441. The Death of Marjiam's Grandfather.
25th May 1946.
Jesus must have left the women because He is with the apostles, Isaac and Marjiam. They are going down the last slopes towards the Esdraelon plain while it is slowly getting darker.
Marjiam is very glad that the Lord is taking him to his dear grandfather. The apostles are not so happy, as they remember the recent incident with Ishmael. But they are gravely silent, in order not to grieve the boy, who rejoices that he has not touched the honey which Porphirea gave him, «because » he says «I was hoping that the Lord would satisfy the desire of my heart by letting me see my grandfather. I do not know why... but for some time he has always been present to my spirit, as if he were calling me. I told Porphirea and she said to me: "It happens to me as well, when Simon is away". But I don't think it is as she says, because it never happened to me before.»
«Because you were a little boy previously. Now you are a man and you ponder more over things » Peter says to him.
«I have also two small round pieces of cheese and some olives. Just what I could bring of my own to my beloved grandfather. Then I have a hemp tunic and another hemp garment. Porphirea wanted to make them for me. But I said to her: "If you love me, make them for the old man". He is always so tattered and torn, so hot wearing clothes of coarse wool!... He will have some relief.»
«And so you are left without any cool clothes, and you are sweating like a sponge wearing woollen ones » Peter says to him.
«Oh! It does not matter! My grandfather went very often without food to give it to me, when I lived in the wood... At last I also can give him something. I wish I could save enough to give him what he needs to redeem himself! »
«How much have you got so far? » asks Andrew.
«Little. I earned one hundred and ten didrachmas with the fish. But I will soon be selling the lambs and then... If I could do it before it gets very cold!...»
«Will you be keeping him? » Nathanael asks Peter.
«Yes. We shall not be ruined if the poor old man has a morsel of our food...»
«And then... He will be able to do little jobs... He can come to Bethsaida, where we are, is that right, Philip? »
«Of course... We will help you, Simon, and thus make our good Marjiam and the old man happy...»
«Let us hope that Johanan is not there...» says Judas Thaddeus.
«I will go ahead and warn them » says Isaac.
They walk fast in the moonlight... At a certain point Isaac parts from them quickening his step, while the group follows him more slowly. There is dead silence in the plain. Even nightingales are quiet.
They walk on, until they see two shadows running towards them. «One is certainly Isaac... The other... may be Micah or the steward. One is as tall as the other...» says John.
They are now close... very close... It is the steward followed by Isaac who looks dismayed.
«Master... Marjiam... poor son! Come quickly... Your grandfather, Marjiam, is ill... very ill...»
«Ah! Lord!...» shouts the boy sorrowfully.
«Let us go, let us go... Be strong, Marjiam » and Jesus takes his hand and starts almost to run while He says to the apostles: «You can follow us.»
«Yes... But don't make too much noise... Johanan is there » shouts the steward who is already far away.
The poor old man is in Micah's house. Even a fool can understand that he is really dying. He is lying languidly, his eyes closed, his features relaxed, as is typical of a dying person. He is waxen, with the exception of his cheek‑bones, where a cyanotic red persists.
Marjiam bends over the little bed calling: «Grandpa! My grandpa! I am Marjiam! Do you understand? Marjiam! Jabez! Your Jabez!... O Lord! He no longer hears me... Come here, Lord... Come here. Will You try... Cure him... Let him see me, let him speak to me... Must I see all my relatives die thus, without a parting word to me?...»
Jesus approaches him, He bends over the dying man, He lays a hand on his head saying: «Son of My Father, listen to Me.»
Like one who awakes from a deep sleep, the old man takes a deep breath, he opens his already glassy eyes looking vaguely at the two faces bent over his. He tries to speak, but his tongue is powerless. But now he must have been able to recognise, because he smiles and tries to take the hands of the two to lift them to his lips.
«Grandpa... I had come... I prayed so hard that I might come!... I wanted to tell you... that I will soon have enough money... that I will be able to give you what you need to redeem yourself... and you will come with me, to Simon and Porphirea, who are so good, so kind to your Jabez... and to everybody...»
The old man succeeds in moving his tongue and he says with difficulty: «May God reward them... and reward you... But it is late... I am going to Abraham... to suffer no more...» He turns towards Jesus and eagerly asks: «It is so, is it not? »
«It is. Be in peace! » and Jesus straightens Himself imposingly saying: «With My power of Judge and Saviour, I absolve you of all faults and omissions you may have committed during your lifetime, and of any feeling of your heart against charity and against those who hated you. I forgive you everything, son. Go in peace! » Jesus has held His hands stretched out high above the little bed as if He were before an altar and He, the Priest, were consecrating a victim.
Marjiam is weeping, while the old man smiles gently whispering: «One falls asleep peacefully with Your help... Thank You, Lord...» and he collapses...
«Grandpa! Grandpa! Oh! he is dying! he is dying! Let us give him some honey... his tongue is dry... He is cold... honey warms one...» shouts Marjiam and he tries to search in the sack with one hand while he supports with the other his grandfather's head, which is becoming heavier.
The apostles have appeared on the threshold... and are watching in silence...
«All right, Marjiam. I will hold your grandfather » says Jesus... and then, addressing Peter: «Simon, come here...»
And Simon comes forward, deeply moved.
Marjiam tries to give a little honey to the old man. He puts a finger into the little vase and takes it out covered with liquid honey, which he places on the lips of his grandfather, who opens his eyes again, looks at him, smiles and says: «It's good.»
«I made it for you... And also the tunic of fresh hemp...»
The old man lifts his trembling hand and endeavours to lay it on the brown‑haired head saying: «You are good... better than honey... And that... the fact that you are good, does me good... But your honey... does not serve any more... Neither does your cool tunic... Keep them... keep them with my blessing...»
Marjiam falls on his knees and weeps with his head resting on the edge of the little bed moaning: «All alone! I am remaining all alone! »
Simon goes to the other side of the bed and in a voice made more hoarse than ever by emotion, he caresses Marjiam's hair saying: «No... Not alone... I love you. Porphirea also loves you... The disciples... as many brothers... And then... Jesus... Jesus Who loves you... Don't weep, my son!»
«Your... son... yes... I... happy... Lord!... Lord....» the old man whispers confusedly... he feels the end is approaching.
Jesus embraces him with one arm, lifts him up, and intones slowly: «I lift my eyes to the mountains, whence help will come to me » and He continues till the end of psalm 120. He then stops watching the man who is dying in His arms placated by those words... He intones psalm 121. But He says little of it, because as soon as He starts the fourth verse He stops, saying: «Go in peace, just soul! » and He lays him down again slowly and closes his eyelids with His hand.
Such a placid death that no one, except Jesus, noticed it. But they realise seeing the gesture of the Master and they begin to whisper.
Jesus makes a gesture requesting silence. He goes beside Marjiam, who has not noticed anything, as he is weeping with his head on the bed, He bends and embraces the boy and tries to lift him up saying: «He is in peace, Marjiam! He does not suffer any more. This is the greatest grace of God for him: death, and in the arms of the Lord! Do not weep, dear son. Look how peaceful he is... In peace... Few people in Israel had the reward which this just man had, to die on the breast of the Saviour. Come here, in My arms... You are not alone. And there is God, and that is everything, and He loves you for the whole world.»
Poor Marjiam is really in a pitiful state, but he still finds the strength to say: «Thank You, Lord, for coming... and you, Simon, for bringing me here... And to you all, thanks... for what you gave me for him... But it is of no further use... But... the garment is... We are poor... We cannot have him embalmed... Oh! grandfather! I cannot even give you a sepulchre!... But if you trust me, if you can... meet the expenses and in October I will give you the money of the lambs and of the fish...»
«Hey! I say: you still have a father! I will see to it, at the cost of selling a boat. The old man will receive full honours. The important thing is to have a loan... and someone who can give a sepulchre...»
The steward says: «In Jezreel there are some disciples among the people. They will not deny anything. I will go at once and I will be back by the third hour...»
«Good, but... the Pharisee? »
«Don't worry. I will let him know that there is a dead man and in order not to be contaminated, he will not come out of the house. I am going...»
And while Marjiam, bent over his grandfather, weeps and caresses him, and Jesus speaks in a low voice to the apostles and to Isaac, Micah and the others are busy preparing the last honours to their dead companion.
And I make here a personal comment. I happened to be in similar situations several times, and I often noticed that the people present, with good intentions or with blameworthy intolerance, contradict those who grieve over the loss of a relative. I point out the kindness of Jesus, Who bears with the suffering of the orphan and does not exact an unnatural heroism from him... How much there is to be learned from each least act of Jesus!...
442. Jesus Speaks of Charity to the Apostles.
30th May 1946 (Ascension‑Day).
«Where did you leave the boats, Simon, when you came to Nazareth? » asks Jesus while walking north‑eastwards, leaving behind the Esdraelon plain and proceeding towards Mount Tabor.
«I sent them back, that they may go fishing, Master. But I told them to be at Tarichea every third day... I did not know how long I would be staying with You.»
«Very well. Which of you wants to go to tell My Mother and Mary of Alphaeus to join us at Tiberias? Joseph's house will be the meeting place.»
«Master... we would all like to go. But it is better if You say who is to go.»
«Then, Matthew, Philip, Andrew and James of Zebedee. Let the others come with Me to Tarichea. You will explain to the women the reason for the delay. And tell them to close the houses and to come. We will be together for the whole duration of the moon. Go, because this is where the road diverges. And may peace be with you.» He kisses the four who part, and He takes to the road again with the others.
But after a few steps He stops and watches Marjiam who is walking with his head lowered a little behind the group. When the boy comes up with Him, Jesus passes His hand under his chin forcing him to raise his head. Tears are streaming down the boy's tanned face.
«Would you like to go to Nazareth, too? »
«Yes, Master... But do as You wish.»
«I want you to be consoled, son... Go... Run after them. My Mother will comfort you.» He kisses the boy and lets him go, and Marjiam starts running and soon comes up with the four apostles.
«He is still a boy...» remarks Peter.
«And he is suffering much... Yesterday evening, as I found him weeping in a corner of the house, he said to me: "It is as if my father and mother had died yesterday... The death of my old grandfather has renewed all the grief in my heart..."» says John.
«Poor son!... But it was a good thing that he was present at that death...» says the Zealot.
«He had so fondly cherished the illusion that he might be able to help the old man!... Porphirea told me that he made all sorts of sacrifices in order to be able to save money. He worked in fields, he made faggots for bakers, he fished, he did not eat any cheese or honey, so that he might sell them... He had that fixed idea in his heart and wanted the old man with him... who knows! » says Peter.
«He is a serious‑minded and strong‑willed man. Sacrifice and work are no burden to him. Good points » says Bartholomew.
«Yes, he is a good son and will be one of the best disciples. You can see how strictly he controls himself even in the most troubled circumstances... His afflicted heart was longing for Mary, but he did not ask to go. He has understood so well what strength there is in praying, that he exceeds many adults » says Jesus.
«Do you think that he makes sacrifices with an intent fixed in advance? » asks Thomas.
«I am sure he does.»
«It is true. Yesterday he gave some fruit to an old man saying: "Pray for my father's father, who died recently", and I remarked to him: "He is in peace, Marjiam. Do you not consider Jesus' absolution valid?". He replied to me: 'I do consider it valid. But when offering sacrifices, I think of the souls for whom no one prays, and I say: if my grandfather no longer needs this, let these sacrifices be atonement for those who are forgotten by everybody". And I remained edified » says James of Alphaeus.
«Yes » says Peter. «Yesterday he came to me and throwing his arms round my neck, because, after all, he is still a boy, he said to me: "Now you really are my father... and I am giving back to you what your kindness had allowed me to save. My old grandfather no longer needs that money... and you and Porphirea are doing so much for me…" I, I found it difficult to restrain my tears, I replied to him: "No, son. We will use that money as alms to poor old people or to orphans and God will make use of your alms to increase the peace to your old grandfather". And Marjiam kissed me twice so fondly that... well... I could not hold back my tears. And how grateful he is to you, Bartholomew, for meeting the expenses. He said to me: "As far as I am concerned the honour paid to my old grandpa is priceless. I will tell Bartholomew to keep me as his servant".»
«Oh! poor son! Not even for one hour! He serves the Lord and edifies us all. I honoured a just man. I was able to do it because my name is well known and it is easy for me to find people willing to advance a sum of money. When in Bethsaida I will have the little debt settled, after all it was a trifle...»
«Yes. With regard to money it was not much, because those in Jezreel were generous. But your love for a fellow disciple is not a trifle. Because each act of love is of great value.
You are being perfected in your neighbour's love, which is the latter part of the fundamental precept of the Law of God, and which had been gravely neglected in Israel. The many precepts, the minuteness which followed the simple, yet complete, although brief Law of Sinai, have distorted the former part of the fundamental precept, converting it into a heap of exterior rites which lack what gives them strength, value, truth: that is they lack active consistence of the interior with the exterior forms of cult, through deeds performed and temptations overcome. What value can the ostentation of a cult have in the eyes of God, when internally a heart does not love God, does not annihilate itself in respectful love for God, when a heart does not praise and admire God by loving what He made, and first of all by loving man, who is the masterpiece of the terrestrial Creation?
Do you understand how the mistake was made in Israel? It happened because, at first, of one precept they made two, and afterwards, with the decline of spirits, they cut the latter neatly off from the former, as if it were a useless branch. It was not a useless branch, there were not even two branches. It was one trunk only, which from its very base had adorned itself with the individual virtues of the two loves. Look at that big fig‑tree which has grown up there, on that hillock. It grew spontaneously, and almost from its roots, that is, as soon as it sprang up from the ground, it split into two branches, which are so united that the two barks have adhered together. But each branch has put forth its own foliage at the sides, in such an eccentric manner, that the little village on this hillock has been named after it the "House of the twin fig‑tree". Now, if one should want to separate the two trunks, which are actually one trunk only, one would have to use a hatchet or a saw. But what would one do? One would cause the tree to die, or, if one were so skilful as to handle the hatchet or the saw in such a way as to injure one only of the two trunks, one would be saved whilst the other would inexorably die, and the survivor, although still alive, would live poorly and would probably wither, bearing no fruit or very little.
The same happened in Israel. They wanted to divide, to separate the two parts, which were so united as to really be one thing only, they wanted to touch up what was perfect. Because each work, each thought and work of God is perfect. Therefore, if God on Sinai ordered man to love the Most High God and his neighbour, by means of one only precept, it is evident that they are not precepts which may be practised independently one from the other, but they are one precept only. And as I am never satisfied with perfecting you in this sublime virtue, the greatest of them all, because it rises with the spirit to Heaven and is the only one which subsists in Heaven, I insist on it, the soul of the whole life of the spirit, which dies if it loses Charity, because it loses God.
Listen to Me. Suppose one day a very wealthy couple came and knocked at your door, asking to be given hospitality for their lifetime. Could you say: "We accept the husband, but we do not want the wife" without hearing the husband reply to you: "That is not possible, because I cannot part with the flesh of my flesh. If you do not want to accept her, I cannot stay with you, and I will go away with all my treasures, which I would have shared with you"?
God is joined to Charity. And Charity is truly, and more intimately and really the spirit of His Spirit even than is a married couple who love each other deeply. God Himself is Charity. Charity is but the most manifest and illustrative aspect of God. Of all His attributes Charity is the sovereign and original one, because all the other attributes of God originate from Charity. What is Power but active charity? What is Wisdom but teaching charity? What is Mercy but forgiving charity? What is Justice but ruling charity? And I could go on thus with regard to all the numberless attributes of God. Now, after what I have said, can you believe that he, who has no Charity, has God? No, he has not. Can you imagine that he may accept God, but not Charity? There is one Charity only and it embraces Creator and creatures and it is not possible to have only one half of it: that for the Creator, without having also the other half: that for our neighbour.
God is in His creatures. He is in them with His indelible sign, with His rights of Father, Spouse and King. The soul is His throne, the body His temple. Now he who does not love one of his brothers and despises him, holds in contempt, grieves and underestimates the Landlord of his brother's house, the King, the Father, the Spouse of his brother, and it is natural that this great Being Who is Everything, and Who is present in a brother, in all brothers, should consider as given to Him the offence given to a lesser being, to a part created by Everything, that is to a single man. That is why I taught you the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, that is why I taught you not to scandalise your brothers, that is why I taught you not to judge, not to have contempt or to reject your brothers, whether they are good or not good, faithful or Gentiles, friends or enemies, rich or poor.
When on a nuptial bed a conception takes place, it is performed through the same action, whether it happens on a golden bed or on straw in a stable. And the creature which forms in a royal womb is not different from that which forms in the womb of a beggar. To conceive, to form a new being, is the same in every spot of the Earth, irrespective of parents' religion. All creatures are born as Abel and Cain were born of Eve's womb. And to the equality of conception, formation and manner of birth of the children of man and woman on the Earth, corresponds another equality in Heaven: the creation of a soul to be infused into the embryo, so that it may be the soul of a man and not of an animal, and it may accompany him from the moment of its creation until death, and may survive expecting the universal resurrection, when it will join the risen body and have with it a reward or a punishment. A reward or punishment according to the deeds accomplished in the earthly life. Do not think that Charity is unfair, and that only because many people do not belong to Israel or to Christ, although they are virtuous in the religion which they follow convinced that it is the true one, they are to remain for ever without reward.
