551. Jesus Respects the Precept of Love More Than the Sabbatic Law.
11th January 1947.
The ten apostles, tired and covered in dust, have come back to the house. When the woman greets them opening the door, they ask her at once: «Where is the Master? »
«I think He is in the wood, praying as usual. He went out very early this morning and has not come back yet.»
«And has no one gone to look for Him? What are those two doing?! » shouts Peter excitedly.
«Don't become impatient, man. He is as safe among us, as He would be in His Mother's house.»
«Safe! Of course! Do you remember the Baptist? Was he safe? »
«He was not because he could not read the hearts of those who spoke to him. But if the Most High allowed that for the Baptist, He will certainly not allow it for His Messiah. You must believe that more than I do, as I am a woman and a Samaritan.»
«Mary is right. But where did He go exactly? »
«I don't know. At times He goes one way, at times He goes another. At times He is all alone, at times with children who are so fond of Him. He teaches them how to pray by seeing God in everything. He is probably alone today because He did not come back at midday. When the children are with Him, He always comes back because they are little birds who want to be fed at the right time...» says the old woman smiling, as she perhaps remembers her ten children, and then she sighs... because joys and sorrows are in all the memories of one's life.
«And Judas and John, where are they? »
«Judas has gone to the fountain, John to get firewood. I have none left as I finished it all washing all your clothes to let you have them clean when you depart.»
«May God reward you, mother. We are making you work hard... says Thomas laying his hand on her thin bent shoulder, as if he wished to caress her.
«Oh!... It is not hard work. I feel as if I had my children again... she says smiling again as tears begin to shine in her hollow eyes.
John comes in bent under a huge bundle of sticks, and the rather dark corridor seems to brighten up as he enters it. I have always noticed the brilliance that seems to light up wherever John is. His childish smile that is so sweet and candid, his limpid eyes that smile like a beautiful April sky, his joyful voice that is so affectionate in greeting his companions, are like sunbeams or a rainbow of peace. Everybody loves him except Judas of Kerioth; I do not know whether he loves him or hates him, he certainly envies him, he often makes a fool of him and at times offends him. But Judas for the time being is not here.
They help him to lay down his load and they ask him where Jesus may be. John also becomes somewhat frightened at the delay. But, confiding in God more than the others he says: «His Father will deliver Him from evil. We must believe in the Lord.» And he adds: «But... come. You are tired and covered in dust. We have prepared food and hot water for you. Come...»
Judas of Kerioth also comes back with his dripping pitchers. «Peace to you. Have you had a good trip? » he asks, but there is no kindness in his voice. It is mingled with mockery and discontent.
«Yes. We began from the Decapolis.»
«Because you were afraid of being pelted with stones or of being contaminated? » asks the Iscariot ironically.
«We were afraid of neither. We did it our of prudence as beginners. And the proposal was made by me, who ‑ I do not wish to reproach you for anything ‑ have grown hoary over parchments » says Bartholomew.
Judas does not reply. He leaves the kitchen where the apostles who have just come back refresh themselves with what has been prepared.
Peter looks at the Iscariot depart and shakes his head. But he does not say anything. Thaddeus instead plucks at John's sleeves and asks: «How did he behave these past days? Always so cross? Be frank...»
«I'm always sincere, Judas. But I can assure you that he caused no trouble. The Master is almost always isolated. I stay with the old mother who is so kind, and I listen to those who come to speak to the Master, and then I tell Him. Judas instead goes about the village. He has made some friends... What can we do! He is just like that... He cannot live tranquilly, as we would do...»
«As far as I am concerned he can do what he likes. I am happy providing he does not cause grief.»
«No. He does not do that. He certainly grows weary. But Here is the Master! I can hear His voice. He is speaking to somebody...»
They rush out and see Jesus coming forward, in the deepening twilight, carrying two children in His arms and one clinging to His mantle, and He is comforting them as they are weeping.
«May God bless You, Master! But where are You coming from at this late hour? »
Jesus on entering the house replies: «I am coming from the highwaymen. I got My prey as well. I walked after sunset, but My Father will absolve Me because I accomplished a deed of mercy... John, and you, Simon, take them... My arms are aching with tiredness... I am really tired.» He sits on a stool near the fireplace. He smiles: He is tired but happy.
«From the highwaymen? But where have You been? Who are these children? Have You had anything to eat? But where were You? It is not wise to be out when it is dark and to be so far away!... We were worried. Were You not in the wood? » they all ask at the same time.
«I was not in the wood. I went towards Jericho...»
«How imprudent of You! On those roads You may find someone who hates You! » says Thaddeus reproaching Him.
«I took the path that they told us. I had been wanting to go there for days... There are poor wretches to be redeemed. They could do Me no harm. And I went just in time for these children. Give them something to eat. I do not think they have had any food, because they were afraid of the highwaymen. And I had no food with Me. If at least I had found a shepherd!... But because of the oncoming Sabbath all the pastures had been deserted...»
«Of course! We are the only ones who for some time have not kept the Sabbath...» remarks Judas of Kerioth who is always sharp.
«What are you saying? What are you insinuating? » they ask him.
«I am saying that for two Sabbaths we have worked after sunset.»
«Judas, you know why we had to walk on last Sabbath. It is not always the sin of the person who commits it, but also of those who force one to commit it. And today... I know. You want to tell Me that also today I have infringed the Sabbath. My reply is that if the law of the Sabbatic rest is great, the precept of love is very great. I am not obliged to justify Myself with you. But I am doing it to teach you meekness, humility and the great truth that in the case of a holy necessity one must apply the law with resilience of spirit. Our history has many instances of such necessity. At dawn I went towards the Adummim mountains, because I know that there are some wretches there, whose souls are affected with the leprosy of crime. I was hoping to meet them, speak to them and come back before sunset. I found them. But I was not able to deliver them the intended speech, because there were other things to be said... They had found these three children weeping at the entrance of a poor fold in the plain. They had gone down during the night to steal lambs and also kill, if the shepherd had opposed resistance. Hunger pains are dreadful in the mountains in winter... And when cruel hearts suffer them, they make men more ferocious than wolves. These children were there with a little shepherd not much older than they are, but just as frightened as they were. The father of the children, I do not know why, had died during the night. Perhaps he had been bitten by some beast, or because of heart failure... His cold body was lying on the straw near the sheep. The oldest son, who was sleeping beside him, became aware of it. So the highwaymen, instead of making a massacre, found a dead man and four weeping children. They left the dead man and drove away the sheep and the little shepherd, and as even in the most wicked people there can be a piety hard to be beaten, they took also the children... I found them while they were consulting one another on what to do. The more ferocious ones wanted to kill the ten‑year‑old boy, who was a dangerous witness of their theft and refuge; the less fierce ones wanted to send him away after threatening him and they intended to keep the flock. They all wanted to keep the little ones.»
«To do what? Have they no family? »
«Their mother is dead. That is why the father had taken them with him to the winter pastures, and he was now going back to his lonely home crossing these mountains. Could I have left the little ones to the highwaymen to bring them up like themselves? I spoke to them... In all truth I tell you that they understood Me more than many other people. So much so that they left the little ones with Me and tomorrow they will take the little shepherd to the road to Shechem. Because the brothers of the children's mother live in that part of the country. In the meantime I accepted the children. I shall keep them until their relatives arrive.»
«And You flatter Yourself that the highwaymen...» says the Iscariot and he laughs...
«I am sure that they will not hurt the little shepherd in the least. They are wretches. We must not judge why they are such, but we must try to save them. A good deed may be the beginning of their salvation...» Jesus bends His head, absorbed in I wonder what thought.
The apostles and the old woman speak to one another pitying the frightened children whom they do their best to comfort...
Jesus raises His head when the youngest one, a brunet hardly three years old, begins to weep, and He says to James, who in vain busies himself to give the child some milk: «Give Me the boy and go and get My bag...» and He smiles as the little one calms down on His knees and greedily drinks the milk that he had previously refused. The others, who are a little older, eat the soup placed before them, but tears stream from their eyes.
«Dear me! How much misery! Now! It is fair that we should suffer, but innocent children!...» says Peter who cannot bear to see children suffer.
«You are a sinner, Simon. You are reproaching God » points out the Iscariot.
«I may be a sinner. But I am not reproaching God. I am only saying... Master, why must children suffer? They have not committed any sin.»
«Everybody has sins, at least the original one » says the Iscariot.
Peter does not reply to him. He awaits Jesus' reply. And Jesus, Who is lulling to sleep the child now sated and drowsy, replies: «Simon, sorrow is the consequence of sin.»
«All right. So... after You have removed sin, children will no longer suffer.»
«They will still suffer. Do not be scandalised, Simon. Sorrow and death will always be on the Earth. Also the purest people suffer and will suffer. Nay, they are the ones who will suffer on behalf of everybody. The victims propitiatory to the Lord.»
«But why? I don't understand...»
«There are many things that you do not understand on the Earth. You must at least believe that they are wanted by the perfect Love. And when Grace restored to men makes the holiest men know the hidden truths, then one will see the holiest people wish to be victims, because they will have understood the power of sorrow... The child has fallen asleep. Mary, will you take him with you? »
«Certainly, Master. We say: a frightened child sleeps little and weeps much, and a bird without nest needs a motherly wing. My bed is a very large one now that I am its only occupant. I will put the children in it and watch over them. These other ones are also about to fall asleep and forget their sorrow. Come, let us put them to bed.»
She picks up the little one from Jesus' lap and she goes out followed by Peter and Philip as James of Zebedee comes back with Jesus' bag.
Jesus opens it and rummages in it. He pulls out a heavy tunic, he unfolds it and examines its width. He is not satisfied. He looks for the mantle of the same dark shade as the tunic. He puts them aside, closes the bag and hands it back to James.
Peter comes back with Philip. The old woman has remained with the three children and Peter sees at once the garments unfolded and laid aside and he asks: «Are You going to change your clothes, Master? Tired as You are, a hot bath should refresh You. There is hot water and we will warm Your clothes, then we shall have supper and go to bed. This story of the poor children has moved me deeply...»
Jesus smiles but He does not make any remark on the matter. He only says: «Let us praise the Lord Who has led Me here in time to save the innocent children.» He then becomes silent, as He is obviously tired...
The old woman comes back with the children's garments. «They should be changed... They are torn and dirty... But I no longer have my children's garments to replace them. I will wash them tomorrow...»
«No, mother. When the Sabbath is over you will make three small garments out of Mine...»
«But, Lord, do You realise that You have only three tunics left? If You give one away, what will You be left with? Lazarus is not here, as when You gave Your mantle to the leprous woman! » says Peter.
«Never mind! There will be two left, and they are too many for the Son of man. Take this, Mary. Tomorrow at sunset you will begin your work, and the Persecuted One will rejoice in helping the poor whose worries He understands.»
552. The Following Day at Ephraim. Parable on the Remembrance of Man's
12th January 1947.
«Get up and let us go along the stream. Like the Jews who live abroad and where there are no synagogues, we shall celebrate the Sabbath among ourselves. Come children...» says Jesus to the apostles idling in the kitchen garden, and He stretches out His hand to the three poor children who are in a group in a corner.
They go towards Him with an expression of timid joy on their faces prematurely pensive of children who have seen things far greater than themselves, and the two older ones put their hands in those of Jesus, but the little one wants to be taken in His arms, and Jesus satisfies him saying to the oldest one: «You will stay beside Me just the same and you will hold on to My tunic as you did yesterday. Isaac is too tired and too young to walk by himself...» The boy is delighted with Jesus' smile and he agrees, being satisfied with walking like a little man beside Jesus.
«Give me the child, Master. You must be tired after yesterday's fatigue, and Ruben is not happy because You are not taking him by the hand...» says Bartholomew and he stretches his arms to take the child who clings to Jesus' neck.
«He is as stubborn as all his race! » exclaims the Iscariot.
«No. He is frightened. You have no experience of children. Babies are like that. When they are distressed or seared they seek shelter in the first person who has smiled at them and comforted them » replies Bartholomew, and as he cannot take the youngest one in his arms, he takes the oldest one by the hand after caressing his head and smiling at him in a fatherly way.
They leave the house where only the old woman remains and they follow the stream beyond the village. Its banks are beautiful, covered as they are with fresh grass and studded with wild flowers. The clear water gurgles among stones and, although meagre, it sounds as sweet as a harp and rustles breaking against the larger stones scattered in its bed or insinuating itself into the recesses of some tiny island covered with reeds. Birds fly away from the trees near the banks trilling merrily, or they perch on boughs in the sunshine singing the first songs of springtime, or they fly down to the ground gracefully and lively, seeking insects and worms or drinking near the banks. Two wild turtle‑doves are bathing at a bend of the stream pecking at each other and cooing; they then fly away carrying in their beaks strands of wool left by some sheep on a plant of hawthorn, the top branches of which are beginning to bloom.
«They do that to build their nest » says the oldest boy. «They certainly have young ones...» He lowers his head and, after smiling faintly when uttering the first words, he weeps silently wiping his eyes with his hand.
Bartholomew takes him in his arms, as he realises what anguish the two turtle‑doves have brought about with their care for their nest. And Bartholomew, who has the kind heart of a good father of a family, sighs deeply. The boy weeps on his shoulder and the other one, the second one, seeing him weep, begins to cry as well, imitated by the third one who calls his father in the thin voice of a little child who has just begun to speak.
«This is going to be our Sabbatic prayer today! You could have left them at home! Women are better suited to such cases and...» remarks the Iscariot.
«But she does nothing but weep herself! As I feel like doing myself... Because such situations... do make one weep...» replies Peter taking the second boy in his arms.
«Yes, they do make one weep. That is true. And Mary of Jacob, a poor old distressed soul, is not very good at consoling...» confirms the Zealot.
«We do not think that she is very successful either. The only one capable of consoling was the Master. And He did not do it.»
«He did not do it? And what else should He have done? He convinced the highwaymen, He walked for miles with the children in His arms, He had their relatives informed...»
«All trifling matters. Since He has power also over death He could, nay He should have gone down to the fold and raised the dead shepherd. He did it for Lazarus, who was of no use to anybody! In this case there was a father, and a widower into the bargain, and there are children who are left all alone... That resurrection should have been worked. I do not understand You, Master...»
«And we do not understand you, as you are so disrespectful...»
«Peace, peace! Judas does not understand. He is not the only one who does not understand the reasons of God and the consequences of sin. You also, Simon of Jonah, do not understand why children should suffer. So do not judge Judas of Simon, who does not understand why the man has not been raised from the dead. If Judas ponders on the matter, since he always reproaches Me for going far away all alone, he will realise that I was not able to go so far... Because the fold was in the Jericho plain, but beyond the town, near the ford. What would you have said if I had been away for at least three days? »
«You could have ordered the man to rise again with Your spirit.»
«Are you more exacting than the Pharisees and scribes, who wanted the proof of a decomposed body, so that you may say that I really do raise the dead? »
«They wanted that because they hate You. I would like it because I love You and I would like to see You crush all Your enemies.»
«Your old feelings and your disorderly love. You have not been able to extirpate the old plants from your heart and replace them with new ones; and the old ones, fertilised by the Light that you approached, have become even sturdier. Many people make your error at present and many will make it in future. It is the error of those who, notwithstanding the assistance from God, do not improve themselves because they do not correspond to God's help with heroic wills.»
«Have these men, who, like me, are Your disciples, destroyed the old plants?»
«They have at least pruned them down and engrafted them considerably. You did not. You did not even examine them carefully to see whether they deserved to be engrafted, pruned or removed. You are an improvident gardener, Judas.»
«But only with regard to my soul. Because I know what to do with gardens.»
«You know what to do. You are an expert with all earthly matters. I would like to see you equally capable in matters concerning Heaven.»
«But Your light should work wonders in us by itself! Is it really good? If it fertilises evil and invigorates it, it cannot be good, and it is its fault if we do not become good.»
«Speak for yourself, my friend. As far as I know, the Master has not made my bad tendencies any stronger » says Thomas.
«I agree.» «I agree, too » say Andrew and James of Zebedee.
«With regard to me, His power has freed me from evil and has made a new man of me. Why do you say that? Do you not consider what you say? » asks Matthew.
Peter is about to say something, but he prefers to go away, and he begins to walk fast with the child astride his shoulders imitating the rolling of a boat to make him laugh, and when he passes near Thaddeus he takes him by the arm and shouts: «Come on, let's go to that island! It's full of flowers like a basket. Come, Nathanael, Philip, Simon, John... In one bound we are there. The torrent, divided as it is, is only two brooks, one on each side of the island...» And he is the first to jump resting his foot on a sandy protrusion a few metres wide, covered with grass like a meadow and so full of early flowers that it looks like a carpet, with in its middle only one tall thin poplar, the top of which is swaying in a light breeze. He is slowly joined by those he called and then by the others who were closer to Jesus, Who is left behind speaking to the Iscariot.
«But has he not finished yet? » Peter asks his brother.
«The Master is working at his heart » replies Andrew.
«Eh! it is easier for me to make figs grow on this tree than it is for justice to enter Judas' heart.»
«And his mind » adds Matthew.
«He is a fool because he wants to be so, and when he likes » says Thaddeus.
«He is upset because he has not been selected to evangelize. I know » says John.
«As far as I am concerned... If he wants to go in my place... I am not at all anxious to wander about! » exclaims Peter.
«None of us are anxious. But he is. And my Brother does not want to send him. I spoke to Him this morning because I was aware of Judas' mood and of its causes. But Jesus said: "Just because his heart is so unsound I am keeping him with Me. Those who suffer and are weak need a doctor and someone to support them".»
«Of course!... Well!... Come, children. We shall now take these lovely reeds and make little boats with them. See how beautiful they are! And we shall put these little flowers in them to act as fishermen. Look: do they not seem heads with white and red caps?... We shall make the harbour here, and here... the fishermen's little houses... Now let us tie the boats to these lovely slender grass‑blades, and you will put them in the water, like that.... then you will beach them when you finish fishing... You can also make the tour of the island... and watch the rocks, eh!...» Peter's patience is wonderful. He cuts the reed into pieces with a knife, from knot to knot, removing one side to make little boats, he puts daisies still in bud in them as fishermen, he dugs a Lilliputian harbour in the sand and makes some little houses with the damp sand, and when he is successful in pleasing the children he sits down satisfied whispering: «Poor children!...»
Jesus sets foot on the island just when the two children are beginning to play and He caresses them putting down the little one who joins in the game of his brothers.
«Here I am with you. Let us speak of God now. Because to speak of God and to God is a preparation for one's mission. And after praying, that is, after speaking to God, we shall speak of God, Who is present in everything to teach men good things. Stand up and let us pray » and He intones some psalms in Hebrew and the apostles join Him singing in chorus.
