified in the bath of humility, contrition and love, and thus purified, it can vie with those who are pure.»
«Thank You, Lord » says Matthew bending to kiss the hand of the Master.
There is silence. Then Judas exclaims: «I am tired! I don't know whether I will be able to walk all night.»
«No wonder! Today you wandered about like a blowfly, while we were sleeping! » James of Zebedee replies to him.
«I wanted to see if I met any of the disciples...»
«What did it matter to you? The Master did not tell you. So...»
«Well, I did it. And if the Master allows me, I will stop at Megiddo. I think a friend of ours is there, he goes there every year, at this time, after harvest‑time. I would like to speak to him of my mother and...»
«Do as you wish. After your errand you will go to Nazareth. We will meet you there. You can thus inform My Mother and Mary of Alphaeus that we shall soon be home.»
«I also say to You, as Matthew did: "Thank You, Lord".»
Jesus does not reply, and He receives the kiss on His hand as He received Matthew's. It is not possible to see His countenance because it is the moment in the evening when daylight has disappeared completely and there is no starlight as yet. It is so dark that they are proceeding along the road with difficulty and to avoid all possible trouble Peter and Thomas decide to light some twigs, which they have taken from hedges and which burn with a crackle. But the lack of light previously and the smoky moving light later do not enable one to see the expressions of faces.
In the meantime they are approaching the hills, the dark tops of which are visible because they are darker than the mown fields, where the stubble looks whitish against the black of the night, and they become more and more visible as they are approached and as the light of the first stars illuminates them...
«I would leave You here, as my friends lives a little outside Megiddo. I am so tired...»
«You may go. May the Lord watch over your steps.»
«Thank You, Master. Goodbye, friends.»
«Goodbye, goodbye » say the others without attaching much importance to their greetings.
Jesus repeats: «May the Lord watch over your actions.»
Judas goes away quickly.
«H'm! He doesn't look so tired » remarks Peter.
«True! He was dragging his feet here. But now he is running like a gazelle over there...» says Nathanael.
«Your farewell was a holy one, Brother. But unless the Lord overwhelms him with His will, the assistance of God will not help him to take good steps and do fair actions.»
«Judas, the fact that you are My brother does not exempt you from being reproached! I therefore reproach you for being harsh and pitiless towards your companion. He has his faults. But you also have yours. And the first is that you do not endeavour to help Me to perfect his soul. You exasperate him with your words. It is not with violence that you bend hearts. Do you think that you are entitled to censor every action of his? Do you consider yourself so perfect as to be able to do so? May I remind you that I, your Master, do not do so, because I love that imperfect soul. It moves Me to pity more than any other soul... just because it is imperfect. Do you think that he is happy with his state? And how will you be able to be a master of spirits in future, if with one of your companions you do not practise to make use of the infinite charity which redeems sinners? »
Judas of Alphaeus has bent his head as from the first words. But at the end he kneels on the ground saying: «Forgive me. I am a sinner. And reproach me when I am wrong, because reproof is love, and only a fool does not appreciate the grace of being corrected by a wise person.»
«You can see that I do it for your own good. And forgiveness is joined to My reproach because I can understand the reason for your severity and because the humility of the person corrected disarms him who corrects. Stand up, Judas, and sin no more » and He keeps him beside Himself with John.
The other apostles exchange comments with one another, whispering at first, then in louder voices out of their habit of speaking aloud. I can thus hear them make comparisons between the two Judases.
«If it had been Judas of Kerioth to get that reproach, I wonder how he would have reacted! Your brother is good » says Thomas to James.
«But... well... We cannot say that what he said was wrong. He said one thing which is true with regard to Judas of Kerioth. Do you believe the story of the friend who goes to Judaea? I don't » says Matthew frankly.
«It must be... vineyard matters as it happened at the Jericho market » says Peter referring to the scene which he cannot forget. They all laugh.
«It certainly takes the Master to pity him so much...» remarks Philip.
«So much? Always, you should say » replies James of Zebedee.
«If it were I, I would not be so patient » says Nathanael.
«Neither would I. Yesterday's scene was disgusting » confirms Matthew.
«The man cannot be completely sound of mind » says the Zealot conciliatorily.
«But he knows how to look after his business. He is even too clever. I would bet my boat, my nets, even my house, sure that I would not lose anything, that he has gone to see some Pharisee to beg for protection...» says Peter.
«That's right. Ishmael! There is Ishmael at Megiddo! How come we never thought of that?! We must tell the Master! » exclaims Thomas striking his forehead vigorously with his hand.
«It is of no use. The Master would excuse him once again and would reproach us » says the Zealot.
«Well... let us try. James, go: He loves you and you are a relative of His...»
«We are all alike, as far as He is concerned. Here, He does not see us as relatives or friends, He sees only apostles and He is impartial. But I will go, just to please you » says James of Alphaeus. And he quickens his step to depart from his companions and join Jesus.
«You think that he has gone to see a Pharisee. This one or that one... it does not matter... But I think he did it in order not to come to Caesarea. He does not come there willingly...» says Andrew.
«He seems to have been disgusted with the Roman ladies for some time » remarks Thomas.
«And yet... while you were going to Engedi and I was going with him to Lazarus, he was so happy to speak to Claudia...» says the Zealot.
«Yes... but... I think that he did something wrong just then. And I think that Johanna knows and that is why she sent for Jesus and... and I have been making many suppositions since Judas flew into a passion at Bethzur...» grumbles Peter between his teeth.
«Do you mean that?...» asks Matthew curiously.
«Well... I don't know... Ideas... We shall see...»
«Oh! Don't let us think of evil things! The Master does not approve of that. And we have no proof that he did anything wrong » says Andrew imploringly.
«You are not going to tell me that he acts rightly in grieving the Master, in lacking in respect to Him, in causing ill feelings...»
«Be good, Simon! I can assure you that he is somewhat mad...» says the Zealot.
«Well. He may be. But he sins against the kindness of our Lord. If he spat in my face, if he boxed my ears, I would put up with that and offer it to God for his redemption. I have taken it into my head to make every sacrifice for that and I bite my tongue and I run my nails into the palms of my hands when he plays the fool, in order to control myself. But I cannot forgive him for being bad to our Master. The sin he commits against Him, it's the same as if he committed it against me, and I cannot forgive him. Then... if it were only now and again! But he is always at it! I cannot get over the anger boiling within me about one of his quarrels, and he makes a fresh scene! Once, twice, three times... There is a limit!» Peter is almost shouting his words and is gesticulating impetuously.
Jesus, Who is about ten metres ahead of them, turns round, a white shadow in the night, and He says:
«There is no limit to love and forgiveness. There is none. Neither in God nor in the true children of God. As long as there is life, there is no limit. The only obstacle to the descent of forgiveness and love is the impenitent resistance of the sinner. But if he repents, he is always to be forgiven, even if he sinned not once, twice or three times a day, but much more frequently. You also sin and you want to be forgiven by God and you go to Him saying: "I have sinned! Forgive me". And forgiveness is pleasant to you and it is pleasant to God to forgive. And you are not gods. Consequently the offence given to you by people like yourselves is less grave than that given to God, Who is not like anybody else. Do you not think so? And yet God forgives. Do likewise yourselves. Be careful! Watch that your intolerance does not become detrimental to you by causing God to be intolerant towards you. I have already told you, but I will repeat it once again. Be merciful in order to have mercy. No one is so sinless as to be inexorable towards a sinner. Look at your own burdens before considering those weighing on the hearts of other people. Remove yours from your souls and then turn to those of other people to show them not the severity that condemns, but the love that teaches and helps to be freed from evil. In order to be able to say ‑ and not be silenced by a sinner ‑ in order to be able to say: "You have sinned against God and against your neighbour" it is necessary not to have sinned or at least to have made amends for the sin. In order to be able to say to those who are dejected because they have sinned: "Have faith that God forgives those who repent" as servants of God Who forgives repentant souls ‑ you must show so much mercy in forgiving. Then you will be able to say: "See, repentant sinner? I forgive your sins seven and seven times, because I am a servant of Him Who forgives countless times those who repent of their sins as many times. Consider then how the Perfect One forgives, if I know how to forgive, simply because I serve Him. Have faith!". You must be able to say so, and say so with your deeds, not just with words. You must say so forgiving. So if your brother sins, admonish him kindly, and if he repents, forgive him. And if at the end of the day he has sinned seven times and says to you seven times: "I repent", forgive him seven times. Have you understood? Will you promise Me that you will do that? While he is away, do you promise Me to be indulgent to him and to help Me to cure him making the sacrifice of controlling yourselves when he does anything wrong? Do you not want to help Me to save him? He is your brother in spirit as he comes from one sole Father, by race as he comes from one sole people, by mission as he is an apostle like you. So you ought to love him three times. If in your family you had a brother who grieved your father and exposed himself to censure, would you not try to correct him so that your father suffered no longer and no one spoke ill of your family? So? Is your family not a greater and holier one as its Father is God and I am the First‑born? Why, then, do you not want to console the Father and Me and help us to improve the poor brother who, believe Me, is not happy to be so?...»
Jesus is anxiously imploring on behalf of the apostle who is so full of faults... And He concludes: «I am the Great Beggar and I ask you for the most valuable alms: I ask you to give Me souls. I go about looking for them, but you must help Me... Satisfy the hunger of My Heart, which seeks love and finds it only in too few people. Because those who do not aim at perfection are like as many loaves of bread of which My spiritual hunger is deprived. Give souls to your Master Who is distressed at not being loved and understood...»
The apostles are moved... They would like to say so many things, but every word seems too mean... They press round the Master, each one wishing to caress Him, to make Him feel that they all love Him.
At last it is meek Andrew who says: «Yes, Lord. With patience, silence and sacrifice, the powerful means of conversion, we will give You souls. Also that one... if God helps us...»
«Yes, Lord. And You help us with Your prayer.»
«Yes, friends. And in the meantime let us pray together for your companion who has gone away. "Our Father Who art in Heaven …"»
Jesus' perfect voice repeats the words of the Our Father pronouncing them distinctly and slowly. The others chorus in a subdued tone. And while praying they move away in the night.
422. Martyrdom for Love Is Absolution.
27th April 1946.
From the tops of the last risings of the ground, which cannot be called hills, as their height is so minimal, a large stretch of the Mediterranean coast appears; it is limited to the north by the Carmel promontory, while to the south it stretches freely as far as human eyes can see. A placid almost straight coast with behind it a fertile plain interrupted by slight undulations of the ground. Coast‑towns are visible with their white houses situated between the green of the country and the blue of the sea, which is placid and serene, a bright blue reflecting the pure azure of the sky.
Caesarea is a little to the north of the place where the apostles are with Jesus and with some disciples, whom they probably met in the villages they passed through in the evening or at dawn. It is now later than daybreak and dawn, although it is very early in the morning. In those beautiful hours of summer mornings, when the sky, after rosy dawn becomes again blue, the air is fresh and clear and fresh is the country. No sail appears on the sea. They are the pure hours of the day, when fresh flowers begin to open and the dew, drying in the early sun, exhales the sweet smells of herbs, bestowing freshness and perfume on the light breath of the morning breeze, which moves the leaves on stems just lightly and barely ripples the smooth expanse of the sea.
The town appears stretched along the shore, as beautiful as every place where Roman refinement has settled. Thermal baths and marble buildings exhibit their whiteness like solid blocks of snow in the districts closer to the sea, overlooked by a tall white square tower near the harbour: perhaps a Castrum or a look‑out post. Then there are the more modest little suburban houses, in Jewish style, and everywhere there are green pergole, roofgardens built more or less splendidly on the flat roofs of houses, and tall trees growing everywhere.
The apostles admire the view resting in the shade of a group of plane‑trees almost on the top of the hill.
«The sight of this immensity lightens one's heart! » exclaims Philip.
«And you seem to be already feeling all the coolness of those beautiful blue waters » says Peter.
«True! After so much dust, stones, thorns... look what a marvel! How fresh and peaceful! The sea always brings peace...» remarks James of Alphaeus.
«H'm! Except when... it slaps your face and whirls you and the boat round like tops in the hands of boys...» replies Matthew who probably remembers being seasick.
«Master... I think... I think of all the words of our psalmists, of the book of Job, of the words of the wisdom books, where the power of God is celebrated. And, I do not know why, the thoughts coming from what I see make me feel that we shall be elevated to perfect beauty on a blue bright purity thus, if we are just until the end in the great gathering, in Your eternal Triumph, the one which You described to us and which will be the end of Evil... And I seem to be seeing this azure immensity peopled with bright risen bodies and You, shining more than a thousand suns, in the middle of the blessed souls... and no more sorrow, tears, insults, disparagement like yesterday evening's... and peace, peace, peace... But when will Evil stop being harmful? Will it perhaps blunt its arrows against Your Sacrifice? Will it be convinced that it has been beaten? » asks John, who at first was smiling and now is depressed.
«Never. It will always think that it is triumphant, notwithstanding all the contradictions of the just. And My Sacrifice will not blunt its arrows. But the hour will come, the final hour, when Evil will be defeated, and in a beauty even more infinite than that foreseen by your spirit, the chosen ones will be the only People, the eternal, holy true People of the true God.»
«And shall we all be there? » ask the apostles.
«And what about us? » ask the already large group of the disciples.
«You will all be there, too.»
«All the ones present or all those who are Your disciples? We are many now, notwithstanding those who parted from us.»
«And you will be more and more. But not everyone will be faithful until the end. But many will be with Me in Paradise. Some will have their reward after expiation, some immediately after their death, but the reward will be such that, as you forget the Earth and its sorrows, so you will forget Purgatory with its penitential longing for love.»
«Master, You told us that we will suffer persecutions and martyrdom. They may capture and kill us before we have time to repent, or our weakness will prevent us from being resigned to violent death... So? » asks Nicolaus of Antioch. who is among the disciples.
«Do not believe that. Owing to your human weakness you could not suffer martyrdom with resignation. But supernatural assistance will be instilled by the Lord into the great spirits who must bear witness to the Lord...»
«Which? Insensibility, perhaps? »
«No, Nicolaus. Perfect love. They will achieve such complete love that torture, accusations, separations from relatives, from life, from everything, will no longer be depressing matters, on the contrary they will become the base to rise to Heaven, to receive it, to see it and therefore to stretch arms and hearts towards tortures, in order to go where their hearts already are: to Heaven.»
«One who dies thus will be much forgiven » says an old disciple whose name I do not know.