After the end of the world no other virtue will survive except Charity, that is, the Union of all the creatures who lived in justice, with the Creator. There will not be several Heavens: one for Israel, one for Christians, one for Catholics, one for Gentiles, one for heathens. There will be one Heaven only. And likewise there will be one reward only: God, the Creator, Who rejoins His creatures who lived according to justice, and in whom, because of the beauty of the souls and bodies of saints, He will admire Himself with the joy of Father and of God. There will be one Lord only. Not one Lord for Israel, one for Catholicism, one for each of the other religions.
I will now reveal a great truth to you. Remember it. Hand it down to your successors. Do not always wait for the Holy Spirit to clarify the truth after years or centuries of darkness. Listen. You may say: "Then, what justice is there in belonging to the holy religion, if at the end of the world we shall be treated exactly as the Gentiles?". I reply to you: the same justice which there is - and it is true justice ‑ for those who, although they belong to the holy religion, will not be beatified, because they did not lead a holy life. A virtuous heathen, only because he lived according to choice virtue, convinced that his religion was good, will have Heaven at the end. When? At the end of the world, when of the four abodes of the dead, two only will remain: that is, Paradise and Hell. Because Justice, at that time, will only be able to keep and give the two eternal kingdoms to those, who from the tree of free will, chose good fruits or wanted wicked ones. But what a long expectation before a virtuous heathen achieves that reward!... Do you not think so? And that expectation, particularly from the moment when Redemption will have taken place with all its consequent wonders and the Gospel will have been preached all over the world, will be the purgation of the souls which lived with justice in other religions, but were not able to enter the true Faith, after they became acquainted with its existence and the proof of its reality. Their abode will be Limbo for centuries and centuries, until the end of the world. The believers in the true God, who were not heroically holy, will have a long Purgatory, which may last until the end of the world for some of them. But after expiating and waiting, the good, irrespective of their provenance, will all sit at the right hand of God; the wicked, whichever their provenance may be, at the left hand and then in the dreadful Hell, while the Saviour will enter the eternal Kingdom with all the good souls.»
«Lord, forgive me if I do not understand. What You say is very difficult... at least for me... You always say that You are the Saviour and that You will redeem those who believe in You. So those who do not believe, either because they did not know You, as they lived before You, or because ‑ the world is so large! ‑ they had no news of You, how can they be saved? » asks Bartholomew.
«I told you: because of their just lives, of their good deeds, and through their faith which they believe is the true one.»
«But they did not have recourse to the Saviour...»
«But the Saviour will suffer also for them. Do you not consider, Bartholomew, what ample value My merits of Man‑God will have? »
«My Lord, they will always be inferior to those of God, to those You have always had.»
«Your reply is and is not correct. The merits of God are infinite, you say. Everything is infinite in God. But God does not have any merits in the sense that He has not merited. He has attributes, virtues of His own. He is He Who is: Perfect, Infinite, Almighty. But to merit, it is necessary to do something, and with effort, superior to our nature. For instance, to eat is not a merit. But to eat frugally can become a merit, if we make real sacrifices, in order to give to the poor what we save. It is no merit to be silent. But it becomes a merit if we are quiet instead of retorting an insult. And so forth. Now, you know that God does not need to make any effort, because He is Perfect, Infinite. But the Man‑God can make an effort by humiliating His infinite divine Nature within human limitations, by defeating human nature, which is not absent or metaphorical, but real, in Him, with all its senses and feelings, with its possibility of suffering and dying, with its free will. No one loves death, particularly when it is painful, untimely and undeserved. No one loves it. And yet, every man must die. So man ought to look at death with the same calm with which he sees every living being come to an end. Well, I force my Humanity to love death. Not only. But I chose life to be able to have death. For the sake of Mankind. Thus, in my condition of Man‑God I gain those merits which I could not have gained if I had remained God. And through them, which are infinite, because of the manner in which I gain them, because of the divine Nature joined to the human nature, because of the virtues of Charity and Obedience, with which I put Myself in condition to deserve them, because of Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence, because of all the virtues which I put in My heart to make it acceptable to God, My Father, I will have infinite power, not only as God, but also as Man, Who sacrifices Himself for the sake of everybody, that is, Who reaches the extreme limit of Charity. It is sacrifice which gives merit. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the merit. A complete merit for a complete sacrifice. Perfect merit for a perfect sacrifice. And it may be used according to the holy will of the victim, to whom the Father says: "Let it be as you wish! », because the victim has loved both God and his neighbour measurelessly. I tell you. The poorest man can be the richest and benefit countless brothers, if he can love to the extent of sacrifice. I tell you: even if you did not have a crumb of bread, a glass of water, a ragged garment, you can always help. How? By praying and suffering for your brothers. Help whom? Everybody. In which way? In a thousand holy ways, because if you can love, you will be able to act, teach, forgive, administer as God does, and to redeem, as the Man-God redeems.»
«O Lord, grant us that charity! » says John with a sigh.
«God gives you it, because He gives Himself to you. But you must receive it and practise it more and more perfectly. No event is to be separated from charity, as far as you are concerned. Both with regard to material and to spiritual events. Everything is to be done with charity and for Charity. Sanctify your actions, your days, put salt in your prayers, and light in your actions. Light, flavour, sanctification are Charity. Without it rites are of no value, prayers are vain, offerings false. I solemnly tell you that the smile with which a poor man greets you as brothers is of greater value than a sack of money which one may throw at your feet only to be noticed. Love, and God will always be with you.»
«Teach us how to love thus, Lord.»
«I have taught you for two years. Do what you see Me do and you will be in Charity and Charity will be in you, and on you there will be the seal, the chrism, the crown, which will really make you known as the ministers of God‑Charity. Let us stop now in this shady place. The grass is thick and long and the trees mitigate the heat. We will proceed in the evening...»
443. Arrival at Tiberias. Parable of the Rain on the Vine.
3rd June 1946.
Jesus arrives at Tiberias with His apostles on a stormy morning. He has come along the short route from Tarichea to Tiberias, with the boats tossing terribly on the very rough lake which is greyish like the sky, where large clouds chase one another threateningly.
Peter scans the sky and the lake and orders the servants to put the boats in a safe place: «Before long you will hear some fine music! I am no longer Peter the fisherman, if the downpour and the billows of the lake do not cause damage shortly. Is there anybody on the lake? » he asks himself scanning the heavy sea of Galilee. And he sees that it is deserted, with billows sweeping it more and more violently, under the vault of heaven which is becoming more and more threatening. He takes comfort seeing that it is deserted and thinking that it will not cause any harm to human beings, and he happily follows the Master, Who is proceeding among such strong gusts of wind, that the apostles walk with difficulty in clouds of dust, while their garments flap fiercely in the storm.
In Tiberias, in this part of the town where ordinary people live, families of fishermen or of poor workmen employed in jobs connected with fishing, people are busy coming and going to put back in the houses what could be damaged by the storm. Some run laden with nets, some with the oars from boats which have already been beached safely, and some drag their working tools into the houses, and all this takes place in the howling wind which raises clouds of dust and makes doors bang. The other part of Tiberias, the northern one, with buildings lined along the lake and beautiful parks visible along the curved shore, is sleeping idly. Only some servants or slaves, according to whether the house belongs to Israelites or to Romans, are busy removing curtains from roof‑terraces, beaching sport‑boats, and taking away chairs lying about in gardens...
Jesus, Who has come to this part, says to Simon Zealot and to His cousin Judas: «Go and ask the door‑keeper of Johanna of Chuza whether any of our friends have been looking for us. I will wait here.»
«All right. And what about Johanna? »
«We will see her later. Go and do what I told you.»
The two go away quickly, and while the others are awaiting their return, Jesus sends them, some here, some there, to get a little food «for themselves and for the women, because it is not fair to be a burden to the family of the disciple » says Jesus. And He remains alone, leaning against the wall of a garden, from which, comes the roar of a hurricane, so violent is the struggle of its tall trees against the wind.
Jesus is engrossed in thought, enveloped in His clothes, which He holds tight under His mantle, the top part of which He has pulled over His head like a hood, to protect Himself against the wind, which blows His hair in His eyes. And thus, covered in dust, with His face half hidden by the edge of His mantle, leaning against a wall almost at the corner of a road, which crosses a beautiful thoroughfare coming from the lake towards the town centre, He looks like a beggar waiting for alms. Some people pass by and look at Him. But since He does not say anything and does not ask for anything and is keeping His head lowered, no one stops to give Him anything or to speak to Him. The storm in the meantime has become more violent and the noise of the lake stronger, filling the whole town with its roar.
A tall man, who is walking stooped to defend himself from the wind ‑ he also is completely enveloped in his mantle, which he is holding tight under his chin with one hand ‑ is coming from the internal road towards the coast one, and, on looking up to avoid a file of donkeys of market‑gardeners who, after leaving the vegetables at the market, are going back to their gardens, he sees Jesus (and I see that the young man is Judas of Kerioth).
«Oh! Master! » he exclaims from the other side of the donkey file. «I was just coming to Johanna's looking for You. I was at Capernaum looking for You, but...» The last donkey has gone by and Judas rushes towards the Master, ending his speech: «...but there was nobody at Capernaum. I waited for days, then I came back here, and I went to Joseph's and to Johanna's every day looking for You...»
Jesus looks at him with His piercing eyes, and stops those impetuous words by saying simply: «Peace be with you.»
«It's true! I did not even greet You! Peace be with You, Master. But You always have such peace! »
«And have you not? »
«I am a man, Master.»
«A just man has peace. Only the guilty man is upset. Are you such? »
«I... No, Master. At least... Of course, if I have to tell You the truth, the fact that I was far from You did not make me happy... but that was not exactly being deprived of peace. I missed You, because I am fond of You... But peace is something different, is it not?...»
«Yes. It is. Separations do not impair the peace of the heart, if the heart of the separated person does not do things which his conscience tells him to be such as to grieve the person he loves, if the latter should hear of them.»
«But those who are absent do not know... Unless somebody tells them.»
Jesus looks at him and is silent.
«Are You alone, Master? » asks Judas trying to change the subject to more usual topics.
«I am waiting for those whom I sent to Johanna to find out whether My Mother has come from Nazareth.»
«Your Mother? Are You making Your Mother come here? »
«Yes, I am. I will stay with Her at Capernaum for the whole month, and I will go by boat to the villages on the banks of the lake, returning every day to Capernaum. There must be many disciples...»
«Yes... Many...» Judas has lost his gift of the gab. He is pensive...
«Have you nothing to tell Me, Judas? We are alone now... Has nothing happened to you, during the time of this separation, no incident about which you feel the need of a word of your Jesus? » Jesus asks kindly, in such a manner as to help the disciple to confess by making him feel all His merciful love.
«And do You know of anything in me which needs Your word? If You know ‑ and I really do not know of anything which deserves such word ‑ speak up. It is burdensome for a man to have to remember his sins and faults and confess them to another man...»
«I, Who am speaking to you, am not another man, but...»
«No. You are God. I know. That is why it is not even necessary that I should speak. You know...»
«I was saying that I am not another man, but I am your most loving Friend. I am not saying your Master, your superior, I am saying: your Friend...»
«It's still the same thing. And it is always boring to pry into what one has done in the past, as such confession may cause reproaches. But the annoying part is not so much to be reproached, as to lose a friend's esteem...»
«At Nazareth, the last Sabbath I was there, Simon Peter inadvertently told a companion something which he should not have mentioned. It was not a voluntary disobedience, it was not slander, it was not anything which might have injured his neighbour. Simon Peter had mentioned it to an honest heart and to a serious man, who realising that he had become acquainted with a secret, although neither he nor Peter wished so, swore that he would not repeat the secret to anybody else. Simon could have set his mind at rest... But he did not resign himself until he confessed his fault to Me. At once... Poor Simon! He called it a fault! But if in the hearts of My disciples there were only such faults, and so much humility, so much confidence, so much love, as Peter has, oh! I should proclaim Myself the Master of a crowd of saints!...»
«And so You want to tell me that Peter is holy and I am not. It's true. I am not a saint. Send me away, then...»
«You are not humble, Judas. Pride is ruining you. And you do not know Me yet...» concludes Jesus most sadly.
Judas perceives His grief and whispers: «Forgive me, Master!...»
«Always. But be good, son! Be good! Why do you want to harm yourself? »
Tears well up in Judas' eyes, whether they are true or not I do not know, and he seeks shelther in Jesus' arms, weeping on His shoulder.
And Jesus caresses his hair whispering: «Poor Judas! Poor Judas, who is seeking elsewhere, where he cannot find it, his peace and who may understand him...»
«Yes. It is true. You are right, Master. Peace is here... In Your embrace... I am a wretch... You are the only one who understands and loves me... You alone... I am the fool... Forgive me, Master.»
«Yes, be good, be humble. If you fall, come to Me and I will raise you. If you are tempted, run to Me. I will defend you, from yourself, from those who hate you, from everything... But stand up. The others are coming...»
«A kiss, Master... A kiss...»
And Jesus kisses him... And Judas recomposes himself... But in the meantime he has not confessed his faults at all, at least I do not think so...
«We are a little late because Johanna was already up and the door‑keeper wanted to tell her. She will come today, to pay her respects to You, at Joseph's house » says Thaddeus.
«At Joseph's? If we get all the rain which heaven is promising, those streets will be like quagmires. Johanna will certainly not come to that hovel and along those streets. We had better go to her house...» says Judas who has already become sure of himself once again.
Jesus does not reply to him, but He replies to His cousin asking: «Did any of our friends look for us at Johanna's? »
«No, not yet.»
«All right. Let us go to Joseph's house. The others will join us...»
«If I were sure that our mothers are on the way here, I would go and meet them...» says Judas of Alphaeus.
«It would be a good thing. But there are several roads from Tiberias. And perhaps they did not take the main one...»
«That's true, Jesus... Let us go...»
They walk away fast, while the first thunder and lightning furrow the leaden sky, rumbling in the gorges of the hills which surround the lake almost completely. They enter Joseph's poor house, which in the stormy atmosphere looks poorer and darker. There is only one bright thing, the face of the disciple, and those of his relatives, who are so happy to have the Master in their house.
«But You are unlucky, Lord » apologises the boatman. «I could not go out fishing on a lake like this and I have nothing... but vegetables...»
«And your kind heart. But I have provided. Our companions are coming now with what is necessary. Do not tire yourself, woman... We can sit also on the floor. It is so clean. You are a clever woman, I know. And the tidiness which I see here confirms it.»
«Oh! my wife! She is really a strong woman! My, nay, our joy » proclaims the boatman, who is thrown into a transport of delight by the praise of the Lord, Who has sat down peacefully on the lower edge of the fireplace in which no fire is lit, almost on the floor, holding between His legs a little boy, who looks at Him full of amazement.
Those who had gone to do the shopping arrive at the moment of the first downpour and they shake mantles and sandals on the threshold, to avoid carrying water and mud into the house. It seems the end of the world because of thunder, lightning, rain and wind. The roaring of the lake sounds like an accompaniment to the soli of thunderbolts and howling wind.
«Good health! Summer is wetting its feathers and drenching the fireplace... We will feel better afterwards... Providing it does not damage the vines... May I go upstairs to have a look at the lake? I want to see in what mood it is...»
«Go. The house is yours » the disciple replies to Peter.
And Peter, wearing only his tunic, goes out happily to enjoy the storm. He climbs up the outside staircase and remains on the terrace to freshen himself and to give his responses to those inside the house, as if he were on the deck of his boat giving orders for manoeuvres.
The others are sitting about in the kitchen, where they can hardly see, as they are compelled to keep the door ajar because of the rain, and only a thread of greenish light comes in through the fissure, interrupted by the short dazzling flashes of lightning...
Peter comes back in, wet through as if he had fallen into the lake and he states: «It's above our heads now. It's moving away towards Samaria. It's going to drench all there...»
«It has already soaked you! You are running like a fountain » remarks Thomas.
«Yes. But I feel so well after so much heat.»
«Come inside. It will do you no good to stand at the door wet as you are » advises Bartholomew.
«No! I am like seasoned wood... I was not yet able to say "father" well, when I began to remain in dampness. Ah! How well one breathes!... The street, however, is like... a river... You should see the lake! It's all the colours of the rainbow and is boiling like a pot. You cannot even see which way the billows are running. They boil on the spot... But it was needed...»
«Yes, we needed rain. The walls were not cooling down any more, they were so heated by the sun. The leaves of my vines were curled up and dusty... I watered the roots... but... What can a little water do when all the rest is like fire? » says Joseph.
«It does more harm than good, my friend » states Bartholomew. «Plants need water from heaven, because their leaves also drink it, eh?! It does not seem so, but it is true. Roots, roots! Very well. But leaves are there, too, for some reason and they have their rights...»
«Master, do You not think that Bartholomew is proposing the subject for a beautiful parable? » asks the Zealot provoking Jesus to speak.
But Jesus, Who is lulling the little boy frightened by the thunder, does not relate the parable, however, He agrees saying: «And how would you propose it? »
«Badly, certainly, Master. I am not You...»
«Tell it as best you can. It will be a great help to you to preach by means of parables. Get accustomed to doing it. I am listening, Simon...»