The children, who had moved aside with their little boats, on hearing the men sing, stop playing and prattling in their shrill voices, and approach the group. They listen attentively, their eyes fixed on Jesus Who is everything to them, then, with the spirit of imitation of children, they take the same posture of the praying apostles humming the tune as they do not know the words of the psalms. Jesus looks at them with a smile that encourages the humming of their innocent voices. They feel as if He approved of them and they are encouraged...
The singing of the psalms comes to an end. Jesus sits down on the grass and begins to speak: «When the kings of Israel, of Edom and of Judah united to fight the king of Moab and they applied to the prophet Elisha for advice, he replied to the kings' messenger: "If I did not respect Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, I should not even look at you. Now bring me someone who can play the lyre". And as the harpist played, God spoke to His prophet ordering ditch on ditch to be dug in the wadi so that it might be filled with water for men and animals. And the following morning at the hour of the oblation, although there was neither wind nor rain, the torrent was filled as the Lord had said. According to you, what is the teaching of that episode? Speak up! »
The apostles consult with one another. Some say: «God does not speak to an agitated heart. Elisha wants to appease his anger, brought about by seeing the king of Israel appear in his presence, so that he may hear God.» Some instead say: «It is a lesson of justice. Elisha, in order not to punish the innocent king of Judah, saves also the guilty one.» Others say: «It is a lesson of faith and obedience. They dug the ditches obeying an apparently silly order, and they waited for the water although it was a clear windless day.»
«Your replies are correct but not complete. God does not speak to an agitated heart. That is true. But lyres are not required to calm a heart. It is sufficient to have charity, which is the spiritual lyre with paradisiac notes. When a soul lives in charity, its heart is calm and it can hear and understand the voice of God.»
«So Elisha did not have charity because he was upset.»
«Elisha lived at the time of Justice. We must learn to transfer ancient episodes to the time of Charity and see them not in the light of thunder and lightning but in the light of stars. (1) You belong to the new times. So why are you so often more irascible and agitated than people of the ancient times? Divest yourselves of the past. I repeat that to you, although Judas does not like to hear it being repeated. Extirpate, prune, engraft, plant new trees. Renovate yourselves, dig the ditches of humility, obedience and faith. Those kings were able to do so although two of them did not come from Judah, and they did not hear God but the prophet of God repeat the orders of the Most High. Had they not obeyed they would have died of thirst in the and land. They obeyed and the water filled the ditches they had dug, and they were not only saved from dying of thirst but they also defeated their enemies. I am the Water of Life. Dig ditches in your hearts in order to be able to receive Me. And now listen. I am not going to make long speeches. I will just give you some simple thoughts on which you can meditate. You will always be like these children and even inferior to them, because they are innocent and you are not, and thus the spiritual light will be dimmer in you, if you do not get accustomed to meditation. You always listen but you never remember, because your intelligence is asleep instead of being awake. So listen. When the son of the woman of Shunem died, she wanted to go to the prophet although her husband told her that it was not the first day of the month or the Sabbath. But she knew that she had to go, because for certain matters no delay is allowed. And as she was able to understand the matter from a spiritual point of view, she had her son restored to life. What do you say about that? »
«That it is a reproach to me because of the Sabbath » says the Iscariot.
«So, Judas, do you realise that you understand things when you want to? So open your heart to justice.»
«Yes... but You did not infringe the Sabbath to raise the man from the dead.»
«I did more than that. I prevented their ruin and death, their true death. And I reminded the thieves that...»
(1) Allusion to the lightning that accompanied the manifestations of the ancient Law (Exodus 19,1 ‑ 20,21) and to the star that indicated the coming and manifestation of Jesus in the world (Matthew 2, 1 ‑ 12).
«Wait before consoling Yourself with the idea of having done some good! I don't believe they obeyed You...»
«If the Master says so...»
«Also Elisha, in the story of the woman of Shunem, says: "The Lord has hidden it from me". So not even the prophets always know everything » replies the Iscariot.
«Our Brother is greater than a prophet » remarks Thaddeus.
«I know. He is the Son of God. But He is also the Man. And as such He may be subject to being unaware of secondary matters like this one concerning a conversion and a return... Master, do You always, really always, know everything? I often wonder...» says the Iscariot with stubborn insistence.
«And with what mind do you wish to know? For the sake of peace, of advice, or to be upset? » asks Jesus.
«Well... I do not know. I wonder and...»
«And you seem to be upset even in wondering » says Thomas.
«Me? Of course perplexity always upsets one...»
«How many quibbles! I do not worry about so many problems. I believe without inquiring, and I am not perplexed or upset about anything. But let us allow the Master to speak. I do not like this lesson. Tell us a beautiful parable, Master. The children also will like it » says Peter.
«I have still one question to ask you. This one. According to you, what is the meaning of the flour that removed the bittemess from the soup of the prophet's children? »
Dead silence is the reply to the question.
«What? Can you not reply? »
«Probably because the flour absorbed the bitterness...» says Matthew with no certainty.
«Everything would have been bitter, also the flour.»
«Because of a miracle of the prophet who did not want to mortify his servant» suggests Philip.
«Yes. But not only for that.»
«The Lord wanted the power of the prophet to shine also on common matters» says the Zealot.
«Yes. But it is not yet the right meaning. The lives of prophets anticipate what will take place in the fullness of time: Mine, they reflect My earthly days by means of symbols and figures. So...»
There is silence. They look at one another. Then John lowers his head blushing and he smiles.
«Why do you not express your thought, John? » asks Jesus. «There is no lack of love in speaking, because you do not intend to mortify anybody.»
«I think it means this. That in the time of hunger for Truth and of famine of Wisdom, that is, this time when You came, every tree has become wild and has yielded bitter fruits as inedible as poison for the sons of men, who thus in vain pick them and prepare them to nourish themselves. But the Eternal Father's Bounty sends You, the flour of selected corn, and with Your perfection You remove the poison from all food, restoring both the trees of the Scriptures again, perverted throughout ages, and the palates of men, corrupted by concupiscence. In this case it is the Father Who orders the flour to be brought and He pours it into the bitter soup, and You are the flour that sacrifices itself to become food for men. And after Your consummation no bitterness will be left in the world, because You will have re‑established our friendship with God. I may be wrong.»
«You are not wrong. That is the symbol.»
«Oh! and what made you think that? » asks Peter, who is astonished.
Jesus replies to him: «I will tell you with the very words you spoke a few minutes ago. One bound and you are in the peaceful flowery island of spirituality. But one must have the courage to make a leap leaving the shore, the world. It is necessary to jump without worrying whether there is someone who may laugh at our clumsy jump or may deride us for our simplicity in preferring a lonely islet to the world. One must jump without being afraid of getting hurt or wet or being disappointed. You must leave everything to take refuge in God. One must remain on the island separated from the world and leave it only to distribute the flowers and pure water picked up on the island of the spirit, where there is only one tree, the tree of Wisdom, to those who are left on the shores. By being close to that tree, away from the noise of the world, one catches all its words and becomes a master, being aware of being a disciple. Also that is a symbol. But we shall now tell the children a lovely parable. Come here close to Me.»
The three children go so close to Him as to sit on His knees. Jesus embraces them and begins to speak.
«One day the Lord God said: "I will make man, and man will live in the Earthly Paradise where the great river is that then divides into four water‑courses, which are the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates and the Tigris, that flow on the Earth. And man will be happy as he will have all the beautiful and good things of Creation and My love for the joy of his spirit". And He did so. It was as if man were in a large island, more flowery than this one, with all kinds of trees and animals, and upon him there were the love of God shining like a sun on his soul, and the voice of God were heard in the winds, more sweet‑sounding than the songs of birds.
But suddenly a serpent crept into that beautiful flowery garden, among all the animals and plants, and that serpent was different from all those that had been created by God and were good, without poisonous teeth and without fierceness in the spires of their flexuous bodies. Also that serpent had dressed itself with a skin having the shades of gems as the other snakes had, nay, it was even more beautiful than they were, so much so that it looked like a huge jewel of a king wriggling among the wonderful trees in the Garden. It went and coiled round a tree growing in the middle of the garden, a beautiful solitary tree that was much taller than this one and it was covered with marvellous leaves and fruits. And the serpent looked like a beautiful jewel around the lovely tree, and it shone in the sun, and all the animals were looking at it because none of them remembered seeing it being created, or seeing it before. But none of them approached it, nay, they all moved away from the tree, now that the snake was round its trunk.
Only the man and woman went near it, and the woman before the man, because she liked that bright thing shining in the sun and moving its head like a flower still half‑closed, and she listened to what the serpent was saying, and she disobeyed the Lord and she made Adam disobey. Only after their disobedience they saw the snake for what it was and they understood sin, as by now they had lost the innocence of their hearts. And they hid themselves from God Who was looking for them and then they lied to God Who was questioning them.
God then put some angels at the borders of the Garden and drove the men out. And they felt as if they had been thrown from the safe shore of Eden into the rivers on the earth full of water, as when they are flooded in springtime. But in the hearts of the men who had been driven out God left the remembrance of their eternal destiny, that is, of the passage from the beautiful Garden, where they heard the voice of God and felt His love, to Paradise where they would enjoy God completely. And with that remembrance He left the holy incentive to ascend to the place they had lost, by means of a life of justice.
But, My dear children, you have just now experienced that as long as the boat sails with the stream its voyage is easy, whereas while it sails against the stream it finds it difficult to keep afloat, without being swept away by waves or being wrecked among the vegetation, sand or stones of the river. If Simon had not tied your little boats with the thin withes of the shores, you would have lost them all, as it happened to Isaac who did not hold his withe.
The same happens to men thrown into the streams of the Earth. They must always remain in the hands of God, trusting their will, which is like a withe, to the hands of the good Father Who is in Heaven and Who is the Father of all men, and in particular of innocent people, and they must be on the look‑out to avoid herbs and bog grass, stones, whirpools and mud that might hold back, shatter or swallow up the boat of their souls by tearing away the thread of the will that keeps them joined to God. Because the Serpent, which is no longer in the Garden, is now on the Earth, and it really tries to wreck souls, preventing them from going up the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Gihon and the Pishon to the Great River that flows in the eternal Paradise and nourishes the trees of Life and Health, that yield perpetual fruits, that will be the delight of all those who have been able to go upstream to be united to God and to His angels, without having to suffer any further for ever.»
«My mother also used to say that » says the oldest boy.
«Yes, she did » lisps the youngest one.
«You don't know. I do, because I am big. But if you say things that are not true you will certainly not go to Paradise.»
«But our father used to say that it was not true » says the second-born son.
«Because he did not believe in the Lord of our mother.»
«Was your father not a Samaritan? » asks James of Alphaeus.
«No. He came from another place. But mother was, and we are as well, because she wanted us to be like her. And she told us of Paradise and of the Garden, but not so well as You did. I was afraid of the serpent and of death, because mother used to say that one was the devil and our father said that death puts an end to everything. That is why I was so unhappy to be alone and I also said that it was quite useless to be good now, because as long as father and mother lived, we made them happy by being good, but now there was nobody to make happy if we were good. But now I know... And I will be good. I will never take my thread away from the hands of God so that I will not be carried away by the waters of the Earth.»
«Did mother go upstream or downstream? » asks the second son perplexedly.
«What do you mean, child? » asks Matthew.
«I mean: where is she? Did she go to the river of the eternal Paradise? »
«Let us hope so, my child. If she was good...»
«She was a Samaritan...» says the Iscariot contemptuously.
«Then is there no Paradise for us, because we are Samaritans? Then shall we not have God? He called Him the "Father of all men". As an orphan I liked to think that I still have a Father... But if there is not one for us...» he says lowering his head sadly.
«God is the Father of everybody, My child. Have I loved you less because you are a Samaritan? I contended with the highwaymen for you, and I will contend with the demon for you, in the same way as I would contend for the little son of the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, if he did not consider it disgraceful that the Saviour should save his son. Nay: I would contend for you more firmly because you are alone and unhappy. There is no difference for Me between the soul of a Judaean and that of a Samaritan. And before long there will be no division between Samaria and Judaea, because the Messiah will have one people only that will bear His Name and will comprise all those who love Him.»
«I love You, Lord. But will You take me to my mother? » asks the oldest of the three boys.
«You do not know where she is. That man over there said that we can only hope...» says the second‑born son.
«I do not know, but the Lord knows. He knew even where we were, whereas we do not even know where we were.»
«With the highwaymen... They wanted to kill us...» Terror appears again on the little face of the second son.
«The highwaymen were like demons. But He saved us because our angels called Him.»
«The angels saved also my mother. I know because I always dream of her.»
«You are a liar, Isaac. You cannot dream of her because you do not remember her.»
The little one weeps saying: «No. No. I dream of her. I do...»
«Don't call your brother a liar, Ruben. His soul can really see his mother, because the good Father Who is in Heaven can grant that the little orphan may dream of her and may know her partly, as He allows us to know Him, so that from such limited knowledge we may be willing to know Him perfectly, which is achieved by being always good. And now let us go. We have spoken of God, and the Sabbath has been sanctified.» He stands up and intones more psalms.
Upon hearing the chorus some people from Ephraim go towards them and they respectfully wait until the psalm is ended in order to greet Jesus and say to Him: «Did You prefer to come here instead of coming to us? Do You not love us?»
«None of you invited Me. So I came here with My apostles and these children.»
«That is true. But we thought that Your disciple had informed You of our wish.»
Jesus looks at John and Judas. And Judas replies: «I forgot to tell You yesterday; and today, with these children, I never thought of it.»
Jesus in the meantime leaves the islet and He crosses the tiny stream of water and goes towards the people of Ephraim. The apostles follow Him while the children delay unfasting the two remaining little boats, and as Peter urges them, they reply: «We want to keep them to remember the lesson.»
«And what about me? I lost mine. And I will not remember. And I will not go to Paradise » says the youngest one weeping.
«Wait! Don't weep. I'll make a little boat for you at once. Of course, you must remember the lesson as well. Eh! We ought all to have a little boat with a withe tied to its prow in order to remember. And we men more than you children! Well!» and Peter makes another little boat with its withe. He then takes the three children in his arms, in one armful, and jumps the stream going towards Jesus.
«Are these the ones? » asks Malachi of Ephraim.
«Yes, they are.»
«And are they from Shechem? »
«That is what the young shepherd said. He said that their relatives lived in the country.»
«Poor children! But if their relatives should not come, what would You do? »
«I would keep them with Me. But they will come.»
«Those highwaymen... Will they not come, too? »
«They will not come. Do not be afraid of them. Even if they came... I would be their plunderer, and they would not be your pillagers. I have already snatched four preys from them and I hope I have also snatched part of their souls from sin, at least in some of them.»
«We shall help You with these children. You will let us do that.»
«Yes, I will. But not because they come from your region, but because they are innocent, and love for innocent people leads one quickly to God.»
«But You are the only one who makes no distinction between innocents and innocents. Neither a Judaean nor a Galilean would have picked up these little Samaritans. People do not love us. And they dislike not only us but also those who do not even yet know what a Samaritan or a Judaean is. And that is cruel.»
«Yes, it is. But it will no longer be so when people follow My Law. See, Malachi? They are in the arms of Simon Peter, of My brother and of Simon Zealot. None of them are Samaritans or fathers. And yet not even you would press your own children to your heart as these disciples of Mine are pressing the orphans of Samaria. The Messianic idea is this: to re‑unite everybody in love. This is the truth of the Messianic idea. One people only on the Earth under the sceptre of the Messiah. One people only in Heaven under the glance of one God only.»
They go away... speaking, towards the house of Mary of Jacob.
553. Jesus Explains to Peter the Mandate for Remitting Sins and Why
Saints and Innocents Suffer.
15th January 1947.
Jesus is alone in a little room. He is thinking or praying sitting on a little bed. The tiny yellowish flame of a small oil lamp is quivering on a shelf. It must be night‑time because there is no noise in the house or in the street. Only the rustling of the stream outside the house seems to sound louder in the silence of the night.
Jesus raises His head and looks at the door. He listens. He stands up and goes to open it. He sees Peter outside. «Is it you? Come in. What do you want, Simon? Are you still up and you have to walk such a long way? » He has taken him by the hand and pulled him inside, closing the door noiselessly. He makes him sit on the bed beside Himself.
«I wanted to tell You, Master... Yes, I wanted to tell You that even today You have seen what I am worth. I am only capable of making poor children enjoy themselves, of comforting an old woman, of reconciling two shepherds who are quarelling over a ewe‑lamb that has lost its milk. I am a poor man, so dull that I do not even understand what You explain to me. But that is another matter. Now I wanted to tell You that just because of that, You should keep me here. I am not anxious to go around when You do not come with us. And I am not good at anything... Content me, Lord.» Peter is speaking eagerly with his eyes fixed on the coarse chipped bricks of the floor.
«Look at Me, Simon » Jesus orders him. And, as Peter obeys, Jesus stares at him intensely asking: «Is that all? Is that the only reason for your being awake? The only reason why you are begging Me to keep you here? Be sincere, Simon. You are not grumbling if you tell your Master the other part of your thought. You must be able to tell the difference between an idle word and a useful one. A word is idle, and sin generally flourishes in idleness, when one speaks of other people's faults with someone who can do nothing about them. Then it is plainly lack of charity, even if what one says is true. As it is lack of charity to reproach someone more or less sharply without giving advice at the same time. And I am referring to just reproaches. The others are unfair and they are a sin against our neighbour. But when one sees one's neighbour commit sin, and one suffers because that person offends God and injures his soul, and one realises that one cannot estimate the gravity of someone else's sin, neither does one feel wise enough to speak words that may work a conversion, and then one applies to a just and wise person confiding one's anxiety, then one does not commit sin, because one's disclosure aims at putting an end to a scandal and at saving a soul. It is the same as if one had a relative suffering from a shameful disease. One will certainly try to conceal it from people, but one will go secretly to a doctor and say: "My relative is suffering from so and so and I do not know how to advise and cure him. Please come or tell me what I must do". Does one in that case lack love for one's relative? No. On the contrary one would lack love if one feigned not to notice the disease and allowed it to progress and bring about death, through a mistaken feeling of prudence and love. One day, and that day is not remote, you and your companions will have to listen to the secrets of hearts. Not as you listen to them now as men, but as priests, that is doctors, masters, and pastors of souls, as I am Doctor, Master and Pastor. You will have to listen, decide and give advice. Your judgement will have the same value as if God Himself had passed it...»