«Not much, but completely forgiven, Papias. Because love is absolution, and sacrifice is absolution, and heroic confession of faith is absolution. You can thus see that martyrs will have treble purification.»
«Oh! then... I have sinned much, Master, and I have followed these disciples to be forgiven, and yesterday You forgave me and because of that You were insulted by those who do not forgive and are guilty. I think that Your forgiveness is valid. But for my long years of sin give me the absolution of martyrdom.»
«You are asking for a great deal, man! »
«Not as much as I have to give to have the beatitude which John of Zebedee has described and You have confirmed. I implore You, Lord. Let me die for You, for Your doctrine...»
«You are asking for very much, man! The life of man is in the hands of My Father...»
«But every prayer of Yours is heard, as every judgement of Yours is heard. Ask the Eternal Father that forgiveness for me...»
The man is on his knees at the feet of Jesus, Who looks him in the eye and then says: «And do you not think that it is martyrdom to live when the world has lost all attraction and the heart yearns for Heaven, and to live to teach other people to love and to become acquainted with the disappointments of the Master and to persevere tirelessly to give souls to the Master? Always do the will of God, even if your own should appear to you to be more heroic, and you will be holy... But here are your companions coming with supplies. Let us set out to arrive in town before the torrid hours.»
And He sets out first down the light descent that soon arrives at the plain marked by the white ribbon of the road leading to Caesarea on the Sea.
423. At Caesarea on the Sea. Parable of the Father Who Gives Each of His
Children the Same Amount of Money.
30th April 1946.
Caesarea has large markets where fine victuals pour in for the refined Roman tables, and near the market squares where, in a kaleidoscope of faces, colours and races, more common foodstuffs can be found, there are stores with richer delicacies, imported both from the various Roman colonies and from remote Italy, to make the separation from the Fatherland less painful. And stores selling wines and delicatessen imported from abroad are in deep porches, because the Romans do not like being burned by the sun or drenched by rain while purchasing refined foodstuffs for their banquets. While satisfying their gluttony like Epicureans, they do not neglect the other parts of their bodies... thus cool shady porches and arches protecting from the rain lead from the Roman district ‑ which is almost entirely grouped around the building of the Proconsul, between the coast road and the square of barracks and tollhouse ‑ to the Roman stores near the Jewish markets.
There are many people under these porches, the end part of which near the markets is comfortable if not beautiful, There are people of all races. There are slaves and freedmen and an occasional pleasure‑loving gentleman surrounded by slaves, passing listlessly from one shop to another, after leaving his litter in the street, and doing his shopping which the slaves take to his house. And when two Roman gentlemen meet, one can hear the usual idle talk: the weather, the tedium of the town which does not offer the pleasures of remote Italy, regret for great performances, plans for banquets and licentious speech.
A Roman, preceded by about a dozen slaves laden with bags and parcels, meets two friends. Reciprocal greetings: «Hail, Ennius! »
«Hail, Florus Tullius Cornelius! Hail, Marcus Heracleus Flavius! »
«When did you come back? »
«The day before yesterday, at dawn, exhausted.»
«You, exhausted? You are never in a sweat! » the young man named Florus says teasing playfully.
«Don't jeer at me, Florus Tullius Cornelius. I am drudging even now on behalf of my friends! »
«Your friends? We did not ask you to drudge » objects the elder friend, named Marcus Heracleus Flavius.
«But my love thinks of you. You cruel people who sneer at me, see this procession of slaves laden with goods? Others have gone before them with other goods. And it's all to honour you.»
«So this is your work? A banquet? »
«Why? » shout the two friends loudly.
«Sh! Noble patricians making such a terrible din! You sound like the plebeans of this country where we are wearing ourselves out in...»
«Orgies and idleness. Because we do nothing else. I am still asking myself: why are we here? What tasks have we got? »
«To be bored to death is one.»
«To teach the hired female mourners here how to live is another. »
«And... to sow Rome in the sacred pelvises of Jewish women is another one.»
«And to enjoy, here as anywhere else, our wealth and power, to which everything is allowed, is a further one.»
The three alternate as in a litany and laugh. But young Florus suddenly stops and becomes gloomy and he says: «But for some time a fog has been hanging over the merry Court of Pilate. The most beautiful women look like chaste vestals and their husbands comply with their whims. And that spoils the habitual feasts a great deal...»
«Of course! The caprice for that coarse Galilean... But it will soon be over...»
«You are wrong, Ennius. I know that Claudia also is conquered by Him and thus... good morals have strangely installed themselves in her palace. Roman republican austerity seems to be revived there...»
«Alas! What a mouldy smell! Since when? »
«Since sweet April, suitable for love affairs. You don't know... You were not here. But our ladies came back as sad as the mourners of cinerary urns and we poor men have to look elsewhere for many of our amusements. Which we are not even allowed in the presence of the modest ladies! »
«One reason more why I should help you. A great dinner this evening... and a greater orgy in my house. I was at Cyntium and I found delightful things which these stinkers consider impure: peacocks, partridges, and all kinds of moorhens, and little wild boars removed alive from their mother, which had been killed, and bred for our dinners. And wines... Ah! sweet, precious wines of the Roman hills, of my warm shores near Liternum and of your sunny coast near Aciri!... And sweet‑smelling wines from Chios, of which Cintium is the pearl. And inebriating wines from Iberia, suitable to excite senses for the final enjoyment. Oh! It must be a great feast, to dispel the tedium of our exile and to convince ourselves that we are still virile!...»
«Will there be women as well? »
«Of course... And more beautiful than roses. Of every colour and... taste. I spent a treasure for all the goods, including the women... But I am generous to my friends!... I was just finishing my shopping here. What might have gone bad during the journey. After the banquet, let us have love!...»
«Did you have a good voyage? »
«Very good. Aphrodite Anadyomene was friendly to me. In any case I am dedicating tonight's rite to her...»
The three men laugh grossly anticipating the on‑coming shameful pleasures...
But Florus asks: «But why this exceptional feast? What's the reason for it?...»
«Three reasons: my beloved nephew in the next few days will begin to wear his toga virilis. I must celebrate the event. Obedience to the foreboding that Caesarea was changing into a distressing abode and that it was necessary to discredit fate by means of a rite to Venus. The third reason... I will whisper it to you: I am invited to a wedding...»
«You? Liar! »
«I am invited to a wedding. It is a "wedding" every time one relishes the first sip from a sealed amphora. And I am doing that this evening. Twenty thousand sesterces, or if you prefer so, two hundred gold pieces I paid for her, because in actual fact that is what I had to give for her, including brokers and the like. But even if Venus had given birth to her at dawn in April, and had made her with foam and golden beams, I would not have found her more beautiful and pure! A bud, a closed but... Ah! And I am her master! »
«Profaner! » says Marcus Heracleus jokingly.
«Do not play the censor, for you are my equal... After Valerian left, we were bored to death here. But I am replacing him... We must take advantage of the experience of our forefathers. But I will not be so foolish to wait, as he did, for the girl, who is fairer than honey and whom I have called Galla Ciprina, to be spoiled by the sadness and the theories of emasculated philosophers who do not know how to enjoy the pleasures of life...»
«Bravo!!! But... Valerian's slave was a learned woman and...»
«... and became mad reading philosophers... Soul!... second life!... virtue!!!... a lot of nonsense!... To live is to enjoy oneself! And we live here. Yesterday I burned every mournful scroll and I ordered the slaves, under pain of death, not to remember the miseries of philosophers and of Galileans. And the girl will know me only...»
«But where did you find her? »
«Well! Somebody was very shrewd and bought slaves after the Gallic wars and used them only as reproducers, treating them well, obliging them only to procreate, to give fresh flowers of beauty... And Galla is one of them. She is now pubescent and her master sold her... and I bought her... ah! ah! ah! »
«If it had not been me, it would have been somebody else... So... She should not have been born a girl...»
«If He heard you... Oh! Here He is! »
«The Nazarene Who cast a spell on our ladies. He is behind you...»
Ennius turns round as if he had an asp behind him. He looks at Jesus Who is coming forward slowly among the people pressing round Him, the poor common people and some Roman slaves as well, and he contemptuously says: «That ragamuffin?! Women are depraved. But let us run away, lest He should cast a spell on us as well! » Then addressing his poor slaves, who have been standing all the time with their loads, like caryatids for whom there is no mercy, he orders: «Go home quickly, because you have been wasting your time so far, and those who are making preparations are waiting for spices and perfumes. Run! Quick! And remember that you will be scourged if everything is not ready by sunset.»
The slaves go away at a run and the Roman follows them slowly with his two friends...
Jesus advances. He is sad, because He heard the end of Ennius' conversation and from the height of His stature He looks with infinite compassion at the slaves running under their burdens. He turns round, looking for the faces of more Roman slaves... He sees some, trembling with fear of being caught by superintendents or being driven away by the Jews, mixed among the crowds surrounding Him. He stops and asks: «Is there anyone among you belonging to that household? »
«No, Lord. But we know them » reply the slaves present.
«Matthew, give them abundant offerings. They will share them with their companions, so that they may know that there is someone who loves them. And remember, and tell the others that sorrow comes to an end with life only for those who were good and honest in their chains, and with sorrow ends also the difference between rich and poor, between free people and slaves. Afterwards there is only one just God for everybody, Who, without taking into account wealth or chains, will reward the good and punish the wicked. Bear that in mind.»
«Yes, Lord. But we, who belong to the households of Claudia and Plautina, are quite happy, like those who belong to Livia and Valeria, and we bless You because You have improved our lot » says an old man to whom everyone listens as if he were their chief.
«To show Me your gratitude be always good and you will have the true God as your eternal Friend.»
And Jesus raises His hand as if to dismiss and bless them and He then leans against a column and begins to speak in the attentive silence of the crowd. The slaves do not go away, they remain listening to the words uttered by the divine lips.
«Listen. A father of many children gave each of them, when they became adults, two coins of great value and said to them: "I no longer intend to work for each of you. You are now old enough to earn your living. So I am giving each of you the same amount of money, so that you may invest it as you please and to your own profit. I will remain here waiting, ready to advise you and also to assist you, if through misfortune you should lose all or part of the money that I am now giving you. But remember that I will be inexorable towards those who squander it mischievously, and towards sluggards who waste it or leave it as it is through idleness or vices. I have taught each of you Good and Evil. You cannot therefore say that you are facing life without knowing what life is. I have set for everyone an example of wise, just activity and of honest life. So you cannot say that I have contaminated your spirits through my evil examples. I have done my duty. It is for you now to do yours, as you are neither stupid, nor unprepared, nor illiterate. Go" and he dismissed them and remained alone, waiting, in his house.
His sons scattered through the world. They all had the same things: two valuable coins of which they could dispose freely, and a greater treasure of health, energy, knowledge and their father's examples. So they should have all been successful in the same way. But what happened? Some of the sons employed their money wisely and by means of untiring honest work and a simple honest life, in accordance with their father's teaching, they soon owned a large honest treasure; some at first made an honest fortune, but later they squandered it through idleness and orgies; some made money practising usury or dealing in contemptible business; and some did nothing because they were inactive, lazy, undecided and they finished their valuable coins before they could find any employment.
After some time the father of the family sent servants wherever he knew that his sons were and said to the servants: "You will tell my sons to meet in my house. I want them to give me an account of what they have done during this time and I wish to ascertain myself what is their situation". And the servants went everywhere, they met the children of their master, they gave the message and each of them went back with the master's son whom they had met.
The father received them with great solemnity, as a father, but also as a judge. And all the relatives of the family were present with friends, acquaintances, servants, fellow‑villagers and people from neighbouring villages. A solemn meeting. The father was on his seat of head of the family, and around him, in a semicircle there were all the relatives, friends, acquaintances, servants, fellow‑villagers and people from the neighbourhood. In front of him, in a line, his sons. Even without being questioned, their different countenances expressed the truth. Those who had been active, honest, of good morals and had made a holy fortune looked prosperous, peaceful and well‑off, like people who are wealthy, enjoy good health and a clear conscience. They looked at their father with a kind, grateful, humble but at the same time triumphant smile; they were shining with joy having honoured their father and family and because they had been good children, good citizens and faithful believers. Those who had squandered their assets in laziness or vices were mortified, low‑spirited, haggard-faced and shabby, with the signs of orgies or starvation clearly visible. Those who had made a fortune by contemptible means had an aggressive hard countenance, with the cruel upset look of beasts which are afraid of the tamer and are prepared to react...
The father began to question these last ones: "How come you who looked so serene when you left, now look like beasts ready to tear people to pieces? Where did you get that mien?".
"Life gave it to us. And your severity in sending us away from home. You put us in touch with the world".
"All right. And what did you do in the world?".
"What was possible for us to obey your orders to earn a living with the mere nothing you gave us".
"All right. Stand in that corner... And now it is your turn, you emaciated, sick looking and shabby people. What did you do to come to this state? You were healthy and well dressed when you left".
"Clothes wear out in ten years..." objected the sluggards.
"So there are no more looms in the world to make cloth for men's garments?".
"Yes... But one needs money to buy it...".
"You had it".
"In ten years... it is more than finished. Everything which has a beginning comes to an end".
"Yes, if you take from it and never put anything back into it. But why have you only taken from it? If you had worked, you could have added to it and taken from it and the money would not have come to an end, on the contrary you could have increased it. Have you been ill, perhaps?".
"We felt lost... We did not know what to do, what was right... We were afraid of doing the wrong thing. And not to do wrong, we did not do anything".
"And had you no father to whom you could apply for advice? Have I ever been an uncompromising frightening father?".
"Oh! no! But we were ashamed of having to say to you: 'We are not capable of taking the initiative'. You have always been so active... We hid ourselves out of shame".
"All right. Stand in the middle of the room. It's your turn now! What are you going to tell me? From your outward looks you seem to have suffered not only hunger but also from illness. Were you perhaps taken ill because you had worked too hard? Be frank and I will not reproach you".
Some of the children who were questioned threw themselves on their knees striking their breasts and saying: "Forgive us, father' God has already punished us and we deserved it. But you, who are our father, forgive us!... We began well, but we did not persevere. As we had become wealthy so easily we said: 'Well, let us enjoy ourselves a little, as our friends suggest, then we will go back to work and make up for it'. And we really wanted to do so: go back to the two coins and make them yield again, as if it were a game. And twice (say two), three times (says one) we were successful. Then our good luck abandoned us... and we finished all our money".
"But why did you not return to reason after the first time?".