«Oh!... You are the Master, I... a fool... But I will obey. I would say this: "A man had a beautiful vine. But as he did not own a vineyard, he had planted the vine in the little kitchen garden near his house, so that it might climb up to the terrace to give shade and grapes, and he took great care of his vine. But it was growing amid houses, near the street, so the smoke of kitchens and ovens and the dust of the road began to molest it. And while the rain still descended from heaven in the month of Nisan, the leaves of the vine were cleaned of impurities and enjoyed sunshine and air without any ugly crust of dirt on their surfaces preventing it. But when summer came and no more water descended from heaven, smoke, dust, excrement of birds formed thick layers on the leaves, while the sun, which was too strong, dried them up. The owner of the vine watered the roots deeply set in the ground, and thus the plant did not die, but it vegetated with difficulty, because the water sucked by the roots nourished only the central part, and the poor leaves did not enjoy any of it. On the contrary, fumes of fermentation rose from the torrid soil, wetted with little water and spoiled the leaves with spots resembling malignant pustules. But at last a torrential rain came from heaven and the water descended on the leaves, it ran along the branches, the trunk, the grapes, it quenched the fierce heat of walls and ground, and after the storm, the owner of the vine saw that his plant was clean, fresh, enjoying and giving joy under the serene sky". That is the parable.»
«Good. But what about the comparison with man?...»
«Master, do it Yourself.»
«No. You must do it. We are among brothers, so you must not be afraid of cutting a bad figure.»
«I am not afraid of a bad figure, as if it were something grievous. On the contrary I love it, because it helps me to be humble. But I would not like to say anything wrong...»
«I will correct you.»
«Oh! In that case I would say: "The same applies to a man who does not live isolated in the garden of God, but lives in the midst of the dust and smoke of worldly things. They, in fact, encrust him slowly, almost inadvertently, and he finds that his spirit is sterilised under such a thick layer of humanity, that the breeze of God and the sun of Wisdom can no longer be of any avail to him. And in vain he tries to make up for it with a little water drawn from practices, and given with so much humanity to the inferior part, that the superior part does not enjoy any of it... Woe to the man who does not cleanse himself with the water from Heaven, as it cleans out impurities, it extinguishes the ardours of passions, and gives true nourishment to his whole ego". I have spoken.»
«You have spoken well. I would also say that, unlike plants, which have no free will and are fixed to the ground, and consequently they are not free to go and look for what helps them and shun what is harmful for them, man can go and look for the water of Heaven and avoid the dust, the smoke and the ardour of the flesh, of the world and of the demon. The teaching would then be more complete.»
«Thank You, Master. I will remember that » replies the Zealot.
«We do not live a solitary life... We live in the world... So...» says Judas of Kerioth.
«So what? Do you mean that Simon has spoken foolishly? » asks Judas of Alphaeus.
«I don't mean that. I am saying that as we cannot live all alone... we are bound to be covered with things of the world.»
«The Master and Simon are just saying that we must seek the water of Heaven to keep ourselves clean notwithstanding that the world is around us » says James of Alphaeus.
«Sure! But is the water of Heaven always available to cleanse us? »
«Of course it is » replies John sure of himself.
«Is it? And where do you find it? »
«Love is fire. It will burn you even more.»
«Yes, it is fire. But it is also water which cleanses. Because it removes everything which belongs to the Earth and gives all the things which come from Heaven.»
«...I do not understand these operations. It removes, it gives...»
«No. I am not mad. I say that it removes what is humanity and it gives you what comes from God and is therefore divine. And a divine thing can but nourish and sanctify. Day after day love cleanses you of what the world gave you.»
Judas is about to reply, but the little child who is in Jesus's lap says: «Another parable, a beautiful one... for me...» which puts an end to the argument.
«On what, child? » asks Jesus condescending.
The little fellow looks around and he finds it. He points at his mother and says: «On mothers.»
«A mother is for the soul and the body what God is for them. What does a mother do for you? She looks after you, she takes care of you, she teaches you, she loves you, she watches that you do not hurt yourself, she keeps you under the wings of her love, just as a dove does with its little ones. And a mother is to be obeyed and loved, because everything she does, she does it for our good. Good God also, and much more perfectly than the most perfect of mothers, keeps His children under the wings of His love, He protects them, He teaches them, He helps them and He thinks of them day and night. But also good God, just like, even much more than a mother ‑ because a mother is the greatest love on Earth, but God is the greatest and eternal love on Earth and in Heaven ‑ is to be obeyed and loved, because everything He does, He does it for our good...»
«Also thunderbolts? » interrupts the boy who is frightened of them.
«Because they clean the sky and the air and...»
«And then appears the rainbow!...» exclaims Peter, who, half inside and half outside the house, has listened and been quiet. And he adds: «Come, little dove, and I will show it to you. Look how beautiful!...»
In fact the weather is clearing up, as the storm is over, and a huge rainbow, from the shores of Hippo, stretches its arched ribbon across the lake, disappearing beyond the mountains behind Magdala.
They all go to the door, but in order to see the lake, they have to take off their sandals, because the yard is a little pond of yellowish water, which is slowly decreasing. The only remembrance of the storm is the lake, that has become yellowish, while its waves are beginning to calm down. But the sky is clear and the air fresh. The shades of leaves have brightened up.
«And Tiberias becomes busy again... And along the road still full of water and mud, they soon see Johanna come with Jonathan. She looks up to greet the Master, Who is on the terrace, where she climbs up quickly to prostrate herself, full of happiness... The apostles are speaking to one another, with the exception of Judas, who, half way between Jesus and Johanna on one side and the apostles on the other, is absent‑minded, pensive. I wager that he is all ears listening to the words of Johanna, whose attitude towards Judas is not known, as she greeted all the apostles, just saying: «Peace to you. » But Johanna is speaking only of the children and of the permission she got from her husband to go to Capernaum by boat while the Master is there. And Judas' suspicions subside and he joins his companions...
With the lower parts of Her garments splashed with mud, but dry elsewhere, there appears the Most Holy Virgin Mary coming forward with Mary of Alphaeus and the five who had gone to bring Her here. Mary's smile while She goes up the short staircase is more beautiful than the rainbow still visible in the sky.
«Your Mother, Master! » announces Thomas.
Jesus goes to meet Her, followed by all the others. And they congratulate the women on their having had no other trouble but a little mud on the edges of their garments.
«As soon as it began to rain we stopped at a market‑gardener's » explains Matthew. And he asks: «Have you been waiting long for us? »
«No. We arrived at dawn.»
«We are late, because of a poor wretch...» says Andrew.
«Well. Now that you are all here and that the weather is clearing up, I would say that we should leave for Capernaum this evening » says Peter.
Mary, Who is always agreeable, this time objects: «No, Simon. We cannot leave, if first... Son, a mother has implored Me to ask You ‑ as You are the only one who can do it ‑ to convert the soul of her only son. I beg You, listen to Me, because I promised... Forgive him... Your forgiveness...»
«He has already forgiven, Mary. I have already spoken to the Master...» interrupts Judas thinking that Mary is referring to him.
«I am not speaking of you, Judas of Simon. I am referring to Esther of Levi, a woman of Nazareth, a mother killed by the behaviour of her son. Jesus, she died the night You left. Her invocations to You were not for herself, a poor mother martyr of a disgraceful son, but for her son... because we mothers are solicitous about you sons, not about ourselves... She wants her Samuel to be saved... But now that she is dead, Samuel, a prey to remorse, seems mad and will not listen to reason... But You, Son, can cure his intellect and spirit...»
«Is he repentant? »
«How can You expect him to be so if he is desperate? »
«In fact to have killed one's mother by grieving her continuously, must make one desperate. The first commandment of love for our neighbour cannot be infringed with impunity. Mother, how can You expect Me to forgive and God to give peace to this impenitent matricide? »
«Son, that mother is asking for peace from the other life... She was good... she suffered so much...»
«She will have peace...»
«No, Jesus. There is no peace for the spirit of a mother, if she sees that her child is deprived of God...»
«It is just that he should be deprived.»
«Yes, Son. Of course. But for poor Esther's sake... Her last word was a prayer for her son... And she asked Me to tell You... Jesus, during her lifetime Esther never had any joy, You know that. Give her this joy now that she is dead, give it to her spirit which is suffering because of her son.»
«Mother, I tried to convert Samuel when I stopped at Nazareth. But I spoke to him in vain because love was extinguished in him...»
«I know. But Esther offered her forgiveness, her sufferings, that love might revive in Samuel. And, who knows? Could his present torment not be love coming back to life again? A painful love, and one could say: a useless love, since his mother can no longer enjoy it. But You... but I, we know, I through faith, You by knowledge, that the charity of the dead is vigilant and close at hand. They do not lose interest, neither do they ignore what happens to the beloved ones they left here... And Esther may still enjoy this late love which her ungrateful son, now tortured by remorse, has for her. My Jesus, I know, this man fills You with disgust because of the enormity of his sin. A son who hates his mother! A monster, for You, Who are full of love for Yours. But just because You are full of love for Me, listen to Me. Let us go back to Nazareth together, at once. The road is no burden to Me, nothing is of any trouble to Me, if it helps to save a soul...»
«All right. You have won, Mother... Judas of Simon, take Joseph with you and leave for Nazareth. You will bring Samuel to Me at Capemaum.»
«I, why I? »
«Because you are not tired. The others are. They walked for such a long time, while you were resting...»
«I have walked, too. I went to Nazareth looking for You. Your Mother can tell You.»
«Your companions went to Nazareth every Sabbath and they have just come back from a long tour. Go and do not argue...»
«The fact is... they do not like me at Nazareth... Why send me? »
«They are not fond of Me either, and yet I go to Nazareth. It is not necessary to find love in a place to go there. Go and do not argue, I am telling you again.»
«Master... I am afraid of madmen...»
«The man is deranged by remorse, but he is not mad.»
«Your Mother said that he is...»
«And for the third time I say to you: go and do not argue. It will do you nothing but good to ponder on the consequences which may be brought about by making a mother suffer...»
«Are You comparing me with Samuel? My mother is the queen in her house. I am not even close to her to control her or to be a burden to her by keeping me...»
«Such things are no burden to mothers. But the lack of love of their sons, the fact that they are imperfect in the eyes of God and of men… are rocks that crush them. Go, I tell you.»
«I am going. But what shall I tell the man? »
«To come to Capernaum, to Me.»
«If he never obeyed even his mother, do You expect him to obey me, particularly now, that he is so desperate? »
«And have you not yet understood that if I am sending you, it means that I have already worked on the spirit of Samuel, freeing him from the delirium of desperate remorse? »
«I am going. Goodbye, Master. Goodbye, Mary. Goodbye, friends.» And he leaves, not at all enthusiastic, followed by Joseph, who, on the contrary, is overjoyed at being chosen for that mission.
Peter sings something softly between his teeth...
Jesus asks him: «What are you saying, Simon of Jonah? »
«I was singing an old lake song...»
«Which is? »
«It says: "Always so! Farmers like fishing, fishermen don't!". And here, truly, we have seen that the disciple was more anxious to go fishing than the apostle...»
Many laugh. But Jesus does not laugh, He sighs.
«Have I grieved You, Master? » asks Peter.
«No. But do not criticise all the time.»
«My Cousin is grieved because of Judas » says Judas of Alphaeus.
«Will you be silent, too, and above all in the bottom of your heart.»
«But has Samuel really received a miracle already? » asks Thomas who is curious and somewhat incredulous.
«Yes, he has.»
«Then there is no need for him to come to Capernaum.»
«It is necessary. I have not cured his heart completely. He must seek to be cured, by himself, that is, he must ask for forgiveness through holy repentance. But I have enabled him to reason again. It is for him to achieve the rest through his free will. Let us go downstairs. We will go among the humble people...»
«Not to my house, Master? »
«No, Johanna. You can come to Me whenever you wish so. They are tied to their work and I am going to them...»
And Jesus descends from the terrace and goes out into the street followed by the others, also by Johanna, who has sent Jonathan home and who is quite determined not to part from Jesus, since Jesus is not willing to go to her house.
They go among poor little houses, towards poorer and poorer suburbs... And the vision ends thus.
444. Arrival at Capernaum.
4th June 1946.
I do not know whether spontaneously or because she was informed by somebody, Porphirea is on the little shore of Capernaum when the boats arrive there, and they are three instead of two, which makes me think that someone went to Capernaum ahead of the others, to inform that the Master was arriving, and to get another boat for the women and Marjiam. And with Porphirea are the daughters of Philip and Mirjiam of Jairus, in addition to the mother of James and John.
But my attention is attracted by Porphirea who, ignoring the wavelets which beat upon the shore with merry and somewhat cheeky laps, as the lake is not yet completely calm, goes into the water, up to her knees, and she leans on the boat, in which Marjiam is, and kisses him saying: «I will love you also on his (1) behalf. My dear son, I will love you on behalf of everybody! » and she is deeply moved when saying so. And as soon as the boat stops, and the people in it land,
(1) Porphirea is referring to Marjiam's grandfather, who had died recently.
Porphirea embraces Marjiam, as she does not wish to cede to anybody the task of making the boy feel that he is deeply loved.
She then joins the group of the other boat to venerate the Master and be able to do so before the people of Capernaum and the many disciples, who have been waiting for the arrival of the Master for a long time, may take possession of Jesus, depriving the women disciples of the joy of having Him to themselves. The women crowd around the Master, and only the children of Capernaum can break their circle squeezing their slim bodies between the women and thus arrive at Jesus, Who is going slowly towards the house.
As it is early morning, there are not many people in the streets; they are mostly women going to the fountain or to the market, surrounded by their host of children, or some fishermen, who are coming back taking oars and nets to the boats, to prepare them to go out fishing in the evening. But there are no notables, with the exception of Jairus, who comes forward respectfully to venerate Jesus and to express his happiness, as he has heard that the Master will be staying for some weeks, going at night to the towns on the lake, to speak there in the morning, coming back to Capernaum to rest during the day. And it is Jairus, on account of the respect which he inspires in his fellow citizens, who is the first to succeed in placing himself beside Jesus. And he is successful because he pushes aside his daughter with paternal authority. After him the more influential disciples are able to join Jesus, that is, those to whom, out of instinctive motion of justice, the others surrender the first places after the apostles, that is the old priest John (the ex leper), Stephen, Hermas, Timoneus, Naomi's son John, Nicolaus and the shepherd disciples, who are all present, with the exception of the two who went towards Lebanon.
Jesus takes an interest in the others, those who are absent, and He inquires after them of their companions. Are they still fervent? Oh! very! Are they resting at home? No. They are working in their towns or in nearby villages making new disciples. And what about Ermasteus? Ermasteus has gone along the coast and is going down to his own town. He is with Joseph, the disciple from Emmaus, and they want to speak of the Saviour along all the coasts, and they have been joined by their two friends Samuel and Abel, who want to show what the Lord can do, as one was a cripple and the other a leper.
Questions and answers, and the road is not sufficient to exhaust them, neither can Thomas' house in Capernaum receive so many people who are now pressing around the Master, Who has come back after such a long absence. And Jesus decides to go towards the country, so that He may stay with them all, without any preferences.
445. Preaching at Capernaum.
22nd June 1946.
It is the Sabbath. I think it is, because I see people gathered in the synagogue. But they may have gathered there to avoid being in the sun, or to be more tranquil in Jairus' house. And the people are pressing, paying attention, notwithstanding the heat which not even the doors and windows left open to have currents of air can alleviate. Those who have not been able to enter the synagogue, in order not to be roasted in the sun outside, have taken shelter in the shady garden behind the synagogue, Jairus' garden rich in thick pergolas and leafy fruit‑trees. And Jesus is speaking near the door opening onto the garden, so that He may be heard both by these listeners and by those inside the synagogue. Jairus is beside Him, listening attentively. The apostles are in a group near the door which opens onto the garden. The women disciples, with Mary in the middle, are sitting under a pergola, which almost touches the house. Mirjiam of Jairus and Philip's two daughters are sitting at Mary's feet.
From the words I hear I gather that there has been an incident between the usual Pharisees and Jesus and that the people are upset because of that. Jesus in fact is exhorting them to be peaceful and to forgive, saying that the word of God cannot bear fruit in hearts which are upset.
«We cannot bear You to be insulted » shouts someone from crowd.
«Leave it to My Father and yours and imitate Me. Be patient, and forgive. Enemies are not convinced by returning insult for insult.»
«They are not convinced either by continual meekness. You are letting them tread upon You » shouts the Iscariot.
«My apostle, do not cause scandal by setting an example of wrath and criticism.»
«Your apostle, however, is right. His words are just.»
«The heart which utters them is not just, neither is the heart which listens to them. He who wants to be My disciple must imitate Me. I tolerate and I forgive. I am meek, humble and peaceful. The children of wrath cannot stay with Me, because they are the children of the century and of their passions. Do you not remember the fourth Book of Kings? In a passage it says that Isaiah spoke against Sermacherib who thought he could attempt everything, and prophesied that nothing would save him from God's punishment. He compares him with an animal, through the nostrils of which a ring is put and a bit through its lips to subdue its wicked fury. You know how Sennacherib perished by the hands of his own sons. In fact cruel people perish through their own cruelty. They perish both in their bodies and in their souls. I do not love cruel people. I do not love proud people. I do not love wrathful, greedy, lustful people. I have not confirmed by word or set an example for you of such things, on the contrary I have always taught you the virtues which are the opposite of such evil passions. How beautiful is the prayer of our king David, when, re‑sanctified by sincere repentance of past sins and by years of wise behaviour, he praised the Lord, meek and resigned to the decree by which he was not allowed to be the builder of the new Temple! Let us say it together, praising the Most High Lord...» And Jesus intones the prayer of David (1 Paralipomena 29, 10‑19), while those who are sitting stand up and those leaning against the wall assume an attitude of respect moving away from their support.