Peter frees himself from Jesus Who was holding him close to Himself and standing up he says: «That is not possible Lord. Never impose that on us. How can You expect us to judge like God, if we are not even able to judge like men? »
«Then you will be able, because the Spirit of God will hover over you and will penetrate you with its light. You will know how to judge taking into consideration the seven conditions of the facts proposed to you in order to have your advice or to be forgiven. Listen to Me carefully and try to remember. In due time the Spirit of God will remind you of My words. But at the same time try to remember with your own intelligence, as God give it to you so that you may use it without laziness and spiritual presumptions that lead one to expect and pretend everything from God. When you are Master, Doctor and Pastor in My place and My stead, and when a believer comes to weep at your feet over his perturbation brought about by his own or other people's deeds, you must always bear in mind the following seven questions:
Who: Who sinned?
What: What is the matter of the sin?
Where: In which place?
How: In which circumstances?
With what or with whom: The instrument or person that was the material for the sin?
Why: Which incentives brought about the environment favourable to the sin?
When: In which conditions and reactions, and whether by accident or by unwholesome habit?
Because see, Simon, the same sin may have infinite nuances and grades according to all the circumstances that caused it and to the people who committed it. For instance... Let us take into consideration two of the most common sins: lust of the flesh and lust for riches.
A man has committed a sin of lewdness, or he thinks that he has committed such a sin. Because at times man mistakes temptation for sin, or he considers of the same degree the incentives brought about artificially by an unwholesome appetite, and considers also to be equal those thoughts that are the consequence of a painful disease or come to one's mind because the flesh and blood at times have sudden voices resounding inwardly before the mind has time to be wary of them and suffocate them. He comes to you and says: "I committed a sin of lewdness". An imperfect priest would say: "Anathema on you". But you, My Peter, must not say so. Because you are Jesus' Peter, you are the successor of the Mercy. So before condemning you must consider and touch the heart weeping before you, kindly and prudently, in order to ascertain all the aspects of the sin or supposed sin, and of the scruple.
I said: kindly and prudently. You must remember that besides being a Master and Pastor, you are a Doctor. A doctor does not irritate wounds. If there is gangrene he will cut it off, but he knows also how to uncover and treat a wound with a light hand when lacerated tissues are to be re‑united, not removed. And you are to remember that in addition to being a Doctor and Pastor, you are a Master. A master adapts his words to the age of his pupils. And scandalous would be that teacher who should disclose animal laws to innocent children who were unacquainted with them and would thus acquire mischievous knowledge precociously. And in dealing with souls one must be prudent in asking questions. You must respect yourself and other people. It will be easy for you if in every soul you see a son of yours. A father is by nature the master, doctor and guide of his children. So love with fatherly love every person who comes to you upset by sin, or by fear of sin, and you will be able to judge without hurting or scandalising anybody. Do you follow Me? »
«Yes, I do, Master. I have understood You very well. I must be cautious and patient, I will have to convince people to disclose their wounds, but I shall have to examine them by myself, without attracting the attention of other people to them, and only when I should see that there is a real wound, I ought to say: "See? You have hurt yourself here by doing so and so". But if I see that a person is only afraid of being hurt, having seen ghosts, then... I should blow away the fog without giving, through useless zeal, explanations capable of throwing light on real sources of sin. Is that right? »
«Yes, quite right. So. If one says to you: "I have committed a sin of carnal lust", you must consider the person who is in front of you. It is true that sin can be committed at every age. But it is easier to find it in adults than in children, so the questions to ask or the answers to give a man or a boy will be different. Consequently, after the first question, comes the second one on the matter of the sin, then the third one on the place of the sin, then the fourth on the circumstances, then the fifth on the accomplice to the sin, then the sixth on the causes of the sin, and the seventh on the time and number of the sin.
In general you will find that in the case of adults living in the world a circumstance of true sin will appear to correspond to each question, whereas in the case of children by age or by spirit, for many questions you will have to say: "There is only the fear of sin here, but no real sin". Nay, at times you will see that instead of filth there is a lily that quivers with fear of being splashed with mud, and mistakes the drop of dew that descended on its calyx for a splash of mud. They are souls so eager for Heaven that fear, as a stain, also the shadow of a cloud that overshadows them for a moment, interposing between them and the sun, and then passes leaving no trace on the spotless corolla. They are souls so innocent and so anxious to remain such, that Satan frightens them with fanciful temptations or instigating the incentives of the flesh or the flesh itself, taking advantage of true diseases of the flesh. Those souls are to be comforted and supported, because they are not sinners, but martyrs. Always bear that in mind.
And always remember to judge with the same method also those who commit the sin of greed for other people's riches or property. Because if it is a cursed sin to be greedy without need and without pity, robbing the poor, and acting against justice by harassing citizens, servants, or peoples, the sin of him who steals some bread to appease the hunger of his children and his own, after his neighoubours refused to give him some, is by far less grave. Remember that if for a lustful man and a thief, the number, circumstances and gravity of the sin are to be taken into account when judging them, one must also consider what knowledge the sinner had of the sin when he was committing it. Because he who acts with full knowledge, sins more than he who acts out of ignorance. And he who acts with the free consent of his will sins more than he who was forced to sin. I solemnly tell you that there will be deeds that are apparently sinful, but are really martyrdom and they will be given the reward that is granted to those who suffered martyrdom. And above all remember that in each case, before condemning, you must bear in mind that you have been a man as well and that your Master, in Whom no one was ever able to find sin, never condemned anyone who had repented of having sinned.
Forgive seventy times seven, and even seventy times seventy, the sins of your brothers and children. Because to shut the doors of Salvation upon a sick man, only because he had a relapse, is to want to let him die. Have you understood? »
«Yes, I have. I have understood that very clearly...»
«Well, then, tell Me what you have in mind.»
«Yes! I will tell You, because I can see that You know everything, and I realise that I am not grumbling if I tell You to send Judas around in my place, because he suffers if he does not go. I am not telling You meaning that he is jealous or because I am scandalised, but to give peace to him and... to You. Because it must be really troublesome for You to have such a stormy wind near You all the time...»
«Has Judas complained again? »
«Well! He has! He said that every word of Yours hurts him. Also what You said to the children. He says that it is true that You were referring to him when You said that Eve went to the tree because she liked that thing that shone like a king's crown. Truly, I did not think of any comparison. But I am ignorant. Bartholomew and the Zealot, instead, said that Judas has been "touched on the rawest raw", because he is bewitched by everything that shines and allures one's vainglory. And they must be right because they are wise. Be good to Your poor apostles, Master! Make Judas happy and me as well. In any case! See? I am good only at amusing children... and at being a child in Your arms » and he presses against His Jesus, Whom he really loves with all his strength.
«No. I cannot please you. Do not insist. You, because you are what you are, will go to evangelize. He, because he is what he is, will stay here. My brother also mentioned it to Me, and although I love him so much, I replied "no" also to him. I would not yield even if My Mother should ask Me. It is not a punishment, but a medicine. And Judas must take it. If it does not help his spirit, it will help Mine, because I will not have to reproach Myself for omitting anything that might sanctify him.» Jesus is severe and authoritative in saying so.
Peter lets his arms droop and lowers his head with a sigh.
«Do not worry about it, Simon. We shall have an eternity to be together and love each other. But you had something else to tell Me...»
«It's late, Master, and You must sleep.»
«And you more than I, Simon, as you have to set out at dawn.»
«Oh! as far as I am concerned! I rest more staying here with You than I would in bed.»
«Speak up, then. You know that I sleep very little...»
«Well! I am a blockhead, I know and I say so without being ashamed. And if it depended on me, I would not care to be very learned, because I think that the greatest wisdom consists in loving, following and serving You wholeheartedly. But You send me here and there. And people ask me questions and I must reply to them. I think that what I ask You, other people may ask me. Because the thoughts of men are alike. Yesterday You said that innocent and holy people will always suffer, nay they will be the ones who will suffer on behalf of everybody. I find it difficult to understand that, even if You say that they will wish that themselves. And I think that as it is difficult for me, it may be so also for other people. If they ask me, what shall I tell them? In this first journey a mother said to me: "It was not fair that my little girl should die with so much pain, because she was good and innocent". And as I did not know what to say, I repeated Job's words: "The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord". But I was not convinced myself. And I did not convince her. The next time I would like to know what to say...»
«It is just. Listen. It seems an injustice, but it is a great justice that the best should suffer on behalf of everybody. Now tell Me, Simon. What is the Earth? All the Earth? »
«The Earth? A great, a very great expanse, made of dust and water, of rocks, with trees, animals and human beings.»
«And then? »
«Then, nothing else... Unless You want me to say that it is the place of punishment and exile for man.»
«The Earth is an altar, Simon. A huge altar. It was to be the altar of everlasting praise to its Creator. But the Earth is full of sin. Therefore it must be the altar of endless expiation and sacrifice, on which the victims are consumed. The Earth, like the other worlds with which Creation is strewn, ought to sing psalms to God Who created it. Look! »
Jesus opens the wooden shutters, and through the wide open window comes in the cool of the night, the noise of the torrent, a moonbeam, and one can see the sky studded with stars.
«Look at those stars! They are singing the praises of God with their voices that are light and motion in the infinite spaces of the firmament. Their song, which rises from the blue fields of the sky to the Heaven of God, has lasted for thousands and thousands of years. We can imagine stars, planets and comets as sidereal creatures that like sidereal priests, levites, virgins and believers are to sing the praises of the Creator in an unlimited temple. Listen, Simon. Listen to the breeze rustling among the leaves and to the noise of the stream in the night. Also the Earth, like the sky, sings with the winds, with the water, with the voices of birds and animals. But if the luminous praise of the stars that people the sky is sufficient for the vault of heaven, the song of winds, waters and animals is not sufficient for the temple that is the Earth. Because on it there are not only winds, waters and animals unconsciously singing the praises of God, but there is also man, the perfect creature, superior to all beings living in time and in the world, gifted with matter, like the animals, minerals and plants, and with spirit, like the angels of Heaven, and like them destined, if faithful in the trial, to know and possess God, through grace at first, and in Paradise later. Man, the synthesis comprising all natures, has a mission that no other creature has and that should be for him a joy, besides being his duty: to love God. To give God a cult of love intelligently and voluntarily, repaying God for the love that He gave man by granting him life and Heaven in addition to life. To give an intelligent cult.
Consider this, Simon. What benefit does God get from Creation? What profit? None. Creation does not make God greater, it does not sanctify Him, it does not make Him rich. He is infinite. He would have been such even if Creation had never existed. But God‑Love wanted to have love. And He created to have love. God can get only love from Creation, and that love, which is intelligent and free only in angels and in men, is the glory of God, the joy of angels, the religion for men. The day that the great altar of the Earth should omit the praises and entreaties of love, the Earth would cease existing. Because once love is extinguished also expiation would cease, and the wrath of God would destroy the Earth that had become an earthly hell. So the Earth must love in order to exist. And also: the Earth must be the Temple that loves and prays with the intelligence of men. But which victims are always offered in the Temple? The pure, spotless, faultless victims. Those are the only victims agreeable to the Lord. They are the early fruits. Because the best things are to be given to the Father of the family, and the first fruits of everything and choice things are to be given to God, the Father of the human family.
But I said that the Earth has a double duty of sacrifice: that of praise and that of expiation. Because Mankind that has spread over the Earth sinned in the First men, and continuously sins by adding to the sin of estrangement from God the other countless sins of its consent to the voices of the world, of the flesh and of Satan. A guilty, very guilty Mankind that, although it has likeness to God, having its own intelligence and divine help, is more and more sinful. Stars obey, plants obey, elements obey, animals obey and they praise the Lord as best they can. Men do not obey and do not praise the Lord enough. Hence the necessity of victim‑souls that may love and expiate on behalf of everybody. They are the children who, innocent and unaware, pay the bitter punishment of sorrow for those who can do nothing but sin. They are the saints who willingly sacrifice themselves for everybody.
Before long ‑ a year or a century is always a short time as compared to eternity ‑ no more sacrifices will be celebrated on the altar of the great Temple of the Earth, that is, of victim‑men, consumed with the perpetual sacrifice: victims with the perfect Victim. Do not be upset, Simon, I am not saying that I will establish a cult like those of Molech, Baal and Ashtoreth. Men themselves will immolate us. Do you understand? They will immolate us. And we shall face death happily to expiate and love on behalf of everybody. And then the days will come when men will no longer immolate men. But there will always be pure victims that love consumes with the Great Victim in the perpetual Sacrifice. I mean the love of God and the love for God. Truly they will be the victims of the future days and of the future Temple. No longer lambs and kids, calves and doves, but the sacrifice of one's heart is what pleases God. David realised that. And in the new times, the times of the spirit and of love, only that sacrifice will be pleasant.
Consider, Simon, that if a God had to become incarnate to appease divine Justice for the great Sin, for the many sins of men, in the times of the truth, only the sacrifices of the spirits of men can appease the Lord. You are thinking: "Why then did He, the Most High, order men to immolate the offspring of animals and the fruits of plants to Him"? I will tell you: because, before I came, man was a stained holocaust and Love was not known. Now it will be known. And man, who will know Love, because I will give Grace back to him, and through it man will know Love, man will come out of his lethargy, he will remember, understand, live and he will replace kids and lambs, as a victim of love and expiation, on the model of the Lamb of God, his Master and Redeemer. Sorrow, so far a punishment, will turn into perfect love, and blessed are those who will embrace it out of perfect love.»
«You mean those who cannot yet offer themselves... And do you know when God speaks in them? The language of God is spiritual. A soul understands it and a soul has no age. Nay, I tell you that a child's soul, as it is without malice, with regard to its capacity of understanding God, is more adult than the soul of an old sinner. I tell you, Simon, that you will live so long as to see many children teach adults, and even yourself, the wisdom of heroic love. But in those little ones who die for natural reasons, God acts directly for motives of so high a love that I cannot explain to you, as they are part of the wisdom written in the books of Life, and that only in Heaven will be read by the blessed souls. I said read, but in actual fact it will suffice to look at God to know not only God, but also His infinite wisdom... We have let the moon set, Simon... It will soon be dawn and you have had no sleep...»
«It does not matter, Master. I have lost a few hours of sleep and I have gained so much wisdom. And I have been with You. But if You allow me, I will now go. Not to sleep. But to think of Your words again.»
He is already at the door and is about to go out, when he stops pensively and then says: «One more question, Master. Is it right for me to say to someone who suffers, that sorrow is not a punishment but a... grace, something like... like our vocation, beautiful even if toilsome, beautiful even if it may seem an unpleasant and sad thing to people who do not know? »
«Yes, you can say that, Simon. It is the truth. Sorrow is not a punishment, when one knows how to accept it and use it rightly. Sorrow is like a priesthood, Simon. A priesthood open to everybody. A priesthood that confers great power on the heart of God. It is a great merit. Sorrow that was born at the same time as sin can appease the Justice. Because God can use for good purposes also what Hatred created to give sorrow. I did not chose any other means to cancel the Sin. Because there is no means greater than this one.»
554. On a Sabbath at Ephraim Jesus Speaks in the Synagogue.
17th January 1947.
It must be another Sabbath because the apostles are once again all together in the house of Mary of Jacob.
The children are still with them, near Jesus, by the fireside. And just because of that Judas Iscariot says: «So a week has gone by and their relatives have not come » and he laughs shaking his head.
Jesus does not reply to him. He caresses the second‑born son.
Judas asks Peter and James of Alphaeus: «And you say that you went along the two roads that take one to Shechem? »
«Yes, we did. But thinking it over, it was quite useless. Highwaymen certainly do not take busy roads, particularly now that Roman squads patrol them continuously » replies James of Alphaeus.
«Why did you go along them, then? » insists the Iscariot.
«Well!... It's the same to us to go here or there. So we took those.»
«And was nobody able to tell you anything? »
«We did not ask anybody.»
«And how were you expecting to know whether they had passed or not? Do people carry banners or leave traces when they go along a road? I don't think so. Because otherwise we would have been found at least by our friends. Instead not one of them has been here since we came » and he laughs sarcastically.
«We do not know why no one has come here. The Master knows. We don't. When people withdraw to a place unknown to everybody, as we did, without leaving any trace of their passage, no one can go to them unless one is informed of the place of their refuge. Now we do not know whether our Brother has told our friends » says James of Alphaeus patiently.
«Oh! Would you believe or make us believe that He did not tell at least Lazarus and Nike? »
Jesus does not say anything. He takes one of the children by the hand and goes out...
«I do not want to believe anything. But even if it is as you say, you and none of us can yet pass judgement on the reasons for our friends' absence...»
«Those reasons are easily understood! No one wishes to have trouble with the Sanhedrin, least of all who is rich and powerful. That's all! We are the only ones who are good at endangering our lives.»
«Be fair, Judas! The Master did not force any of us to stay with Him. Why did you stay, if the Sanhedrin frightens you? » remarks James of Alphaeus.
«And you can go away whenever you wish. You are not in chains...» says the other James, the son of Zebedee.
«No! Never! We are here, and we are staying here. All of us. Who wanted to go away, should have gone away before. Not now. I oppose that, if the Master does not » says Peter slowly but decidedly, striking the table with his fist.
«Why? Who are you that you want to give orders instead of the Master? » Judas asks him violently.
«A man who reasons not like God, as He does, but as a man.»
«Are you suspecting me? Do you think I am a traitor? » asks Judas excitedly.
«You have said it. Not because I think that you would do it deliberately; but you are so... thoughtless, Judas, so fickle! And you have too many friends. And you are too keen on standing out, in everything. Oh! you would not be able to keep quiet! You would speak, either to confute some wicked enemy, or to show that you are the Apostle. So you are here and you are staying here. This way you will do no harm and you will not feel any remorse.»
«God does not force the freedom of man, but you wish to do so? »
«Yes, I do. But after all, tell me. Is it raining on you? Have you not enough bread? Is the air harmful to you? Do the people offend you? None of all that. The house is solid, even if it is not a rich one, the air is good, we have never been short of food, the people honour you. So why are you so restless here, as if you were in jail? »
«"There are two nations that my soul detests, and the third one hated by me is not even a nation: the inhabitants of Mount Seir, the Philistines and the stupid people living at Shechem". I have replied to you with the words of the Wise Man. And I am right in thinking so. Consider whether these people love us! »
«H'm! To tell you the truth I don't think that the other peoples, yours and mine, are much better. We were pelted with stones in Judaea and in Galilee, in Judaea even more than in Galilee, and in the Temple in Judaea more than in any other place. I cannot say that we have been ill‑treated in the territory of the Philistines, or here, or anywhere else...»
«Anywhere else? We have not been anywhere else, fortunately. But even if we had had to go somewhere else I would not have come with you, neither will I come in future. I do not want to get more contaminated.»