"Because the bread spiced with vice corrupts the palate, and one can no longer do without it...".
"There was your father...".
"True. And we longed for you with regret and homesickness. But we offended you... We implored Heaven to inspire you to send for us, so that we might receive your reproach and your forgiveness; that is what we wanted and are now asking for, more than riches which we do not want any more because they led us astray".
"All right. Stand in the middle of the room beside those who were questioned before you. And you who are sick and poor like those, but are silent and show no sign of grief, what are you going to say?".
"What the first ones said. That we hate you, because your unwise way of doing things has been the cause of our ruin. Since you knew us, you should not have exposed us to temptations. You hated us and we hate you. You set that trap for us to get rid of us. May you be cursed".
"Very well. Stay with the first ones in that corner. And now it is your turn, my prosperous, serene, wealthy sons. Tell me. How did you do so well?".
"By carrying out your teaching, your examples, advice, orders, everything. We resisted temptations, out of love for you, blessed father who gave us life and wisdom".
"Very well. Come to my right hand side and listen all of you to my judgement and to my defence. I gave each of you the same money, examples and wisdom. My sons have reacted in different manners. From a hard working, honest moderate father different children have come forth: some are like him, some are lazy, some an easy prey to temptations, and some so cruel that they hate their father, their brothers and neighbours, on whom, even if they do not say so, but I know, they have practised usury and committed crimes. And among the weak and lazy ones there are some who are penitent and some impenitent. This is my judgement. The perfect ones are already on my right hand side, equal to me in glory and in deeds; those who are repentant, like children to be educated, will come once again under my authority until they reach a degree of capability which will prove that they are adults again; the unrepentant and guilty ones will be driven out of my property and will be persecuted by the malediction of him who is no longer their father, because their hatred for me annuls our relationship of father and son. But I wish to remind you all that each son has been the author of his own fate, because I gave everybody the same things, which, however, have brought about four different situations in those who received them and I cannot be accused of desiring their evil lot".
The parable is over and I will now explain it to you who have listened to it.
The Father in Heaven is symbolised by the father of the large family. The two coins given by the father to each of his children before sending them into the world are: time and free will, that God grants to every man to be used as he wishes, after being taught and perfected by the Law and the examples of just people. Everyone receives the same gifts. But every man makes use of them as he wishes. Some treasure up time, means, education, wealth, everything, for a good purpose and remain holy and sound, the owners of increased riches. Some begin well, then become tired and lose everything. Some do nothing as they expect other people to do it. Some accuse the Father of their mistakes; some repent and are willing to make amends; some do not repent and they accuse and curse as if their ruin has been brought about by other people. And God grants rewards to the just at once; He grants mercy to those who repent and time to expiate, so that they may achieve a reward through repentance and expiation; and He gives malediction and punishment to those who trample on love through impenitence, the consequence of their sins. He gives every man what is due to him.
So do not waste the two coins: time and free will, but make the right use of them to be on the right hand side of the Father, and if you fail, repent and have faith in Merciful Love. Go. Peace be with you! »
He blesses them and looks at them moving away in the sun flooding the square and streets. But the slaves are still there...
«Are you still here, My poor friends? Will you not be punished? »
«No, Lord, if we say that we have been listening to You. Our mistresses venerate You. Where are You going now, Lord? They have been wishing to see You for such a long time...»
«To the rope‑maker near the harbour. But I am leaving this evening, and your mistresses will be at the party...»
«We shall tell them just the same. Months ago they told us to inform them every time You come here.»
«All right. Go. And make good use of your time and thoughts, which are always free, even if a man is in chains.»
The slaves bend to the ground and go away towards the Roman quarters. Jesus and His apostles go towards the harbour, along a narrow street.
424.At Caesarea on the Sea. The Roman Ladies and the Slave Galla Ciprina.
1st May 1946.
Jesus is a guest of the rope‑maker's humble family. Their house is low, with a saltish smell, close as it is to sea water. At the rear there are some smelly storehouses where goods are unloaded before they are collected by the various buyers. At the front there is a dusty road, furrowed by heavy wheels, very noisy because dockers, urchins, carters and seamen come and go incessantly. Beyond the street there is a little dockyard with dirty water soiled by the rubble thrown into it, and by its own stagnation. From the dockyard a canal flows into the actual port, capable of taking large ships. On the western side there is a large sandy square where ropes are made with squeaky twisting winches worked by hand. On the eastern side there is another little square, much smaller but more noisy and untidy, where men and women are patching up nets and sails. And beyond lie low hovels with a saltish smell, crowded with half‑naked children.
One certainly cannot say that Jesus has chosen a magnificent abode. Flies, dust, bustle, the smell of stagnant water, the stink of hemp steeped before being used, reign there. And the King of kings, lying with His apostles on heaps of coarse hemp, tired as He is, falls asleep in that poor environment, partly a lumber‑room, partly a storeroom, which is at the rear of the little house and from which, through a door as black as tar, one can enter the kitchen, which is also black, and through a worm‑eaten door, corroded by dust and salt, so that it looks whitish‑grey like pumice‑stone, one comes out into the square where ropes are being made and from which comes the stench of steeped hemp.
The sun is blazing down on the square notwithstanding that there are four huge plane‑trees, two at each end of the rectangular square, under which are the winches to twist the hemp. I do not know whether I am giving the implement the right name. The men, wearing tunics reduced to the bare essential for decency, running with sweat as if they were under a shower, keep turning their winches with continuous motion, as if they were galley‑slaves... They speak only to say the words indispensable to their work. Thus, without the squeaking of the winch wheels, and the creaking of the hemp stretched in twisting, there is no other noise in the square, a strange contrast with the din in the other places around the house of the rope‑maker.
Thus the exclamation of one of the workers is most surprising as it is uttered unexpectedly: «What? Women? At this awful time of the day?! Look! They are coming here...»
«They may be in need of ropes to tie their husbands...» says a young rope‑maker jokingly.
«They may need some hemp for some work.»
«H'm! It's unlikely that they need ours, which is so coarse, when they can get it combed!? »
«Ours is cheaper. See? They are poor...»
«But they are not Jewesses. See, their mantles are different...»
«Perhaps they are not Jewesses. There are all races in Caesarea now...»
«Perhaps they are looking for the Rabbi. They may be ill... See how they are all covered, even in this heat... »
«Provided they are not lepers... Poverty, yes, but leprosy, no; I do not want it, not even to be resigned to God » says the rope‑maker whom everybody obeys.
«But did you not hear the Master?: "We must accept everything God sends us".»
«But leprosy is not sent by God. It is sent by sins, vices, contagion...»
The women are now behind them, not behind those who are speaking and are at the very end of the square, but behind those who are on the side near the house, thus the first to be met, and one of them bends to say something to one of the rope‑makers, who turns round astonished and remains like a blockhead.
«Let us go and listen to them... Covered like that... With all the children I have, leprosy would be the last straw!...» says the owner who has stopped turning his winch and goes towards the women. His companions follow him...
«Simon, this woman wants something, but she speaks a foreign language. Since you have travelled, listen to her » says the man to whom the woman had spoken.
«What do you want? » asks the rope‑maker rudely, trying to see her through the dark dyed byssus which covers her face.
And in the purest Greek the woman replies: «The King of Israel. The Master.»
«Ah! I see. But... are you lepers? »
«Who can assure me? »
«He can. Ask Him.»
The man hesitates... He then says: «Well. I will make an act of faith and God will protect me... I am going to call Him. Stay where you are.»
The four women do not move, a greyish silent group, looked at with amazement and evident fear by the rope‑makers, who have gathered together a few steps apart.
The man goes into the storeroom and touches Jesus Who is sleeping. «Master... Come out. They are looking for. You.»
Jesus wakes and gets up immediately asking: «Who? »
«Who knows!... Some Greek women... they are all covered... They say that they are not lepers and that You can assure me...»
«I will come at once » says Jesus tying His sandals which He had taken off, and buttoning the top part of His tunic near His neck, and putting on the belt which He had taken off to be more free in His sleep. And He goes out with the rope‑maker.
The women make the gesture of starting towards them. «Stay where you are, I tell you! I do not want you to walk where my children are playing... I want Him to say first that you are healthy.» The women stop.
Jesus joins them. The tallest one, not the one who previously spoke Greek, says a word in a low voice. Jesus addresses the ropemaker: «Simon, you need not worry. The women are healthy and I have to listen to them in peace. May I go into the house?...»
«No. The old woman is there and she is more curious and chatty than a magpie. Go over there, to the end, under the shed of the vats. There is also a little room. You will be alone there and in peace.»
«Come...» says Jesus to the women. And He goes with them to the end of the square, under the unsavoury shed, into the little room as narrow as a cell, where there are broken tools, rags, refuse hemp, huge cobwebs, and where the smell of macerating‑vats and mould is so strong as to catch their throats. Jesus, Who is very grave and pale, smiles lightly saying: «It is not a place in accord with your tastes... But I have nothing else...»
«We do not see the place, because we see Him Who lives in it just now » replies Plautina removing her veil and mantle, imitated by the other ladies, who are Lydia, Valeria and Albula Domitilla, a freedwoman.
«From which I infer that after all you still believe that I am a just man.»
«More than a just man. And Claudia has sent us precisely because she believes that You are more than just and she does not take into consideration the words she heard. But she wishes to have Your confirmation to double her veneration for You.»
«Or to deprive Me of it, should I appear as they tried to picture Me. But you can assure her. I have no human ambitions. My ministry and My desire are only and entirely supernatural. I do want to gather all men into one only kingdom. But what part of men? Their flesh and blood? No. I leave that, a fleeting matter, to fleeting monarchies, to unsteady empires. I want to gather under My sceptre only the spirits of men, immortal spirits in an immortal kingdom. I reject all other accounts of My will, irrespectively of whoever gave them, if they differ from that one. And I beg you to believe and to tell her who sent you, that the Truth has but one word...»
«Your apostle was so sure of himself when he told us...»
«He is an overexcited youngster. He is to be listened to as such...»
«But he is detrimental to You! Reproach him... Send him away...»
«And what about My mercy? He acts through mistaken love. So must I not pity him? And what would change if I sent him away? He would do double harm to himself and to Me.»
«So he is like a cannon‑ball tied to Your foot!...»
«He is a poor wretch to be redeemed...»
Plautina falls on her knees stretching out her arms and saying: «Ah! Master, greater than anybody else, how easy it is to believe that You are holy when one feels Your heart in Your words! How easy it is to love and follow You because of Your charity, which is even greater than Your intelligence! »
«Not greater. But more understandable for you... whose intellects are hampered by too many errors and you are not generous in clearing them to receive the Truth.»
«You are right. Your divination is as great as Your wisdom.»
«As wisdom is a form of holiness it gives enlightenment of judgement, both on past or present events, and on forewarning of future ones.»
«So your prophets...»
«Were holy. God therefore communicated with them in great fullness.»
«Were they holy because they belonged to Israel? »
«They were holy because they belonged to Israel and because they were just in their actions. Because not all Israel is or was holy, although they belonged to Israel. The fact that one belongs by chance to a people or to a religion cannot make one holy. Those two conditions can be of great assistance to be so, but they are not the essential factors of holiness.»
«Which is then the factor? »
«The will of man. The will that leads the actions of man to holiness if it is good, to wickedness if it is bad.»
«Then... it is not fair to say that just people cannot be found also among us.»
«Certainly not. Nay, some just people were certainly among your ancestors, and there are certainly some among those who are living now. Because it would be too dreadful if the whole heathen world were made of demons. Those among you who feel attraction to Good and Truth and repulsion to Vice, and shun evil deeds as disgracing man, believe Me, they are already on the path of justice.»
«Yes. And you as well. Persevere.»
«But if we should die before being... converted to You?... Of what use would it be to have been virtuous?...»
«God is just in judging. But why hesitate to come to the true God? »
The three ladies lower their heads... Silence... Then the great confession, the one which explains so many cruelties and so much resistance of the Romans against Christianity... «Because, by doing so, we would appear to be betraying our Fatherland...»
«On the contrary you would serve your Fatherland, making it morally and spiritually greater, strengthened by the possession and protection of God, in addition to its armies and riches. Rome, the City of the world, the City of the universal Religion!... Just think of that...»
There is silence...
Then Livia, blushing like a peony, says: «Master, some time ago we were seeking information on You also in the pages of our Virgil. Because, as far as we are concerned, prophecies in no way connected with any of the beliefs of Israel are of greater value to us than those of your prophets, as we feel that the latter are influenced by millenary beliefs... And we discussed the matter... comparing those who presaged You in all times, nations and religions. But no one presaged You so justly as our Virgil... How much we spoke on that day with Diomed also, the Greek freedman, an astrologer dear to Claudia! He maintained that that happened because the time was nearer and the stars spoke with their conjunctions... And in support of his thesis he put forward the fact of the three Wise men from the three Eastern countries, who had come to worship You, still a baby, causing the massacre, which struck Rome with horror... But we were not persuaded because... for over fifty years none of the wise people in the world spoke of You explaining the voices of the stars, although we are even closer to Your present revelation. Claudia exclaimed: "We would need the Master! He would speak the truth and we would know the place and the immortal destiny of our greatest poet!". Would You tell us... for Claudia... A gift to prove that she is not disliked by You because of her doubt about You...»
«I understood her reaction of a Roman and I have had no grudge against her. You may reassure her. And listen. Virgil was not great only as a poet, was he? »
«Oh! no! Also as a man. In the midst of a society already corrupt and vicious he shone with spiritual purity. No one knew him to be lewd, fond of orgies and debauchery. His writings are chaste, but even chaster was his heart. So much so that where he lived mostly, he was called the "little virgin" with mockery by vicious people, with respect by good people.»
«So, could God not be reflected in the limpid soul of a chaste man, even if that man was a heathen? Will perfect Virtue not have loved the virtuous man? And if he was granted love and the sight of Truth because of the pure beauty of his soul, could he not have had a flash of prophecy? As prophecy is nothing but the truth which is revealed to those who deserve to know the Truth as a reward and a spur to greater and greater virtue? »
«So... he did prophesy You? »
«His mind inflamed with purity and genius was elevated to the knowledge of a page concerning Me, and he can be called the just heathen poet, a pre‑Christian prophetic spirit as a reward to his virtues.»
«Oh! Our Virgil!! And will he be rewarded? »
«I said: "God is just". But do not imitate the poet stopping at his limit. Go on, because the Truth did not reveal itself to you by intuition and partly, but completely and it spoke to you.»