Then, in His habitual tone, Jesus resumes: «You must always remember that everything is in the hands of God, every enterprise, every victory. Magnificence, power, glory and victory belong to the Lord. And He grants this or that thing to man, if He deems that it is the right time to grant it for a certain good purpose. But man cannot pretend anything. God did not allow David to build the Temple, although he had been forgiven, as he was still in need of victory over himself, after his past errors: "You have shed much blood and fought too many battles; it is not for you to build a house for My Name since you have shed so much blood in My presence. But a son will be born to you and he will be a man of peace... he will therefore be named Peaceful (1)... he shall build a house for My Name". That is what the Most High said to His servant David. I say the same to you. Are you willing, because of your wrath, not to deserve to build in your hearts the house for the Lord your God? Reject, therefore, every feeling which is not love. Have perfects hearts, as David invoked for his son, the builder of the Temple, so that, by keeping My commandments and doing everything according to what I taught you, you may succeed in building within your hearts the abode of your God, while waiting to go yourselves to His eternal joyful house. Give Me a parchment, Jairus. I will explain to them what God wants.»
Jairus goes where the rolls are piled and he takes one at random in the middle of the pile, and after dusting it, he hands it to Jesus, Who unrolls it and reads: «"Jeremiah, chapter 5. Rove to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look, watch, search her squares, if you can find one man who does right and tries to be faithful, and I will be merciful unto her".» (The Lord says to me: «Do not continue. I will read the whole chapter. »)
Jesus, after reading it all, hands the roll back to Jairus and speaks.
«My children. You have heard which dreadful punishments are laid aside for Jerusalem, for Israel, for not being just. But do not rejoice at that. She is our Fatherland. Do not rejoice thinking: "Perhaps we shall no longer be here". She is always full of your brothers. Do not say: "Serves her right, because she is cruel with the Lord". The misfortunes of the Fatherland, the sorrows of fellow‑citizens must always grieve those who are just. Do not measure as other people do, but as God measures, that is, mercifully. What are you, therefore, to do with respect to
(1) Peace is shalom; «Solomon » is derived from it.
this Fatherland and these fellow‑countrymen, whether by Fatherland and fellow-countrymen you mean the great Fatherland and its inhabitants, the whole of Palestine, or this little one, that is, Capernaum, your hometown, whether you mean all the Hebrews, or these few, who are hostile to Me, in this little town of Galilee? You must accomplish deeds of love. Endeavour to save Fatherland and fellow-countrymen. How? Perhaps through violence? With scorn? No. By love, by patient love to convert them to God. You have just heard. "If I find one man who does right, I will pardon him". Strive, therefore, so that hearts may come to justice and become just. In actual fact in their injustice they say of Me: "It is not Him", and they thus believe that by persecuting Me, no harm will befall them. They really say: "Such things will never happen. The prophets spoke at random". And they will try to make you speak as they do. You who are present here, are faithful. But where is Capernaum? Is this all Capernaum? Where are those whom the other times I saw crowd around Me? So the yeast, which fermented the last time I was here, has ruined many hearts? Where is Alphaeus? Where is Joshua with his three sons? Where is Haggai of Malachi? Where are Joseph and Naomi? Where is Levi, Abel, Saul, Zacharias? Have they forgotten the undeniable help they received, because false words overwhelmed it? But can words destroy facts? You can see! This is only a small place. In this place, where is the largest number of people assisted, envious malice has been able to devastate faith in Me. I see gathered here only those who are perfect in faith. And could you expect remote events, remote words to keep all Israel faithful to God? That should be the case, because faith must be such also without the support of facts. But it is not so. And the greater is science, the smaller is faith, because learned people think that they are exempted from simple sound faith, which believes through the strength of love and not by means of the assistance of science. It is love which you must hand down to posterity and inflame. And to do that you must be inflamed. You must be convinced, heroically convinced, in order to convince. In place of ill manners, in reply to insults, you must have humility and love. And with them you must go and remind of the words of the Lord those who no longer remember them: "We must fear the Lord Who gives us the rain of the early and later season".»
«They would not understand us! On the contrary they would of offend us saying that we are sacrilegious, teaching without the right to do it. You know who are the scribes and Pharisees!...»
«Yes. I know. But even if I had not known, I would know now. But it does not matter what they are. It matters what we are. If they and priests clap their hands to false prophets who prophesy what gives them some profit, forgetting that hands should be clapped only to the good deeds which the Decalogue commands, that is no reason why my faithful believers should imitate them or feel discouraged and just stand looking, as if they had been defeated. You must work as hard as Evil works...»
«We are not Evil » shouts from the threshold, on the street, the husky voice of Eli the Pharisee, who tries to enter shouting all the time: «We are not the Evil ones, instigator.»
«Man, you are the disturber, go away! » says at once a centurion who must have been there watching, as his intervention is so fast.
«You, a pagan, you dare impose on me...»
«I a Roman, do. Go out! The Rabbi is not disturbing you, but you are disturbing Him. You cannot...»
«We are the Rabbis, not the Galilean carpenter » cries the old man, who resembles more a barrow woman than a master.
«One more, one less... You have hundreds of them, and they are all wicked teachers. Here is the only virtuous one. I order you to go out.»
«Virtuous, eh?! Virtuous the man who pays Rome for His safety! Sacrilegious! Unclean! »
The centurion utters a cry and the heavy steps of soldiers mingle with Eli's shrill insults. «Take that man and throw him out! » orders the centurion.
«Me? Pagan hands touching me? The feet of pagans in one of our synagogues! Anathema! Help! They are polluting me!...»
«I beg you, soldiers. Let him go! Do not come in. Please respect this place and his old age » says Jesus from His place.
«As You wish, Rabbi.»
«Ha! Ha! Intriguer! But the Sanhedrin will be informed. I have the proof! Now I believe the words which were related to us. I have the proof. Anathema on You! »
«And my sword on you if you say another word. Rome defends what is right. She does not intrigue, you old hyena, with anybody. The Sanhedrin will be informed of your lies. The Proconsul will have my report. I am going to write it at once. Go home and remain there at the disposal of Rome » and the centurion makes a perfect right‑about turn and goes away followed by four soldiers, leaving Eli astounded and trembling cravenly...
Jesus resumes speaking as if nothing had interrupted Him: «You must work as hard as Evil works, to build within you and around you the house of the Lord, as I was saying at the beginning. You must act with great holiness so that God may descend again into hearts and on our dear Fatherland, which is already punished so severely and does not know which clouds of misfortune are piling up for her in the north, in the strong country which already rules over us and will rule more and more, because the deeds of citizens are such as to disgust the Most Kind Lord and to arouse the strong ruler. And with the indignation of God and of the ruler, do you expect perhaps to have peace and welfare? Be good, children of God. Strive to have not one, but hundreds of good people in Israel, to ward off the dreadful punishments of Heaven. I told you at the beginning that where there is no peace, there can be no word of God, which heard peacefully may yield fruit in hearts. And you know that this meeting has been neither tranquil nor fruitful. There is too much agitation in hearts... Go. We will still have some hours to be together. And pray, as I do, that those who upset us, may mend their ways... Let us go, Mother » and squeezing through the crowd, He goes out into the street.
Eli is still there and, as white as death, he throws himself at Jesus' feet. «Have pity! You saved my grandson once. Save me, that I may have time to mend my ways. I have sinned! I confess it. But You are good. Rome... Oh! what will Rome do to me? »
«She will remove the summer dust from you with a good thrashing » shouts one, and the people laugh while Eli utters a painful groan as if he already felt the scourge, and he moans: «I am old… aching all over... Alas! »
«The cure will do you good, you old jackal! »
«You will be restored to youth and will be able to dance...»
«Silence! » Jesus orders the scoffers. And He says to the Pharisee: «Stand up. Be dignified. You know that I do not conspire with Rome. So, what do you want Me to do for you? »
«That is true. Yes. It is true. You do not conspire. Nay, You disdain the Romans, You hate them, You c...»
«Nothing of the kind. Do not lie praising Me, as you lied previously accusing Me. And you had better know that it would be no praise to Me to say that I hate this one or that one, or I curse this or that one. I am the Saviour of every soul, and there are no races or faces in My eyes, but souls only. »
«That is true! Very true! But You are just and Rome knows and that is why she defends You. You keep the crowds calm, You teach them to respect the laws and...»
«Is that perhaps a fault in your eyes? »
«Oh! no! It is justice! You know how to do what we should all do, because You are just, because...»
The crowds sneer and murmur. Several epithets, such as «Liar! Coward! This very morning he spoke differently! » and so forth can be heard, although spoken in a low key.
«Well? What shall I do? »
«Go! Go to the centurion. Quick! Before the messenger leaves. See? They are getting the horses ready! Oh! Have mercy! »
Jesus looks at him: small, trembling, wan with fear, miserable... and examines him... compassionately. Only four eyes look at him pitifully: those of Jesus and of His Mother. All other eyes are either ironical, or severe, or upset... Even the eyes of John and Andrew are stern with disdainful severity.
«I have pity. But I will not go to the centurion...»
«He is Your friend...»
«He is grateful to You, I mean... because You cured his servant.»
«I cured also your grandson. And you are not grateful to Me, although you are an Israelite like Me. Beneficent help creates no obligation.»
«Yes, it does. Woe to those who are not thankful to...» Eli realises that he is condemning himself and becomes quiet, stammering. The crowds sneer at him.
«Quick, Rabbi. Great Rabbi! Holy Rabbi! He is giving orders, see?! They are on the point of leaving! You want me to be laughed at! You want me dead! »
«No. I am not going to remind him of a favour. Go and say to him: "The Master tells you to be merciful". Go! »
Eli runs away and Jesus sets out in the opposite direction towards His house.
The centurion must have agreed, because I see the soldiers, who had got into the saddles, dismount and hand back a wax tablet to the centurion and then take the horses away.
«What a pity! It would have served him right! » exclaims Peter, and Matthew replies to him: «Yes. The Master should have let him be punished! A blow for each insult to us. Hateful old man! »
«And so he is ready to start all over again! » exclaims Thomas.
Jesus turns round severely: «Have I followers, or have I demons? Go away, you with merciless hearts! Your presence is unpleasant to Me.»
The three remain where they are, petrified by the reproach.
«Son! You are already so grieved! And I am in such great pain! Do not add this one... Look at them!...» implores Mary.
And Jesus turns round to look at the three. Three desolate faces, with eyes full of hope and of sorrow. «Come! » orders Jesus.
Oh! Swallows are not as swift as the three.
«And let it be the last time that I hear you speak such words. You, Matthew, have no right to speak thus. You, Thomas, are not yet dead, to judge who is imperfect, thinking that you are saved. And you, Simon of Jonah, behaved like a rock carried with great difficulty to a mountain top and then rolled down to the valley. Understand Me for what I mean... And now listen. It is useless to speak here in the synagogue, or in town. I will speak from the boats on the lake, now here, now there. Prepare the boats, as many as are needed and we will go out in the placid evenings or at the cool dawns...»
446. At Magdala. Parable on Good and Bad Will.
24th June 1946.
«Where, Master? » asks Peter who has completed the manoeuvres and preparations for navigation and is with his boat at the head of the little flotilla which, laden with people, is ready to follow the Master.
«To Magdala. I promised Mary of Lazarus.»
«All right » replies Peter and he manoeuvres the rudder in order to tack in the right direction.
Johanna is in the boat with the Master, the Blessed Virgin, Mary of Clopas, Marjiam, Matthew, James of Alphaeus and a man whom I do not know: she points at the many boats on the lake in the quiet summer evening, which softens the glow of sunset with cascades of purple veils, as if heaven rained showers of amethysts or of trusses of wistaria in bloom. She remarks: «Perhaps the boats of the Roman ladies are among those. It is one of their favourite amusements to simulate fishing in these placid evenings.»
«But they will be farther south » observes the man whom I do not know.
«Oh! no, Benjamin. They have fast craft and experienced sailors. They come up as far as here.»
«For all they have to do...» grumbles Peter, and he continues through his beard, as he is an intolerant fisherman who considers navigation and fishing a profession, not a pastime, almost a religion completely regulated by severe useful laws, and its improper usage seems a profanation to him: «With their incense, their flowers and perfumes and other demoniacal things they contaminate the water; with their music, loud cries and language they disturb the fish; with their smoky lamps they frighten them; with their cursed nets cast inconsiderately they spoil the bottom and damage reproduction... It should be forbidden. The Sea of Galilee belongs to Galileans, who are also fishermen, not to prostitutes and their partners... If I were the master! I would fix you, you filthy heathen boats, you floating sinks of vice, alcoves sailing to bring here, on these waters of God, of our God, to His children, your... Oh! look! They are coming straight here! Can one stand that!... Can one allow... Can...»
Jesus interrupts the accusatory oration, by which Peter gives vent to his spirit of Israelite and fisherman, flushing, suffocating with rage, panting as if he were struggling against infernal forces, and He says with a peaceful smile: «It is a good job that you are not the master. Fortunately you are not! For them and for yourself. Because you would prevent them from following a good impulse, thus an impulse impressed on their spirits ‑ pagan, I agree, but naturally good ‑ impressed on their spirits by the Eternal Mercy which guides these creatures, who are not guilty of being born Romans and not Jews. And God looks at them with merciful eyes because He sees that they tend to what is good. And you would harm yourself because you would commit an act against charity and one against humility...»
«Humility? I don't understand... Being the master of the lake, it would be lawful for me to dispose of it as I like.»
«No, Simon of Jonah. No. You are wrong. Also the things which belong to us, belong to us because God grants them to us. So, even if we possess them for a limited period of time, we must always consider that He Who possesses everything without any limitation of time or measure is One only. One only is the Master. Men... Oh! they are only administrators of crumbs of the great Creation. But He is the Master, My Father and yours and of all living beings. Further, He is God, thus most perfect in all His thoughts and actions. Now: if God looks benignly at the movement of these heathen hearts towards the Truth, and does not only look, but encourages such movement, communicating to it a stronger and stronger motion towards Good, do you not think that you, a man, by wanting to stop it, actually want to prevent God from doing something? And when do you stop anything? When you do not consider it good. So this is what you would be thinking of your God: that He is doing a deed which is not good. Now, if it is not right to judge our brothers, because every man has his faults and his faculty of knowing and judging is so limited that seven times out of ten his judgement is wrong, it is absolutely wicked to judge God in His action. Simon, Simon! Lucifer wanted to judge God in one of His thoughts and he considered it wrong and wanted to take the place of God, thinking that he was more just than God. You know, Simon, what Lucifer achieved. And you know that all the pains we suffer have come because of that pride...»
«You are right, Master! I am a poor wretch! Forgive me, Master! » And Peter, who is always impulsive, leaves the tiller of the rudder to throw himself at Jesus' feet, while the boat, suddenly left to itself, and just on the crest of a wave, yaws and heels in a fearful manner amidst the screams of Mary of Clopas and Johanna and the shouts of those in the light twin boat, when they see Peter's heavy boat coming straight for them.
Fortunately Matthew is quick in taking the rudder, and the boat resumes its course after pitching dreadfully, also because the others, to keep away from it, have used their oars with vigorous strokes, thus agitating the water.
«Hey! Simon! Once you were insolent to the Romans, whom you treated as landlubbers, because they were coming straight for us. But now you are cutting a bad figure... and, what is more, in their presence. Look how they are all standing in their boats to see...» says the Iscariot teasing Peter and pointing at the Roman boats, which are now so close, in the sheet of water before Magdala, that those on board are able to see clearly, notwithstanding that the purple veils of the evening have become darker and darker dimming daylight.
«You have also lost a hamper and a small bucket, Simon. Shall we try to fish them up with the hooks? » says James of Zebedee, from another boat, which is now close at hand, because, after the incident, they have all crowded round Peter's boat.
«But how did you manage to do that? It never happens to you! » exclaims Andrew from another boat.
Peter replies to them all, one after the other, whilst they have almost spoken all together. «Have they seen me? It does not matter! I wish they had seen also my heart in the same way and... Well, better not say that, Peter... But you must know that you are not hurting me. It was not a wrong manoeuvre, it happened for a good purpose, one that can mortify me... Don't worry, James! Old things went to the bottom... I wish I could throw out after them also the old man persisting in me! I would be prepared to lose everything, even my boat, to be just as the Master wants me... How did I manage? Eh! I proved to myself, to my pride, which wants to teach even God things of the spirit, that I am an utter beast also in matters concerning boats... It serves me right. I made a parable of myself for myself... Didn't I, Master? »
Jesus smiles nodding... Sitting astern, in His habitual place, white against the darkening air, tranquil, His hair blowing gently in the evening breeze, He stands out in the twilight like an angel of peaceful brightness.
The Roman boats have reached them.
«They have very good boats and perfect sails... not to mention the sailors! They go as fast as halcyons! They exploit every puff of wind and even the slightest currents...»
«Almost all the oarsmen are from Crete or from the Nile region » explains Johanna.
«The sailors of the delta are most skilled, and so are those from Crete. But also those from Italy are very good... They pass through Scylla and Charybdis... and that is enough to say that they are very good » admits the unknown man whose name is Benjamin.
«Where are we going, Lord? To Magdala, or... Look! Those of Magdala are coming here...»
In fact all the little boats of that village hasten to depart from the shingly shore and the little harbour, laden, nay, frightfully overladen with people, so much so that the gunwales are almost on a level with the surface of the water and they are steering with difficulty towards the boats from Capernaum.
«No. Let us stop here offshore from the town. I will speak from the boat…»
«The trouble is that... Those imprudent people want to be drowned. Look, Master! It is true that the lake is as smooth as a millpond... but water is always water... and weight is weight... and there... they seem to think that they are on land and not on water... Tell them to go back... They will be drowned...»