«Contaminated That is not what worries you, Judas of Simon. You do not want to alienate those of the Temple. That is what troubles you » says calmly Simon Zealot, who has remained in the kitchen with Peter, James of Alphaeus and Philip. The others have gone out, one after the other together with the two boys and have joined the Master. A meritorious flight as it was made to avoid being uncharitable.
«No. Not because of that. But because I do not like to waste my time and give wisdom to fools. Look! What good has it served to take Ermasteus with us? He went away and has never come back. Joseph told us that he parted from him saying that he would come back for the feast of the Tabernacles. Have you seen him? A renegade...»
«I do not know why he has not come back and I cannot judge him. But I ask you: is he the only one who left the Master and has become His enemy? Are there no renegades among us Judaeans and among the Galileans? Can you prove that?»
«No. It's true. But I am ill at ease here. If they only knew that we are here! If they knew that we familiarise with the Samaritans to the extent of going to their synagogues on Sabbaths! He wants that... Woe to us if we were found out! The charge would be justified...»
«And you mean that the Master would be condemned. But He is already condemned. He has been condemned before people know. Nay He was condemned after He raised a Judaean from the dead in Judaea. He is hated and accused of being a Samaritan and the friend of publicans and prostitutes. He has been... all the time. And you know better than anybody else whether He has been hated.»
«What do you mean, Nathanael? What do you mean? What have I got to do with that? What do I know more than you do? » He is very excited.
«You look like a mouse surrounded by enemies, my boy! But you are not a mouse, neither are we provided with clubs to capture and kill you. Why are you so frightened? If you are at peace with your conscience, why do you become upset over innocent words? What did Bartholmai say to make you so excited? Is it not true that no one more than we, His apostles, who sleep and live near Him, can be aware and witness that He does not love the Samaritan, the publican, the sinner, the prostitute, but He loves their souls, and He takes care of them alone, and only because of them He goes with Samaritans, publicans and prostitutes, and only the Most High knows what effort His Most Pure Son must make to approach what we men and sinners call "filth"? You do not understand and you do not know Jesus yet, my boy! You know Him less than the very Samaritans, Philistines, Phoenicians and any other peoples you may wish...» says Peter and he utters the last words sadly.
Judas does not speak any more and also the others become silent.
The old woman comes back in saying: «In the street there are some people from the town. They say that it is the Sabbath prayer time and that the Master has promised to speak...»
«I will go and tell Him, woman. You can tell those from Ephraim that we are coming » replies Peter and he goes out into the kitchen garden to inform Jesus.
«What are you going to do? Are you coming? If you do not want to come, go away, go out before He is grieved by your refusal » says the Zealot to Judas.
«I am coming with you. One cannot speak here! I seem to be the greatest sinner. Every word of mine is misunderstood.»
As Jesus enters the kitchen, they stop speaking.
They go out into the street and join the people from Ephraim and they go into town with them. They stop only when they are before the synagogue, at the door of which there is Malachi, who greets them and invites them to go in.
I do not notice any difference between the Samaritan place of prayer and those I have seen in other regions. There are always the usual lights, the usual lecterns or shelves with rolls, the seat of the head of the synagogue or of the person who teaches in his stead. If anything, the rolls are much fewer here than in the other synagogues.
«We have already said our prayers while waiting for You. If You wish to speak... Which roll do You want, Master? »
«I do not need any. In any case you would not have what I wish to explain » (1) replies Jesus, and He then turns towards the people and begins to speak:
«When the Hebrews were sent back to their country by Cyrus, the king of the Persians, so that they might rebuild Solomon's Temple that had been destroyed fifty years previously, the altar was rebuilt on its base, and the daily holocaust was offered on it morning and evening, as well as the extraordinary one on the first day of each month and those of the solemnities sacred to the Lord and the holocausts of voluntary offerings made by individuals. Later, after accomplishing what is essential and indispensable for the cult, in the second year after their return, they began to deal with what can be called the frame of the cult, its outward appearance, which is not guilty because it is done to honour the Eternal Father, but it is not indispensable. Because the cult of God is love for God, and love is perceived and consumed in one's heart, not by means of dressed stones, precious woods, gold and perfumes. All that is outward appearance that aims more at satisfying one's national or civic pride than at honouring the Lord.
God wants the Temple of the spirit. He is not satisfied with a Temple of walls and marbles that is devoid of spirits full of love. I solemnly tell you that the temple of a pure loving heart is the only one that God loves and in which He dwells with His light, and that foolish are the contests that divide regions and towns with regard to the beauty of their places of prayer. Why vie in the riches and ornaments of the houses in which God is invoked? Can the finite satisfy the
(1) Of all the Books of the Bible the Samaritans accepted only the five Books of the Pentateuch.
Infinite, even if it were a finite ten times more beautiful than Solomons' Temple and all the royal palaces put together? God, the Infinite Who cannot be contained and honoured by any space or by any material magnificence, finds one place only worthy of honouring Him as befits Him, and He can be, nay He wants to be contained in the heart of man, because the spirit of a just man is a temple over which the Spirit of God hovers, among the perfumes of love; and it will soon be a temple in which the Spirit will really dwell, One and Trine, as It is in Heaven.
And it is written that as soon as the masons had laid the foundations of the Temple, the priests went with their ornaments and trumpets and the Levites with cymbals, according to David's orders. And they sang that "God is to be praised because He is good and His mercy is everlasting". And the people rejoiced. But many priests, heads of families, Levites, elderly people were shedding torrents of tears thinking of the previous Temple, and thus the sound of the people's weeping could not be distinguished from the shouts of joy, as they were so confused. And we also read that the peoples of nearby districts disturbed those who were building the Temple to avenge themselves on the builders who had rejected them when they had offered to build with them, as they also sought the God of Israel, the Only True God. And those disturbances interrupted the work until God was pleased to let them continue. That is what we read in the book of Ezra.
How many and what lessons does the passage that I mentioned give us? First of all the one already mentioned on the necessity that the cult is perceived by one's heart and not professed by stones or wood or also by clothes or cymbals and songs, which are devoid of the spirit. Then that the lack of reciprocal love is always the cause of delays and trouble, even when a good purpose is involved. Where there is no charity, God is not there either. It is useless to seek God unless we put ourselves in a suitable condition to find Him. God is found in charity. He or those who settle in charity find God also without having to make any painful search. And he who has God with him is successful in all his enterprises.
In the psalm that sprang from the heart of a wise man after meditating on the painful events that accompanied the reconstruction of the Temple and of the walls it is said: "If the Lord does not build the house, in vain the masons toil at it. If the Lord does not guard the city and protect it, in vain the sentries watch".
Now how can God build the house, if He knows that its inhabitants do not have Him in their hearts, since they do not love their neighbours? And how will He protect the city and give strength to its defenders, if He cannot be in them as they are devoid of Him through their hatred for their neighbours? Has it helped you, peoples, to be divided by barriers of hatred? Has it made you greater? Richer? Happier? Neither hatred nor rancour is ever of any avail, he who is alone is never strong, he who does not love is never loved. And it is of no use, as the psalm says, to get up before daybreak to become great, rich and happy. Let every man rest to console himself in the sorrows of life, because sleep is a gift of God as is light and all the other things that man enjoys; let every man rest but let him have charity as his companion in his sleep and in his watch, and his work, his family and his business will thrive, and above all his spirit will prosper and conquer the royal crown of the children of the Most High and heirs to His Kingdom.
It is written that while the crowd was singing hosannas, some people were shedding torrents of tears because they were thinking of and regretting the past. But it was not possible to distinguish the different voices in the clamour of shouts.
Children of Samaria! And you, My apostles, children of Judaea and of Galilee! Also nowadays there are people who sing hosannas and people who weep while the new Temple of God is rising on eternal foundations. Also nowadays there are people who hinder the work and people who seek God where He cannot be found. Also nowadays some people want to build according to Cyrus' order and not according to God's, that is according to the order of the world and not according to the voices of the spirit. And also nowadays there are people who weep with foolish human regret over an inferior past, a past that was neither good nor wise, so much so that it roused the anger of God. Also nowadays we have all those situations, as if we were still in the obscurity of remote days and not in the days of Light.
Open your hearts to the Light, fill yourselves with the Light, so that at least you, to whom I‑Light am speaking, may see. This is the new time in which everything is rebuilt. But woe to those who will refuse to enter it and will hinder those who are building the Temple of the new faith, of which I am the corner Stone and to which I will give My whole self to make mortar for the stones, so that the building may rise holy and strong, admirable for ages, as wide as the Earth that will be completely covered by its light. I say light, not shadow, because My Temple will be made of spirits, not of opaque matters. I shall be its stone with My Eternal Spirit, and all those who follow My word and the new faith will be incorporeal bright holy stones for it. And the light will spread over the Earth, the light of the new Temple, and will cover it with wisdom and holiness. And only those will be left out of it who with impure tears weep and regret the past, because it was for them the source of completely human profits and honours.
Open to the new time and to the new Temple, o men of Samaria! Everything is new in it, and the ancient separations and borders, of thought and spirit, no longer exist. Sing, because the exile out of the city of God is about to come to an end. Are you happy to be considered as exiles and lepers by the other peoples of Israel? Do you rejoice feeling that you are like people rejected by the bosom of God? Because that is what you feel, what your souls feel, your poor souls, which are closed in your bodies and are under the control of your arrogant thought that refuses to say to other men: "We erred, but like lost sheep we are now going back to the Fold". You do not want to say that to other men: and that is wrong. But at least say so to God. Even if you stifle the cries of your souls, God hears their groaning, as they are unhappy to be exiled from the house of the universal and most holy Father.
Listen to the words of the gradual psalm. You really are pilgrims who for ages have been going towards the high city, towards the true Jerusalem, the celestial one. From there, from Heaven, your souls descended to vivify a body, and they sigh to go back there. Why do you want to sacrifice your souls and disinherit them of the Kingdom? Which fault is theirs if they descended into bodies conceived in Samaria? They come from Only One Father. They have the same Creator as the souls of Judaea and Galilee, of Phoenicia and of the Decapolis. God is the aim of every spirit. Every soul tends to that God, even if all kinds of idolatry, or baleful heresies, schisms, or lack of faith, keep it in the ignorance of the true God, an ignorance that would be absolute if the soul did not have an indelible embryonal remembrance of the Truth and did not yearn for it. Oh! make that remembrance and yearning grow greater. Open the doors to your souls. Let the Light enter! Let the Life enter! Let the Truth enter! Let the Way be open! Let everything gush in brightly and vitally, like the rays of sunlight and the waves and the winds of equinoxes, so that the plant may grow from its embryo and rise upwards, closer and closer to its Lord.
Come out from your exile! Sing with Me: "When the Lord brings captives home, their souls seem to dream with joy. Our mouths are filled with smiles and our lips with songs. We shall now say: 'The Lord has worked marvels for us' ". Yes, the Lord has done great things for you and you will be overflowing with delight.
Oh! My Father! I pray to You for them as I pray for everybody. O Lord, let these prisoners of ours come back home, because, for You and for Me, they are prisoners in the chains of obstinate error. Lead them back, of Father, like a torrent that flows into the great river, lead them to the great sea of Your mercy and peace. My servants and I, shedding tears, are sowing Your truth in them. Father, grant that at the time of the great harvest, we, Your servants in teaching Your Truth, may reap the chosen corn of Your granaries with joy in these furrows, which now seem spread only with bramble and poison. Father! Father! Through our fatigue, and tears, and grief, and labours, and dead companions, who were and will be our companions in sowing, grant that we may come to You carrying, as sheaves, the choice part of this people, the souls reborn to Justice and Truth for Your glory. Amen.»
The silence, which was really impressive, so absolute as it was in such a large crowd that filled the synagogue and the square in front of it, is broken by a whispering that grows louder and louder and becomes a murmur... a cry... a hosanna. The crowds gesticulate, comment and applaud...
What a difference from the conclusion of the speeches in the Temple! Malachi says on behalf of everybody: «You only can tell the truth thus, without offending and mortifying anybody! You are really the Holy One of God! Pray for our peace. We have been hardened by ages of... beliefs and by ages of insults. And we must break this hard crust of ours. Bear with us.»
«Even more than that: I love you. Be of good will, and the crust will break by itself. May the Light come to you.»
He makes His way through the crowd and goes out followed by the apostles.
555. The Arrival of the Relatives of the Children with Many People of
18th January 1947.
Jesus is all alone in the little island in the middle of the stream. The three children are playing on the bank on the other side of the stream and they are whispering in low voices in order not to disturb Jesus' meditation. Now and again the youngest one utters a cry of joy when he finds a beautifully coloured pebble or a fresh little flower, and the others tell him to be quiet saying: «Be quiet! Jesus is praying...» and their whispering is resumed when their little swarthy hands build sand blocks and cones that in their childish imagination are supposed to be houses and mountains.
The sun is shining high in the sky causing gems to swell on trees and buds to open in meadows. The green‑grey leaves of the poplar tree are quivering in the breeze, and the birds up there, on the top, are engaged in love or rivarly skirmishes that at times end in a song, at times in a screech of pain.
Jesus is praying. Sitting on the grass, with a tuft of bog grass separating Him from the path along the bank, He is absorbed in His mental meditation. At times He looks up to watch the little ones playing over there on the grass. He then lowers His eyes again and becomes engrossed in His thoughts.
The shuffling of feet among the plants on the bank and the sudden arrival of John on the little island put to flight the birds that fly away from the top of the poplar putting an end to their carousel with screeches of fear.
John does not see Jesus at once, as He is concealed by the bog grass and he shouts rather perplexedly: «Where are You, Master? »
Jesus stands up while the three children shout from the other bank: «He is there! Behind the tall grass.»
But John has already seen Jesus and goes to Him saying: «Master, the relatives have come. The children's relatives. And many people from Shechem are with them. They went to Malachi, and Malachi brought them to our house. I have come looking for You.»
«And where is Judas? »
«I do not know. He went out immediately after You came here, and he has not come back yet. He must be in town. Shall I look for him? »
«No, it is not necessary. Stay here with the children. I want to speak to the relatives first.»
«As You wish, Master.»
Jesus goes away, and John joins the children and begins to help them in the enterprise of building a bridge across an imaginary river made of long reed leaves placed on the sand to simulate water...
Jesus enters the house of Mary of Jacob, who is at the door waiting for Him and says to Him: «They have gone up to the terrace. I took them there to let them rest. But here is Judas coming from the village. I will wait for him and then I will prepare some food for the pilgrims who are very tired.»
Jesus also waits for Judas in the vestibule, which is rather dark compared to the light outside. Judas does not see Jesus at once and while going in he says to the woman arrogantly: «Where are those from Shechem? Have they already left? And the Master? Is no one calling Him? John...» He sees Jesus and changes tone saying: «Master! I ran here when I was told, just by sheer chance... Were You already at home? »
«John was here and he came looking for Me.»
«I... I should have been here as well. But at the fountain they asked me to explain certain things to them...»
Jesus does not reply. He speaks only to greet those who are waiting for Him, sitting some on the low walls of the terrace, some in the room that opens on to it, and they all stand up to pay their respects to Him as soon as they see Him.
After greeting the group collectively, Jesus greets some of them calling them by their names, and they are so pleasantly surprised that they say: «Do You still remember our names? » They must be the people from Shechem.
And Jesus replies: «Your names, your faces and your souls. Did you come with the children's relatives? Are they the ones? »
«Yes, they are. They have come to take them and we joined them to thank You for Your pity for the little children of a woman from Samaria. You alone can do such things!... You are always the Holy One Who does nothing but holy things. We have always remembered You, too. And we came, because we heard that You were here. To see You and tell You that we are grateful to You for choosing us as Your shelter place and for loving us in the children of our blood. But listen to the relatives.»
Jesus, followed by Judas, turns His steps towards them greeting them once again and inviting them to speak.
«We, I do not know whether You know, are the brothers of the children's mother. And we were very angry at her, because she foolishly and against our advice wanted this unhappy marriage. Our father was weak with the only daughter of his numerous offspring, so much so that we got angry with him as well, and for several years we did not speak to him or see him. Later, knowing that the hand of God lay heavy on the woman and there was poverty in her house, because an impure marriage is not defended by divine blessings, we took our old father in our house again, so that his only grief might be the poverty in which the woman languished. Then she died and we were told. You had passed by recently and people spoke of You... And overcoming our indignation, we suggested to her husband, through these two men from Shechem, that we would take the children. They were, by half, of our blood. He said that he would rather see them all die a bad death than live on our bread. He would not give us the children and not even the corpse of our sister, that it might be buried according to our rites! So we swore hatred to him and to his seed. And hatred struck him like a curse, so that from a free man it made him a servant and from a servant... a dead body like a jackal in a stinking den. We would never had known, because for a long time everything had come to an end between us. And we had a terrible fright, only that, when a week ago we saw those highwaymen appear on our threshing‑floor. Then, when we heard why they had come, disdain, not grief, tormented us like poison, and we sent them away hurriedly offering them a good reward to make them friendly, and we were surprised to hear them say that they had already made their profit and did not want anything else.»
Judas suddenly breaks the dead silence of everybody with an ironical laugh and he shouts: «Their conversion! Complete! Really! »
Jesus looks at him severely, the others look at him seized with astonishment, and the man who was speaking, continues: «And what else could you expect from them? Is it not quite a lot that they came leading the young shepherd and daring danger, without accepting any reward? A miserable custom befits a miserable life. The prey taken from the foolish man who died like a tramp, was not a rich one! It wasn't rich at all! Hardly sufficient for those who had to stop plundering for at least ten days. And we were so astonished at their honesty, that we asked them which voice had spoken to them instilling so much pity into their hearts. So we learned that a rabbi had spoken to them... A rabbi! You only. Because no other rabbi in Israel could do what You did. And after they left we questioned the frightened shepherd boy in detail and we obtained a more accurate account of the events. At first we only knew that our sister's husband was dead and that the children were at Ephraim with a just man, and then that the just man, who was a rabbi, had spoken to them and we at once thought that it was You. And when we arrived at Shechem at dawn, we consulted with these people, because we had not yet made up our minds whether we should accept the children. But these people said to us: "What? Has the Rabbi of Nazareth loved the children in vain? Is that what you want? Because it is certainly Him, have no doubt. Nay, let us all go to Him, because the kindness of His heart towards the children of Samaria is great". And after settling our business, we came here. Where are the children? »
«Near the stream. Judas, go and tell them to come.»
Judas goes away.
«Master, it is a difficult meeting for us. They remind us of all our troubles, and we are still undecided whether we should accept them. They are the sons of the worst enemy we ever had...»