«Thank You, Master... We are going away. Claudia told us to ask You if she can be useful to You in moral matters » says Plautina without replying to Jesus' remark.
«And she told you to ask Me, if I was not an usurper...»
«Oh! Master! How do You know? »
«I am more than Virgil and the prophets...»
«It is true! It is all true! Can we serve You?...»
«For Myself I need but faith and love. But there is a creature who is in great danger and whose soul will be killed this evening. Claudia could save her.»
«Here? Who? Soul killed? »
«One of your patricians is giving a dinner‑party and...»
«Ah! Yes! Ennius Cassius. My husband also is invited...» says Livia.
«And mine... And we, too, really. But as Claudia is not going, we will not go either. We had decided to withdraw immediately after dinner, in the event we had gone... Because... our dinners end in orgies... which we can no longer bear... And with the contempt of neglected wives we let our husbands remain...» says Valeria severely.
«Not with contempt... With pity for their moral misery...» corrects Jesus.
«It is difficult, Master... We know what happens there...»
«I also know many things which happen in hearts... and yet I forgive...»
«You are holy...»
«You must become so. Urged by My desire and spurred by your will...»
«Yes. Can you say that you are as happy now as you were before meeting Me, happy with the poor brute sensual happiness of heathens unaware that they are more than flesh, now that you know a little of Wisdom?...»
«No, Master. We admit it. We are discontented, annoyed, like one who is looking for a treasure and cannot find it.»
«And it is in front of you! What annoys you is the yearning after Light of your spirits, which suffer because of your delay... in giving them what they ask for...»
There is silence... Then Plautina, without replying to Jesus' remark, says: «And what could Claudia do? »
«She could save that creature. A girl purchased for pleasure by the Roman. A virgin who will not be such tomorrow.»
«If he bought her... she belongs to him.»
«She is not a piece of furniture. Within her body there is a soul...»
«Master... our laws...»
«Women: the Law of God!...»
«Claudia is not going to the feast...»
«I am not telling her to go. I am telling you to say to her: "The Master, to be sure that Claudia does not blame Him, asks her for help for the soul of that girl"...»
«We will tell her. But she will not be able to do anything... A slave purchased... is an object of which one may dispose...»
«Christianity will teach you that a slave has a soul like the soul of Caesar, in most cases even better, and that that soul belongs to God, and he who corrupts it is cursed.» Jesus is imposing while saying so.
The women perceive His authority and severity. They bow without discussing. They put on their mantles and veils again and say: «We will report. Hail, Master.»
The women go out into the warm square. But Plautina turns round and says: «With regard to everybody we were Greek women. Is that clear? »
«I understand. Go without worrying.»
Jesus remains under the low porch and they go away along the same road they came.
The rope‑makers go back to their work...
Jesus walks back to the storeroom slowly. He is pensive. He does not lie down again. Sitting on a pile of rolled up ropes He prays fervently... The eleven apostles are still fast asleep...
Some time goes by thus... About one hour. Then the rope‑maker looks in and beckons Jesus to go to the door. «There is a slave who wants You.»
The slave, a Numidian, is outside in the square still exposed to the sun. He bows and without speaking he gives Jesus a waxed tablet.
Jesus reads it and says: «Tell her that I will wait until dawn. Have you understood? »
The man nods assent and to make Jesus understand why he does not speak, he opens his mouth to show that his tongue has been cut off .
«Poor wretch! » says Jesus caressing him.
Two tears stream down the dark cheeks of the slave who takes Jesus' white hand in his dark ones, which are so much like those of a big monkey, and he rubs it against his face, he kisses it, and then throws himself on the ground. He takes Jesus' foot and lays it on his head... A language of gestures to express his gratitude for that gesture of pitiful love...
And Jesus repeats: «Poor wretch! » but He does not cure him.
The slave stands up and wants the waxed tablet back... Claudia does not wish to leave any trace of her correspondence... Jesus smiles and hands the tablet to him. The Numidian departs and Jesus approaches the rope‑maker.
«I must remain here until dawn... Will you allow Me?...»
«Everything You wish. I am sorry that I am poor...»
«I am pleased that you are honest.»
«Who were those women? »
«Foreigners needing advise.»
«As you and Me.»
«Good!... Here are Your apostles...»
In fact, rubbing their eyes, stretching themselves, still half sleeping, the Eleven come out of the storeroom and go toward the Master.
«Master... we will have to have supper if You wish to leave this evening...» says Peter.
«No. I am not leaving until dawn.»
«Because I have been asked to do so.»
«But why? Who asked You? It was better to walk by night. It's new moon now...»
«I hope to save a creature... And that is brighter than the moon and more refreshing for Me than the coolness of the night.»
Peter draws Him aside: «What has happened? Have You seen the Roman ladies? What mood are they in? Is it them who are becoming converted? Tell me...»
Jesus smiles: If you let Me reply I will tell you, o most inquisitive man. I saw the Romans. They are going towards the Truth only very slowly. But they are not going back. It is already a lot.»
«And... with regard to what Judas said... what is the situation? »
«That they are continuing to respect Me as a wise man.»
«But... for Judas? Is he not involved?...»
«They came to see Me, not him...»
«Why then was he afraid to meet them? Why did he not want You to come to Caesarea? »
«Simon, it is not the first time that Judas is strangely capricious...»
«That is true. And... are the Romans coming tonight? »
«They have already come.»
«Why are we waiting until dawn, then? »
«And why are you so inquisitive? »
«Master, be good... Tell me everything.»
«Yes, I will... to remove all doubt... You also heard the conversation of those three Romans...»
«Yes, I did. Filthy! Plague! Demons! But what have we got to do with that?... Ah! I see! The Roman ladies will go to the dinner and then they will come and ask to be forgiven for taking part in filthiness... I am surprised that You agree.»
«And I am surprised at your rash judgement! »
«Forgive me, Master! »
«Yes, you had better know that the Roman ladies are not going to the dinner‑party and that I asked Claudia to intervene on behalf of that girl...»
«Oh! But Claudia can do nothing! The girl was bought by the Roman and he can do what he likes with her! »
«But Claudia can exert much influence upon the Roman. And Claudia sent word to Me to wait until dawn before leaving. Nothing else. Are you satisfied? »
«Yes, Master, I am. But You have not rested... Come now... You are so tired! I will watch to ensure that You are left in peace... Come...» and lovingly tyrannical he pulls and pushes Jesus, compelling Him to lie down once again...
Hours go by. It is sunset, work comes to an end, and children shout louder in the streets and little squares and swallows screech in the sky. The first shades of evening descend upon the earth, and swallows go back to their nests, and children to bed. One by one all noises cease, so that one can hear only the light rippling of the water in the canal and the louder lapping of the waves on the shore. Houses, the houses of tired workmen are closed, lights go out and rest descends to make everyone blind and dumb... remote... The moon rises and adorns with her silver also the dirty sheet of water of the little dockyard, which now looks like a sheet of silver...
The apostles are sleeping once again on the hemp... Jesus, sitting on one of the winches, His hands in His lap, is praying, thinking, waiting... He does not lose sight of the street coming from town.
The moon rises, rises... She is perpendicularly above His head. The noise of the sea is louder, the smell of the canal is stronger, and the cone of the moon which plunges its beams into the sea becomes wider and wider, embracing all the expanse in front of Jesus, and fades away farther and farther: a path of light which seems to be coming towards Jesus from the end of the world, along the canal, finishing in the basin of the dockyard. And a little white boat is coming along that path. It is proceeding without leaving any trace on the liquid path, as the water becomes smooth again after it passes... It comes up the canal... It is now in the silent dockyard... It draws closer and stops. And three shadows land from it. A robust man, a woman and between them a slender figure. They direct their steps towards the house of the rope‑maker.
Jesus stands up and goes to meet them. «Peace to you. Whom are you looking for? »
«For You, Master » says Lydia unveiling her face and coming forward alone. And she goes on: «Claudia has fulfilled Your desire because it was a just and completely moral matter. That is the girl. Valeria will take her later as a nurse for little Fausta. In the meantime she asks You to keep her, or, better still, to entrust her to Your Mother or to the mother of Your relatives. She is completely pagan. Nay, more than pagan. The master who brought her up, put absolutely nothing into her. She knows nothing about Olympus or anything else. She has only a holy terror of men, because life was revealed to her in all its brutality only a few hours ago...»
«Oh! How sad! Too late? »
«No, not from a material point of view... But he was preparing her for his... let us say: sacrilege. And the girl is terrified... Claudia had to leave her with that satyr while dinner lasted, as she intended to take action when wine had impaired his capability of pondering. I need not remind You that if man is always lewd in his sensual love affairs, he is much more so when he is drunk... But only then he is a laughing‑stock who can be urged by force and despoiled of his treasure. And Claudia took advantage of the situation. Ennius wants to go back to Italy, whence he was sent away as he had fallen out of favour... Claudia promised his return in exchange for the girl. Ennius swallowed the bait... But tomorrow, when he is sober, he will rebel, will look for her, he will cause an uproar. It is true that tomorrow Claudia will have the means to silence him.»
«Oh! violence used for a good purpose is useful! But it will not be used... Only Pilate, still stunned by the quantity of wine he drank this evening, will sign the order for Ennius to go and report to Rome... Ha! Ha!... And he will leave with the first military ship. But in the meanwhile... it is wise for the girl to be elsewhere, lest Pilate should repent and revoke the order... He is so uncertain! And it is better for the girl to forget, if she can, human filth. Oh! Master!... We went to the dinner for that purpose... But how were we able to go to such orgies up to a few months ago, without feeling sick? We ran away as soon as we achieved our purpose... Our husbands are there just now emulating brutes... How disgusting, Master!... And we have to receive them after they...»
«Be austere and patient. You will improve your husbands through your exemplary conduct.»
«Oh! it is not possible!... You do not know...» The woman weeps more out of scorn than sorrow. Jesus sighs. Lydia resumes: «Claudia asked me to tell You that she did this to prove to You that she reveres You as the Only Man Who deserves veneration. And she wants me to inform You that she thanks You for teaching her the value of a soul and of purity. She will never forget that. Do You want to see the girl? »
«Yes. And who is the man? »
«The dumb Numidian whom Claudia employs in the most secret matters. There is no danger of delation... He has no tongue...»
As in the afternoon Jesus repeats: «Poor wretch! » But even now He does not work a miracle.
Lydia goes and takes the girl by the hand and almost drags her before Jesus. She explains: «She knows few Latin words and even fewer Judaean... A little wild animal... Just an object of pleasure.» And she says to the girl: «Don't be afraid. Say "thanks" to Him. It is He Who saved you... Kneel down. Kiss His feet. Cheer up! Do not tremble!... Forgive her, Master! She is terrorised by the last caresses of drunken Ennius...»
«Poor girl! » says Jesus laying His hand on the veiled head of the girl. «Be not afraid! I will take you to My Mother, for some time. To a Mother, do you understand? And you will have so many brothers around you... Be not afraid, My dear daughter! »
What is there in Jesus' voice and looks? Everything: peace, confidence, purity, holy love. The girl perceives that, she throws back her mantle with hood to look at Him better, and the slender figure of a girl hardly at the threshold of puberty, almost still a little child, somewhat immature in comeliness, innocent looking, appears in a dress too wide for her...
«She was half‑naked... I put on her the first garments I found, and I put some also in her sack...» explains Lydia.
«A little girl! » says Jesus compassionately. And stretching out His hand towards her, He asks: «Do you want to come with Me, without any fear? »
«No. I am not your owner. Call Me: Master.»
«Yes, Master » says the girl with more confidence and a timid smile replaces the expression of fear previously visible on her very pale face.
«Are you capable of walking a long distance? »
«Then you will rest at My Mother's, in My house, awaiting Fausta... a little girl of whom you will be very fond... Are you pleased? »
«Oh! Yes!...» and the girl confidently raises her clear grey‑blue eyes, which are most beautiful between her golden eyebrows and she dares to ask: «No more that master? » and a flash of terror upsets her once again.
«Never again » Jesus promises once more laying His hand again on the girl's thick hair of the shade of blond honey.
«Goodbye, Master. In a few days' time we shall be on the lake as well. Perhaps we shall meet again. Pray for the poor Roman ladies.»
«Goodbye, Lydia. Tell Claudia that these are the conquests which I expect, and nothing else. Come, child. We are leaving at once...» And holding her by the hand He looks in at the door of the storeroom calling the apostles.
While the boat, without leaving any trace of its voyage sails back to the open sea, Jesus and the apostles, with the girl enveloped in a mantle in the middle of the group, go towards the country through narrow desert streets of the outskirts...
425. Aurea Galla.
2nd May 1946.
Summer dawns are so early that the time between the setting of the moon and daybreak is short. So that, although they have walked very quickly, at the darkest hour of the night they are still in the neighbourhood of the town of Caesarea, and a branch of thorn‑bush which they have lit, does not give sufficient light. They are compelled to stop for some time, also because the girl, who is not accustomed to walking by night, often stumbles over stones half buried in the dust.
«It is better to stop for a little while. The girl cannot see and she is tired » says Jesus.
«No, I can go on... Let us go far, far away... He may come. We passed here to go to that house » says the girl with chattering teeth, mixing Hebrew and Latin in a new language to make herself understood.
«We will go behind those trees and nobody will see us. Do not be afraid » Jesus replies to her.
«Yes, be not afraid. That… Roman is dead drunk under the table by now...» says Bartholomew to reassure her.
«And you are with us. And we love you! We will not let anybody hurt you. I say! We are twelve strong men...» says Peter, who is little taller than she is, but as sturdy as she is lean, and as burnt by the sun as she is snow‑white, a poor flower brought up in the shade so that she might be more exciting and valuable.
«You are a little sister. And brothers defend their sisters...» says John.
The girl, at the last flash of light of the improvised torch, looks at her consolers with her clear iron‑grey eyes, lightly tinged with blue, two limpid eyes still shining with the tears shed in the moment of terror shortly before... She is suspicious. And yet she trusts them. And together with the others she crosses the dry rivulet beyond the road to enter an estate at the end of which there is a thick orchard.
They sit down in the dark, waiting. The men perhaps would like to sleep. But every noise makes the girl moan and the gallop of a horse causes her to cling convulsively to the neck of Bartholomew, who, perhaps because he is old, inspires confidence and trust. It is thus impossible to sleep.
«Don't be afraid! When one is with Jesus, nothing harmful happens any more» says Bartholomew.