«Man of little faith! Do you not remember that while you believed in My invitation, you walked on water as on solid ground? They have faith. And thus, in spite of the laws of balance between weight and density, the waters will support those overloaded boats.»
«If that happens... this is really the evening of a great miracle... murmurs Peter shrugging his shoulders, casting the little anchor to secure the boat, which remains thus in the centre of a circle of boats, some from Capernaum, some from Magdala and some from Tiberias. These last ones are those of the Roman ladies, and they prudently remain behind those from Capernaum, towards the centre of the lake.
Jesus faces away from them. He looks towards those of Magdala, towards the large shady garden of Mary of Lazarus, towards the little houses, the whiteness of which, spread as they are along the shore, stands out in the night.
The lake, no longer agitated by prows and oars, has become calm again: a large sheet of plateglass veined with silver in the early moonlight and strewn with scales of topazes and rubies where the flames of torches or the light of lamps, placed on every prow, are mirrored in the lake.
Faces look strange in the contrast of the red‑yellow lights or of the moonbeams; some appear very clear, some can hardly be seen as they are, some seem cut into two, lengthwise or horizontally, with only the forehead or only the chin lit up, or with one cheek only, half a face, with a clean‑cut profile, as if there was nothing on the other side. Some eyes are shining, some look like empty eye-sockets, and likewise, some mouths are seen smiling cheerfully displaying strong teeth, while others seem to be erased from the shaded faces.
But to make it possible for everybody to see Jesus, the boats from Capernaum and Magdala hand over a large number of lamps, which are placed at Jesus' feet, on the little benches, while some are hung on the inactive oars, some are placed in the bow and stern, and some are even hung up in clusters on the mast, the sail of which has been struck. Jesus' boat is thus resplendent in a circle of boats left without lamps, and He is now clearly visible, as He is floodlit. Only the Roman boats still look reddish because of their red torches, the flames of which flicker in the very light breeze.
«Peace be with you! » begins Jesus standing up, steady notwithstanding the light pitching of the boat, and stretching out His arms to bless. He then goes on, speaking slowly, to be heard by everybody, and His voice carries powerfully and harmoniously over the silent lake.
«A short time ago one of My apostles suggested a parable to Me which I will now propose to you and it may be useful to everybody, as everybody can understand it. Listen to it.
A man, sailing on the lake on a calm evening like this and feeling sure of himself, presumed that he was faultless. He was most skilled in manoeuvring and consequently he considered himself superior to all the other people he met on the lake, many of whom were on it to amuse themselves and thus they lacked the experience which comes from habitual work done to earn one's living. Further, he was a good Israelite and so he thought that he possessed all virtues. Finally, he was really a good man. Now, one evening when he was sailing confidently, he took the liberty of passing judgement on his neighbour. A neighbour, according to him, so remote as not to be considered as neighbour. No tie of nationality, or of trade or faith joined him to that neighbour and thus, without any restraint of national, religious or professional solidarity, he derided him frankly, nay, severely, and he complained at not being the master of the place, because, if he were, he would drive his neighbour from it, and in his intolerant faith, he almost reproached the Most High for allowing those other people, who were different from him, to do what he did and to live where he lived.
In his boat was a friend, a good friend who loved him with justice and therefore wanted him to be wise and, when necessary, corrected his wrong ideas. So that evening, this friend said to the boatman: "Why such thoughts? Is not the Father of men one only? Is He not the Lord of the Universe? Does perhaps His sun not shine on all men to warm them, and do His clouds perhaps not rain on the fields of Gentiles as they do on those of Hebrews? And if He does that for the material needs of man, will He not provide likewise for their spiritual necessities? And would you suggest to God what he must do? Who is like God?".
The man was good. In his intolerance there was much ignorance, many wrong ideas, but his will was not evil, he had no intention of offending God, on the contrary it was his intention to defend His interests. Upon hearing those words he threw himself at the feet of his wise friend and asked him to forgive him for speaking foolishly. He asked him so impetuously, that he almost caused a disaster, sinking the boat and drowning those in it, because in his anxiety to ask for forgiveness, he neglected rudder, sails and currents. Thus after his first mistake of evil judgement, he made another error of wrong manoeuvre, and proved to himself that he was not only a poor judge but also a clumsy sailor.
That is the parable. Now listen. According to you, was that man forgiven by God or not? Remember: he had sinned against God and his neighbour by judging the actions of both and he almost became the homicide of his companions. Meditate and reply...»
And Jesus folds His arms and looks around at all the boats, as far as the most remote ones, at the Roman boats, which display a line of attentive faces of patricians and oarsmen, looking over the gunwales...
The people speak in low voices and confer with one another... A hardly audible murmur of voices which mingles with the barely sensible lapping of the water against the hulls. The judgement is a difficult one. The majority, however, are of the opinion that the man was not forgiven because he had sinned. No, he was not forgiven at least as far as the first sin was concerned...
Jesus hears the murmur become louder in that sense and smiles while His most beautiful eyes shine even at night like two sapphires in the rays of the moon, which is more and more beautiful and bright, so much so that many put out torches and lamps and remain with only the phosphorescent moonlight.
«Put out these lights as well, Simon. They are as tiny as sparks when compared with the stars and planets with which this sky is strewn » says Jesus to Peter who is in suspense waiting to hear the judgement of the crowds. And Jesus caresses His apostle, while the latter stretches out to detach the lamps, and He asks him in a low voice: «Why do you look so upset? »
«Because this time You are having me judged by the people...»
«Oh! Why are you afraid of them? »
«Because... like me... they are unfair...»
«But it is God Who judges, Simon! »
«Yes. But You have not yet forgiven me and You are now awaiting their judgement to do so... You are right, Master... I am incorrigible... But... why this judgement of God for Your poor Simon?...»
Jesus lays His hand on his shoulder and He does so easily because Peter is in the lower part of the boat and Jesus is standing on a stern board, thus much above Peter. And He smiles... but does not reply to him. He instead asks the people: «Well? Speak up. Boat by boat.»
Alas! Poor Peter! If God had judged him according to the opinion of the people who are present, He would have condemned him. With the exception of three boats, all the others, including the apostolic ones, condemn him. The Romans do not give their opinions, and they are not asked to do so, but it is obvious that they also judge that the man is to be condemned, because they wave from one boat to the other ‑ there are three of them ‑ with thumbs down.
Peter's frightened rolling eyes look up at Jesus' face and they meet an even kinder glance coming from His sapphire eyes, just like peace, and he sees a face bright with love bend over him while he feels being drawn against Jesus' side, so that his grey‑haired head is against Jesus' chest, while the arm of the Master clasps him embracing his shoulder.
«That is how man judges. But God does not judge so, My children! You say: "He was not forgiven". I say: "The Lord did not even see in him anything to be forgiven". Because forgiveness presupposes fault. But in this case there was no fault. No, do not grumble, shaking your heads. I repeat: there was no fault here. When is it that a fault occurs? When there is the will to commit a sin, the knowledge of sinning and the persistence to want to sin also after knowing that a certain action is sinful. It all depends on the will by which one performs an action, whether it is virtuous or sinful. When one does something which is apparently good, but does not know that it is a good action, nay, one believes that it is a bad action, one commits a sin as if one had performed a bad action, and viceversa.
Take, as an instance, a man who has an enemy who knows that he is ill. He knows that by the doctor's order his enemy must not drink any cold water, nay, any liquid whatsoever. He goes to visit him, feigning friendliness. He hears him moan: "I am thirsty! I am thirsty!" and simulating pity, he hastens to give him some icy water from a well, saying: "Drink, my friend. I love you and I cannot bear to see you suffer so much from thirst. Look. I brought you this water on purpose, it is so cool. Drink it, for a great reward is given to those who assist sick people and give drink to the thirsty" and by giving him to drink, he causes his death. Do you think that that action, good in itself because it comprised two works of mercy, is a good one now that it has been performed for a wicked purpose? No, it is not.
And again: a son who has a drunken father and who locks the wine‑cellar so that he may not drink himself to death, takes his money and imposes himself severely on him so that he may not go about the village, drinking and ruining himself, do you think that he sins against the fourth commandment simply because he reproaches his father and he acts as head of the family also with regard to his father? To all appearance he makes his father suffer and seems to be guilty. In actual fact he is a good son, because his will is good, as he wants to save his father from death. It is always one's will which sets value on one's deeds.
And again: is the soldier who kills in war a homicide? No, if his spirit does not agree to slaughter and if he fights because he is compelled to do so, and he does so with the least humanity which the hard law of war and his subaltern situation impose.
Therefore that boatman, who through the good will of believer, patriot and fisherman, could not stand those who, according to him, were desecrators, did not sin against the love for his neighbour, but he only had the wrong idea of love for our neighbour. Neither did he sin against respect for God, because his resentment against God came from his good, but not well balanced or bright spirit of believer. And he did not commit homicide because he caused the boat to heel through his good will to ask for forgiveness.
So you must always distinguish. God is Mercy more than intransigence. God is good. God is a Father. God is Love. That is the true God. And the true God opens His heart to everybody, saying to everybody: "Come", pointing His Kingdom to everybody. And He is free to do so, because He is the Only, Universal, Creator, Eternal Lord.
I beg you, you people of Israel. Be just. Remember these things. Beware lest they should be understood by those whom you consider unclean, while they remain incomprehensible to you. Also excessive and disorderly love for religion and fatherland is sinful, because it becomes selfishness. And selfishness is always the reason and cause of sin.
Yes. Selfishness is a sin, because it sows in hearts an evil will, which makes people rebel against God and His commandments. The mind of a selfish person no longer sees God or His truth clearly. Pride exhales fumes in the egoist and dims the truth. The mind, which in the fog no longer sees the pure light of truth as it saw it before becoming proud, begins the process of queries, and from queries it passes on to doubt, from doubt to indifference not only with regard to love and trust in God and His justice, but also in respect of the fear of God and of His punishment. And thus the easiness to sin, and from such easiness the solitude of the soul which departs from God, and as it no longer has the will of God as guidance, it lapses into the law of its own will of sinner.
Oh! the will of a sinner is a nasty chain, one end of which is in the hands of Satan, and the other end is fastened together with a cannon ball to the feet of man to hold him there, a slave, in filth, bent, in darkness. Is it then possible for man not to commit mortal sins? Is it possible for him not to commit them, if he is urged only by his evil will? Only then God does not forgive. But when man is animated by good will, and performs also spontaneous acts of virtue, he certainly ends up by possessing the Truth, because good will leads to God, and God, the Most Holy Father, bends lovingly, pitifully, leniently to assist, to bless, to forgive His children who have good will.
So the man of that boat was fondly loved because, as he did not wish to sin, he had committed no sin.
Go in peace, now, to your homes. The stars have filled the whole sky and the moon is clothing the world with purity. Go, and be as obedient as the stars and become as pure as the moon. Because God loves those who are obedient and pure in spirit, and He blesses those who in all their actions apply their good will to love God and their brothers and to work for His glory and their benefit. Peace be with you! »
And Jesus stretches out His arms again blessing, while the circle of the boats move away, breaks up, and each boat resumes its course.
Peter is so happy that he does not think about moving.
Matthew shakes him: «Are you not moving, Simon? I am not very experienced...»
«That's true!... Oh! My Master! So You had not condemned me?! And I was so afraid...»
«Be not afraid, Simon of Jonah. I took you to save you, not to lose you. I took you because of your good will... Cheer up. Take the rudder and look at the North Star and go with confidence, Simon of Jonah. Never hesitate... In all your navigations... God, your Jesus, will always be standing beside you in the prow of your spiritual boat. And He will always understand you, Simon of Jonah. Do you understand? Always. And He will not have to forgive you because you may also fall, like a weak child, but you will never have the evil will to fall... Be happy, Simon of Jonah.»
And Peter nods... he is too moved to be able to speak, suffocated by love, and his hand is rather shaky on the rudder, but his face shines with peace, with confidence, with love, while he looks at His Master standing beside him, on the edge of the little boat, like a bright white archangel.
447. Little Alphaeus of Meroba.
25th June 1946.
«Take provisions and clothes for several days. We are going to Hippo and then to Gamala and Aphek, we will then go down to Gherghesa and come back here before the Sabbath » orders Jesus, standing on the threshold of the house and caressing absentmindedly some children of Capernaum, who have come to greet their great Friend, as soon as the setting sun is no longer deadly scorching and allows people to leave their houses. And Jesus is one of the first to do so in the little town which revives after the suffocating torpor of the hot hours of the day.
The apostles do not appear to be very enthusiastic about the order they have received. They look at one another, they cast glances at the sun, which is so pitiless, they touch the walls of the house and feel that they are still hot, with their bare feet they touch the ground and say: «It is as hot as a brick near the fire...» implying by such pantomime that one must be mad to go about...
Jesus stands off the door‑post against which He was leaning lightly and He says: «Anyone who does not feel like coming may remain here. I do not force anybody. But I do not want to leave this area without My word.»
«Master... don't say that! We are all coming... Only... we thought it was still early to go about...»
«Before the Feast of the Tabernacles I want to go towards the north, so much farther and where boats cannot go. Consequently we must do this area now, as travelling by lake we can save much of the road.»
«You are right. I am going to prepare the boats...» and Simon of Jonah goes out with his brother and the two sons of Zebedee and some disciples, to prepare for departure.
Jesus is left with the Zealot, His cousins, Matthew, the Iscariot, Thomas and the inseparable Philip and Bartholomew, who are preparing their sacks and filling flasks, packing loaves of bread, fruit, everything that is needed.
A little child is whining leaning against Jesus' knees.
«Why are you weeping, Alphaeus? » asks. Jesus, bending to kiss him...
No reply... He whimpers more loudly.
«He has seen the fruit and wants it » says the bored Iscariot.
«Oh! poor little fellow! He is right! One must not let children see certain things, without giving them some. Take this, son. Don't cry! » says Mary of Alphaeus, picking a golden bunch of grapes from a vine branch, placed in a basket with all the leaves and bunches still attached to it.
«I don't want the grapes...» and he cries louder.
«He wants honeyed water, certainly » says Thomas and he offers his little flask saying: «Children like it and it is good for them. Also my little nephews...»
«I don't want your water...» and his crying increases in tone and intensity.
«What do you want then? » asks Judas of Alphaeus half serious and half annoyed.
«Two slaps, that's what he wants! » says the Iscariot.
«Why? poor boy! » asks Matthew.
«Because he is a bore.»
«Oh! If we had to box all the boring persons' ears... we would have to spend our lives boxing our own » says Thomas very calmly.
«Perhaps he is not feeling well. Fruit and water, water and fruit... make tummies ache » states Mary Salome who is among the women disciples.
«If he gets bread, water and fruit, he is lucky... They are so poor! » says Matthew, who by his experience as tax collector is aware of all the financial situations in Capernaum.
«What is the matter with you, my little son? Is it sore here?... But you are not feverish...» says Mary of Clopas who is kneeling beside the little child.
«Oh! Mother! He is just being naughty!... Can't you see it? You would spoil everybody.»
«I did not spoil you, my dear Judas. But I loved you. And you did not realise, son, that I loved you to the extent of protecting you against the rigours of Alphaeus...»
«That's true, Mother... I was wrong in reproaching you.»
«No harm, son. But if you want to be an apostle, strive to have the heart of a mother for believers. They are like children, you know... and one must be patient and loving with them...»
«Well said, Mary! » says Jesus approvingly.
«We will end up by being taught by women » grumbles Judas Iscariot. «And perhaps even by pagan females...»
«Without any doubt. They will exceed you in many things, if you remain what you are, and you above all, Judas. You will certainly be surpassed by everybody, by little children, by beggars, by ignorant people, by women, by heathens...»
«You could say that I will be the abortion of the world and You would be quicker » replies Judas with a sneer.
«The others are coming back... and we had better leave, don't you think so? » says Bartholomew to put an end to the scene, which is grievous for many, although in different ways.
The crying of the little boy reaches its peak.
«Well, what is it that you want? What is the matter with you? » shouts the Iscariot shaking the boy rudely to take him away from Jesus' knees, to which the child is clinging, and above all to give vent to his anger on the innocent boy.
«With You! With You!... Go away... and blows, blows...»
«Ah!... Oh! poor child! It is true! Since his mother got married again, the children of her first husband... are like beggars... as if they were not born of her... She sends them about, like beggars and... oh! there is no bread for them...» says the wife of the landlord and she seems to be well informed of facts and their protagonists. And she concludes: «It would be a good thing if someone adopted the three forlorn sons...»
«Don't tell Simon of Jonah, woman. You would get his mother-in‑law to have a mortal hatred of you; she is very angry at him and at all of us. Even this morning she insulted Simon, Marjiam and me, as I was with them...» says Matthew.
«I will not tell Simon... But that is the situation...»
«And would you not take them? You have no children...» says Jesus gazing at her...
«I... oh! I would like... But we are poor... and then... Thomas... He has nephews... and I also... and... and...»
«And above all you do not want to help your neighbour... Woman, yesterday you criticised the Pharisees of Capernaum as being hard‑hearted, you criticised your fellow‑citizens for turning a deaf ear to My words... But in what are you behaving differently, having known Me for over two years?...»
The woman lowers her head teasing her dress with her fingers... But she does not speak one word in favour of the little child who is still crying.
«We are ready, Master » shouts Peter who is arriving.
«Oh! to be poor!... And persecuted!...» says Jesus with a sigh, raising His arms and shaking them in a gesture of discouragement...