«They are the children of God. They are innocent. Death cancels the past and expiation obtains forgiveness, also from God. Do you want to be more severe than God? And more cruel than the highwaymen? And more obstinate than they? The highwaymen wanted to kill the young shepherd and keep the children: the former as a prudent measure of defence, the latter out of human pity for defenceless children. The Rabbi spoke to them, and they did not kill and they have agreed, to the extent of bringing the young shepherd to you. Shall I have to admit defeat in righteous hearts, when I defeated crime?...»
«The matter is... We are four brothers, and there are already thirty‑seven children in our house...»
«And where thirty‑seven little sparrows find food, because the Father in Heaven makes them find grains, will forty not find any? Will the power of the Father not be able to provide food for three, nay, four more children of His? Is there a limit to His divine Providence? Will the Infinite God be frightened to fecundate your seeds, your plants and your sheep more than at present, so that bread and oil and wine and wool and meat be sufficient for your children and for four more poor boys who are now all alone? »
«They are three, Master! »
«They are four. The young shepherd is an orphan as well. If God should appear to you here, would you be able to maintain that your bread is so measured that you cannot feed an orphan? Pity for an orphan is prescribed by the Pentateuch...»
«No, we would not, Lord. That is true. We shall not be inferior to the highwaymen. We will give bread, clothes and lodging also to the young shepherd. And out of love for You.»
«Out of love. Out of all the love. For God, for His Messiah, for your sister, for your neighbour. That is the homage and the forgiveness to be paid to your blood! Not a cold sepulchre for her dust. Forgiveness is peace. Peace for the spirit of man, who sinned. But it would only be false and entirely exterior forgiveness, and no peace for the spirit of the dead woman, who is your sister and the children's mother, if to the just expiation of God you add to torment her, the knowledge that her sons, although innocent, are expiating her sin. God's mercy is infinite. But add your own to give peace to the dead woman.»
«Oh! We will do that! We will! Our hearts would not have submitted to anybody, but they yield to You, o Rabbi, as You passed one day among us, sowing a seed that did not and will not die.»
«Amen! Here are the children...» and Jesus points at them on the bank of the stream, coming towards the house, and He calls them.
And they leave the hands of the apostles and run shouting: «Jesus! Jesus! » They go in, they climb the steps, they are on the terrace and they stop frightened by the presence of so many strangers looking at them.
«Come, Ruben, and you, Elisha, and you, Isaac. These men are the brothers of your mother and they have come to get you and join you to their sons. See how good the Lord is? Just like Mary of Jacob's pigeon, that we saw the day before yesterday feed a young one that was not its own, but of its dead brother. He has gathered you and gives you to these people so that they may take care of you and you will thus be no longer orphans. Come on! Greet your relatives.»
«The Lord be with you, gentlemen » says the oldest one shyly, looking at the ground, and the two younger ones repeat his words.
«This one is very much like his mother, and this one also, but this other one (the oldest) is his father's double » remarks one of the relatives.
«My friend, I do not think that you are so unfair as to love differently because of a resemblance of faces » says Jesus.
«Oh! no. Certainly not. I was watching him... and thinking... I would not like him to have the same heart as his father.»
«He is still a tender child, and his simple words disclose that his love for his mother is by far deeper than any other love.»
«She kept them much better than we expected. Their clothes and shoes are decent. Perhaps she made her fortune...»
«My brothers and I have new garments because Jesus clothed us. We had neither shoes nor mantle, we were exactly like the shepherd » says the second‑born who is not so timid as the first‑born.
«We will compensate You for everything, Master » replies one of the relatives and he adds: «Joachim of Shechem had the offerings of the town, but we will add some more money...»
«No, I do not want any money. I want a promise: that you will love these children whom I snatched from the highwaymen. The offerings... Malachi, take them for the poor who are known to you and give some to Mary of Jacob, because her house is really poor.»
«As you wish. If they are good we will love them.»
«We will be good, lord. We know that we must be so to find our mother and go up the river, as far as the bosom of Abraham, and that we must not take away the ropes of our boats from the hands of God in order not to be carried away by the current of the demon » says Ruben all in one breath.
«But what is the boy saying? »
«A parable I told them. I told it to comfort their hearts and to guide their spirits. And the children have understood it and they apply it to each of their actions. Familiarise with them while I speak to these people from Shechem...»
«Master, one more word. What amazed us in the highwaymen was their request to tell the Rabbi, Who had the children, to forgive them, if it had taken them a long time to come, considering that not every road is open to them and that the presence of a boy among them prevented them from marching long distances through wild gorges.»
«Did you hear that, Judas? » says Jesus to Judas who does not reply.
Then Jesus moves to one side with the people from Shechem, who wring the promise from Him of a visit, even a short one, before the summer heat. And in the meantime they inform Jesus of events of the town, and they tell Him that those who were cured by Him, in their bodies or souls, do remember Him.
Judas and John in the meantime are busy getting the children to fraternise with their relatives...
556. The Parable of the Drop That Excavates the Rock.
21st January 1947.
Jesus is walking along a solitary road. The children's relatives are ahead of Him, the people from Shechem are beside Him. They are in a wild area. No town is in sight. The children have been put on the backs of some donkeys and their relatives are holding the reins and watching them. The donkeys without any rider, as the people of Shechem have preferred to go on foot to be near Jesus, are going ahead of the men, in a herd and are braying, now and again, for joy of going back to their stables, without any load, on a wonderful day, between banks covered with fresh grass into which they dip their nostrils now and again to enjoy a mouthful of it, and then they caracole with joyful amble and join their companions laden with riders. Which makes the children laugh.
Jesus is speaking to the people of Shechem or is listening to what they say. The Samaritans are obviously proud to have the Master with them and they are dreaming more than is convenient. So that they say to Jesus, pointing at the high mountains on the left of people going northwards: «See? Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim have a bad reputation. But, at least as far as You are concerned, they are much better than Zion. And they would be completely so, if You wanted that, by choosing them as Your dwelling place. Zion is always the den of the Jebusites. And the present ones are more hostile to You than the ancient ones were to David. By making use of violence David captured the citadel; but as You do not make use of violence, You will never reign there. Never. Stay with us, Lord, and we will honour You.»
Jesus replies: «Tell Me: would you have loved Me if I had tried to conquer you through violence? »
«Not... really. We love You because You are all love.»
«So it is through love that I reign in your hearts? »
«Yes, it is, Master. But it is so because we have accepted Your love. But those in Jerusalem do not love You.»
«That is true. They do not love Me. 2But since you are all expert in trading, tell Me: when you want to sell, buy and make a profit, do you lose heart because in certain places people do not love you, or do you do your business just the same, as you are only anxious to make good purchases and good sales, without worrying whether the money you have earned is devoid of the love of those who sold to you or bought of you? »
«We are only anxious to do good business. It does not matter if it lacks the love of those who deal with us. Once the business is done, there is no more connection. Only the profit remains, the rest... is of no importance.»
«Well, I do the same. Since I came to look after the interests of My Father, I must take care of them only. Then if I find love or derision or harshness where I look after them, it does not worry Me. In a trading town one does not make a profit, purchases or sales with everybody. But even if you deal with one person only and you make a good profit you say that your journey was not a useless one and you go back again and again. Because what you achieve with one person only the first time, you achieve with three people the second time, with seven the fourth time, with ten and ten thereafter. Is it not so? I act for the conquests for Heaven, as you do for your business. I insist, I persevere, I find that the little, in number, or the great are sufficient, because even only one soul saved is a great thing, the great reward obtained through My work. Every time that I go somewhere and I overcome what may be the reaction of the Man, so that as King of the spirit I may conquer only one subject, I do not say that My going there was useless or that I suffered or worked in vain. But I say that mockery, insults, accusations were holy, loving and desirable. I would not be a good conqueror if I stopped before the obstacles of granitic fortresses.»
«But it would take You ages to defeat them. You... are a man. You will not live for ages. Why waste Your time where You are not wanted? »
«I shall live much less. Nay, I shall soon be no longer among you, I shall no longer see dawns and sunsets like milestones of days that rise and of days that end, but I shall only contemplate them as the beauties of creation and for them I will praise the Creator Who made them and Who is My Father; I shall no longer see trees blossom and corn ripen, neither shall I need the fruits of the earth to keep alive, because when I go back to My Kingdom, I will feed on love. And yet I will demolish the many fortresses closed in the hearts of men. Look at that stone up there, under that spring, on the slope of the mountain. The spring is a very scanty one, I would say that the water does not flow, but it drips: a drop that has been falling for ages on that rock protruding from the side of the mountain. And the stone is a very hard one. It is not crumbly limestone or soft alabaster, it is very hard basalt. And yet see how at the centre of the convex rock, and despite its shape, a tiny sheet of water has formed, not any larger than the calyx of a water‑lily, but sufficient to reflect the blue sky and quench the thirst of birds. Did man perhaps make that cavity on the convex rock to place a blue gem on the dark rock and a refreshing cup for birds? No. Man took no part in it. In the many centuries during which men have passed before this rock that a drop of water has been hollowing out for ages with unrelenting rhythmical erosive action, we are perhaps the first to notice this dark basalt with its liquid turquoise in its centre, we admire its beauty and we praise the Eternal Father Who wanted it to delight our eyes and to refresh the birds that nest in the vicinity. But tell Me. Was it perhaps the first drop that leaked under the basaltic ledge above the rock and fell from that height on this block, was it that drop that excavated the cup which reflects the sky, the sun, clouds and stars? No. Millions and millions of drops have followed one another, leaking through like tears up there, sparkling as they descended to strike the rock and dying on it with the note of a harp, and excavated the hard material for so tiny a depth that is immeasurable. And thus for ages, marking the time like a sand-glass, so many drops an hour, so many during a watch, so many between dawn and sunset, and between night and daybreak, so many a day, so many from Sabbath to Sabbath, so many from new moon to new moon, so many from Nisan to Nisan, and from one century to the next one. The rock resisted, the drop persisted. Man, who is proud and thus impatient and lazy, would have thrown away mallet and gouge after the first strokes saying: "It cannot be scooped out". The drop excavated it. It was what it had to do. What it was created for. And it groaned, one drop after the other, for ages, until it hollowed out the rock. And afterwards it did not stop, saying: "Now the sky will see to nourishing the cup, which I excavated, with dews and rain, with frost and snow". But it continued to drop and by itself it fills the tiny cup during the warm summer months, during the rigours of winter, while pelting or drizzling rains wrinkle the sheet of water but cannot embellish or widen or deepen it, because it is already full, useful and beautiful. The spring knows that its daughters, the drops, go to die in the little basin, but does not hold them back. On the contrary it urges them towards their sacrifice, and to avoid them being left alone and becoming sad, it sends new sisters after them, so that the dying ones are not lonely and they see themselves perpetuated in the others. Likewise, being the first to strike the solid fortresses of hardened hearts thousands of times and being perpetuated in My successors, whom I will send until the end of time, I will open a way into them and My Law will enter like a sun wherever there are human creatures. If they refuse the Light and close the ways opened with unexhausted work, My successors and I will not be guilty in the eyes of our Father. If that spring of water had followed a different course, seeing the hardness of the rock, and had fallen in drops farther away, where the soil is covered with grass, tell Me, would we have that shining gem, and would the birds have that clear refreshment? »
«No, it would not have even been seen, Master »; «At most... some grass, thicker also in summer, would have indicated the spot where the spring dripped »; «Or also... less grass than elsewhere, as its roots rotted in the perpetual dampness»; «And slush. Nothing else. Thus a useless trickle.»
«You are right. Useless, or at least worthless. I also would accomplish an imperfect task, if I were to prefer only those places where hearts are willing to accept Me out of justice or fondness. Because I would work but without any fatigue, nay, with great satisfaction of My ego, with a complaisant compromise between duty and pleasure. It is not toilsome to work where one is surrounded by love and where love makes souls ductile to work on. But if there is no fatigue there is no merit, neither is there much profit because few conquests are made if one limits oneself to those who are already in justice. I would not be Myself if I did not try to redeem all men first to the Truth and then to Grace.»
«And do You think that You will succeed? What else can You do in addition to what You have already done to persuade Your enemies to accept Your word? What, if not even the resurrection of the man in Bethany has served to make the Jews say that You are the Messiah of God? »
«I have still something greater to do, something much greater than that.»
«When, Lord? »
«When the moon of Nisan will be full. Pay attention then.»
«Will there be a sign in the sky? They say that when You were born the sky made it known by means of lights, songs and unusual stars.»
«It is true. To tell men that the Light had come to the world. Then, in Nisan, there will be signs in the sky and on the earth, and it will seem to be the end of the world, because of the darkness and the shaking and the roaring of thunder in the firmament and of the earthquakes in the opened bowels of the Earth. But it will not be the end. On the contrary, it will be the beginning. Previously, when I came, Heaven gave birth to the Saviour for men, and as it was a deed of God, peace was the companion of the event. At Nisan the Earth, of its own free‑will, will give birth to the Redeemer for itself, and as it will be a deed of men, peace will not be its companion. But there will be a dreadful convulsion. And in the horror of the hour of the century and of hell, the Earth will tear its bosom under the burning arrows of divine wrath, and will shout its will, too inebriated to understand its purport, too strongly possessed by Satan to stop it. Like a mad woman in labour, it will think it is destroying the fruit believed to be cursed, and will not understand that it is instead rising it thus to places where neither sorrow nor snares will reach it. The tree, the new tree, will then spread out its branches all over the Earth, for ever and ever, and He Who is speaking to you will be acknowledged, either with love or with hatred, as the true Son of God and the Messiah of the Lord. And woe to those who will recognise Him without admitting it and without being converted to Me.»
«Where will that happen, Lord? »
«In Jerusalem. It is the city of the Lord.»
«So we shall not be there because in the month of Nisan we have to stay here for Passover. We are faithful to our Temple.»
«It would be better if you were faithful to the living Temple that is neither on the Moria nor on the Gerizim, but being divine, is universal. But I can wait for your hour, when you will love God and His Messiah in spirit and truth.»
«We believe that You are the Christ. That is why we love You.»
«To love is to leave the past and enter My present time. You do not love me perfectly yet.»
The Samaritans look at one another stealthily without speaking. Then one of them says: «For Your sake, to come to You, we would do it. But even if we wanted, we cannot enter where there are Judaeans. You know that. They do not want us...»
«And you do not want them. But be at peace. Before long there will no longer be two regions, two Temples, two opposed opinions, but one people only, one Temple only, one faith only for all those eager for the Truth. But I will leave now. The children by now have been comforted and their attention has been distracted; and long is My way back to Ephraim to arrive there before it gets dark. Do not become excited. Your behaviour might attract the attention of the little ones, and it is better if they do not notice My departure. Go on, I am stopping here. May the Lord guide you along the paths of the Earth and on those of His Way. Go.»
Jesus draws close to the mountain and lets them go away. The last thing that is noticed, of the caravan going back to Shechem, is a child's joyful laughter that spreads along the silent mountain way.
557. Pilgrims Arrive in Ephraim from the Decapolis. Manaen's Secret
22nd January 1947.
The news that Jesus is in Ephraim, either because the citizens themselves have boasted about it, or for some other reason unknown to me, must have spread because many people come now looking for Jesus: mostly sick people, some distressed people and also some who wish to see Him. I realise that because I hear the Iscariot say to a group of pilgrims who have come from the Decapolis: «The Master is not here. But John and I are here and it is the same thing. So tell us what you want and we will please you.»
«But you will never be able to teach what He teaches » says one protesting.
«We are His representatives and are just like Him, man. Always bear that in mind. But if you really want to hear the Master come back before the Sabbath and go away after it. The Master now is a true Master. He no longer speaks in all the streets, in woods or rocky mountains like a stray, and at all hours like a servant. He speaks on the Sabbath here, as befits Him. And He is right, considering what He gained by wearing Himself out with fatigue and love! »
«But it is not our fault if the Judaeans...»
«Everybody! Everybody! Both Judaeans and non Judaeans! You are all alike and will always be so. He has given you everything. You have given Him nothing. He gives. You do not give; not even the mite that one gives a beggar.»
«But we have an offering for Him. Here it is, if you do not believe us.»
John who has been silent all the time, but with evident embarrassment, looking at Judas with eyes that implore and reproach, or rather admonish him, can no longer be silent. And when Judas is already stretching out his hand to take the offering, he lays his hand on his companion's arm to hold him back and says to him: «No, Judas. Don't. You know the Master's order » and he addresses the pilgrims saying: «Judas has explained himself badly and you have misunderstood him. That is not what my companion meant. It is only an offering of sincere faith, of loyal love that we, I, my companions, you, everybody must give for what the Master gives us. When we travelled around Palestine, He accepted your offerings because they were necessary for our journeys and because we met with many beggars, or we became acquainted with concealed miseries. Now, here, we need nothing ‑ may Providence be praised for that ‑ and we do not meet with beggars. Keep your offering and give it to distressed people in Jesus' name. That is the desire of our Lord and Master, and the order He gives to those among us who go evangelizing through the various towns. If you have sick people with you or anyone really needs to speak to the Master, tell us. And I will look for Him where He withdraws to pray, as His spirit is eager to collect its thoughts in the Lord.»
Judas grumbles something between his teeth but he does not contradict openly. He sits beside the fireplace in which the fire has been lit, as if he wished to take no further interest in the matter.
«Actually... we are not in need of anything special. But We heard that He was here and we crossed the river to come and see Him. But if we have done wrong...»
«No, brothers. It is not wrong to love Him and look for Him also by going to a lot of trouble and fatigue. And your good will will be rewarded. I will go and tell the Lord that you are here and He will certainly come. And if He should not come I will bring you His blessing.» And John goes out into the kitchen garden to go and look for the Master.
«Never mind! I will go » says Judas imperiously and he stands up and runs out.
John looks at him go away and does not make any objection. He goes back into the kitchen where the pilgrims are thronged. But almost at once he suggests: «Shall we go and meet the Master? »
«But if He did not want...»
«Oh! Please do not attach importance to a misunderstanding. You are certainly aware of the reasons why we are here. It is other people who compel the Master to take these measures of restraint, it is not according to His will or His heart. He is always as fond of you all as ever.»
«We know that. On the first days after the ban was announced publicly everybody was looking for Him beyond the Jordan and wherever they thought He might be. At Bethabara, at Bethany, at Pella and at Ramoth‑Gilead and also farther away. And we know that the same happened in Judaea and in Galilee. The houses of His friends were closely watched because... if many are His friends and disciples, many are also those who are not such, and who think they serve the Most High by persecuting the Master. Then searches suddenly stopped and the rumor spread that He was here.»