«Why? » asks the girl trembling and still clinging to the apostle's «Because Jesus is God on the Earth, and God is stronger than men.»
«God? What is God? »
«Poor creature! How have they brought you up? Have they not taught you anything? »
«To keep my skin white, my hair shiny, to obey masters... to always say yes... But I could not say yes to the Roman... he was ugly and he frightened me... He frightened me all day long... He was always there... at the bath, when I was getting dressed... those eyes... and hands... oh!... And who does not say "yes" gets beaten...»
«You will not be beaten. Neither the Roman nor his hands are here any longer... There is peace...» Jesus replies to her.
And the others remark: «It is horrible! Treated like valuable animals, no better than animals! Worse!... Because an animal knows at least that they teach it to plough, to have a saddle on and a bit, because that is its task. But this girl was thrown there without knowing anything!...»
«If I had known I would have thrown myself into the sea. He had said: "I will make you happy"...»
«And he did make you happy. But in a way that he had never imagined. Happy for the Earth and for Heaven. Because to know Jesus is happiness » says the Zealot.
There is silence: everybody is meditating on the horrors of the world. Then, in a low voice, the girl asks Bartholomew: «Will you tell me what is God? And why He is God? Because He is good and handsome? »
«God... How can one teach you, since you are completely devoid of religious ideas? »
«Religious? What is it? »
«Most High Wisdom! I am like one who is getting drowned in a deep sea! What shall I do in front of this abyss? »
«What seems so difficult to you, Bartholomew, is so simple. It is an abyss, but an empty one. And you can fill it up with the Truth. It is worse when the abyss is full of filth, poison, snakes... Speak with simplicity, as you would speak to a baby. And she will understand you better than an adult would.»
«Oh! Master! But could You not do it? »
«I could. But the girl will accept the words of one like her more easily than she would listen to My words of God. And in any case... You will have to face such abysses in future, and fill them with Me. After all, you must learn to do so.»
«That is true! I will try. Listen, girl... Do you remember your mother? »
«Yes, sir. Flowers have bloomed for seven years without her. But before that I was with her.»
«All right. And do you remember her? Do you love her? »
«Oh! » a sob joined to her exclamation says everything.
«Don't weep, poor creature... Listen... The love you feel for your mother...»
«... and my father... and my little brothers...» says the girl sobbing.
«Yes... for your family, the love for your family, your thoughts for it, your desire to go back to it...»
«Who knows!... All that is something which can be called the religion of the family. So religions, religious ideas, are the love, the thought, the desire to go where He or they are, in whom we believe, whom we love and desire.»
«Ah! If I believe in that God there, I will have a religion... It is easy! »
«Well. What is easy? To have a religion or to believe in that God there? »
«Both. Because it is easy to believe in a good God like that one there. The Roman mentioned so many of them and swore... He used to say: "by goddess Venus!", "by god Cupid". But they could not be good gods because he did things which were not good, while mentioning them.»
«The girl is not stupid » remarks Peter in a low voice.
« But I still do not know what is God. I see Him a man like you... So God is a man. And how can one tell? In what is He stronger than everybody? He has neither swords nor servants...»
«Master, help me...»
«No, Nathanael! You are doing so well...»
«You are saying so out of kindness... However, let us see how we can proceed. Listen, girl... God is not a man. He is like a light, a look, a sound, so big that He fills the sky and the earth illuminating everything, He sees everything, directs everything and gives orders to everything...»
«Also to the Roman? Then He is not a good God. I am afraid! »
«God is good and gives good orders, and He had ordered men not to make war, not to make slaves, to leave little girls to their mothers and not to frighten them. But men do not always listen to the orders of God.»
«But you do...»
«Yes, I do.»
«But if He is stronger than anybody else, why does He not make men obey Him? And how can He speak if He is not a man? »
«God... oh! Master!...»
«Go on, Bartholomai. You are so wise a teacher, you can express the most sublime thoughts with so much simplicity, and you are afraid? Do you not know that the Holy Spirit is on the lips of those who teach Justice? »
«It seems so easy when we listen to You... and all Your words are in here... But to draw them out when we have to do what You do!... Oh! misery of us poor men! What worthless teachers we are! »
«To acknowledge your worthlessness is to predispose your spirits to the teaching of the Paraclete Spirit...»
«All right. Listen, girl. God is strong, very strong, stronger than Caesar, than all men put together with their armies and war-machines. But He is not a cruel master who makes people always say yes, under pain of the lash if one does not say so. God is a father. Did your father love you? »
«So much! He named me Aurea Galla because gold is precious and Gaul is our fatherland, and he used to say that I was dearer to him than the gold he had once possessed and than our fatherland...»
«Did your father beat you? »
«No. Never. Even if I was naughty he used to say to me: "My poor daughter!" and he wept...»
«There you are! That is what God does. He is a father and He weeps if we are bad, but He does not compel us to obey Him. But those who are bad will be punished one day with horrible tortures...»
«Oh! lovely! The master who took me away from my mother and took me to the island and the Roman in tortures! And will I see them? »
«You will be near God and you will see, if you believe in Him and you are good. But to be good you must not hate even the Roman.»
«No? How can I do that?!...»
«Praying for him or...»
«What is to pray? »
«It is to speak to God telling Him what we want...»
«But I want a dreadful death for my masters! » says the girl with wild vehemence.
«No, you must not. Jesus will not love you if you say so...»
«Because we must not hate those who injured us.»
«But I cannot love them...»
«Forget them for the time being... Try to forget them. Later, when you know more about God, you will pray for them... So we were saying that God is powerful but He leaves His children free.»
«Am I a child of God? Have I two fathers? How many sons has He? »
«All men are children of God, because He made them all. See the stars up there? He made them. And these plants? He made them. And the earth on which we are sitting, and that bird which is singing and the sea which is so big, everything and all men. And men are His children more than anything else, as they are His children because of that thing which is called soul and which is light, sound, look, not as big as His, which fill Heaven and Earth completely, but are beautiful and they never die as He never dies.»
«Where is the soul? Have I got one? »
«Yes and it is in your heart, and it is that thing that made you understand that the Roman was bad, and that certainly will not make you wish to be like him. Is that right? »
«Yes...» The girl ponders after her uncertain yes... She then says with confidence: «Yes! It was like a voice within me and a need to have help... and with another voice, but that one was mine, I called my mother... because I did not know that there was God, that there was Jesus... If I had known, I would have called Him with that voice which I had within me...»
«You have understood well, child, and you will grow in Light. I am telling you., Believe in the true God, listen to the voice of your soul, devoid of acquired wisdom, but devoid also of evil will, and you will have a Father in God, and in death, which is the passage from the Earth to Heaven for those who believe in the true God and are good, you will have a place in Heaven, near your Lord » says Jesus laying His hand on the head of the girl, who changes position and kneels down saying:
«Near You. It is nice to be with You. Do not part from me, Jesus. I now know who You are and I prostrate myself. At Caesarea I was afraid to do so... But You seemed a man to me. I now know that You are a God hidden in a man and You are a Father and Protector to me.»
«And Saviour, Aurea Galla.»
«And Saviour. You saved me.»
«And I will save you even more. You will have a new name...»
«Are You going to deprive me of the name which my father gave me? The master on the island called me Aurea Quintillia, because they divided us according to complexion and number and I was the fifth blonde... But why do You not leave me the name given to me by my father? »
«I am not taking it off you. But you will have in addition to your old name, a new one, the eternal one.»
«Christian. Because the Christ saved you. But it is dawning. Let us go... See, Nathanael, it is easy to speak of God to empty abyssess... You spoke very well. The girl will improve quickly in Truth... Aurea, go ahead with My brothers...»
The girl obeys but timidly. She would prefer to remain with Bartholomew, who understands and promises: «I am coming at once, too. Go, be obedient...» And when he is with Jesus, Peter, Simon and Matthew, he remarks: «It's a pity that Valeria will have her. She is always a heathen...»
«I cannot impose her on Lazarus...»
«There is Nike, Master » suggests Matthew.
«And Eliza...» says Peter.
«And Johanna... She is a friend of Valeria and Valeria would cede the girl to her willingly. She would be in a good home » says the Zealot.
Jesus is pensive and silent...
«You will decide... I am going to join the girl, as she is always turning round. She trusts me because I am old... I would keep her... one daughter more... But she is not from Israel...» and he goes away, the good but too Israelite Nathanael.
Jesus looks at him depart and shakes His head.
«Why that gesture, Master? » asks the Zealot.
«Because... it grieves Me to see that wise people are also slaves to prejudice...»
«However... let us keep this to ourselves... Bartholomew is right... and in actual fact... You should provide... Remember Syntyche and John... Don't let the same thing happen... Send her to Syntyche...» says Peter who is afraid of trouble in case the heathen girl should stay with them.
«John will not live long... Syntyche is not yet mature enough to be the teacher of a girl like this one... It is not a suitable place...»
«And yet You must not keep her. Consider that Judas will soon be with us. And Judas, Master, allow me to tell You, is a lustful man and a... one who is inclined to speak to gain some profit... and he has too many friends among the Pharisees...» insists the Zealot.
«That's it! Simon is right! Just what I was thinking! » exclaims Peter. «Do as he says, Master!...»
Jesus ponders but is silent... He then says: «Let us pray! And the Father will help us...» and, at the rear of the others, they pray fervently.
Dawn is breaking... They pass by a village and resume walking in the country... The sun is becoming warmer and warmer. They stop to eat in the shade of a huge walnut‑tree.
«Are you tired? » Jesus asks the girl who is eating with no relish. «Tell Me and we will stop.»
«No, no. Let us go...»
«We have asked her several times. But she always says no...» says James of Alphaeus.
«I can go on, I am fit! Let us go far away...»
They resume their journey. But Aurea remembers something. «I have a purse. The ladies said to me: "You will give it when you are near the mountains". The mountains are here and I am giving it.» And she rummages in the sack where Livia put some clothes for her... She takes out the purse and gives it to Jesus.
«Their offerings... They did not want to be thanked. They are better than many among us... Take it, Matthew. And keep this money. It will be used as secret alms.»
«Shall I not tell Judas of Kerioth? »
«He will see the girl...»
Jesus does not reply... They set out again, but they proceed with difficulty because of the intense heat, the dust and dazzling light. Then they begin to climb the first ramifications of Mount Carmel, I think. Although it is more shady and cooler here, Aurea walks slowly and often stumbles.
Bartholomew goes back to the Master. «Master, the girl is feverish and exhausted. What shall we do? »
They consult. Should they stop? Or proceed carrying her? They are undecided. At last they decide that they must at least reach the road to Sicaminon to ask assistance of some wayfarer on horseback or in a wagon. And they would like to carry the girl in their arms, but she is heroic in her will to go farther away and keeps repeating: «I can walk, I am fit! » and wants to proceed by herself. She is flushed, her eyes are feverish and she is really exhausted. But she does not give up... She walks slowly, agreeing to be supported by Bartholomew and Philip... But she proceeds... They are all really tired. But they realise that they must go on and they do so...
They are on the top of the hill. There is the opposite slope... The plain of Esdraelon is down there, and beyond it the hills among which is Nazareth...
«If we do not find anybody, we will stop at the peasants...» says Jesus...
They go on... Almost down on the plain they see a group of disciples. There is Isaac and John of Ephesus with his mother, and Abel of Bethlehem with his mother, and other disciples whose names I do not know. For the women there is a rustic cart drawn by a strong little mule. There are also two shepherds, Daniel and Benjamin, Joseph the boatman and others.
«It is Providence helping us! » exclaims Jesus and He tells everybody to stop while He goes to speak to the disciples and to the two women in particular.
He takes them aside with Isaac and tells them part of Aurea's adventure: «We took her away from a lustful master... I would like to take her to Nazareth to cure her because she is suffering from fear and exhaustion. But I have no vehicle. Where were you going? »
«To Bethlehem in Galilee, to Myrtha's. It is impossible to stand the heat in the plain » replies Isaac.
«Go to Nazareth first, I ask you to do so out of charity. Take the girl to My Mother and tell Her that I will be with Her in two or three days' time. The girl has a temperature, so pay no attention to her raving. I will tell you later...»
«Yes, Master. As You wish. We will leave at once. Poor creature! Did he thrash her? » ask the three.
«He wanted to profane her.»
«Oh!... How old is she? »
«The coward! The lewd rogue! But we will love her. We are true mothers, not because we have been promoted such by merit, is that right, Naomi? »
«Of course it is, Myrtha. Lord, are You keeping her as a disciple? »
«I do not know yet...»
«If You keep her, we are here. I am not going back to Ephesus. I have sent friends to sell everything. I am staying with Myrtha... Remember us for anything the girl needs. You saved our sons and we want to save her.»
«We will see later...»
«Master, the two women disciples are reliable because of their holiness...» says Isaac pleading.
«It does not depend on Me... Pray fervently and do not mention anything to anybody. Have you understood? To anybody.»
«We will hold our tongues.»
«Come with the cart.» And Jesus goes back followed by Isaac who is driving the cart and by the two women.
The girl is lying on the grass seeking refreshment for her high temperature.
«Poor creature! But she will not die, will she? »
«What a beautiful girl! »
«My dear, do not be afraid. I am a mother, you know? Come... Hold her up, Myrtha... She is tottering... Help us, Isaac... Over here where she will not be jolted so much... Put her sack under her head... Let us put our mantles under her... Isaac, wet these linens and we will put them on her forehead... What a temperature, poor child...»
The two women are careful and motherly. Aurea is so overwhelmed by the high fever, that she is almost absent...
Everything is ready... The cart can start... Isaac before using his whip remembers: «Master, if You go to the bridge, You will find Judas of Kerioth. He is waiting for You like a beggar... It was he who told us that You were coming here. Peace to You, Master. We will get to Nazareth during the night! »
«Peace to You, Master » say the women disciples.
«Peace to you! »...
The cart trots away...
«Thanks be to the Lord!...» says Jesus.
«Yes. It is a good thing for the girl and because of Judas... It is better if he knows nothing...»
«Yes. It is better. So much better that I ask your hearts to make a sacrifice. We will part before arriving at Nazareth, and you people of the lake will go to Capernaum with Judas, whereas I with My brothers, Thomas and Simon will go to Nazareth.»
«We will do that, Master. And what will You say to these disciples who are waiting for You? »
«That it was urgent for us to inform My Mother of My arrival... Let us go...» and He joins the disciples who are so happy to be with their Master, that they do not ask any question.