«Son!...» says Mary, Who has been silent so far, to comfort Him. And Her word is sufficient to console Him.
«Go ahead with the provisions. I am going with My Mother to the boy's house» Jesus orders those who are arriving and those who are already with Him, and He sets out with His Mother, Who is carrying the child in Her arms...
They go towards the country.
«What will You tell her, Son? »
«Mother, what do You expect Me to tell a mother whose heart has no love even for the children who are the fruit of her womb? »
«You are right... So? »
«So... Let us pray, Mother.»
They walk praying.
An old woman asks them: «Are You taking Alphaeus to Meroba? Tell her that it is time that she should take care of them. They can but become thieves... They are like locusts wherever they happen to go... I am indignant at her, not at those three poor wretches... Oh! How unfair death is! Could Jacob not have survived, and could she not have died? You should make her die, so...»
«Woman, old as you are, are you not yet wise? And you say such words, while you may die any moment? In actual fact, you are as unfair as Meroba. Repent and sin no more.»
«Forgive me, Master... It's her guilty behaviour that makes me talk nonsense...»
«Yes, I forgive you. But never speak those words again, not even to yourself. You do not correct errors by cursing, but by loving. If Meroba died, would the fate of these children change? Perhaps the widower would get married again and he would have children of a third marriage and the boys would have a stepmother... Thus their destiny would be worse.»
«That is true. I am old and foolish. Here is Meroba. She is cursing already... I leave You, Master. I do not want her to think that I have been talking to You about her. She is a viper...»
But her curiosity is stronger than her fear for the «viper », and the little old woman, even if she moves away from Jesus and Mary, does not go far, instead she bends to root out on the roadside some grass, which a nearby fountain has moistened, in order to listen without being noticed.
«You are here? What have you done? Go home! You are always wandering about like stray animals, like dogs with no master, like...»
«Like children with no mother. Woman, are you aware that it is an adverse testimony for a mother the fact that her little children are not always close to her skirt? »
«It's because they are bad...»
«No. I have been coming here these last thirty months. Previously, when Jacob was alive and during the first months of widowhood, it was not so. Then you got married again... and with the memory of your previous wedding, you lost also that of your children. But what is the difference between them and the one who is maturing in your womb? Did you not bear them as well? Did you not suckle them? Look at that dove over there... How tenderly it takes care of that little pigeon... And yet it is already sitting on other eggs... Look at that sheep. She no longer suckles the lamb of the previous litter because she is pregnant again. And yet see how she licks its little snout and she lets the lively little lamb bump against her side? Are you not replying to Me? Woman, do you pray the Lord? »
«Of course I do. I am not a heathen...»
«And how can you speak to the just Lord if you are unjust? And how can you go to the synagogue and listen to the rolls of parchment which speak of the love of God for His children, without feeling remorse in your heart? Why do you not speak, and your attitude is so arrogant? »
«Because I did not ask for Your words... and I do not know why You have come to annoy me... My condition deserves respect...»
«And does the condition of your soul not deserve any? Why do you not respect the rights of your soul? I know what you mean: that a fit of anger may risk the life of the unborn child... But do you not take care of the life of your soul? It is more valuable than the unborn child's... You know that... Death may be the end of your state. And do you want to face that hour with an upset, sick unjust soul? »
«My husband says that You are one to whom nobody should listen. I will not listen to You. Alphaeus, come...» and she is about to go away amidst the screams of the little boy who knows that he is going to get a thrashing and does not want to leave Mary's arms. And Mary sighing tries to persuade the woman and says to her: «I am a mother as well and I can understand so many things. And I am a woman... I can therefore pity women. You are going through a difficult period, are you not? You suffer but you are not good at suffering... you become embittered thus... Sister, listen. If I gave you little Alphaeus now, you would be unfair to him and to yourself. Leave him with me for a few days, oh! only a few days. You will see that when he is no longer with you, you will pine for him... because a son is such a dear thing, that when he is away from us, we feel poor, cold, with no light...»
«But take him! Take him! I wish You would take the other two as well! But I don't know where they are...»
«Yes, I will take him. Goodbye, woman. Come, Jesus.» And Mary turns round quickly and goes away sobbing...
«Do not weep, Mother.»
«Do not judge her, Son…»
The two sentences are uttered simultaneously and then, with one thought only, their lips speak the same words: «If they do not understand natural love, can they understand the love which is in the Gospel? » and Son and Mother look at each other, over the little head of the innocent child who now relaxes confidently and happily in Mary's arms...
«We will have one disciple more than we foresaw, Mother.»
«And he will enjoy days of peace...»
«Have You seen, eh! She is as deaf as a door‑post. I had warned You! And now? And later? »
«Now there is peace. Later God grant there may be a pitiful heart... Why not yours, woman? A glass of water given out of love is taken into account in Heaven. But for those who love an innocent child for My sake... oh! what beatitude for those who love the little ones and save them from evil!...»
The little old woman remains pensive... and Jesus takes a short cut to the lake. When He arrives there, He takes the little boy from Mary's arms to let Her get into the boat more easily, and He lifts the child up as far as He can, to show him and He smiles brightly saying to those who are already in the boats: «Look! This time our preaching will certainly be fruitful, because an innocent is with us » and He walks with steady steps on the board although it sways, He goes into the boat and sits beside His Mother, while the boat moves away from the shore, steering at once south‑east, towards Hippo.
448. At the Village before Hippo.
26th June 1946.
Hippo is not on the shore of the lake, as I thought, when I saw some houses on the shore almost at the south‑eastern end. I realise that from the words of the disciples. That group of houses, I would say, is the forefront of Hippo, which is farther back in the hinterland. Like Ostia with regard to Rome, or the Lido with regard to Venice, it represents the outlet on the lake for the inland town which makes use of the lake routes for imports and exports, and also to shorten journeys from this area to the Galilean shores on the other side, and finally, as a place of amusement for the idle citizens of the town and for the supplies of fish procured by the many fishermen of the village.
In the calm evening they land here, near a little natural port formed by the bed of a torrent at present dry, and where the sky-blue water of the lake comes in calmly for a few metres, as it is no longer driven back by the water of the torrent. On the shore there are large and small houses of fishermen, who toil the waters abounding in fish, and of market‑gardeners, who cultivate a strip of rich moist ground, Which is irrigated by the nearby waters and stretches from the shore inland, more northwards than southwards, ending sharply at the beginning of the high cliff, which rises almost sheer from the lake. It is the same cliff from which the pigs of the miracle of the Gerasenes rushed into the lake.
As it is evening, the inhabitants are on the terraces or in the kitchen gardens having supper. But as the kitchen gardens are surrounded by low hedges and the terraces by low walls, their inhabitants soon see the little flotilla of boats moor in the little harbour and many get up and go to meet those who have arrived, some out of curiosity, some because they know them.
«It's the boat of Simon of Jonah together with that of Zebedee. So it can be no one but the Rabbi Who has come here with His disciples » declares a fisherman.
«Woman, take the child at once and follow me. Perhaps it is Him. He will cure him. The angel of God has brought Him to us» a kitchen gardener orders his wife, whose face is tear‑stained.
«As far as I am concerned, I believe. I remember that miracle very well! All those pigs! The pigs which extinguish with water the heat of the demons possessing them... The torture must have been dreadful, if the pigs, which are always so disdainful of cleanliness, threw themselves into the water...» says a man who hastens there in support of the Master.
«Oh! You are right! It must have been real torture. I was there as well, and I remember. The bodies exhaled fumes, so did the waters. The lake became warmer than the water of Hamatha. And the wood and the grass across which they ran were burnt.»
«I went there but I saw no change...» a third man observes.
«No change! Well your eyes are covered with scales! Look! You can see it from here. See over there? Where the dry river‑bed is? Look a little farther away and you will see whether...»
«No! That devastation was brought about by the Roman soldiers when they were looking for that rogue in the cold nights of the month of Tebeth. They camped there and lit fires.»
«And did they bum all the wood to light fires? Look how many trees are missing there! »
«A wood! Two or three oak‑trees! »
«And is that nothing? »
«No. But you know! As far as they are concerned, our property is of no account. They are the rulers and we the oppressed people. Ah! Until...» the discussion moves from the supernatural to the political field.
«Who will take me to the Rabbi? Have mercy on a blind man! Where is He? Tell me. I looked for Him in Jerusalem, at Nazareth, at Capernaum. Ha had always left before I arrived... Where is He? Oh! Have mercy on me! » moans a man about forty years old groping about with a stick.
Those whose legs or backs are struck abuse him, but no one feels pity for him and everybody knocks against him passing by, without stretching out a hand to guide him. The poor blind man stops, frightened and depressed...
«The Rabbi! The Rabbi! Ahc‑Ahc, il il leee! » (I am striving to reproduce... the word of a shrill cry of the women modulating it. But it is a cry, not a word! It resembles more the chirping of some birds than a human word.)
«He will bless our children! »
«His word will startle the fruit which I have in my womb. Rejoice, my creature! The Saviour is speaking to you » says a buxom wife caressing her swollen abdomen under her loose dress.
«Oh! Perhaps He will make mine prolific! It would be joy and peace between Elisha and me. I have been to all the places where they say that a woman becomes fertile. I drank the water of the well near Rachel's tomb and that of the stream in the grotto where His Mother gave birth to Him... I went to Hebron to take for three days the earth of the place where the Baptist was born... I fed on the fruit of Abraham's oak‑tree and I wept invoking Abel where he was delivered and killed... I have tried all the holy things, all the miraculous things of Heaven and earth, as well as medicines, and doctors, and vows, and prayers, and offerings... but my womb has not opened to the seed, and Elisha can hardly put up with me and he finds it difficult not to hate me!!! Alas! » moans an already withered woman.
«You are old now, Sella! Resign yourself! » reply those women with pity mixed with slight contempt and evident triumphant mien ‑ who pass by with their wombs swollen with maternity or with sucklings feeding at their flourishing mammae.
«No! Don't say that! He raised the dead! Will He not be able to give life to my womb? »
«Make room! Make room! Make room for my sick mother » shouts a young man who is holding the shafts of an improvised litter, which is held at the other end by a very depressed girl. On the litter is a woman, still young, but reduced to a yellowish skeleton.
«We will have to inform Him of Poor John and show Him where he is. He is the most unhappy of all, because he is a leper and he cannot go looking for the Master...» says an authoritative old man.
«We are first! If He goes towards Hippo, we have no hope. The townspeople will take Him for themselves and we will be neglected as usual.»
«But what is happening there? Why are the women shouting thus over there, on the shore? »
«Because they are silly! »
«No. They are shouts of joy. Let's run...»
The road is thronged with people moving towards the shore and the gravel‑bed, where Jesus and His apostles have been blocked by the people who flocked there first.
«A miracle! A miracle! Eliza's son, who was given up by doctors, has been cured! The Rabbi cured him by putting some saliva in his throat.»
The «Ahc‑Ahc‑il‑il‑leee » of the women become more trilling and piercing, mingled with the loud hosannas of men.
Jesus is literally overwhelmed notwithstanding His height. The apostles do everything they can to make room for Him. Nothing doing! The women disciples with Mary in the middle of them are separated from the group of the apostles. The little boy is frightened and is crying in the arms of Mary of Alphaeus. And his weeping draws the attention of many people to the group of the women disciples, and there is the usual well‑informed man who says: «Oh! there is also the Mother of the Rabbi and the mothers of the disciples!...»
«Which? Which are they? »
«The Mother is the pale fair‑haired one wearing a linen dress, and the others are the old ones, the one with the little boy and the one with a basket on her head.»
«And who is the little boy? »
«Her son, eh! Can't you hear him call her mummy? »
«Whose son? The old woman's? Not possible! »
«The young woman's. Can't you see that he wants to go to, her? »
«No. The Rabbi has no brothers. I know that for certain.»
Jesus, moving with difficulty, manages to reach the litter on which is lying the sick woman carried by her children and He cures her. Meanwhile some women, who have overheard the conversation, curious as they are, go towards Mary.
But one of them is not curious. She throws herself at Her feet saying: «For the sake of Your maternity, have mercy on me.» She is the barren woman.
Mary bends and asks: «What do you want, sister? »
«To be a mother... A son!... Only one!... I am hated because I am barren. I believe that Your Son can do everything, but I have such a great faith in Him, that I think that as He was born of You, He made You as holy and powerful as He is. Now I beg You... for Your joys of mother I beg You: make me fertile. Touch me with Your hand and I will be happy...»
«Your faith is great, woman. But faith is to be given to Him, Who is entitled to it: to God. Come, therefore, to My Jesus...» and She takes her by the hand asking with graceful insistance to be allowed to pass until She reaches Jesus.
The other women disciples follow Her in the wake which opens in the crowd and the women who had approached Mary do likewise and in the meantime they ask Mary of Alphaeus who is the little boy whom she is holding up above the crowds.
«A little boy who is no longer loved by his mother. He has come to the Rabbi seeking love...»
«A little boy no longer loved by his mother!?! »
«Have you heard, Susanna? »
«Who is the hyena? »
«Alas! And I am suffering agonies because I have none! Give him to me, give him to me, that a son may kiss me at least once!...» and Sella, the barren woman, almost tears the little child from the arms of Mary of Alphaeus and she presses him to her heart, still trying to follow Mary, Who has become separated from her the moment that Sella left Mary's hand to take the child.
«Jesus, listen. There is a woman asking a grace. She is barren...»
«Do not trouble the Master for her, woman. Her womb is dead » says one who is not aware that he is speaking to the Mother of God. Then, embarrassed because of his mistake about which he is warned, he endeavours not to be noticed and to disappear while Jesus replies both to him and to the suppliant woman saying: al am the Life. Woman, let it be done to you what you have asked » and He lays His hand on Sella's head for a moment.
«Jesus! Son of David, have mercy on me! » shouts the blind man mentioned previously. He has slowly arrived near the crowd and from the outskirts of it he cries his invocation.
Jesus, Who had lowered His head to hear Sella's words of supplication, raises His head again and looks in the direction from which the voice of the blind man comes, syncopated like the cry of a shipwrecked person.
«What do you want Me to do for you? » He shouts.
«That I may see. I am in darkness.»
«I am the Light. I want it! »
«Ah! I see! I can see again! Let me pass! That I may kiss the feet of my Lord!»
«Master, You have cured everybody here. But there is a leper in a hut in the wood. He always begs us to take You to him...»
«Let us go! Please! Let Me go. Do not hurt yourselves! I am here for everybody... Please, make room. You are hurting women and children. I am not leaving yet. I will be here tomorrow and I will be in this area for five days. You can follow Me, if you wish so...»
Jesus tries to discipline the crowd, to ensure that the citizens, in order to benefit by His visit, may not harm themselves. But the crowd is like an elastic substance which dilates then presses round Him once again, it is like an avalanche, which by natural law can but become more compact the more it descends, it is like particles of iron attracted by a magnet... Thus progress is slow, encumbered, difficult... They are all perspiring, the apostles are bawling, elbowing their way through the crowd, kicking shins at the same time... All efforts are vain! It takes them a quarter of an hour to cover ten metres.
A woman about forty years old succeeds through sheer perseverance in making her way as far as Jesus and touches His elbow.
«What do you want, woman? »
«That little boy... I heard about him... I am a widow and I have no children... Remember me. I am Sarah of Aphek, the widow of the mat vendor. Remember. My house is near the square of the red fountain. But I own also some vineyards and a wood. I can afford to assist those who are alone... and I would be happy...»
«I will remember that, woman. May your pity be blessed.»
The village, which stretches more parallelly than vertically to the lake, is soon crossed and they find themselves in the peaceful silent country at twilight. However, it does not get dark, as the transition from daylight to moonlight is imperceptible. They go towards the ramifications of the high cliff, which farther south stretches out as far as the lake. On the cliff there are some grottoes, I do not know whether they are natural ones or dug on purpose in the rock; many have been walled up and whitewashed outside and are certainly sepulchres.
«Here we are! Let us stop in order not to be infected. We are close to the leper's hideout and this is the time when he comes to that rock to collect offerings. He was rich, You know? We remember him. And he was also good. But now he is a holy man. The more sorrow struck him, the more holy he became. We do not know how it happened. They say that it was brought about by some pilgrims to whom he gave hospitality. They were going to Jerusalem, so they said. They appeared to be sound, but they were certainly lepers. The fact is that after they left, the wife and the servants first, then the children, finally he, became infected with leprosy. All of them. The first ‑ and it was their hands that became infected ‑ were those who had washed the feet and the clothes of the pilgrims, that is why we say that they must have been the cause of it all. The children: three, died soon. Then the wife, and she died more of grief than of disease... He... When the priest declared them all lepers, he bought this part of the mountain with his money which had now become useless and he had provisions stored there for himself and his family... including servants, together with hoes and picks... and he began to dig the sepulchres... and one by one he buried them all: his little children, then his wife, the servants... He is the only one left all alone, poor, because everything comes to an end, as time passes... and the situation has lasted fifteen years... And yet... never one complaint. He was a learned man: he repeats the Scriptures by heart. He repeats them to the stars, to herbs, to trees, to birds, he repeats them to us who have so much to learn from him, and he comforts our sorrows... he, wonder of wonders! comforts our sorrows. People come from Hippo and Gamala and even from Gherghesa and Aphek to hear him. When he heard of the miracle of the two men possessed... oh! he began to preach faith in You. Lord, if men greeted You with Your name of Messiah, if women greeted You as victor and king, if children know Your name and that You are the Holy One of Israel, that is due to the poor leper » relates on behalf of everybody the old man who was the first to speak of John.