«But who told you? »
«My companions? Where? »
«No. None of them. They were different, new ones, because we never saw them with the Master or with the old disciples. In fact we were surprised that He should send people unknown to us to tell us where He was, then we thought that He might have done it because the new people were not known to the Judaeans as His disciples.»
«I do not know what the Master will say to you. But I think that as from now on you should listen only to the familiar disciples. Be prudent. Everybody in this country knows what happened to the Baptist...»
«Do you think that...»
«If John, who was hated only by one woman, was captured and killed, what will happen to Jesus, Who is hated both by the Royal Palace and the Temple, as well as by Pharisees, scribes, priests and Herodians? So be on the alert, so that later you may not have to repent... But here He comes. Let us go and meet Him...»
It is the dead of night. A moonless but starry night. I could not say what time it is as I cannot see the position or the phase of the moon. I can only see that it is a clear night. The whole of Ephraim has disappeared in the black veil of the night. The torrent also is only a noise, nothing else. Its foaming and sparkling have completely disappeared under the green vault of the trees on its banks as they hinder the faint light of the stars.
A night bird is moaning somewhere. Then it becomes silent because of the rustling noise of broken branches and reeds, a noise that comes nearer and nearer the house following the torrent and coming from the mountain side. Then a tall strong figure comes up from the bank on to the path that climbs towards the house. It stops for a moment as if it wanted to find its bearings. It grazes the wall groping with its hands. It finds the door. It touches it lightly and goes on. Still groping it turns the corner of the house, and proceeds as far as the little gate of the kitchen garden. It feels it, opens it, pushes it and goes in. It now skims the walls along the kitchen garden. It is perplexed at the kitchen door. It then proceeds as far as the outside staircase, it climbs it gropingly and sits on the last step, a dark shade in the shadow. But over there, to the east, the colour of the night sky ‑ a dark velarium that is recognised for what it is only through the stars studding it ‑ is beginning to change its shade, that is, it takes a hue that the eye can perceive as such: a slate‑grey that looks like thick smoky fog and is nothing but the first light of dawn coming forth. And it is the new daily miracle of light slowly coming back.
The person that was crouched on the step, a heap covered with a dark mantle, moves, stretches its arms, raises its head drawing its mantle behind it. It is Manaen. Dressed like an ordinary man in a heavy brown tunic and mantle of the same colour. A rough cloth, as workers or pilgrims wear, without ornaments, buckles or belts. An interlaced woollen cord tightens the garment at his waist. He stands up and stretches himself. He looks at the sky, where the advancing light enables the surroundings to be seen.
A door downstairs opens squeaking. Manaen leans out without making any noise to see who is coming out of the house. It is Jesus, Who cautiously closes the door again and moves towards the staircase. Manaen withdraws a little and clears his throat to attract the attention of Jesus, Who looks up, stopping half‑way up the staircase.
«It is I, Master, Manaen. Come quickly because I must speak to You. I have been waiting for You...» whispers Manaen and he bows to greet Jesus.
Jesus climbs the last steps: «Peace to you. When did you come? How? Why?» He asks.
«I think I set foot here immediately after the cock's crowing. But I was in the bushes, down there at the bottom, at the second watch.»
«All night in the open air! »
«It could not be done any other way. I had to speak to You by myself. I had to know which way to come, which was the house, without being seen. So I came by day and I hid in the wood up there. I saw life calm down in town. I saw Judas and John go into the house. Nay, John passed very close to me with his load of firewood, but he did not see me because I was well concealed in the thick of the wood. While there was sufficient light to see, I saw an old woman go in and come out of the house, and the fire blaze in the kitchen, and I saw You descend from here in the deepening twilight. Then the house was closed. Then I came here in the light of the new moon and I studied the road. I also entered the kitchen garden. The little gate is more useless than no gate at all. I heard your voices. But I had to speak to You alone. I went away to come back here at the third watch and be here. I know that You usually get up before daybreak to pray. And I was hoping that You would do the same today. I praise the Most High that it is so.»
«But why had you to see Me with so much trouble? »
«Master, Joseph and Nicodemus want to speak to You and they are thinking of doing it in such a way as to elude everybody's surveillance. They made other attempts, but Beelzebub must be helping Your enemies very much. In each occasion they had to give up coming, because their houses and that of Nike were continuously watched. Actually the woman was to come before me. She is a strong woman and she had set out by herself towards mount Adummim. But they followed her and stopped her at the Bloody slope (1), and in order not to reveal Your abode and to justify the foodstuffs she had on her mount, she said: "I am going up to one of my brothers who is in a grotto in the mountains. If you wish to come, as you teach the doctrine of God, you will accomplish a holy deed, because he is ill and in need of God". And with her daring she convinced them to go away. But she did not dare to come here any more and she really went to see one who she says lives in a grotto and was entrusted to her by You.»
«That is true. But then, how was Nike able to let the others know? »
«By going to Bethany. Lazarus is not there. But his sisters are. Mary is there. And is Mary a woman to be frightened of anything? She dressed herself perhaps more sumptuously than Judith did to go to the king, and she went to the Temple publicly with Sarah and Naomi and then to her mansion in Zion. And from there she sent Naomi to Joseph with the necessary information. And while... the Jews cunningly went or sent people to her house to... honour her, and everybody could see her, the mistress of the house, old Naomi wearing modest clothes went to Bezetha to inform the Elder. It was then agreed that I should come, as I am the nomad who does not rouse suspicion if I am seen riding at full gallop from one of Herod's dwelling places to another, to tell You that on Friday night Joseph and Nicodemus, the former coming from Arimathea, the latter from Ramah, will meet before sunset at Gofenà and will wait for You there. I know the place and the road and I will come here in the evening to take You there. You can trust me. But trust me only, Master. Joseph begs You not to let anybody know that we are meeting. In everybody's interest.»
«Yours also, Manaen? »
«Lord... I am I. But I have no wealth or family interests to protect as Joseph has.»
«And that confirms My statement that material riches are always a burden... But you can tell Joseph that no one will be informed of our meeting.»
«I can go, then, Master. The sun has risen and Your disciples may get up. »
«You may go, and God be with you. I will come with you to show you the spot where we shall meet on Friday night...»
(1) A spot on Mount Adummim was called «Bloody slope » because of the crimes committed there by highwaymen.
They go downstairs without making any noise and they go out of the kitchen garden and descend at once to the banks of the torrent.
558. The Secret Meeting with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
23rd January 1947.
The road taken by Manaen to lead Jesus to the place where He is expected is really a difficult one. A mountain road, narrow, covered with stones, running through maquis and woods. A very bright moonlight, in the first phase of the moon, can hardly penetrate the tangle of branches and at times it disappears completely, and Manaen makes up for the lack of light with torches that he has prepared and brought with him carrying them baldricwise like weapons under his mantle. He leads the way, Jesus follows him and they proceed in silence in the dead of the night. Two or three times a wild animal running in the wood simulates the noise of steps, which makes Manaen stop suspiciously. But apart from that nothing else disturbs their journey, which is toilsome by itself.
«Look, Master. That is Gofenà over there. Now let us go round here. I shall count three hundred steps and we shall be at the grottoes where they have been waiting for us since sunset. Did You find the journey a long one? And yet we have taken short cuts that I think have complied with the legal distance.»
Jesus makes a gesture meaning: «We could not do it any other way.»
Manaen does not speak any more, intent as he is on counting his steps. They are now in a barren rocky corridor, like an ascending cavern, between the two mountain faces that almost touch each other. One would say that it is a fracture brought about by a cataclysm, so strange it looks. A huge knife‑wound in the mountain rock, splitting one third of it from its summit. High above, beyond the sheer mountain faces, beyond the tossing branches of the trees that have grown on the edge of the huge cut, the stars are shining, but the moon gives no light down here, in this abyss. The smoky light of the torch awakes birds of prey, that cheep flapping their wings on the edges of their nests among the fissures.
Manaen says: «Here we are! » and he utters a cry similar to the wailing of a big owl, towards a cleft in the rocky slope.
Moving from the other end a reddish light comes forth along another rocky corridor, the upper part of which is closed like a lobby. Joseph appears: «The Master? » he asks not seeing Jesus Who is a little behind.
«I am here, Joseph. Peace to you.»
«Peace to You. Come! Come. We lit a fire to see snakes and scorpions and to warm the place. I will show You the way.»
He turns round and along the undulations of the path in the bowels of the mountain he leads them towards a place lit up by flames. Near a fire there is Nicodemus who is throwing branches and junipers on it.
«Peace to you, too, Nicodemus. Here I am with you. Speak.»
«Master, has anybody noticed Your coming? »
«Who on earth could, Nicodemus? »
«Are Your disciples not with You? »
«John and Judas of Simon are with Me. The others are evangelizing from the day after the Sabbath to sunset on Fridays. But I left the house before midday telling them not to wait for Me before dawn on the day after the Sabbath. I am too accustomed by now to being absent for several hours to rouse suspicion in anybody. So you need not worry. We have plenty time to talk without worrying about being caught. The place here... is propitious.»
«Yes. Nests of snakes and vultures... and of highwaymen in the good season, when these mountains are full of herds. But nowadays highwaymen prefer other places from which to descend suddenly on folds and caravan tracks. We are sorry that we dragged You so far. But we shall be able to depart from here taking different roads, without attracting anybody's attention. Because, Master, the attention of the Sanhedrin is directed wherever they suspect that You are loved.»
«Well, I disagree with Joseph with regard to that. I think that we now see ghosts where there are none. I also think that the situation has calmed very much these last days...» says Nicodemus.
«You are wrong, my friend. I tell you. It has calmed down because there is no spur to look for the Master, because now they know where He is. That is why He is being watched, and we are not. And that is why I begged Him not to tell anybody that we were going to meet. So that no one might be ready... for anything » says Joseph.
«I don't think that the people of Ephraim...» remarks Manaen.
«Neither the people of Ephraim or anybody else from Samaria. For the only purpose of doing the opposite of what we do on the other side...»
«No, Joseph, not for that. But because they do not have in their hearts the evil serpent that you have. They are not afraid of being despoiled of any prerogative. They have no sectarian or caste interests to defend. They have nothing but an instinctive need to feel that they are loved and forgiven by Him Whom their ancestors offended and Whom they continue to offend by remaining outside the perfect Religion. Outside because, as they are as proud as you are, neither part can lay aside the hatred dividing them and stretch their hands in the name of the Only Father. Even if they had so much good will, you would demolish it. Because you cannot forgive. You cannot say, trampling on all foolishness: "The past is dead because the Prince of the future Century has risen and He gathers us all under His Sign". I have in fact come and I gather. But you! Oh! for you, also what I considered worthy of being gathered is always anathema! »
«You are severe with us, Master.»
«I am just. Can you perhaps say that you do not reproach Me, in your hearts, for some of My deeds? Can you say that you approve of My mercy being the same for Judaeans and Galileans as for Samaritans and Gentiles, nay, even greater for the latter and for big sinners, just because they are in greater need of it? Can you say that you would not expect gestures of violent majesty from Me in order to manifest My supernatural origin, and above all, mind you, and above all, to manifest My mission of Messiah according to your idea of the Messiah? Speak the real truth: apart from the joy of your hearts for the resurrection of your friend, would you not have preferred to such joy that I should have arrived in Bethany as a handsome cruel warrior, as our ancestors were with the Amorites and the Bashanites, and as Joshua was with the people of Ai and of Jericho, or better still: making stones and walls collapse on My enemies with My voice, as Joshua's trumpets did with the walls of Jericho, or drawing huge stones on My enemies from Heaven as it happened on the descent of Beth‑horon still in the days of Joshua or, as in more recent times, calling celestial knights galloping through the air, in cloth of gold, troops of lancers fully armed, squadrons of cavalry in order of battle, attacks and charges this way and that, a flourish of shields and armies with helmets brandishing swords and hurling missiles to terrorise My enemies? Yes, that is what you would have preferred because, although you love Me very much, your love is still impure, and it is kindled, in wishing what is not holy, by your thoughts of Israelites, by your old thoughts. What is in Gamaliel as well as in the last man in Israel, what is in the High Priest, in the Tetrarch, in the peasant, in the shepherd, in the nomad, in the man of the Diaspora. The fixed idea of the Messiah conqueror. The nightmare of those who are afraid of being crushed by Him. The hope of those who love the Fatherland with the violence of human love. The eagerness of those who are oppressed under foreign powers, in foreign countries. It is not your fault. The pure concept, as had been given by God with regard to what I am, has been covered, throughout centuries, with layers of useless scum. And only few know how to take the Messianic idea back to its initial purity, and they do so through their own sufferings. And now, as the time is close when the sign, which Gamaliel is expecting, and the whole of Israel with him, is to be given, and now that the time of My perfect manifestation is drawing closer, Satan is working to deteriorate your love and to adulterate your thoughts. His hour is now coming. I tell you. And, in that hour of darkness, also those who at present can see or are only a little blind, will be completely blind. Only few, very few people will recognise the Messiah in the demolished Man. Only few will recognise Him as the true Messiah, exactly because He will be demolished as the prophets saw Him. For the sake of My friends, I would like them to be able to see Me and know Me, while it is still daytime, so that they may recognise Me and see Me also when I am disfigured and in the darkness of the hour of the world... But tell Me now what you wanted to tell Me. Time passes quickly and it will soon be dawn. I am saying this for your sake, because I am not afraid of any dangerous encounter.»
«Well. We wanted to tell You that someone must have said where You are and that someone is certainly not I or Nicodemus, or Manaen, or Lazarus, or his sisters, or Nike. To whom else have You spoken of the place You chose for Your shelter? »
«To nobody, Joseph.»
«Are You sure? »
«And did You tell Your disciples not to mention it? »
«Before departing I did not speak to them of the place. When we arrived in Ephraim I told them to go and evangelize and to act in My stead. And I am sure of their obedience.»
«And... Are You alone in Ephraim? »
«No. I am with John and Judas of Simon. I have already told you. He, Judas, as I can read his thoughts, cannot have done any harm to Me, through his heedlessness, because he never left the town, and in these days no pilgrims from other places pass through it.»
«Then... it is really Beelzebub that has spoken. Because at the Sanhedrin they know that You are there.»
«So? What are their reactions to My behaviour? »
«Several, Master. And very different. Some say that it is logical. Since they banned You from the holy places, You had no option but to take shelter in Samaria. Others instead maintain that this proves what You are: a Samaritan in Your soul, even more than by race, and that that is enough to condemn You. And they all exult at having been successful in reducing You to silence and at being able to point You out to the crowds as a friend of the Samaritans. They are saying: "We have already won the battle. The rest will be child's play". But we beg You, do not allow that to happen.»
«It will not happen. Let them speak. Those who love Me will not be upset by appearances. Allow the wind to drop completely. It is a wind of the earth. Then the wind of Heaven will blow, the velarium will open and the glory of God will appear. Have you anything else to tell Me? »
«No, nothing concerning You. Be on the alert, be careful, do not leave the place where You are now. And we will keep You informed...»
«No. It is not necessary. Stay where you are. I shall soon have the women disciples with Me and, yes, tell Eliza and Nike to join the other women disciples, if they so wish. Tell the two sisters as well. As My place is now known, those who are not afraid of the Sanhedrin can now come for our reciprocal comfort.»
«The two sisters cannot come until Lazarus comes back. He left with much pomp, and everybody in Jerusalem knew that he was going to his remote estates, but it is not known when he will come back. But his servant has already come back from Nazareth and he said ‑ and we must tell You also this ‑ he said that Your Mother will be here with the other women disciples before the end of this moon. She is well and so is Mary of Alphaeus. The servant saw them. But they are delaying a little because Johanna wants to come with them, but she cannot until the end of this moon. And then... well, if You will allow us, we would like to help You... as faithful friends even if... imperfect as You say.»
«No. The disciples who go around evangelizing, every Friday evening bring what is necessary for them and for us who remain in Ephraim. Nothing else is required. A workman lives on his wages. That is fair. The rest would be superfluous. Give it to some poor wretch. That is what I told also those in Ephraim and My apostles. My instructions are that when they come back they must not have one farthing left over and that on their way they must give away all the offerings, keeping for us only what is necessary for our very frugal food for one week.»
«Why, Master? »
«To teach them detachment from riches and the superiority of the spirit over the worries of the morrow. And for that and for other good reasons of Mine as a Master, I ask you not to insist.»
«As You wish. But we are sorry that we cannot help You.»
«The day will come when you will do that... Is that not the first light of dawn?» He says looking eastwards, that is to the side opposite to the one He came, and pointing at a timid gleam that becomes visible on remote backgrounds.
«It is. We must part. I am going back to Gofenà where I left my horse, and Nicodemus will go down on this other side towards Beeroth, and from there to Ramah, when the Sabbath is over.»
«And what about you, Manaen? »
«Oh! Without hiding myself I will go along the main roads towards Jericho, where Herod is now. My horse is in the house of some poor people who for a mite do not loathe anything, not even a Samaritan, as they believe me to be. But I am staying with You just now. In my bag I have food for two.»
«Well, let us say goodbye. We shall meet again at Passover.»
«No! You are not going to put Yourself to that test! » say Joseph and Nicodemus. «Don't do that, Master! »
«You are really bad friends, because you are advising Me to commit sin and to be cowardly. Would you then be able to love Me, considering what I had done? Tell Me. Be sincere. Where should I go and worship the Lord at the Passover of the Unleavened Bread? Perhaps on Mount Gerizim? Or should I not appear before the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem, as every male must do at the three great yearly festivities? Do you not remember that they are already accusing Me of not respecting the Sabbath, although ‑ and Manaen can witness this ‑ even today, to satisfy your request, I departed in the evening from a place that conciliated your desire with the sabbatic law? »
«We also stopped at Gofenà for that reason... We will offer a sacrifice to expiate an involuntary transgression brought about by a motive that could not be derogated from. But You, Master!... They will see You at once...»
«Even if they should not see Me, I will try to make them see Me.»
«You want to ruin Yourself! It is the same as if You committed suicide...»