426. Parable of the Vineyard and of Free Will.
4th May 1946.
«Peace to you, My friends. The Lord is good. He grants us to meet for a brotherly meal. Where were you going? » Jesus asks the ex‑shepherds while making His way into a thicket to protect Himself from the sun.
«Some towards the sea, some towards the mountains. We came here together, growing in numbers all the time, as other groups joined us along the road » says Daniel, formerly a shepherd in Lebanon.
«Yes, and the two of us would like to go as far as Great Hermon to nourish our hearts where we pastured our flocks » says his companion Benjamin.
«It is a good idea. I will go to Nazareth for some time, later I will be at Capernaum and Bethsaida until the new moon of Elul. I am telling you so that you may find Me in case of need. Sit down and let us put together our victuals to share them according to justice.»
They do so spreading their... wealth on a piece of cloth: cakes, cheese, salt fish, olives, some eggs, the first apples... and they share out the food as cheerfully as they had laid it down, after Jesus has offered and blessed it.
How pleased they are with the unhoped‑for feast of love! They forget tiredness and heat, lost as they are in the joy of listening to Jesus, Who inquires about what they have done, gives them advice, or tells them what He has done. And although the very warm hour of a sultry day would make one drowsy, they are so interested that no one yields to sleep. And when the meal is over and the few provisions left have been collected and divided into equal parts among them, they move into the thickest part of the nearest brushwood on the hill, and sitting around Jesus in the shade of the trees, they beg Him to tell them a beautiful parable, which they may use as a practical rule of life and teaching.
Jesus, Who is sat facing the plain of Esdraelon, now bare of crops but luxuriant in vineyards and orchards, turns His eyes round looking at the panorama as if He were looking for a subject in what He sees. He smiles. He has found it. He begins with a general question: «The vineyards in this plain are beautiful, are they not? »
«Yes, very beautiful. They are extraordinarily laden with grapes which are maturing. And they are very well kept. That is why they yield so much.»
«They must be plants of great value...» insinuates Jesus. And He concludes: «As the plain is divided into estates belonging to rich Pharisees, they have cultivated it with good plants regardless of expenses.»
«Oh! It would have been of no use to purchase the best plants, if they had not been taken care of continually. I am an expert in the matter because I grow vines in all my property. But if I do not toil hard, that is, if I had not toiled hard at it, as my brothers continue to do now, believe me, Master, I would not be able to offer You at vintage time grapes like those of last year » says a strong man, about forty years old, whom I think I have already seen, but whose name I do not remember.
«You are right, Cleopas. The whole secret to have good fruits is to take care of our property » say another man.
«Good fruits and good profits. Because if the land gave only what one spends on it, it would still be a bad investment of money. The land must yield the fruit of the capital it costs us, plus a profit enabling us to increase our wealth. Because we must consider that a father has to divide his property among his sons. And of one property, be it land or money, he has to make several parts, one for each son, to give each of them what to live on. I do not think that we are to be blamed if we increase our property for the benefit of our children » insists Cleopas.
«You are not, if you achieve it by honest work and in an honest manner. So you say that notwithstanding the good quality of the seedlings planted out, it is necessary to toil hard at them to have a profit? »
«Most certainly so! Before we have the first bunches... Because it takes time, you know! Because one must have patience and work as well while the young shoots have only leaves. And later, when they begin to yield fruit and are strong, one must watch that there are no useless vine‑branches, harmful insects and that parasitic grass do not impoverish the soil. And you have to ensure that the vine‑branches are not suffocated by the foliage of bushes and bindweed and you have to dig round the foot of the vine forming circles so that dew may penetrate and water may stagnate a little longer than elsewhere nourishing the plant, and you have to spread manure... Hard work! But it is necessary, even if it is unpleasant, because grapes, so sweet, so beautiful, that each bunch seems a collection of precious stones, grow exactly by sucking fetid black manure. It seems impossible but it is so! And one has to thin out the leaves so that the sun may shine on the bunches, and when vintage is over, one has to arrange the vines, tying and pruning them, covering the roots with straw and excrement, to protect them against frost, and also during winter one has to go and see whether the wind or some robber has pulled off the stakes and whether the weather has loosened the withes by which the branches are tied to the stakes... Oh! there is always something to be done until the vine is completely withered... And then there is still work to be done to remove it from the soil, which is to be cleaned out taking away all the roots so that it may be ready to receive a new plant. And do You know how one must work patiently with a light hand and eyes wide awake extricating the vine‑shoots of the dead plants entangled with those of the vines still alive? If one acted foolishly and with a heavy hand, how much damage would be caused! One must be of the trade to know that!... The vines? They are like children! And before a child becomes a man, how hard one has to work to keep him sound in body and mind!... But I am speaking all the time and I am not letting You speak... You promised us a parable...»
«Actually you have already told it. It would be sufficient to apply your conclusion and say that souls are like vines...»
«No, Master! You must speak. I... I have talked nonsense and we cannot do the work of application by ourselves...»
«All right. Listen.
When we had an animal body in the womb of our mother, God created a soul in Heaven to make the future man in His likeness and He infused it into the body which was forming in the womb. And man, when it was time for him to be born, was born with a soul, which up to the age of reason was like land left uncultivated by its master. But when man reached the age of reason, he began to reason and to tell Good from Evil. He then realised that he had a vineyard to cultivate to his liking. And he became aware that he had a vine‑dresser in charge of his vineyard: his free will. In fact the freedom to guide himself, which God granted to man, His son, is like an efficient servant, granted by God to man, His son, to assist him to make his vineyard fertile, that is his soul.
If man did not have to work by himself to become rich, to build for himself an eternal future of supernatural prosperity, if he should have had to receive everything from God, what merit would he have in re‑creating himself in holiness, after Lucifer had corrupted the initial holiness given gratuitously by God to the first parents? It is already a great gift that the creatures, who had fallen by inheritance of fault, are granted by God the possibility to deserve a reward and become holy, by being born again, through their own will, to the initial nature of perfect creatures, as the Creator had given to Adam and Eve, and to their children, if the first parents had remained free from the original Fault. Man, who had fallen, must become a chosen man through his free will. Now, what happens to souls? This. Man entrusts his soul to his will, to his free will, which begins to work the vineyard that had remained so far a piece of ground without vines, a good ground, but bare of durable plants. During the first years of its existence only frail grass and caducous flowers had grown on it: the instinctive goodness of a child who is good because he is an angel still unaware of Good and Evil.
You may ask: "How long does he remain such?". We generally say: for the first six years. But in actual fact there are precocious reasons so that we have children who are responsible for their actions before the age of six. There are children who are responsible for their actions also at three, four years of age, and they are responsible because they know what is Good and what is Evil, and they freely want the former or the latter. The moment a child can tell a good action from a bad one, that child is responsible. Not before. Thus a fool, even if one hundred years old, is irresponsible, but his guardians are responsible in his place and they must lovingly watch over him and his neighbour who may be damaged by the dull‑witted or foolish fellow, so that he may not harm himself or other people. But God does not impute any fault to the idiot or fool, because unfortunately they are deprived of reason. But we are talking of intelligent beings, sound in mind and body.
So man entrusts his uncultivated vineyard to his vine‑dresser: his free will, which begins to cultivate it. The soul, that is the vineyard, has a voice and makes the free will hear it. It is a supernatural voice nourished by supernatural voices which God never denies souls: the voice of the Guardian, those of the spirits sent by God, the voice of Wisdom, those of the supernatural remembrances which every soul recollects, although man does not have a precise perception of them. And the vineyard speaks to the free will, in a kind and imploring voice, begging it to adorn it with good plants, to be active and wise so that it may not become a wild, sterile, poisonous thicket of thorn‑bushes, where serpents and scorpions nest, foxes have their earths and martens and other evil quadrupeds their holes.
Free will is not always a good cultivator. It does not always watch over the vineyard and defend it with an impassable hedge, that is with firm good will, aiming at protecting the soul from robbers, from parasites, from all harmful things, from strong winds which might cause the little flowers of good resolutions to fall off when they have hardly begun to be desired. Oh! what a high strong hedge is required around the heart to save it from evil! How one must watch to ensure that it is not forced, and that no one opens either large gaps through which dissipations may enter, or sly little openings, at its base, through which vipers creep in: the seven capital vices! How necessary it is to hoe, to burn weeds, to prune, to trench, to manure through mortification and take care of one's soul through love for God and for our neighbour. And it is necessary to watch with wideopen bright eyes and mind wide awake that the vine‑shoots which appeared to be good, do not turn out to be bad, and if that should happen, they are to be extirpated mercilessly. One plant only, but perfect, is better than many useless or noxious ones.
We have hearts, we have therefore vineyards which are always cultivated, in which new vines are planted by an extravagant cultivator who piles up new plants: he wants to do this work and that one, he has ideas, which are not even wicked, then he neglects them and they become evil, they fall on the ground, they degenerate and die... How many virtues perish because they are mingled with sensuality, they are not cultivated, because, in short, free will is not supported by love! How many thieves enter to rob, to tamper with things, to extirpate, because one's conscience falls asleep instead of being vigilant, because one's will loses its strength and becomes corrupted, because one's free will is seduced, and although free, it becomes a slave to Evil. But consider! God made it free and yet free will becomes a slave to passions, to sin, to concupiscence, to Evil in a word. Pride, wrath, avarice, lust, first mixed with, then triumphant over good plants!... A disaster! How much drought there is that parches plants, because people no longer pray, whereas prayer is union with God, and therefore a dew of beneficial juices for the soul! How much frost freezes roots through lack of love for God and our neighbour! How much poorness of soil, because people refuse the manuring of mortification and humility! What an inextricable tangle of good and bad vine‑shoots, because one has not the courage to suffer cutting off what is noxious! That is the state of a soul whose guardian and cultivator is an extravagant free will inclined to Evil.
Whereas the soul whose free will lives in an orderly way ‑ and therefore in submission to the Law given so that man may know what is order, how it is and how it is kept ‑ and is heroically faithful to Good, because Good elevates man and makes him similar to God, whereas Evil makes him brutal and similar to a demon, is a vineyard bedewed with the pure, plentiful useful waters of faith, appropriately shaded by trees of hope, warmed by the sun of charity, controlled by will, matured by mortification, tied with obedience, pruned by strength, guided by justice, watched over by wisdom and conscience. And Grace increases assisted by so much help, Holiness increases and the vineyard becomes a wonderful garden, where God descends for His delight. Providing the vineyard always remains a perfect garden till the death of the creature, God has such work of a willing good free will brought by His angels into the great eternal Garden of Heaven.
You certainly want that lot for yourselves. So watch that the Demon, the World and the Flesh do not seduce your free will and ruin your souls. Watch that there is love in you, but not self-regard, which extinguishes love and puts the soul in the power of various sensualities and disorder. Be vigilant until the end and storms may wet you but not hurt you, and laden with fruit you will go to your Lord for the eternal reward.
I have finished. Now meditate and rest until sunset while I retire to pray.»
«No, Master. We must not delay in setting out to arrive at some house » says Peter.
«Why? There is time until sunset! » say many.
«I am not thinking of sunset or of the Sabbath. I am thinking that within an hour there will be a violent storm. See those tongue-shaped dark clouds which are rising slowly from the mountain ranges of Samaria? And those which are so white and are progressing rapidly from the west? A lower wind is blowing the former, an upper wind the latter. But when they are here above us, the upper wind will yield to sirocco and the dark clouds, laden with hailstones, will come down and clash with the white ones, laden with lightning, and then you will hear some music! Come on, quick! I am a fisherman and I can read in the sky.»
Jesus is the first to obey and they all set off quickly towards the farm‑houses in the plain...
At the bridge they meet Judas who shouts: «Oh! My Master! How much I have suffered without You! Praised be the Lord Who has rewarded my perseverance in waiting for You here! How did things go at Caesarea? »
«Peace to you, Judas » briefly replies Jesus and He adds: «We will speak in the house. Come, a storm is impending.»
In fact gusts of wind begin to raise clouds of dust from the parched roads, the sky becomes overcast with clouds of all shapes and shades, and the air is yellow and lurid... And the first large, warm, sparse drops begin to fall and the first lightning furrows the sky, which is now almost dark...
They begin to run and goaded by the desire not to get drenched to the skin, they arrive at the first house when, amid the roar of a thunderbolt which falls nearby, a deluge of rain and hailstones falls upon the area causing a strong smell of damp earth and of ozone exhaling from the incessant lightning.
They go in and fortunately the house is provided with porches and is inhabited by peasants believing in the Messiah. And with veneration they invite the Master to make Himself at home with His companions «as if He were in His own house. But raise Your hand and disperse the hail, out of pity for our work » they say crowding round Jesus.
Jesus raises His hand and blesses the four cardinal points, and rain only pours from the sky to water orchards, vineyards, meadows and to purify the heavy atmosphere.
«May You be blessed, Lord! » says the head of the family. «Come in, my Lord! »
And while the rain is pelting down, Jesus enters a very large room, a storeroom, and tired as He is, He sits down surrounded by His apostles.
427. Going about the Plain of Esdraelon.
6th May 1946.
It must have continued to rain all the previous day and during the night, because the ground is very damp and the roads are becoming muddy. But to compensate for this the atmosphere is clear, free from dust at all levels. And the sky smiles up there, and looks as fresh and clear after the storm as if it were springtime, and the earth also smiles, dewy, fresh, clean, with a reminiscence of spring in the serene fresh dawn. And the last drops of rain, held by the entangled foliage or hanging from vine‑tendrils shine like diamonds in the sun, while fruits washed by the heavy rain display the hues of their skins, the pastel shades of which are becoming day by day the perfect hues of full maturity. Olives and grapes, still hard and unripe, mingle with the green foliage, but each little olive has a tiny drop hanging from its base, and the compact bunches of grapes are like a network of tiny drops hanging from the stalks of the grapes.
«It is pleasant to walk today! » say Peter trampling joyfully on the ground which is not dusty, does not scorch and is not slimy either.
«You seem to breathe purity. But look at the hue of the sky! » Judas Thaddeus replies to him.
«And those apples? That bunch over there, all around that branch. I do not know how it can hold the weight and come out of the mass of fruits with a cluster of leaves? How many colours! The green of the hidden ones is shading into yellow, the others are turning to red, and the two which are more exposed are completely red where the sun shines. They look as if they were covered with sealing wax! » says the Zealot.