«Will You cure him? » ask many.
«And are you asking Me? I have mercy on sinners, so what will I have for a just man? But is it perhaps he who is coming? Over there, among those bushes...»
«It is certainly him. What wonderful sight You have, Lord! We can hear the rustling noise, but do not see anything...»
The rustling also stops. There is dead silence and expectation...
Jesus is clearly visible, alone, a little ahead of the others, because He has gone forward as far as the rock on which some provisions have been laid; the others disappear in the dim light of some trees, mingling with trunks and bushes of the unbroken ground. Children also are silent, either because they have fallen asleep in their mothers' arms, or because they are frightened of the silence, of the sepulchres, of the bizarre shadows which the moon casts illuminating trees and rocks.
But the leper must see, and see well, from his hiding‑place. He must be able to see the tall solemn person of the Lord, handsome and all white in the white moonlight. The tired glances of the leper certainly meet Jesus' bright eyes. What language is spoken by those divine, wide eyes, as bright as stars? What language is uttered by the lips open in a smile of love? Above all, what does the heart of the Christ say? A mystery. One of the many mysteries between God and souls in their spiritual relationship. The leper certainly understands because he shouts: «Here is the Lamb of God! Here is He Who has come to cure all the sorrows of the world! Jesus, blessed Messiah, our King and Saviour, have mercy on me! »
«What do you want? How can you believe in the Unknown One and see in Him the Expected One? What am I for you? The Unknown...»
«No. You are the Son of the living God. How do I know and see? I do not know. Here, within me, a voice has shouted: "Here is the Expected One! He has come to reward your faith". Unknown? Yes. The face of God is not known to anybody. Thus You are the "Unknown One" in Your appearance. But You are the Known One because of Your Nature and Your Royalty. Jesus, Son of the Father, Word Incarnate and God like the Father. That is who You are, and I greet You and beg You, believing in You.»
«And if I were not able to do anything and your faith were disappointed? »
«I would say that that is the will of the Most High and I would continue to believe and love, always hoping in the Lord.»
Jesus turns to the crowds who are listening in suspense to the conversation and He says: «I solemnly tell you that this man has the faith which shifts mountains. I solemnly tell you that true charity, faith and hope are tested more in sorrow than in joy, because the excess of joy is often the ruin of a spirit not yet perfected. It is easy to believe and be good when life is a placid succession of days all alike, even if not a pleasant one. But he who is able to persist in faith, hope and charity, also when diseases, poverty, death, misfortunes cause him to be left all alone, forlorn, avoided by everybody, and he does nothing but say: "Let that be done, which the Most High deems is useful to me", he truly not only deserves help from God, but, I tell you, his seat is ready in the Kingdom of Heaven and he will suffer no delay in expectation, because his justice has cancelled all debts of his past life. Man, I say to you: "Go in peace, as God is with you!".»
He turns round in saying so and stretches His arms out to the leper, with His gesture He almost draws him towards Himself, and when he is close at hand and clearly visible, He orders: «I want it! Be cleansed!...» and with her silvery beams the moon seems to cleanse and wipe away the pustules, the wounds, the nodules and the scabs of the horrible disease.
The body recomposes its features and becomes sound. It is an old dignified man, ascetic in his leanness, who, as soon as he becomes aware of the miracle through the hosannas shouted by the crowd, bends to kiss the ground, as he cannot touch Jesus or any other man before the time prescribed by the Law.
«Stand up. They will bring you clean clothes so that you may present yourself to the priest. But always present yourself to your God in purity of spirit. Goodbye, man. Peace be with you! »
And Jesus joins the crowds and slowly goes back to the village to rest.
449. Morning Sermon in the Village on the Lake.
27th June 1946.
It is a cool morning when the people wait for Jesus to come out of a house in the lake village to begin His preaching.
I think that the inhabitants slept very little that night, deeply moved as they were by the miracles which had been worked, by the joy of having the Master with them, by their desire not to waste one moment of His presence. They were late in going to sleep, because of the long talking in houses, recapitulating the events, examining whether their spirits were endowed with faith, hope and charity, firm against every painful event, praised by the Master and proclaimed sure means to obtain grace from God in this and in the next life. And they woke early fearing that the Master might come out and go away early in the morning and they might not be present when He departed. Thus houses opened early to let their inhabitants go out into the streets, where, seeing that they were so many, practically all, and all prompted by the same thoughts, they said to one another: «It is really the first time that one only thought has urged our hearts and united them » and with fresh, kind, brotherly friendship, by mutual consent, they all set out towards the house where Jesus has been given hospitality and they crowded round it, noiselessly, waiting patiently and untiringly, quite decided to follow the Master, as soon as He comes out.
And many market‑gardeners have picked in their gardens the fruits still covered with dew and are protecting them from the rising sun, from dust and flies, by covering them with fresh vine-leaves or large fig‑leaves, through the indentations of which peep red apples, which seem to have been painted by a miniaturist, and grapes like amber or onyx, or soft round figs of all kinds, some firmly closed within their skin delicately withered on the sweet pulp, some turgid and smooth as if they were covered with well-ironed silk and decorated with diamond drops at their lower ends, some open in a smile of their blond, rosy, deep red fibres, according to qualities. And some fishermen have brought some fish in small baskets, fish which they certainly caught during the night, sacrificing their sleep, because some are still alive and are gasping in their last painful aspirations and spasms of agony, while their panting and faint wriggling increase the silvery or delicately blue hues of their stomachs and backs, lying on a bed of grey‑green leaves of willow‑trees or poplars.
The lake, in the meantime, has changed from the delicate milky hue which light bestows on waters at daybreak ‑ a hue so pure, I would say so angelical, almost abstract, so calmly the water rests on the shingly shore, just murmuring delicately among the pebbles ‑ to the resplendent, more human, I would say carnal hue of dawn, which tinges the water with red as the rosy clouds are reflected in the lake. And the lake becomes sky‑blue in the pure light of dawn and begins to live again, to pulsate, with its wavelets which stir and run joyfully breaking into foam on the shore, then run back to dance with other wavelets, adorning the entire sheet of the lake with a light snow‑white lace, thrown on the silky blue water, rippled by the morning breeze. Then the first ray of sunlight strikes the water over there, towards Tarichea, where it was so green‑blue because of the woods which it reflected, and it assumes a golden hue and shines like a broken mirror struck by the sun, and the mirror expands incessantly, tinging with gold and topazes waters still blue, cancelling the rosy hues of the clouds reflected in the water, enveloping the keels of the last boats which are returning to port after fishing, as well as the keels of the first boats going out, while the sails, in the triumphal light of the risen sun, are as white as the wings of an angel against the blue of the sky and the green of the hills. Magnificent lake of Galilee which with its fruitful shores reminds me of our Lake Garda, and with its mystical peace Lake Trasimeno, gem of Palestine, worthy surroundings for most of the public life of Jesus!
Jesus appears at the door of the hospitable house and He smiles, raising His arms to bless the patient citizens awaiting Him.
«Peace be with you all.
Were you waiting for Me? Were you afraid that I might run away without saying goodbye to you? I always keep My promises. I am with you today to evangelize you and I will remain with you as I promised, to bless your houses, your gardens and boats, so that each family may be sanctified, and your work may be sanctified as well. But, remember, My blessing is to be assisted by your good will in order to be fruitful. And you know which is the good will that must enliven a family so that the house sheltering it may be holy. The husband is to be the head, but not the despot, of the wife, of the children and of the servants, and at the same time he is to be the king, the true king in the biblical sense of word.
Do you remember chapter eight of the first Book of the Kings? The elders of Israel gathered together and went to Ramah, where Samuel lived and they said to him: "Look, you are old and your children do not follow your ways. So give us a king to judge us, like the other nations". King, therefore, means judge, and he should be a just judge in order not to make his subjects unhappy here on the earth with wars, abuse of power, unfair heavy taxes, or in eternal life with a kingdom permissive of lasciviousness and vice. Woe to those kings who fail in their ministry, who turn a deaf ear to the voices of their subjects, who turn a blind eye to the evils of the nation, who become responsible for the sufferings of the people through alliances formed against justice for the only purpose of strengthening their power with the help of allies! But woe also to those fathers who fail in their duties, who are blind and deaf to the needs and faults of the members of their families, who are the cause of scandal or grief for it, who stoop to arrange worthless marriages by compromise, in order to enter into an alliance with rich powerful families, without considering that matrimony is intended, besides procreation, for the elevation and comfort of man and woman; it is a duty, a ministry, not a bargain, it is not sorrow, it is not debasement of either husband or wife. It is love, not hatred. The head of the family, therefore, must be just without excessive hardness or pretensions and without excessive compliance and weakness. But if you had to choose between the former excess and the latter, pick the latter, because God, with regard to it, may say to you: "Why were you so good?" and will not condemn you, because excess in kindness is already a punishment for man through the overbearing action which other people take the liberty of performing against good persons; whereas He would always reproach you for your hardness, which is lack of love for your closest neighbour.
And the wife at home must be just with her husband, her children and servants. She must obey, respect, console and help her husband. She is to be obedient, providing her obedience does not imply consent to sin. The wife must be submissive but not degraded. Beware, o wives, that the first to judge you, after God, for certain guilty condescensions, are your very husbands, who persuade you to comply. They are not always desires of love, but they are also tests for your virtue. Even if he does not think about it at the moment, the day may come when the husband may say to himself: "My wife is very sensual" and thence he may begin to be suspicious of her fidelity. Be chaste in your conjugality. Behave in such a way that your chastity may impose on your husbands that reservedness which one has for pure things, and they may consider you as their equals, not as slaves or concubines kept only for "pleasure" and rejected when they are no longer liked. The virtuous wife, I would say the wife who also after conjugality retains that virginal "something" in attitude, in words, in her transports of love, can lead her husband to an elevation from sensuality to sentiment, whereby the husband divests himself of lewdness and becomes really "one thing" with his wife, whom he treats with the same respect with which a man treats a part of himself, which is just, because the wife is "bone from his bones and flesh from his flesh" and no man ill‑treats his bones or his flesh, on the contrary he loves them, and therefore husband and wife, like the first married couple, look at each other without seeing their sexual nakedness, but let them love each other because of their spirits, without degrading shame.
Let the wife be patient and motherly with her husband. Let her consider him as the first of her children, because a woman is always a mother and man is always in need of a patient, prudent, affectionate, comforting mother. Blessed is the woman who knows how to be the companion and at the same time the mother of her husband to support him, and his daughter to be guided by him. A wife must be industrious. Work, while it does away with daydreams, is good for honesty and to one's purse as well. She should not torture her husband with foolish jealousies, which serve no purpose. Is the husband honest? A stupid jealousy, by driving him out of the house, exposes him to the danger of falling into the snares of a prostitute. Is he not honest and faithful? The fury of a jealous wife will not correct him, but her grave attitude, free from grudge and rudeness, her dignified and loving, still loving be behaviour, will make him ponder and return to reason. Learn how to win back your husbands, when a passion separates them from you, through your virtue, just as you conquered them in your youth through your beauty. And, to gain strength for such duty, and resist the grief which might make you unfair, love your children and consider their welfare.
A woman has everything in her children: joy, a royal crown for the cheerful hours when she is really the queen of the house and of her husband, and a balm in sorrowful hours, when betrayal or other grievous experiences of married life scourge her forehead and above all pierce her heart with the thorns of her sad regality of martyr spouse. Are you so depressed as to wish to go back to your family, divorcing, or to find compensation in a false friend who craves for the female but feigns to feel pity for the heart of the betrayed wife? No, women, no! Your children, your innocent children, who are already upset and prematurely sad because of the domestic milieu, which is no longer serene or just, are entitled to their mother, to their father, to the comfort of a house, where, if one love has perished, the other remains vigilant to watch over them. Their innocent eyes look at you, they study you and they understand more than you think, and they mould their spirits according to what they see and understand. Never scandalise your innocent children, but take shelter in them, as in a bulwark of adamantine lilies, against the weakness of the flesh and the snares of snakes.
And let the woman be a mother. The just mother who is the sister as well as the mother, who is the friend as well as the sister of her sons and daughters. And who, above all and in everything, is an example. She must watch over her sons and daughters, correcting them gently, supporting them, making them ponder, and all that without preferences; because the children were all born of the same seed and of the same womb and if it is natural that good children are well‑liked, because of the joy they give, it is also fair that children who are not good should be loved as well, although with sorrowful love, bearing in mind that man must not be more severe than God, Who loves not only good people, but also those who are not good, and He loves them to try and make them good, to give them means and time to become so, and He is patient until the death of man, reserving to Himself the right to become just Judge when man can no longer make amends.
And let Me tell you now something which does not concern this subject, but is useful for you to bear in mind. Very often, too often, we hear people say that wicked persons are better off than good persons and that that is not fair. First of all I say to you: "Do not judge by appearances and by what you do not know". Appearances are often misleading and the judgement of God is not known on the Earth. You will become aware of it in the next life and you will see that the fleeting welfare of the wicked was granted as a means to attract them to Good and as a reward for the little good which even the most wicked man may do. But when you see things in the right light of future life, you will realise that the joyful time of the sinner was shorter than the life of a blade of grass, which began to grow in spring in the gravel‑bed of a torrent, which dries up in summer, whereas one moment of glory in Heaven is greater than the most triumphant life any man ever lived, because of the joy which it confers on spirits who delight in it. Therefore, do not envy the prosperity of the wicked, but strive, through good will, to possess the eternal treasure of the just.
And reverting to how the members of a family and the inhabitants of a house should be, so that My blessing may remain fruitful in it, I tell you, children, to be submissive to your parents, to be respectful and obedient, so that you may be so also with the Lord your God. Because if you do not learn to obey the simple orders of your fathers and mothers, whom you see, how will you be able to obey the commands of God, which are given to you in His name, but you neither see nor hear Him? And if you do not learn to believe that he who loves, as a father and a mother love, can but order good things, how can you believe that the things, which are related to you as commands of God, are good? God loves, you know? and is a Father. And just because He loves you and wants you to be with Him, dear children, He wants you to be good. And the first school where you learn to become so, is your family. You learn there to love and to obey and there begins for you the way that leads to Heaven. So be good, respectful, docile. Love your fathers also when they correct you, because they do so for your own good, and love your mothers if they restrain you from doing actions which by their experience they know are not good. Honour your parents and do not make them blush because of your wicked deeds. Pride is not a good thing, but there is a holy pride, the pride of saying: "I did not grieve my father or my mother". Such behaviour, which makes you enjoy their company while they are alive, is peace on the wound of their death, whereas the tears, which a son causes his parents to shed, scorch the heart of the wicked son like melted lead, and notwithstanding every effort to soothe the injury, it is painful, and all the more so when the parent's death prevents the son from making amends... Oh! children, be good, always, if you want God to love you.
Lastly, holy is that house in which, through the justice of the masters, the servants also become just. Masters should remember that bad behaviour exacerbates and spoils servants, and the servants should bear in mind that their bad behaviour disgusts masters. Let each stay in his own place, but with a tie of love for the neighbour to fill the division existing between servants and masters.
Then the house blessed by Me will keep its blessing and the Lord will dwell in it. And likewise, My blessing and thus My protection will remain on boats, kitchen gardens, working and fishing implements, when you lead your lives as fishermen or market-gardeners working holily on days permitted and holily devoted to worshipping God on holy Sabbaths, and you do not cheat when selling or weighing, and you do not curse your work, neither do you make it the sovereign of your lives by preferring it to God. Because if work gives you a profit, God gives you Heaven.
And now let us go and bless houses and boats and oars and kitchen gardens and hoes, then we will go and speak near the place where John is, before he goes to the priest. Because I will not come back here again, and it is fair that he should hear Me at least once. Take some bread, fish and fruit; we will take them into the wood and we will eat in the presence of the cured leper giving him the best bits, so that also his body may rejoice and he may feel that he is already a brother among the believers in the Lord. »
And Jesus sets out, followed by the people of the village and by other people who have come from nearby towns, where, during the night some inhabitants of this village perhaps went with the news that the Saviour is on this shore.
450. Near the Place of the Leper. Parable on the Ten Commandments.
29th June 1946.
«My Lord! » shouts the ex‑leper dropping on his knees as soon as he sees Jesus appear in the unbroken ground in front of the rocky place, where he has lived for so many years. Then, standing up, he shouts again: «Why have You come back to me? »
«To give you the viaticum of My word after that of your health.»
«Viaticum is given to him who is about to depart, and in fact this evening I am leaving for my purification. But I am leaving to come back and join Your disciples, if You will accept Me. Lord, I no longer have home or relatives. I am too old to resume an activity in life. They will reinstate me in my property. But what will my house be like after fifteen years of neglect? What shall I find there? Perhaps dilapidated walls... I am a bird with no nest. Let me join the group which follows You. In any case... I no longer belong to myself, I belong to You for what You have given me, I do not belong any more to the world, which cast me away for such a long time, and quite rightly as I was unclean. Now, after becoming acquainted with You, I find that the world is impure and I want to flee from it and come to You.»
«And I will not reject you. But I tell you that I would like you to stay in this area. Aera and Arbela have one of their sons who is a disciple and evangelizes there. I ask you to be such a disciple for Hippo, Gamala, Aphek and nearby villages. I will be going down to Judaea shortly and I will not come back to this area any more. But I want some evangelizers here.»