«No. Your minds are enveloped in darkness. It is not the same as if I wanted to kill Myself, it is only obedience to the voice of My Father Who says to Me: "Go. It is Your hour". I have always endeavoured to reconcile the Law with necessities, also on the day that I had to flee from Bethany and take refuge at Ephraim because it was not My hour to be caught. The Lamb of Salvation can only be sacrificed at the Passover of the Unleavened Bread. And if I behaved thus for the Law, do you want Me to do otherwise with regard to the order of My Father? Go, you may go! Do not grieve thus. And why did I come, if it was not that I should be proclaimed the King of all peoples? Because that is the meaning of "Messiah", is it not? Yes, that is what it means. And "Redeemer" also means that. The only trouble is that the meaning of these two words does not correspond to what you fancy. But I bless you, imploring a celestial ray to descend upon you with My blessing. Because I love you and you love Me. Because I would like your justice to be entirely bright. Because you are not wicked, but you, too, are "Old Israel", and you do not have the heroic will to despoil yourselves of the past and become new. Goodbye, Joseph. Be just. Just like him who was My guardian for so many years and who was capable of every renovation to serve the Lord his God. If he were here, among us, oh! how he would teach you to serve the Lord perfectly, to be just, just, just. But it is right that he should already be in Abraham's bosom!... In order not to see the injustice of Israel. Holy servant of God!... A new Abraham, with a broken heart, but with perfect will, he would not have advised Me to be cowardly, but he would have spoken the words that he used to utter when anything painful weighed heavily on us: "Let us raise our spirits. We shall meet the yes of God and we shall forget that it is men who grieve us. And let us do whatever is burdensome, as if the Most High presented it to us. In this way we shall sanctify also the least things, and God will love us". Oh! He would have said so also to comfort Me to suffer the deepest sorrows... He would have comforted us... Oh! My Mother!...»
Jesus releases Joseph whom He had clasped in His arms and He lowers His head remaining silent, undoubtedly contemplating His imminent martyrdom and that of His poor Mother... He then raises His head and embraces Nicodemus saying: «The first time you came to Me as a secret disciple, I told you that to enter the Kingdom of God and to have the Kingdom of God in you it is necessary for your spirits to be born again and for you to love the Light more than the world loves it. Today, and this is perhaps the last time we shall meet secretly, I repeat the same words to you. Be born again in your spirit, Nicodemus, to be able to love the Light, which I am, and I may dwell in you as King and Saviour. Go now. And God be with you.»
The two members of the Sanhedrin go away in the opposite direction to the one in which Jesus came. When the noise of their steps has faded away, Manaean, who had gone to the entrance of the grotto to see them go away, comes back and with an expressive countenance he says: «And for once they will be the ones who infringe the Sabbatic law! And they will have no peace until they settle their debt with the Eternal Father by sacrificing an animal! Would it not be better for them to sacrifice their tranquillity by declaring themselves "Your disciples" openly? Would that not be more pleasing to the Most High? »
«It would certainly be. But do not judge them. They are doughs that rise slowly. But at the right moment, when many, who think they are better than they are, collapse, they will rise against the whole world.»
«Are You referring to me, Lord? Please take my life, but do not let me deny You.»
«You will not deny Me. But there are constituents in you, different from theirs, and they will help you to be faithful.»
«Yes, I am... the Herodian. That is: I was the Herodian. Because as I turned my back on the Council, so I turned my back on the party, when I saw it was vile and unfair towards You just like the others. To be a Herodian!... To the other castes it means being little less than a heathen. I do not mean that we are saints. That is true. For an impure purpose we committed impurity. I am speaking as if I were still the Herodian I was before being Your disciple. According to human opinion, therefore, we are twice impure, because we are the allies of the Romans, and because we did it for our own profit. But tell me, Master, as You always speak the truth and never refrain from it for fear of losing a friend. Between us who have entered into an alliance with Rome to... have fleeting personal triumphs and the Pharisees, the Chief Priests, the scribes, the Sadducees, who enter into an alliance with Satan to crush You, which are more impure? I, see? Now that I have realised that the party of the Herodians is siding with Your enemies, I left it. I am not telling You to be praised by You, but to tell You what I think. And they, I mean the Pharisees and priests, the scribes and Sadducees, are convinced of getting a profit out of this sudden alliance of the Herodians with them! The wretches! They do not know that the Herodians do it to gain more merits, and thus greater protection from the Romans, and later... once the cause and the reason joining them are defined and finished, they will demolish those with whom they now form an alliance. And they trifle with each other like that. Everything is based on deceit. And that disgusts me so much that I have made myself completely independent. You... You are a great frightening ghost. For everybody! And You are also the pretence for the foul game of the various parties' interests. The religious motive? The sacred indignation for the "blasphemer", as they call You? It's nothing but lies! The only motive is neither the defence of Religion, nor the sacred zeal for the Most High, but their greedy, insatiable interests. They make me sick like filthy things. And I would like... Yes, I would like the few who are not corrupt to be more daring. Ah! A double life is troublesome to me now! I would like to follow You alone. But I can serve You better thus than if I followed You. It's a burden to me... But You say that it will soon be... What... But will You really be sacrificed as the Lamb? But is it not figurative language? The life of Israel is woven with symbols and figures...»
«And you would like it to be so for Me... But Mine is not a figure.»
«Is it not? Are You really sure? I could... Many of us could repeat ancient gestures and have You anointed Messiah, and defend You. One word would suffice and the defenders of the holy wise Pontiff would rise in thousands and thousands. I do not mean an earthly king, as I now know that Your Kingdom is entirely spiritual. But as we shall never again be humanly free and strong, let at least Your holiness support and heal corrupt Israel. No one, as You are aware, loves the present priesthood and those supporting it. Do You want that, Lord? Tell me, and I will do it.»
«You have already gone a long way with your thought, Manaen. But you are still as far from your goal as the Earth is from the sun. I will be Priest, and for ever, immortal Pontiff in an organism that I will enliven to the end of time. But I shall not be anointed with the oil of delight, neither shall I be proclaimed and defended by the gestures of violence brought about by a handful of believers to throw our Fatherland into a wild schism and make it more enslaved than it ever was. And do you think that the hand of a man can anoint the Christ? I solemnly tell you that it cannot. The true Authority that will anoint Me Pontiff and Messiah is that of Him Who sent Me. No other person, who is not God, could anoint God as King of kings and Lord of lords, for ever.»
«So, nothing!? There is nothing we can do!? How grieved I am! »
«Everything, by loving Me. It is everything. By loving not the person whose name is Jesus, but what Jesus is. By loving Me with your humanity and your spirit, as I love you with Spirit and Humanity, in order to be with Me beyond Humanity. Look how beautiful is, dawn. The quiet light of the stars did not shine in here. But the triumphant light of the sun does. The same will happen in the hearts of those who succeed in loving Me with justice. Come outside, in the silence of the mountain, clear of the hoarse human voices of interests. Look over there at those eagles, how with wide flights they soar away in search of prey. Can we see that prey? No, we cannot, but they can. Because the eyes of an eagle are more powerful than ours and from above where they rove, they can see a wide horizon and can choose. I do the same. I see what you cannot see, and from above where it hovers, My spirit can choose My sweet preys. Not to tear them to pieces as vultures and eagles do, but to take them with Me. We shall be so happy there, in the Kingdom of My Father, we who loved each other!...»
And Jesus, Who while speaking has gone outside to sit in the sun at the entrance of the grotto, embraces Manaen, who was beside Him, and He smiles silently at I do not know which vision...
559. The Saphorim Samuel.
5th February 1947.
Jesus is alone. He is still in the grotto. A fire is lit to give light and warmth, and a strong smell of resins and leafy branches spreads in the cavern amid crackling and sparks. Jesus has withdrawn to the end, in a recess where dry branches have been thrown and He is meditating. The flames waver now and again, they abate and brighten up successively because of gusts of wind blowing through the woods and howling upon entering the cavern that resounds like a bugle‑horn. It is not a steady wind. It drops, then it rises like long sea waves. When it whistles louder, ashes and dry leaves are blown towards the narrow rocky corridor through which Jesus has come into the larger part of the grotto, and the flames bend lapping the floor on that side, then, when the gush of the wind drops, they rise again, still sparkling, and they resume shining straight upwards. Jesus pays no attention to them. He is meditating. The sound of the wind is joined by the fall of rain that patters, at first lightly then heavily, on the leafy boughs of the underwood. A real downpour soon changes the paths on the slopes into little roaring torrents. The noise of the water is now the prevailing one as the wind has slowly dropped. The very faint light of the stormy twilight, and that of the fire, which is reddish but does no longer blaze, for want of fuel, scarcely light up the cavern and the corners are in darkness. Jesus, dressed in dark robes as He is, can no longer be seen; only when He lifts His head, which is bent on His raised knees, it is possible to see a faint gleam against the dark wall.
Outside the grotto, on the path there is the noise of steps and of anxious words, as if they were uttered by someone who is tired and weary. Then in the empty space at the entrance, a dark shadow is outlined dripping water on all sides. The man, because it is a man with a heavy dark beard, utters an «oh! » of relief and throws his drenched headgear on the floor, he shakes his mantle and says to himself: «H'm! Samuel, you can give it a good shaking! It seems to have dropped into a fulling‑mill! And my sandals? Boats! Boats sunk in a river! I am drenched to the skin! Look how my hair is dripping! I look like a broken roof gutter leaking through a thousand holes. It's a good start! Is perhaps Beelzebub on His side defending Him? H'm! It's a beautiful stake... but...» He sits on a stone near the fire, in which, as the flame is dead, there are reddish embers forming the strange designs that are the last life of burnt out wood, and he tries to rekindle it by blowing on it. He takes off his sandals and tries to dry his muddy feet with the drier parts of the edge of his mantle. But it is the same as if he were drying himself with water. His effort serves only to remove the mud from his feet and put it on the mantle. He continues to speak to himself: «Cursed be they, He and everybody! And I lost also my bag. Of course! It's a good job I have not lost my life... "It's the safest road" they said. Certainly! But they don't take it! If I had not seen this fire! Who will have lit it? Some poor wretch like me. But where will he be now? There is a hole over there... Perhaps another grotto... They won't be highwaymen, will they? But... what a fool I am! What can they take off me if I have not got even a farthing? But it does not matter. This fire is worth more than a treasure. I wish I had some more branches to rekindle it! I would take my clothes off and dry them. Ho! I say! This is all I have until I go back!...»
«If you want more branches, My friend, there are some here » says Jesus without moving from His place.
The man, whose back was turned towards Jesus, starts at the sudden voice and jumps to his feet turning round. He looks frightened. «Who are you? » he asks, opening his eyes wide trying to see.
«A wayfarer like you. I lit the fire and I am glad it served to guide you.» Jesus approaches him with a bundle of sticks in His arms and He throws them near the fire saying: «Rekindle the flame before everything is covered with ash. I have neither flint nor tinder‑box because the man from whom I borrowed them went away after sunset.» Jesus speaks in a friendly way, but He does not come forward so that the fire may illuminate Him. On the contrary, He goes back to His corner and remains well enveloped in His mantle.
The man, in the meantime, bends to blow hard on some leaves he has thrown on the fire and he remains thus, busy, until the flame rises. He laughs throwing thicker and thicker branches that rekindle the fire. Jesus, sitting in His place, watches Him.
«I should now take my clothes off and let them dry. I prefer to be nude rather than be wet. But I cannot even do that. A slope slid down and I found myself under a fall of earth and water. Ah! I am settled now! Look! I have torn my tunic. Cursed journey! I wish I had infringed the Sabbath! I didn't! I stopped until sunset. Later... And what shall I do now? To save myself I let my bag go and now it will be down at the bottom of the valley or it will be entangled in some bush I wonder where...»
«Here is My tunic. It is dry and warm. My mantle is enough for Me. Take it. I am in good health. Be not afraid.»
«And You are good. A good friend. How can I thank You? »
«By loving Me as if I were your brother.»
«By loving You as is You were my brother! But You do not know who I am. And if I were wicked, would you wish to have my love? »
«I would, to make you good.»
The man, who is young, about the same age as Jesus, lowers his head, meditating. He is holding Jesus' garment in his hands, but he cannot see it. He is pensive. And he automatically slips it on over his bare skin because he has stripped himself completely, also of his vest.
Jesus, Who had gone back to His corner asks him: «When did you have some food? »
«At the sixth hour. I was to have a meal when I arrived in the village, down in the valley. But I lost my way, my bag and my money.»
«I have still some remnants of food here. I was to eat them tomorrow. Take them. Fasting is no burden to Me.»
«But... if You have to walk, You will need some stregth...»
«Oh! I am not going far. Only as far as Ephraim...»
«Ephraim?! Are You a Samaritan? »
«Does that irritate you? I am not a Samaritan.»
«In fact... Your accent is Galilean. Who are You? Why do You not uncover Your face? Have You to hide Yourself because You are guilty? I will not denounce You.»
«I am a wayfarer. I have already told you. My Name would mean nothing to you, or it would mean too much. In any case, what is a name? When I give you a garment for your frozen body, some food to appease your hunger, and above all My pity for your heart, do you need to know My Name to feel the comfort of dry clothes, of food and love? But if you wish to give Me a name, call Me "Pity". There is nothing disgraceful compelling Me to hide Myself. But not because of that you would give up denouncing Me. Because in your heart there is a bad thought. And bad thoughts yield fruits of evil deeds.»
The man starts and approaches Jesus. But only Jesus' eyes can be seen and they are almost veiled by His lowered eyelids.
«Take the food, My friend. There is nothing else to be done.»
The man goes back to the fire and begins to eat slowly, without speaking. He is pensive. Jesus is all curled up in His little corner. The man refreshes himself slowly. The warmth of the flames, the bread and roasted meat given to him by Jesus, make him happy. He stands up, he stretches himself, he lays the cord, which he used as a belt, from a rock splinter to a rusty hook, goodness knows who fixed it there and how long ago, and hangs his tunic, mantle, headgear to dry on it, he shakes his sandals and puts them near the fire, which he tends generously.
Jesus seems to be dozing. The man also sits down and is pensive. He then turns round to look at the Unknown Man. He asks: «Are You sleeping? »
Jesus replies: «No. I am thinking and praying.»
«For whom? »
«For all the unhappy people. Of every kind. And they are so many! »
«Are You a penitent? »
«I am a penitent. The Earth is in great need of repentance so that the weak living on it may be given strength to reject Satan.»
«You are right. You speak like a rabbi. I am a good judge because I am a saphorim. I am a disciple of rabbi Jonathan ben Uziel. His dearest disciple. And now, if the Most High helps me, I shall become even dearer to him. My name will be exalted all over Israel.»
Jesus does not reply.
The other man, after a few moments, stands up and sits near Jesus. With one hand he smooths his hair that is almost dry and tidies his beard saying: «Listen. You said that You are going to Ephraim. Are You going there just by chance, or do You live there? »
«I live in Ephraim.»
«But You are not a Samaritan, so You said! »
«I repeat it. I am not a Samaritan.»
«And who can live there if not... Listen: they say that the cursed outlawed Rabbi of Nazareth has taken shelter at Ephraim. Is it true? »
«It is true. Jesus, the Christ of the Lord, is there.»
«He is not the Christ of the Lord! He is a liar! He is a blasphemer! He is a demon! He is the cause of all our troubles. And no avenger of all the people rises to overthrow Him! » he exclaims with fanatic hatred.
«Has He perhaps done any harm to you, since you speak of Him with so much hatred in your voice? »
«Not to me. I saw Him just once at the feast of the Tabernacles, and in such a tumult, that I would find it difficult to recognise Him. Because, while it is true that I am a disciple of the great rabbi Jonathan ben Uziel, I have been at the Temple definitively only for a short time. Previously... I was not able for many reasons, and only when the rabbi was at home I used to sit at his feet to drink in justice and doctrine. But You... You asked me whether I hate Him, and I perceived a hidden reproach in Your words. Are You perhaps a follower of the Nazarene? »
«No, I am not. But hatred is condemned by anybody who is just.»
«Hatred is holy when it is against an enemy of God and of the Fatherland. The Nazarene Rabbi is such. And it is holy to fight Him and hate Him.»
«To fight the man or the idea that He represents and the doctrine that He proclaims? »
«Everything! Everything! You cannot fight one thing if you spare the other. In man there is his doctrine and his idea. You either overthrow everything, or it serves no purpose. When you embrace an idea, you embrace the man who represents it and his doctrine at the same time. I know because I experience that with my master. His ideas are mine. His wishes are my law.»
«In fact a good disciples behaves thus. But one must be able to tell whether the master is good, and follow only a good master. Because it is not lawful to lose one's soul for the love of a man.»
«Jonathan ben Uziel is good.»
«No. He is not.»
«What are You saying? And are You telling me? While we are here all alone and I could kill You to avenge my master? I am strong, You know? »
«I am not afraid. I am not afraid of violence. And I am not afraid as I know also that if you strike Me, I will not react.»
«Ah! I see! You are a disciple of the Rabbi, an "apostle". That is how He calls His most faithful disciples. And You are going to join Him. Perhaps the man who was with You was another one like You. And You are waiting for someone like You.»
«Yes, I am waiting for someone.»
«For the Rabbi, perhaps? »
«There is no need for Me to wait for Him. He does not need My word to be cured of His disease. His soul is not diseased, neither is His body. I am waiting for a poor soul that is poisoned and raving. To cure it.»
«You are an apostle! We know in fact that He sends them to evangelize as He is afraid to go Himself, since He was condemned by the Sanhedrin. That is why You follow His doctrine! It is His doctrine not to react against those who offend.»
«It is His doctrine because He teaches love, forgiveness, justice, meekness. He loves both enemies and friends. Because He sees everything in God.»
«Oh! If He should meet me, if, as I hope, I will meet Him, I don't think He will love me! It would be foolish of Him! But I cannot tell You, as You are His apostle. And I regret what I have already told You. You will inform Him.»
«There is no need. But I solemnly tell you that He will love you, nay, He loves you, notwithstanding that you are going to Ephraim to ensnare Him and hand Him over to the Sanhedrin, who have promised a large reward to whoever will do that.»
«Are You... a prophet or have You the python spirit? Has He transmitted His power to You? So You are cursed as well? And I accepted Your bread, your garment, You have been friendly to me! It is written: "You shall not raise your hand against your benefactor". You have done that! Because, if You knew that I... Perhaps to prevent me from acting? But if I spare You, because You have given me bread and salt, fire and clothes, and I would sin against justice by harming You, I will not spare Your Rabbi. Because I do not know Him, and He has not done me any good, but He has done me evil.»
«Oh! poor wretch! Do you not realise that you are raving? How can one whom you do not know have done evil to you? How can you respect the Sabbath, if you do not respect the precept not to kill?...»
«I do not kill.»
«Materially, you do not. But there is no difference between him who kills and him who hands the victim over to the killer. You respect the word of a man who says that you must not harm your benefactor, but you do not respect the word of God, and with a snare, for a handful of money, for a little honour, the filthy honour of being able to betray an innocent person, you are getting ready to commit a crime!...»
«I am not doing it just for the sake of money and honour. But to do something pleasing to Jehovah and beneficial to our Fatherland. I am repeating the gestures of Jael and Judith.» He is more fanatic than ever.