And they walk on happily contemplating the beauties of creation until Thaddeus, immediately imitated by Thomas and the others, intones a psalm celebrating the creative glory of God.
Jesus smiles upon hearing them sing so happily and He joins in the chorus with His beautiful voice. But He cannot finish because the Iscariot, while the others continue to sing, approaches Him and says: «Master, while they are busy and inattentive singing, tell me: how did the trip to Caesarea go and what did You do? You have not told me yet... And this is the first moment that we are alone and can speak about it. At first there were our companions and the disciples and the peasants who welcomed us, then our companions and the disciples, now that the disciples have gone ahead of us... I have never been able to ask You...»
«You are greatly interested... But at Caesarea I did not do what I will do in Johanan's estate. I spoke of the Law and of the Kingdom of Heaven.»
«To whom? »
«To the citizens. Near the markets.»
«Ah! Not to the Romans?! Did You not see them? »
«How is it possible to be at Caesarea, the residence of the Proconsul, and not see Romans? »
«I know. But I say... Well... You did not speak to them personally? »
«I repeat: you are greatly interested! »
«No, Master. Simple curiosity.»
«Well. I did speak to the Roman ladies.»
«To Claudia also? What did she say to You? »
«Nothing, because Claudia did not come. Nay, she made Me understand that she does not wish anyone to know that she is in touch with us.»
Jesus lays much stress on the sentence and diligently watches Judas who, although an impudent fellow, changes colour, blushes lightly and then blanches.
But he soon collects himself and says: «She does not want? She no longer esteems You? She is mad.»
«No, she is not mad, She has a well‑balanced mind. She can tell and distinguish her duty as a Roman lady from her duty towards herself. And if she procures light and breath for herself, for her soul, by coming towards Light and Purity, as she is a creature who instinctively seeks the Truth and will not rest in the falsehood of paganism, at the same time she does not want to be detrimental to her Fatherland, not even in theory, as she might be by making people think that she sides with a possible competitor of Rome...»
«Oh! but... You are King of the spirit!...»
«But you apostles, although you know that, cannot convince yourselves that it is true. Can you deny that? »
Judas blushes again and then grows pale, he cannot lie and says: «No! But it is our excessive love that...»
«Even more so who does not know Me, that is Rome, can mistrust Me as a competitor. Claudia is acting righteously both towards God and her Fatherland, by honouring Me as king and master of the spirit, if not as God, and by being loyal to her Fatherland. And I admire loyal, just, non‑obstinate spirits. And I would like My apostles to deserve the praise which I give the heathen woman.»
Judas does not know what to say. He is about to part from the Master. But curiosity goads him again. Rather than curiosity it is the desire to find out how much the Master knows... and he asks: «Did they ask after me? »
«Neither after you nor any other apostle.»
«What did you speak about, then? »
«Of chaste life. Of their poet Virgil. You can see that the subject was of no interest to Peter, John or anybody else.»
«But what had that got to do with it? A useless conversation...»
«No. It helped Me to make them consider that a chaste man has a bright intellect and an honest heart. Very interesting for heathen ladies... and not only for them.»
«You are right... I will not keep You further, Master » and he almost runs away to join those who have finished singing and are waiting for the two left behind...
Jesus joins them more slowly and He says: «Let us take that path in the wood. We will shorten the road and will be sheltered from the sun which is already becoming strong. We will also be able to stop in the thick of the wood and eat in peace.»
And they do so going towards north‑west, towards Johanan's estate, because I can hear them talk about the peasants of that Pharisee...
Jesus says: «And you will put here the vision of 16th June 1944: Jesus, the fallen nest and the Pharisee.»
428. The Fallen Nest and the Scribe Johanan ben Zaccai.
16th June 1944. Later, 10.30 a.m.
I see Jesus wearing a white tunic with His dark‑blue mantle thrown over His shoulder, while He is walking along a woody path. It is woody because there are trees and shrubs on both sides. Narrow tracks cut through the green entanglement, but it is not a solitary place remote from any village, as they often meet other people. I would say that it is the road linking two villages close to each other, running through the fields of the villagers. The country is flat, and mountains can be seen in the distance. I do not know what place it is.
Jesus, Who was speaking to His disciples, stops and listens, looking round, He then takes a little path in the thicket and goes towards a large group of small trees and shrubs. He bends and searches. And He finds. There is a nest in the grass. I do not know whether it was knocked down by a storm, as one would think from the damp soil and the branches still dripping, as is usual after a storm, or whether anybody tampered with it and left it there, not to be caught with the brood in his hands. I do not know. I can only see a small nest interwoven with hay and full of dry leaves, down of plants and wool, among which five little birds, only a few days old, are stirring and chirping: they are reddish, without feathers, rather ugly looking because of their wide open beaks and bulging eyes. High above, on a tree, their parents are screeching desperately.
Jesus picks up the little nest carefully. He holds it in the hollow of one hand and He looks for the spot where it was or where it can be placed safely. He finds a tangle of brambles so compact that it looks like a little basket, and so deep in the bush as to be safe. Without minding the thorns which scratch His arms, after handing the nest to Peter ‑ and the apostle so elderly and stout looks funny with the little nest in his short rough hands ‑ Jesus rolls up His long wide sleeves and works to make the entangled branches more concave and thus safer. It is done. He takes the nest and places it in the bush and secures it by pulling long cylindrical blades of grass which look like very thin reeds. The nest is now safe. Jesus stands aside and smiles. He then gets one of the apostles, who is carrying his sack across his shoulder, to give Him a piece of bread and He crumbles some on the ground, on a stone. Jesus is now happy. He turns round to go back to the main road while the birds fly down to the rescued nest screeching with joy.
A little group of men is standing on the roadside. Jesus finds them facing Him and looks at them. His smile fades away and His face becomes very severe, I would say sombre, while it was so compassionate when He was picking up the nest and so happy when He had arranged it safely.
Jesus stops. And He continues to look at His unexpected witnesses. He seems to be looking at their hearts with their secret thoughts. He cannot go any farther because the group have blocked the path. But He is silent.
But Peter does not keep quiet. «Let the Master pass » he says.
«Be quiet, Nazarene » replies one of the group. «How did your Master take the liberty of going into my wood and do manual labour on the Sabbath? »
Jesus looks straight at him with a strange expression. It is and it is not a smile. And if it is a smile it is not one of approval. Peter is about to reply. But Jesus asks: «Who are you? »
«The landlord of this place. Johanan ben Zaccai.»
«A renowned scribe. For what do you reproach Me? »
«For profaning the Sabbath.»
«Johanan ben Zaccai, do you know Deuteronomy? »
«Are you asking me? Me, a true rabbi of Israel? »
«I know what you want to tell Me: that I, as I am not a scribe, but a poor Galilean, cannot be a "rabbi". But I ask you once again: "Do you know Deuteronomy?".»
«Certainly better than You do.»
«To the letter... certainly, if you wish to think so. But do you know it in its true meaning? »
«What is said is said. There is but one meaning.»
«True, there is but one meaning. And it is a meaning of love; or, if you do not want to call it love, of mercy; or if it annoys you to call it so, say: of humanity. And Deuteronomy says: "If you see your brother's sheep or his ox straying, even if they are not close at hand, you must not make off, but you will take them back to him, or you will keep them until he comes for them". It says: "If you see your brother's donkey or ox fall, do not pretend you have not seen, but help him to put it on its feet again". It says: "If in a tree or on the ground you find a nest with the mother bird sitting on the chicks or the eggs, you must not take the mother (because she is sacred to procreation) you may take the chicks only". I saw a nest on the ground and the mother weeping over it. I felt sorry for her because she was a mother. And I gave her chicks back to her. I did not think I was profaning the Sabbath by consoling a mother. We must not let the sheep of our brother go astray, but the Law does not say that it is a sin to put a donkey on its feet again on a Sabbath. It says only that we must have mercy on our brother and humanity for the donkey, a creature of God. I thought that God had created that mother that she might procreate, and that she had obeyed God's command, and that to prevent her from bringing up her offspring was to interfere with her obedience to a divine command. But you do not understand that. You and your friends consider the letter, not the spirit. You and your friends do not consider that you infringe the Sabbath twice, nay, three times, by degrading the divine Word to the pettiness of human mentality, by interfering with a command of God and by lacking in mercy towards your neighbour. In order to injure by means of a reproach, you do not consider that it is wrong to speak unnecessarily. This, which is also work, but neither useful, nor necessary, nor good, does not seem a profanation of the Sabbath to you. Johanan ben Zaccai, listen to Me. As today you have no mercy on a blackcap and according to Pharisaic practice you would let her die of grief, and you would let her offspring perish miserably, left at the mercy of asps or wicked people, likewise tomorrow you will have no mercy on a mother and you will make her die a miserable death and you will have her offspring killed, saying that it is right to do so out of respect to your law. To yours, not to God's. To the law which you and those like you have made to oppress the weak so that you, the strong ones, may triumph. But see. The weak always find a saviour. Whereas the proud, those who are strong according to the law of the world, will be crushed under the weight of their own heavy law. Goodbye, Johanan ben Zaccai. Remember this hour and mind you do not profane yourself another Sabbath with the satisfaction of a crime committed.»
And Jesus casts a fulminating glance at the irascible old man, whose face is red with anger, and looking down on him, because the scribe is short and stout and Jesus seems a palm‑tree compared with him, He passes by walking on the grass, because the scribe does not step aside.
«I wanted to uplift your spirit with a true vision, even if it is not mentioned in the Gospels.
This is the lesson for you: that I have so much mercy on little birds without nests, even if the name instead of being blackcap, is Mary or John. And I take care to give them a nest again, when an event has deprived them of it.
And this is the lesson for everybody. That too many know the words of the Law, still too many although they are few, because everybody ought to know them, but they know the "words" only. They do not live them. That is the error.
Deuteronomy prescribed humane laws, because men in those days, because of their spiritual childhood, were brutal and halfsavage. They had to be led by hand along the flowery paths of pity, respect, love for the brother who lost an animal, for the animal which fell, for the bird sitting on eggs, to teach them to rise to higher pity, respect, love. But when I came I perfected the Mosaic rules and I opened wider horizons. The letter was no longer "everything". The spirit became "everything". Beyond the little human act for a nest and its inhabitants, it is necessary to consider the secret meaning of My gesture: that I, the Son of the Creator, bowed before the work of the Creator. That brood also is His work.
Oh! happy those who can see God in everything and serve Him with spirit of reverent love! And woe to those, who like a snake, cannot raise their heads above their filth and as they cannot sing the praises of God, Who reveals Himself in the work of their brothers, they bite them because of the excess of poison choking them. There are too many who torture the better ones saying, to justify their perversity, that it is right to do so out of respect to the law. Their law. Not God's. But if God cannot stop their wicked deeds, He can avenge His "little ones".
And let this be given to those who deserve it. May My vigilant peace be with you.»
429. The Journey in the Plain of Esdraelon Continues.
6th May 1946.
After the incident they continue to walk for some time in silence. But when they arrive at a road junction in the country, James of Zebedee says: «Here we are! This road here will take us to Micah's house... But... are we still going there? That man will certainly be waiting for us in his property in order to ill‑treat us...»
«And to prevent You from speaking to the peasants. James is right. Don't go there » advises the Iscariot.
«They are waiting for Me. I sent word that I am going there. Their hearts are rejoicing. I am the Friend Who is coming to console them...»
«You can go some other time. They will resign themselves » says Judas shrugging his shoulders.
«You do not resign yourself so easily when you are deprived of something for which you hoped.»
«My matters are serious ones. Theirs...»
«And what is more serious or greater than the perfecting and relief of a heart? Everything tries to separate those hearts from peace and hope... And they have but one hope: that of a future life. And they have but one means to go there: My help. No. I will go to see them at the cost of being stoned.»
«No, Brother! No, Lord! » say together the Zealot and James of Alphaeus. «It would only serve to have those poor servants punished. You did not hear him, but Johanan said: "So far I have tolerated the situation, but I will no longer do so. And woe betide the servant who will go to Him or welcome Him. He is a reprobate and a demon. I don't want corruption in my household", and he said to a companion: "Even if I have to kill them, I will cure them of their devilish attachment to that cursed man".»
Jesus lowers His head thinking... and suffering. His grief is evident... The others are sorry, but what can they do?
The situation is resolved by Thomas' practical serenity: «Let us do this. We will stay here until sunset, in order not to infringe the Sabbath. In the meantime one of us will steal away to the houses and say: "At dead of night, at the fountain outside Sephoris". And we will go there after sunset and wait for them in the thickets at the foot of the mountain on which is Sephoris. The Master will speak to those poor people and comfort them, and at daybreak they will go back to their houses and we will cross over the hill and go to Nazareth.»
«Thomas is right. Bravo Thomas! » say many.
But Philip remarks: «And who will go and warn them? He knows everyone of us and he may see us...»
«Judas of Simon could go. He knows the Pharisees well...» says Andrew innocently.
«What are you trying to insinuate? » replies Judas aggressively.
«I? Nothing. I am saying that you know them because you were for such a long time at the Temple and you have good friends there. You always boast about them. They will do no harm to a friend...» says meek Andrew.
«Don't you believe that, in no way. Let no one believe it. If we were still protected by Claudia, perhaps... I could... but not now. Because now, in short, she has disengaged herself, hasn't she, Master? »
«Claudia continues to admire the Wise Man. She has done nothing else or more than that. From such admiration she may pass to believe in the true God. But only the illusion of an excited mind could believe that she nourished other feelings for Me. And if she did, I would not want them. I can accept their heathenism, because I hope to change it into Christian faith. I cannot accept what would be idolatry on their side: that is, the adoration of a poor idol Man on a poor human throne.» Jesus says so calmly, as if He were speaking to everyone lecturing them. But He is so resolute as to leave no doubt about His intention and His decision to repress every possible deviation in that direction among His apostles.
No one therefore replies in regard to human regality, but they ask: «So what are we going to do for the peasants? »
«I will go. I made the proposal, I will go, if the Master allows me. The Pharisees will certainly not eat me...» says Thomas.
«You may go. And may your charity be blessed.»
«Oh! It is such a trifle, Master! »
«It is such a great thing, Thomas. You understand the desires of your brothers: Jesus and the peasants, and you feel sorry for them. And your Brother in the flesh blesses you also on their behalf » says Jesus laying a hand on the lowered head of Thomas, who is deeply moved and whispers: «I... Your... brother?! It is too great an honour, my Lord. I Your servant, You my God... That yes... I am going.»