«Your will makes every renouncement dear to me. I will do what You wish. I will begin as soon as purifications are over. I had made up my mind not to take care of my house any more. Now instead I will have it repaired, so that I can live in it and receive during winter the souls which are anxious to hear of You. And I will ask one of the disciples who has been following You for years, to come with me, because if You want me to be a little master, I need to be taught by someone more learned than I am. And in spring I will go about like the others preaching Your Name.»
«That is a good plan. God will help you to fulfil it.»
«I have already begun it by burning everything I possessed: that is, my poor pallet and the utensils which I used, the clothes I wore until yesterday, everything that I had touched with my diseased body. The grotto in which I lived is black with the smoke of the fire which I lit in it to destroy and purify. Nobody will be infected going into it to take shelter in a stormy night. And then... (the man's voice becomes feeble, it almost breaks, his speech slows down...) and then... I had an old chest, by now falling to pieces... worm‑eaten... it seemed that leprosy had corroded it as well... But to me... it was more valuable than the wealth of the world... It contained my dear things... mementoes of my mother... the wedding veil of my Anne... Ah! when I, so happy, took it off her the evening of our wedding and I contemplated her face, as beautiful and pure as lilies, who could have told me that a few years later I was to see it all covered with sores! And... the garments of my children... their toys... which their little hands had played with while they were able to hold... an object... and... oh! my grief is so deep... forgive my tears... It is so painful now that I have burned them for the sake of justice... without being able to kiss them any more... because they had belonged to lepers... I am unfair, Lord... I am showing You tears... But bear with me... I have destroyed the last memory of them... and now I am like a man lost in a desert...» The man collapses weeping near the heap of ashes, the remembrance of his past...
«You are not lost, John, and you are not alone. I am with you. And your dear ones will soon be with Me, in Heaven, waiting for you. Those remains reminded you of them, disfigured by disease, or lovely and healthy before the calamity. Sorrowful remembrances all of them. Leave them among the ashes of the fire. Cancel them in My assurance that you will find them, happy and beautiful in the joy of Heaven. The past is dead, John. Do not mourn any more over it. Light does not delay to look at the darkness of the night, but it is happy to part from it and to shine climbing the sky behind the sun every morning. And the sun does not delay in the east, but it rises, springs and rushes until it shines high in the vault of heaven. Your night is over. Forget it. Rise with your spirit up there, where I, the Light, will lead you. Through sweet hope and beautiful faith, you will already find joy there, because your charity will be able to communicate with God and your beloved ones awaiting you. It is but a rapid climb... and you will soon be up there, with them. Life is a puff of air... eternity is the eternal present.»
«You are right, Lord. You are comforting and teaching me how to overcome this hour with justice... But You are standing in the sun to be as close to me as You are allowed. Withdraw, Master. You have given me enough. The sun, already strong, might harm You.»
«I have come to stay with you. We have all come for that. But you can move as well towards the trees and we will be near each other without any danger.»
The man obeys departing from the rock at the foot of which is the heap of ashes, his past, and he goes towards the spot, for which Jesus is making, where the apostles, deeply moved, are with the women and the people of the village and those who have come from other towns to hear the Master.
«Light the fires to cook the fish. We will share the food in a banquet of love » orders Jesus.
And while the apostles do so, He goes about under the trees which have grown in a disorderly way in this place, which everybody has shunned because of the presence of the leper. A thick wild tangle of trees unaware of pruning‑knives or axes since they began to come up. People suffering or depressed are in the propitious shadow of the brushwood and they speak to Jesus of their distresses, and Jesus cures, advises or comforts, patiently and powerfully. Farther away, in a small meadow, the boy from Capernaum is playing with the children of the village and their joyful cries compete with the singing of many birds in the thick trees, while their many‑coloured garments, waving while they run on the green grass, make them look like large butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.
The food is ready and they call Jesus. He kindly asks a basket of a peasant who had brought some figs and grapes, and He fills it with bread, with the nicest fish, with tasty fruit, He adds His flask of water sweetened with honey, and He turns His steps towards the ex‑leper.
«You will be left without a flask, Master » says Bartholomew warning Him. «He cannot give it back to You.»
And Jesus replies smiling: «There is still so much water for the thirst of the Son of man! There is the water which the Father put into deep wells. And the Son of man can drink from His cupped hands, while they are still free... The day will come when I will have neither free hands nor water... not even the water of love to give refreshment to the Thirsty One... Now I have so much love around Me...» and He goes on carrying with both hands the wide round low basket and laying it on the grass a few metres from John, to whom He says: «Take and eat. It is the banquet of God.»
He then returns to His place. He offers and blesses the food and has it handed out to the people present who add what they had of their own. They all eat with relish and in peaceful joy, and Mary takes care of little Alphaeus with motherly love.
When the meal is over, Jesus stands between the crowd and the ex‑leper and He begins to speak, while mothers take in their laps the children satiated with food and tired of playing and they lull them to sleep, so that they may not disturb.
«Listen everybody. In a psalm David, the psalmist, asks: "Who will dwell in the Tabernacle of God? Who will rest on the mountain of God?". And he goes on to enumerate who will be the fortunate people and why they will be so. He says: "The man whose way of life is blameless and who does what is right. He who speaks the truth from his heart and does not plot deceit with his tongue, who does no wrong to his fellow, who does not listen to words discrediting his neighbour". And in a few lines, after describing those who will enter the dominions of God, he says what good these blessed souls do after having done no wrong. Here: "In his eyes the reprobate is nothing. He honours those who fear God. When he swears to his neighbour he stands by his pledge. He does not ask interest on loans, he will not be bribed to victimise the innocent". And he concludes: "The man who does all that will never waver". I solemnly tell you that the psalmist spoke the truth and I confirm with My wisdom that he who does such things will never waver.
The first condition to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: "To live without fault".
But can man, a weak creature, live without fault? The flesh, the world and Satan, in continuous ferment of passions, inclinations and hatred squirt out their spray to stain souls, and if Heaven were open only to those who lived without fault ever since the age of reason, very few men would enter Heaven, just as very few are the men who arrive at death without experiencing more or less grave diseases during their lifetime. So? Are the children of God barred from Heaven? And will they have to say: "I have lost it" when an attack of Satan or a storm of the flesh causes them to fall and they see their souls stained? Will there be no more forgiveness for the sinners? Will nothing delete the stain which disfigures the spirit? Do not fear your God with unjust fear. He is a Father and a father always stretches out a hand to his wavering children, he offers help so that they may rise again, he comforts them with kind means so that their dejection may not degenerate into despair, but it may flourish into humility willing to make amends and thus become again pleasing to the Father.
Now. The repentance of the sinner, the good will to make amends, both brought about by true love for the Lord, cleanse the stain of fault and make one worthy of divine forgiveness. And when He Who is speaking to you has completed His mission on the Earth, the most powerful absolution which the Christ will have achieved for you at the cost of His sacrifice, will be added to the absolutions of love, of repentance and of good will. With souls purer than those of new‑born babies, much purer, because from the bosoms of those who believe in Me, rivers of living water will spring deterging also the original sin, the first cause of weakness in man, you will be able to aspire to Heaven, to the Kingdom of God, to His Tabernacles. Because the Grace which I am about to restore to you will help you to practise justice which, the more it is practised, the more it increases the right, that a faultless spirit gives you to enter the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Infants will enter Heaven and they will rejoice, because of the beatitude given to them gratuitously, as Heaven is joy. But also adults and old people will enter it, those who have lived, fought, won and who to the snow‑white crown of Grace will add the many‑coloured one of their holy deeds, of their victories over Satan, the world and the flesh, and great, very great will be their beatitude of winners, so great, that man cannot imagine it.
How does one practise justice? How does one gain victory? Through honesty of words and deeds, through charity for one's neighbour. Acknowledging that God is God, not placing the idols of creatures, money, power in the place of the Most Holy God. By giving everybody the place to which they are entitled, without trying to give more or to give less than what is right. He who honours one because he is a friend or a mighty relative and serves him also in evil deeds, is not just. On the contrary, he who harms his neighbour because he has no hope of receiving any kind of profit from him and bears false witness against him on oath, or is bribed to testify against the innocent or to judge partially, not according to justice but according to the profit he may gain with his unfair judgement from the more powerful of the competitors, is not just and vain are his prayers and offers, because they are stained with injustice in the eyes of God.
You can see that what I am telling you is the Decalogue. The word of the Rabbi is always the Decalogue. Because good, justice, glory consist in doing what the Decalogue teaches and orders us to do. There is no other doctrine. In days gone by it was given amid the flashes of lightning on Mount Sinai, now it is given in the refulgence of Mercy, but the Doctrine is the same. It does not change. It cannot change. Many in Israel will say, as an excuse, to justify their lack in holiness, even after the passage of the Saviour on the Earth: "I did not have the possibility to follow and listen to Him". But their excuse is of no value. Because the Saviour did not come to impose a new Law, but to confirm the first, the only Law, nay, to reconfirm it in its holy plainness, in its perfect simplicity. To reconfirm with love and the promises of the assured love of God what previously was said with severity on one side and listened to with fear on the other.
To make you understand properly what are the ten Commandments and how important it is to abide by them, I will now tell you a parable.
The father of a family had two sons. He loved them both equally and wanted to be their benefactor impartially. This father, in addition to the house in which his sons lived, owned some property in which great treasures were hidden. The sons were aware of such treasures, but did not know the way to go there because the father, for reasons of his own, had not revealed the road which led there, and that had been the situation for many many years. But one day he called his sons and said: "The time has now come when you ought to know where the treasures are, which I laid aside for you, so that you may go there when I tell you. You had better know the road and the signals which I put on it, so that you may not go astray. So listen to me. The treasures are not in a plain where waters stagnate, where dog days scorch, where dust spoils everything, thorns and bramble suffocate, and where robbers can easily go and rob you. The treasures are on the top of that high rugged mountain. I put them on the top there and they are waiting for you up there. There is more than one path on the mountain, in actual fact there are many. But one only is the right one. Of the others some end up in precipices, some in caves with no exit, some in ditches full of muddy water, some in nests of vipers, some in craters of burning sulphur, some against insurmountable walls. The right road, instead is a difficult one, but it arrives at the top without any interruption of precipices or other obstacles. In order to enable you to recognise it, I placed along it, at regular intervals, ten stone monuments, on each of which is carved these three identification words: 'Love, obedience, victory'. Follow that path and you will reach the place of the treasure. I will come along another road, which is known to me alone and I will open the doors to you, so that you may be happy".
The two sons said goodbye to the father who, as long as they could hear him, repeated: "Follow the path I told you. It's for your own good. Do not yield to the temptation to follow the others, even if they seem better to you. You would lose both the treasure and me...".
They arrive at the foot of the mountain. The first monument was there, at the beginning of the path, which was in the middle of several paths radiating in different directions towards the mountain top. The two brothers began to climb the good path. At first it was very good, although there was not the least shade. From the sky the sun darted down on it, flooding it with light and heat. The white rock in which the path had been dug, the clear sky above them, the warm sun embracing their bodies: that is what the brothers saw and felt. But still animated by good will, by the remembrance of their father and by his advice, they climbed joyfully toward the top. Then the second monument... and later the third one. The path had become more and more difficult, solitary, warm. They could not even see the other paths with grass, trees or clear waters, and above all, where the slope was more gentle, because it was not so steep and the tracks were laid on ground and not on rocks.
"Our father wants us dead when we get there" said one of the sons on arriving at the fourth monument. And he began to slacken his pace. The other encouraged him to go on saying: "He loves us as his very own and even more because he saved the treasure for us in such a wonderful way. He dug this path in the rock and it takes one from the foot of the mountain to its top without any risk of getting lost. And he put these monuments to guide us. Just consider that, my brother! He did all that by himself, for our sake! To give it to us! To ensure that we arrive there without the possibility of mistakes and without any danger".
They continued to walk. But the paths they had left down in the valley reappeared now and again close to the track in the rock and they did so more and more frequently as the cone of the mountain became narrower near the top. And how beautiful, shady and attractive they were!...
"I think I will take one of those" said the discontented brother, when he arrived at the sixth monument. "It goes to the top as well".
"You cannot be sure of that... You cannot see whether it goes up or down...".
"There it is, up there!".
"You do not know whether it is this one. In any case our father told us not to leave this good path...".
The listless brother continued to climb against his will. At the seventh monument he said: "Oh! I am definitely going away".
They went on their way up the path, which was now very difficult, but the top was now close at hand...
They arrived at the eighth monument and very close to it was the flowery path. "Oh! you can see that this one goes up as well, although not in a straight line!".
"You don’t know if it is the same one".
"I do. I recognise it".
"You are mistaken".
"No. I’m going".
"Don’t. Think of father, of the dangers, of the treasure".
"They can all go to the dogs! What am I going to do with the treasure if I will be as good as dead when I get up there? Which danger is greater than this path? And which hatred is stronger than our father's, who fooled us with this track to let us die? Goodbye. I will arrive before you, and alive..." and he jumped on to the adjacent path, and disappeared with a joyful exclamation behind the tree trunks shading it.
His brother went his way sadly... Oh! the last part of the track was really dreadful! The man was exhausted. He felt worn out with fatigue and heat! At the ninth monument he stopped panting, leaning against the carved stone and reading the engraved words mechanically. Nearby there was a shady path with water and flowers... "I almost... No! It is written there, and it was my father who wrote it: 'Love, obedience, victory'. I must believe in his love, in his truthfulness, and I must obey to show my love... Let us go... May love support me…". He is now at the tenth monument… Exhausted, burnt by the sun, he walked stooping, as if he were under a yoke... It was the loving holy yoke of faithfulness, which is love, obedience, strength, hope, justice, prudence, everything... Instead of leaning on the monument he sat down in the narrow shade which it cast on the ground. He felt that he was dying... From the nearby path came the gurgle of streams and the smell of forests... "Father, help me with your spirit, in this temptation... help me to be faithful until the end!".
From afar the joyful voice of his brother shouted: "Come, I will wait for you. Eden is here... Come...".
"And if I went?..." and shouting loud: "Does it really go to the top? ".
"Yes, come. There is a cool tunnel which takes one up. Come! I can already see the top beyond the tunnel, in the rock...".
"Shall I go? Shall I not?… Who will help me?… I will go…". He pushed his hands on the ground to help himself get up and while doing so he noticed that the engraved words were not as clear as those on the first monument. "At each monument the words were less distinct... as if my father, being exhausted, had found it difficult to engrave them. And... look!... Here also is the dark red mark, which has been visible as from the fifth monument... The only difference is that here it fills the hollow of each letter and it has overflowed, furrowing the rock as if it were dark tears, tears... of blood…". With a finger he scratched a blotch as large as two hands. And the blotch crumbled into dust leaving uncovered and clear these words: "Thus I loved you. To the extent of shedding my blood to lead you to the Treasure".
"Oh! oh! Father! And I was thinking of not obeying your order?! Forgive me, father. Forgive me". The son wept leaning on the rock, and the blood filling the words became fresh and as bright as a ruby, and the tears became food and drink and strength for the good son... He stood up... out of love he called his brother aloud... He wanted to tell him of his discovery... of their father's love, and say to him: "Come back". But no one replied...
The young man resumed his way, almost on his knees on the hot rock, because his body was exhausted with fatigue, but his spirit was serene. There was the top... and his father.
"My beloved son!".
The young man threw himself on his father's breast, his father embraced him and kissed him fondly.
"Are you alone?".
"Yes... But my brother will soon be here... ".
"No. He will never arrive. He left the way of the ten commandments. He did not come back to it after the first warning disappointments. Do you want to see him? There he is. In the abyss of fire... He persisted in his error. I would have forgiven and awaited him if, after realising his mistake, he had retraced his steps and, although late, he had passed where love had passed first, suffering to the extent of shedding the best part of his blood, the dearest part of himself for you".
"He did not know... ".
"If he had looked with love at the words engraved in the ten monuments, he would have understood their true meaning. You read it as from the fifth monument and you called his attention to it when you said: 'Our father must have injured himself here!' and you read it in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth... clearer and clearer, until by instinct you discovered what was under my blood. Do you know the name of that instinct? 'Your true union with me'. The fibres of your heart, blended with my fibres, startled and they said to you: 'You will have here the measure of how much your father loves you'. Now, since you are affectionate, obedient, for ever victorious, take possession of the Treasure and of me".
That is the parable.
The ten monuments are the ten commandments. Your God engraved them and placed them on the path that takes to the eternal Treasure, and He suffered to lead you to that path. Do you suffer? God does, too. Do you have to force yourselves? God has, too. Do you know to what extent? Suffering to separate Himself from Himself and striving to know what it means to be a human being with all the miseries of mankind: to be born, to suffer from cold, starvation, fatigue, to suffer sarcasm, affronts, hatred, snares, and at the end to die, shedding all His Blood to give you the Treasure. God, Who descended to save you, suffers all that. God suffers that in Heaven, allowing Himself to suffer it.
I solemnly tell you that no man, however laborious his path may be to reach Heaven, will ever follow a more laborious and sorrowful way than the one along which the Son of man has to go to come from Heaven to the Earth and from the Earth to the Sacrifice, to open the doors of the Treasure to you. On the tablets of the Law there is already My Blood. On the Way which I am tracing out for you there is My Blood. It is the gush of My Blood that opens the door of the Treasure. Your souls become pure and strong through the purification and nourishment of My Blood. But to prevent it from being shed in vain, you must follow the immutable way of the ten commandments.
Let us rest now. At sunset I will go towards Hippo, John will go to be purified, and you will go home. May the peace of the Lord be with you.»