«Sisara and Holofernes were enemies of our Fatherland. They were invaders. They were cruel. But what is the Rabbi of Nazareth? What does He invade? What does he usurp? He is poor and He does not seek riches. He is humble and does not want honours. He is good. To everybody. Thousands of people have been assisted by Him. Why do you all hate Him? Why do you hate Him? It is not lawful to injure your neighbour. You serve the Sanhedrin. But will the Sanhedrin judge you in future life, or will God judge you? And how will He judge you? I do not mean: how will He judge you as killer of the Christ, but I mean: how will He judge you as killer of an innocent. You do not believe that the Rabbi of Nazareth is the Christ, and consequently, because of your belief that He is not, you will not be charged with that crime. God is just and He does not consider guilty an action accomplished without full knowledge. So He will not judge you for killing the Christ, because, as far as you are concerned, Jesus of Nazareth is not the Christ. But He will accuse you of killing an innocent. Because you know that He is innocent. They have poisoned you and by means of words of hatred they have intoxicated you, but not to the extent that you do not understand that He is innocent. His works speak in His favour. Your fear, and your masters are more frightened that their disciples, dreads and sees what does not exist. You are afraid that He may supplant you. Be not afraid. He stretches out His arms towards you saying: "Brothers"! He does not send soldiers against you. He does not curse you. He would only like to save you, both the great ones and their disciples, as He wishes to save the last person in Israel. And He wishes to save you, more than the least person in Israel, more than the child who does not yet know what are hatred and love. Because you are in greater need than ignorant people and children, because you know, and you knowingly sin. Can your conscience of a man, if you clear it of the ideas they have instilled into it, if you cleanse it of the poison that makes you rave, can it tell you that He is guilty? Tell Me. Be sincere. Have you ever seen Him infringe the Law, or advise people to infringe it? Have you ever seen Him being quarrelsome, greedy, lustful, hard‑hearted, have you heard Him utter slander? Speak up! Have you seen Him being disrespectful towards the Sanhedrin? He is living like an outlaw, in order to obey the verdict of the Sanhedrin. He could utter a cry and the whole of Palestine would follow Him to march against the few who hate Him. He, instead, advises peace and forgiveness to His disciples. As He gives back life to dead people, sight to the blind, motion to the paralysed, hearing to the deaf, freedom to demoniacs, as neither Heaven nor Hell are insensible to His will, He could strike you by His divine lightning and thus get rid of His enemies. He, instead, prays for you and cures your relatives, He cures your hearts, He gives you bread, clothes, fire. Because I am Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, Whom you are looking for to have the price promised to who hands Him over to the Sanhedrin, and the honour of being the liberator of Israel. I am Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Here I am. Take Me. As Master and as Son of God I free you from the obligation of not raising your hand and I absolve you of the sin of raising it against your benefactor.»
Jesus has stood up removing His mantle from His head, and He stretches out His hands as if they were to be caught and tied. But tall as He is ‑ and He seems even more slender as He is left with only His short close‑fitting vest on, with His dark mantle hanging from His shoulders, holding Himself upright, His eyes, fixed at the face of His persecutor, in the mobile reflection of the flames that illuminate highlights in His flowing hair and make the large pupils of His eyes shine within the sapphire circles of the irises ‑ so majestic, so frank and fearless, He commands more respect than if He were surrounded by an army of defenders.
The man is fascinated... paralysed with astonishment. Only after some time he is able to whisper: «You! You! You! » He does not seem to be able to say anything else.
Jesus insists: «So, take Me! Take that useless cord that you put up to hold a dirty torn tunic, and tie My hands. I will follow you as a lamb follows a butcher. And I will not hate you for taking Me to die. I told you. It is the purpose that justifies an action and changes its nature. As far as you are concerned, I am the ruin of Israel and you think that by killing Me you will save Israel. You believe that I am guilty of all crimes and therefore you are serving justice by suppressing a criminal. So you are not more guilty than the executioner who carries out the order he received. Do you wish to sacrifice Me here, on the spot? Over there, at My feet, there is the knife with which I sliced your bread. Take it. From a blade that served for the love for My neighbour, it can be changed into the knife of the sacrificer. My flesh is not harder than the roasted lamb that My friend had left Me to appease My hunger and that I gave you, to satisfy the hunger of My enemy. But you are afraid of the Roman patrols. They arrest the murderers of an innocent. And they do not allow justice to be administered by us. Because we are the subjects and they are the rulers. That is why you dare not kill Me and then go to those who sent you, with the slaughtered Lamb on your shoulders, like goods that make one earn money. Well: leave My corpse here and go and inform your masters. Because you are not a disciple, you are a slave, so much have you renounced the sovereign freedom of thought and will that God Himself leaves to men. And you serve your masters servilely, to the extent of committing a crime. But you are not guilty. You are "poisoned". You are the poisoned soul that I was waiting for. Come on, then! The night and the place are propitious to crime. I am wrong: to the redemption of Israel! Oh! poor boy! You are speaking prophetic words without being aware of it! My death will really be redemption, and not of Israel only, but of all Mankind. And I have come to be sacrificed. And I am longing to be sacrificed, so that I may be the Saviour. Of everybody. You, the saphorim of learned Jonathan ben Uziel, certainly know Isaiah. Here is the Man of sorrows in front of you. And if I do not seem to be such, if I do not seem to be the man whom also David saw, with My bones laid bare and disjointed, if I am not like the leper seen by Isaiah, it is because you do not see My heart. I am one big sore. Your indifference, your hatred, your hardness and injustice have wounded and broken Me completely. And did I not hide My face, while you were despising Me for what I really am: the Word of God, the Christ? But I am the man accustomed to suffering! And do you not consider Me as a man struck by God? And do I not sacrifice Myself because I want to do so to cure you through My sacrifice? So! Strike Me! Look: I am not afraid and you must not be afraid. I, because I am the Innocent and I do not fear the judgement of God, and also because by offering My neck to your knife, I have God's will fulfilled, anticipating My hour a little for your welfare. Also when I was born I anticipated the time for your sake, to give you peace before the time. But you have turned My anxiety of love into a weapon of denial... Be not afraid! I do not invoke the punishment of Cain on you or the lightning of God. I pray for you. I love you. Nothing else. Am I too tall for your hand of a man? Well, it is true! Man in fact could not strike God if God of His own will did not put Himself into the hands of man. Well, I kneel down before you. The Son of man is before you, at your feet. So, strike Me! »
Jesus in fact kneels down, and offers the knife, holding it by the blade, to His persecutor, who withdraws whispering: «No! No! »
«Come on! A moment of courage... and you will be more famous than Jael and Judith! Look! I am praying for you. Isaiah says so: "...and He prayed for sinners". Are you not coming yet? Why are you going away? Ah! perhaps you are afraid you may not see how a God dies. Well, I will come there, near the fire. There is always a fire at sacrifices. It is part of them. Here you are. Now you can see Me well.» He has knelt down near the fire.
«Don't look at me! Don't look at me! Oh! where shall I run not to see Your eyes staring at me? » shouts the man.
«Whom? Whom do you not wish to see? »
«You... and my crime. Really, it is my crime that is in front of me! Where shall I run, where? » The man is terrorised...
«On My heart, son! Here, in My arms nightmares and fears disappear. There is peace here. Come! Do come! Make Me happy! » Jesus has stood up and is stretching out His arms. The fire is between them. Jesus shines in the reflection of the flames.
The man falls on his knees, covering his face and shouting: «Have mercy on me, God! Have mercy on me! Cancel my sin! I wanted to strike Your Christ! Mercy! Ah! there can be no mercy for such a crime! I am damned! » He weeps with his face on the ground, sobbing, and he moans: «Mercy » and he swears: «The cursed ones! »...
Jesus walks round the fire and goes towards him, He bends, He touches his head saying: «Do not curse those who led you astray. They obtained the greatest gift for you: that I should speak to you. Thus. And that I should hold you thus in My arms.»
He has taken him by his shoulders and has lifted him up, and sitting on the ground He draws him to His heart, and the man leans on His knees shedding tears that are less phrenetic, but so purifying! Jesus caresses his dark hair to calm him.
The man at last raises his head and with changed countenance he moans: «Your forgiveness! »
Jesus bends and kisses his forehead. "The man throws his arms round His neck and with his head resting on Jesus' shoulders he weeps and begins to speak; he would like to tell Him how they had worked on him to make him commit the crime. But Jesus stops him saying: «Be quiet! Be quiet! I am aware of everything. When you came in I knew you, both for what you were and for what you wanted to do. I could have gone away from there and eluded you. I remained to save you. And you are saved. The past is dead. Do not recall it.»
«But... are You so confident? And if I should sin again? »
«No, you will not sin again. I know. You are cured.»
«Yes, I am. But they are so astute. Don't send me back to them.»
«And where can you go and not find them? »
«With You. To Ephraim. If You can read my heart, You will see that I am not laying a snare for You, but I am only begging You to protect me.»
«I know. Come. But I warn you that Judas of Kerioth, who sold himself to the Sanhedrin and is the betrayer of the Christ, is there.»
«Divine Mercy! You know also that?! » He is utterly amazed.
«I know everything. He thinks that I do not know. But I know everything. And I know also that you are so converted that you will not speak to Judas or to anybody else about this. But bear in mind this: if Judas can betray his Master, what will he be able to do to harm you? »
The man is pensive, for a long time. He then says: «It does not matter! If You do not reject me, I am staying with You. At least for some time. Until Passover. Until You join Your disciples. I will join them. Oh! if it is true that You have forgiven me, do not drive me away! »
«I will not drive you away. We shall now go over there, on those leaves and wait for daybreak, and at dawn we shall go to Ephraim. We shall say that we met by chance and that you have come to stay with us. It is the truth.»
«Yes. It is the truth. At dawn my clothes will be dry and I will give Your garment back to You...»
«No. Leave those clothes there. A symbol. The man who divests himself of his past and puts on a new uniform. The mother of Samuel, the ancient one, sang in her joy: "The Lord gives death and life, He brings down to Sheol and draws up". You died and are reborn. You are coming from the place of the dead to true Life. Leave the clothes that have been affected by the contact with the sepulchres full of filth. And live! Live for your true glory: to serve God with justice and possess Him for ever.»
They sit in the recess where the leaves are piled up and they soon fall silent, because the man, tired as he is, falls asleep with his head resting on the shoulder of Jesus, Who is still praying.
...It is a beautiful morning in spring, when they arrive at the house of Mary of Jacob, following the path along the torrent, which is becoming clear after the downpour and is singing more loudly with its increased waters, and is shining in the sun between its banks polished by the rain.
Peter, who is at the entrance, utters a cry and runs to meet them, hurrying to embrace Jesus, Who is all enveloped in His mantle, and he says: «Oh! my blessed Master! What a sad Sabbath You made me spend! I could not make up my mind to go away without seeing You. I would have been upset the whole week if I had to leave with uncertainty in my heart and without Your farewell! »
Jesus kisses him without removing His mantle. Peter is so engaged in contemplating his Master that he does not notice the stranger who is with Him. In the meantime the others have come and Judas of Kerioth utters a cry: «You, Samuel! »
«It is I. The Kingdom of God is open to everybody in Israel. I have come to it» the man replies without hesitation.
Judas has a strange sly laugh, but he does not say anything.
Everybody's attention is focused on the newcomer, and Peter asks: «Who is he? »
«A new disciple. We met by chance. That is: God made us meet, and as I accepted him as one sent to Me by My Father, so I tell you to do the same. And as it is a great feast when one comes to take part in the Kingdom of Heaven, lay down your bags and mantles, you who were about to leave, and let us be all together until tomorrow. And now let Me go, Simon, because I gave My tunic to him and the morning air is nipping Me while I am standing here.»
«Ah! I thought it was! But You will be taken ill, if You do that! »
«I did not want... But He insisted » says the man apologetically.
«Yes. He was swept away by an overflowing large stream and only his will saved him. So to ensure that nothing should remind him of that painful moment, and to enable him to come to us in a clean state, I made him leave his dirty torn tunic where we met, and I made him put on Mine » says Jesus and He looks at Judas of Kerioth who repeats his strange sly laugh, as he did at the beginning and when Jesus said that a great feast is made when one comes to take part in the Kingdom of Heaven. He then goes quickly into the house to dress Himself.
The others approach the newcomer expressing their greetings of peace.
560. What People Say at Nazareth.
6th February 1947.
«And I tell you that you are all foolish if you believe such things. More foolish and ignorant than wethers that do not even know the rules of instinct, mutilated as they are. Some men are going around towns saying anathema of the Master, while others bring orders that, by the living God, cannot be given by Him! You do not know Him. I do. And I cannot believe that He has changed so much! Let them go about! Are you saying that they are His disciples? And who has ever seen them with Him? Are you saying that some rabbis and Pharisees have mentioned His sins? And who has seen His sins? Have you ever heard Him speak about anything obscene? Have you ever seen Him commit sin? So? And can you believe that God would let Him work such great deeds, if He were a sinner? You are foolish, I tell you, foolish slow‑witted and ignorant like country bumpkins who for the first time see a mountbank at a market and believe what he says. That's what you are like. Consider whether those who are wise and open‑minded allow themselves to be seduced by the words of false disciples, who are the true enemies of the Innocent, of our Jesus, Whom you do not deserve to have as a son of our town! Consider whether Johanna of Chuza, I mean the wife of Herod's superintendent, Johanna, the princess, leaves Mary! Consider whether... Am I doing the right thing in telling you? Of course! I am doing the right thing because I am not speaking just for the sake of speaking, but to convince you all. Last month, did you see that beautiful wagon that came to our village and stopped outside Mary's house? Do you remember? The one whose tilt was as beautiful as a house? Well, do you know who was in it and who came out of it to prostrate himself at Mary's feet? Lazarus of Theophilus, Lazarus of Bethany, do you understand that? The son of the chief magistrate of Syria, of the noble Theophilus, the husband of Eucheria of the tribe of Judah and of the family of David! Jesus' great friend. The richest and most learned man in Israel, both with regard to our history and to that of the whole world. The friend of the Romans. The benefactor of the poor. And above all the man who was raised from the dead after being in his sepulchre for four days. Did he leave Jesus to believe the Sanhedrin? You say that he did so because Jesus raised him from the dead? No. No, because he knows who is the Christ, Who is Jesus. And do you know what he came to tell Mary? To tell Her to be ready because he will take Her back to Judaea. See? As if he, Lazarus, were Mary's servant! I know because I was there when he came in and greeted Her prostrating himself on the floor, on the poor bricks in the little room, dressed as he was like Solomon, a man accustomed to carpets, he was there, on the floor, kissing the hem of Our Lady's dress saying: "Hail, Mary, Mother of my Lord. I, Your servant, the last of Your servants, have come to speak to You of Him and to place myself at Your disposal". See? I was so moved... that when he greeted me as well calling me: "brother in the Lord", I was not able to speak one word. But Lazarus understood, because he is intelligent. And he slept in Joseph's bed and sent his servants ahead to Sephoris to wait for him. Because he was going to his estates at Antioch. And he told the women to be ready, because at the end of this month he will come and pick them up to spare them the fatigue of the journey. And Johanna will join the caravan with her wagon to take the women disciples of Capernaum and Bethsaida. And does all that mean nothing to you? »
At last good Alphaeus of Sarah can take breath amid the group standing in the middle of the square. And Aser and Ishmael and also Jesus' two cousins, Simon and Joseph ‑ Simon more openly, Joseph more reticently ‑ help him by approving what he said.
Joseph says: «Jesus is not an illegitimate son. If He needs to notify anything, He has relatives here who are willing to become His ambassadors. And He has faithful and powerful disciples, like Lazarus. Lazarus has not mentioned what the others say.»
«And we are His disciples as well. Before we were ass‑drivers and as stupid as our asses. But now we are His disciples and we also are capable of saying: "Do this or do that" » says Ishmael.
«But the sentence hanging at the door of the synagogue was brought by a messenger of the Sanhedrin and it bears the stamp of the Temple » some say objecting.
«That is true. So? Since all over Israel we have the reputation of being able to judge the Sanhedrin for what it really is, and we are consequently despised as rogues, are we going to believe that the Temple is wise only with regard to this? So do we no longer know what scribes, Pharisees and chiefs of Priests are? » replies Alphaeus.
«That is true. Aphaeus is right. I have decided to go down to Jerusalem and hear from true friends what is the situation. And I am going tomorrow » says Joseph of Alphaeus.
«And will you stay there? »
«No, I will come back. And I will go back again for Passover. I cannot be away from home for a long time. It is a difficult task I am undertaking, but it is my duty to do so. I am the head of the family and I am responsible for Jesus being in Judaea. I insisted that He should go there... Man errs in judging. I thought that it was a good thing for Him. Instead... May God forgive me! But I must at least follow the consequences of my advice at close quarters, in order to comfort my Brother » says Joseph of Alphaeus in his slow haughty way of speaking.
«That is not what you used to say. But you have been allured as well by the friendship of the mighty ones. Your eyes are clouded by vanity » says a Nazarene.
«The friendship of might people does not allure me, Eliakim. But my Brother's behaviour convinces me. If I made a mistake and I now mend my ways, I prove to be a just man. Because to err is human, but to be stubborn is beastlike.»
«And do you think that Lazarus will really come? Oh! we want to see him! A man that comes back from death, what is he like? He must be dazed, somehow... frightened. What does he say of his stay among the dead? » many ask Alphaeus of Sarah.
«He is just like you and me. Cheerful, lively, tranquil. He does not speak of the other world, as if he did not remember. But he remembers his agony.»
«Why did you not tell us that he was here? »
«Of course! To let you invade the house! I withdrew myself. Some delicacy is necessary, isn't it? »
«But when he comes back will it not be possible for us to see him? Let us know. You will certainly be the caretaker of Mary's house, as usual.»
«Certainly! It's a grace to be near Her. But I will not inform anybody. You will have to do it yourselves. A wagon is easily seen, and Nazareth is not Antioch or Jerusalem so that such a large wagon may pass by unnoticed. Mount guard... and help yourselves. But that is something vain. Ensure at least that His town may not have the reputation of being foolish by believing the words of our Jesus' enemies. Don't believe them! Don't believe those who say that He is Satan or those who provoke you to rise in His name. You would repent one day. Then if the rest of Galilee fall into the trap and believe what is not true, so much the worse for them. Goodbye. I am going because it is getting dark...» And he goes away happily, having defended Jesus.
The others remain to discuss. But although they are divided into two fields and the more numerous is unfortunately the one of those who swallow everything, the proposal of Jesus' few friends prevails in the end, and they decide not to become excited and accept false charges or invitations to rise until the other towns in Galilee do so, as «at present they are more cunning than Nazareth and laugh in the false ambassadors' faces » says Aser, the disciple.