«Are you going alone? I will come, too! » say Thaddeus and Peter.
«No. You are too impetuous. I can turn everything into laughter... the best means to disarm certain... characters. You become furious at once... I will go by myself.»
«I will come » say John and Andrew.
«Yes! One of you, yes, also one like Simon Zealot or James of Alphaeus.»
«No. I never react. I keep quiet and I act » insists Andrew.
«Come » and they go away in one direction while Jesus and those left with Him go in the other...
430. Near Sephoris, with Johanan's Peasants.
8th May 1946.
«Will they come? » Matthew asks his companions who are sat in a wood of holm‑oaks in the lower slopes of the hill on which Sephoris rises. The Esdraelon plain is no longer visible, as it is beyond the hill where they are. But there is a much smaller plain between this hill and those in the region of Nazareth and which can be seen clearly in the bright moonlight.
«They promised. And they will come » replies Andrew.
«At least some of them. They were going to leave half‑way through the first watch and they will be here at the beginning of the second one » says Thomas.
«Later » says Thaddeus.
«It took us less than three hours » objects Andrew.
«We are men and in full strength. They are tired and will have women with them » replies Thaddeus again.
«Provided their master does not find out! » says Matthew with a sigh.
«There is no danger. He left for Jezreel, where he will be the guest of a friend. The superintendent is there. But he is coming as well, because he does not hate the Master » says Thomas.
«Will that man be sincere? » asks Philip.
«Yes, because there is no reason why he should not be.»
«Well! To get into his master's good graces and...»
«No, Philip. When vintage time is over he will be dismissed by Johanan just because he does not hate the Master » replies Andrew.
«Who told you? » several of them ask.
«He himself and the peasants... each on his own account. And when two people of different categories agree in saying the same thing, it means that what they say is true. The peasants were weeping because the superintendent is leaving. He was very humane. And he said to us: "I am a man and not a clay puppet. Last year he said to me: 'Honour the Master, approach Him, become one of His believers'. I obeyed. Now he says to me: 'Woe betide you if you love my enemy and if you allow the servants to love Him. I do not want my land to be anathematised by receiving that cursed man'. But now that I know Him, how can I consider that order just? I said to the master: 'Last year you spoke differently, but He is always the same'. He beat me a first time. I said: 'I am not a slave, and even if I were, you would not be in possession of my thought. My thought judges Him to be holy Who you say is cursed'. He beat me again. This morning he said to me: "The anathema of Israel is in my property. Woe to you if disobey my order. You will no longer be my servant'. I replied: 'You are right. I will no longer be your servant. Look for another one who has a heart like yours and who is as rapacious about your property as you are about other people's souls'. And he threw me on the ground and struck me... But the work of the year will soon be over and at the new moon of Tishri I will be free. I am only sorry for these..." and he pointed at the peasants » says Thomas.
«But where did you see him?...»
«In the wood, as if we were highwaymen. Micah, to whom we had spoken, had informed him and he came while he was still bleeding and servants and maid‑servants came a few at a time...» says Andrew.
«H'm! so Judas was right! He is familiar with the mood of the Pharisee...» remarks Bartholomew.
«Judas knows too many things!...» says James of Zebedee.
«Be quiet! He may hear you! » advises Matthew.
«No. He has gone away saying that he is sleepy and has a headache...» replies James.
«Moon! Moon in the sky and moon in his head. It is so: he is more changeable than the wind » pronounces Peter who has been silent so far.
«Yes! A real misfortune among us! » says Bartholomew with a sigh.
«No, don't say that! Not a misfortune! On the contrary: a way to sanctify oneself...» says the Zealot.
«Or to damn oneself, because he makes one lose one's virtues...» says Thaddeus resolutely.
«He is a poor wretch! » remarks Andrew sadly.
There is silence. Then Peter asks: «But is the Master still praying? »
«No. While you were dozing He passed by and joined John and his brother James, placed as sentries on the road. He wants to be with the poor peasants at once. Perhaps it is the last time He will see them » replies the Zealot.
«Why the last time? Why? Don't say that. It seems to bring bad luck! » says Thaddeus excitedly.
«Because you can see it... We are persecuted more and more... I don't know what we will do in future...»
«Simon is right... Eh! it will be lovely to be all spiritual... But... if we had been permitted to have a little... humanity... a pinch of protection from Claudia would have done no harm » says Matthew.
«No. It is better to be alone... and above all to be free from contacts with the heathens. I... do not approve of them » says Bartholomew resolutely.
«Not much myself... But... the Master says that His Doctrine must spread all over the world. And that we have to do that... We have to sow His words everywhere... So we will have to adapt ourselves to approaching Gentiles and idolaters...» says Thaddeus.
«Impure people. It seems to me something sacrilegious. Wisdom to pigs!...»
«They have a soul, too, Nathanael! You felt sorry for the girl yesterday...»
«Because... she is... a mere nothing which is to be perfected. She is like a new‑born baby... But the others!... And she is not a Roman...»
«Do you think that the Gauls are not idolaters? They have their cruel gods as well. You will find out if you have to go and convert them!...» says the Zealot who is more learned than the others, I would say, in a cosmopolitan manner.
«But she does not belong to the race of those who are profaning Israel. I will never preach to the enemies of Israel, neither to the present nor to the old ones.»
«Then... you will have to go very far away, among the hyperboreans, because... it does not seem so, but Israel has had a taste of all the neighbouring peoples...» says Thomas.
«I will go far away... But here is the Master. Let us go and meet Him. How many people! They have all come! Even the children...»
«The Master will be happy...»
They join the Master Who is advancing with difficulty on the meadow, pressed as He is by so many surrounding Him.
«Is Judas still absent? » asks Jesus.
«Yes, Master. But we will call him, if You wish so...»
«It is not necessary. My voice will reach him where he is. And his free conscience speaks to him with its own voice. It is not necessary for you to add your voices and force a will. Come, let us sit down here with our brothers. And forgive Me if I have not been able to break the bread with you in a feast of love.»
They sit in a circle with Jesus in the centre, and Jesus wants around Him all the children who press against Him affectionately and full of confidence.
«Bless them, Lord! That they may see what we long to see: freedom to love You! » shouts a woman.
«Yes. They are depriving us also of that. They do not want Your words to be impressed in our souls. And now by forbidding You to come, they are preventing us from meeting... and we will have no more holy words! » moans an old man.
«If we are abandoned thus, we will become sinners. You taught us to forgive... You gave us so much love that we could bear our master and his ill‑will... But now...» says a young man. I cannot see their faces very well, so I do not know exactly who is speaking. I base myself on the tones of the voices.
«Do not weep. I will see that you do not lack My word. I will come again, as long as I can...»
«No, Master and Lord. He is wicked and so are his friends. They could injure You and because of us. We will make the sacrifice of losing You, but do not give us the sorrow of having to say: "He was caught because of us".»
«Yes, save Yourself, Master.»
«Do not be afraid. We read in Jeremiah how the prophet told his secretary Baruch to write what the Lord dictated to him and to go and read what he had written to those who had gathered in the house of the Lord, and to read it in place of the prophet who was in prison and could not go there. I will do the same. Among My apostles and disciples I have many faithful Baruchs. They will come and tell you the word of the Lord and your souls will not perish. And I will not be caught through your fault, because the Most High God will conceal Me from their eyes until the hour when the he King of Israel is to be shown to the crowds so that the whole world may know Him. And do not be afraid either of losing the words which are in you. We read, always in Jeremiah, that also after the destruction of the scroll by Jehoiakim, king of Judah, who by burning the scroll hoped to destroy the eternal truthful words, what God had dictated remained, because the Lord gave this order to the prophet: "Take another scroll and write down all the words that were written on the scroll burnt by the king". And Jeremiah gave a scroll to Baruch, a scroll without any writing, and he dictated once again to his secretary the eternal words and he added some more as well to complete the previous ones, because the Lord mends the damages caused by men when such amends are useful to souls, and He does not allow hatred to cancel the work of love. Well, even if I, comparing Myself to a scroll full of holy verities, should be destroyed, do you think that the Lord would let you perish without the help of other scrolls, which will contain My words and those of My witnesses telling you what I cannot tell you, as I am a prisoner of Violence and destroyed by it? And do you think that what is impressed in the scrolls of your hearts can be cancelled with the passing of time on the words? No. The angel of the Lord will repeat those words to you, keeping them fresh in your souls eager for Wisdom. Not only. But he will explain them to you and you will be wise through the word of your Master. You seal your love for Me by means of the seal of sorrow. Can what resists persecution perish? It cannot. I am telling you. God's gifts cannot be cancelled. Sin only can cancel them. But you certainly do not wish to commit sin, do you, My friends? »
«No, Lord. It would mean losing You in the next life » reply many.
«But they will make us sin. He has ordered us not to leave his fields any more on Sabbaths... and there will be no more Passovers for us. So we will commit sin...» say others.
«No. You will not sin. He will. He only, as he does violence to the right of God and of His children to embrace and love one another in sweet conversation of love and teaching on the day of the Lord.»
«But he makes amends through many fasting‑days and offerings. We cannot, because the food we get is already too scanty as compared with the work we do, and we have nothing to offer... We are poor...»
«You offer what is appreciated by God: your hearts. Isaiah speaking to false penitents in the name of God says: "Look, on your fast‑days your will is revealed and you oppress your debtors. Look, you fast to quarrel and squabble and fight cruelly. Do not fast any more as you have done so far, if you want to make your voice heard on high. Is that the sort of fast that pleases Me? That man for one day should just afflict his soul and torment his body and lie down on ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to the Lord? The fasting I prefer is a different one. Break the chains of sin, undo oppressive obligations, let the oppressed go free, remove all burdens. Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the poor and pilgrims, clothe the naked and do not despise your neighbour". But Johanan does not do that. You are his creditors because of the work you do for him making him rich, and he treats you worse than defaulting debtors and he raises his voice to threaten you and his hand to strike you. He is not merciful and he despises you because you are servants. But a servant is a man just like his master, and if it is his duty to serve, it is also his right to receive what is necessary to a man, with regard both to his body and to his spirit. The Sabbath is not honoured even if a man spends it in the synagogue, if on the same day the man who keeps it puts chains on his brothers and gives them aloe to drink. Keep your Sabbaths talking with one another of the Lord, and the Lord will be among you. Forgive and the Lord will glorify you.
I am the Good Shepherd and I have mercy on all My sheep. But I certainly love with particular fondness those which idolatrous shepherds have beaten, so that they may go away from My way. For them, more than for any other, 1 have come. Because your Father and Mine ordered Me: "Pasture these sheep for slaughter, killed mercilessly by their masters who have sold them saying: 'We have become rich!' and on which the shepherds had no mercy". Well, I will pasture the flock for slaughter, o poor people of the herd, forsaking to their wickedness those who distress you and afflict the Father Who suffers in His children. I will stretch out My hand to the little ones among the children of God and I will draw them to Me, so that they may have My glory. The Lord promises that through the lips of the prophets who celebrate My pity and power as Shepherd. And I promise directly you who love Me. I will provide for My flock. To those who accuse good sheep of making the water turbid or spoiling the pasture to come to Me, I will say: "Go away. You are the ones who cause the springs of My children to dry up and their Pastures to parch. But I have led and will lead them to other pastures; to the pastures which satisfy the spirit. I will leave you a pasture for your big bellies, I will leave you the bitter spring which you made well up and I will go with My sheep, separating the true sheep of God from the false ones, and My lambs will no longer be distressed by anything, but they will exult for ever in the pastures of Heaven".
Persevere, My beloved children! Be patient a little longer, as I am. Be faithful, doing what your unfair master allows you to do. And God will judge that you have done everything and will reward you for everything. Do not hate, even if everything urges and teaches you to hate. Have faith in God. See: Jonah was relieved of his suffering and Jabez was taken towards love. And what the Lord did to the old man and to the boy, He will do to you: partly in this life, completely in the next one.
I have but money to give you to make your material situation less painful. I will give it to you. Give it to them, Matthew, so that they may share it. It is much, but always too little for you who are so many and so poor. But I have nothing else... materially. But I have My love, and the power of being the Son of the Father, so that I can ask infinite supernatural treasures for you, to comfort your grief and enlighten your darkness. Oh! your sad life can be made bright by God! By Him alone!... And I say: "Father, I pray You for them. I do not pray You for the happy and rich people in the world. But I pray for these, who have but You and Me. Let them rise so high in the ways of the spirit, that they may find all comfort in Our love, and let us give Ourselves to them with love, with all our infinite love, to fill their days and their work with peace, serenity, courage, with supernatural peace, serenity and strength, so that, as if they were estranged from the world through Our love, they may endure their calvary and after their death, they may have You, Us, infinite beatitude".»
Jesus has prayed standing up, slowly freeing Himself from the children who had fallen asleep leaning against Him. And He is solemn and kind in His prayer.
He now lowers His eyes and says: «I am going. You must go now, to be back in your homes in time. We will meet again. And I will bring Marjiam. But even when I can no longer come, My Spirit will always be with you and My apostles will love you as I did. May the Lord lay His blessing upon you. Go! » And He bends to caress the sleeping children and He gives Himself up to the effusive warm-heartedness of the poor people who cannot make up their minds to part from Him...
At last they all go their ways and the two groups part while the moon is setting and branches of trees are to be lit to illuminate the road. And the pungent smoke of the dampish branches is a good excuse for shining eyes…
Judas is waiting for them leaning against the trunk of a tree. Jesus looks at him and does not say anything, not even when Judas says: «I feel better.»
They go on thus, as best they can during the night, then much quicker at dawn.
When they are in sight of a cross‑roads Jesus stops and says: «Let us part. Thomas, Simon Zealot and My brothers will come with Me. The others will go to the lake and wait for Me.»
«Thank You, Master... I did not dare ask You, But You are helping me. I am really tired. And if You allow me, I will stop at Tiberias...»
«At a friend's » James of Zebedee cannot refrain himself from saying.
Judas opens his eyes wide... but nothing else.
Jesus hastens to say: «As far as I am concerned it is enough if you go to Capernaum on the Sabbath with your companions. Come, that I may kiss you, you who are leaving Me.» And He fondly kisses the apostles who are departing, giving each of them a piece of advice in a whisper...
No one objects. Peter only, when leaving, says: «Come soon, Master.»
«Yes, come soon » say the others, and John concludes: «The lake will look very sad without You.»
Jesus blesses them again and promises: «I will see you soon! » and then they all go their own way.