Death of Saint Joseph Giuseppe Maria Crespi 1712
Honor Your Father and Your Mother
Jesus is walking slowly up and down the bank of the river. It is very early in the morning, because the fog of a dreary winter day is still lying amongst the reeds along the river banks. There is nobody, as far as the eye can see, on either bank of the Jordan. There is only the low mist, the babbling of water against the reeds, the murmuring of the river, the water of which is rather muddy because of the rain of the previous days, the short, sad calls of a few birds, as they are wont when the love-season is over and birds pine away because of the season and of scarcity of food.
Jesus listens to them and He seems to be very interested in the call of a little bird, which with clock precision turns its little head northwards and chirps plaintively, then it turns its head southwards and repeats its inquiring chirp without any reply. At last the little bird seems to have received a reply from the other bank and it flies away, across the river, with a little cry of joy. Jesus makes a gesture as if to say: "Good!" and resumes walking.
"Am I disturbing You, Master?" asks John, who has come from the meadows.
"No. What do you want?"
"I wanted to tell You... I think it is a bit of information which may give You relief and I have come at once, also to seek Your advice. I was sweeping our large rooms when Judas Iscariot came in. He said to me: "I will help you". I was amazed because he is never anxious to do such humble things even when he is told... but all I said was: "Oh! Thank you! I will be quicker and we will do a better job". He began to sweep and we finished very quickly. He then said: "Let us go into the wood. It is always the older ones who bring in the wood. It is not fair. Let us go. I am not very good at it. But if you teach me..." And we went. And while I was there tying the faggots, he said to me: "John, I want to tell you something". "Yes, do" I said. And I thought it might be a bit of criticism. Instead he said: "You and I are the youngest. We ought to be more united. You are almost afraid of me, and you are quite right, because I am not good. But believe me... I do not do it deliberately. Sometimes I feel the need of being bad. Perhaps, as I was the only son, I have been spoiled. And I would like to become good. The older ones, I know, are not very fond of me. Jesus' cousins are annoyed because... well, I have not behaved well with them and also with their cousin. But you are good and patient. Be good to me. Imagine that I am your brother, a bad brother, whom you must love even if he is bad. Also the Master says that we must behave like that. When you see that I am not doing exactly the right thing, tell me. And then don't leave me always alone. When I go to the village, come with me. You will help me not to do wrong. Yesterday I suffered very much. Jesus spoke to me and I looked at Him. In my silly grudge I did not look at myself or at others. Yesterday I looked and I saw... They are quite right in saying that Jesus is suffering... and I feel that it is also my fault. I no longer want to be the cause of His pain. Come with me. Will you come? Will you help me to become better?" That is what he said, and, I confess it, my heart was beating like the little heart of a sparrow caught by a boy. It was throbbing out of joy because I will be happy if he becomes good, and I am happy also for Your sake, and my heart was beating also out of fear, because... I would not like to become like Judas. Then I remembered what You told me the day You accepted Judas, and I replied: "Yes, I will help you. But I must obey if I receive different orders..." I thought, I will now tell the Master, and if He agrees, I will go with him, if He does not agree, I will ask Him to order me not to leave the house."
"Listen, John. I will let you go. But you must promise Me that if you feel that anything is upsetting you, you will come and tell Me. You have given Me a great joy, John. Here is Peter with his fish. Go, John."
Jesus addresses Peter: A good catch?"
"H'm. Not really. Very small fish... But everything helps. James is grumbling because an animal gnawed at the rope and he lost his net. I said to him: "Was it not entitled to eat, too? You should feel pity for the poor animal". But James does not see it that way..." says Peter laughing.
"Exactly what I say of one who is a brother of yours. And what you are not capable of doing."
"Are You talking of Judas?
"Yes, I am. And he suffers for it. His intentions are good but his tendencies are perverse. But tell Me something, My experienced fisherman. If I wanted to go on a boat on the Jordan and reach the lake of Gennesaret, what should I do? Would I succeed?"
"Eh! It would be hard work! But you would succeed with small flat boats... A laborious task, You know. And a long one! It would be necessary to measure the depth continuously, to watch the banks, the shoals, the little floating woods, the current. A sail is of no use in such cases, on the contrary... But do You want to go back to the lake following the river? Don't forget that it is hard work to go against the stream. You need many people, otherwise...
You are quite right. When a man is vicious, he must go against the stream to go back to the straight and narrow path and he cannot succeed by himself. Judas is exactly one of them. And you are not helping him. The poor fellow is going along all by himself, he knocks against the bottom, he runs into shoals, he gets entangled in the little floating woods, and is caught in the maelstroms. On the other hand, if he is measuring the depth, he cannot hold the rudder at the same time or use the oars. Why then should he be reproached if he does not proceed? You feel sorry for strangers, but not for him, although he is your companion. That is not fair. See over there, he and John are going to the village to get bread and vegetables. He asked, as a favour, not to go alone. And he asked John, because he is not a fool, and he knows what you older ones think of him."
"And You have sent him? Supposing also John should get spoiled?"
"Who? My brother? Why should he get spoiled?" asks James who has just arrived with his net, which he has recovered in a bed of reeds.
"Because Judas is going with him."
"As from today, and I have allowed him to go."
"Well, if You allow him..."
"And I advise you all to do the same. He is left by himself too much. Do not be only judges for him. He is not any worse than many. But he has been more spoiled, since his childhood."
"Yes, it must be so. If his father had been Zebedee and his mother Salome, he would not be like that. My parents are good. But they do not forget that they have rights and duties over their children."
"What you said is true. I will speak of that today. Let us go now. I see that the crowds are already moving across the meadows."
"l don't know what we will have to do to live. There is no longer time to eat, to pray, to rest. . . and the crowd is getting larger and larger," says Peter, half amazed and half annoyed.
"Do you mind? It is a sign that there are still people seeking God."
"Yes, Master. But You suffer because of it. Yesterday You were also left without any food and last night You had only Your mantle to cover Yourself. If Your Mother knew!'
"She would bless God Who brings so many believers to Me."
"And She would reproach me whom She begged to look after You" concludes Peter.
Philip and Bartholomew are coming down towards them gesticulating. They see Jesus, they quicken their pace and say: "Oh! Master! What shall we do? There is a real pilgrimage: invalids, people weeping and poor people without any means, who have come from far away."
"We shall buy some bread. The rich people give alms. All we have to do is to make use of them."
"The days are short. The shed is crowded with people camping there. The nights are damp and cold."
"You are right, Philip. We shall squeeze into one of the big rooms. It can be done, and we will arrange the other two rooms for those who cannot reach their homes before night."
"l see! Before long we will have to ask our guests permission to change our clothes. They will be so intrusive that they will compel us to run away" grumbles Peter.
"You will see quite different flights, My dear Peter! What is the matter with that woman?" They are now on the threshing floor and Jesus sees a woman who is weeping.
"Who knows! She was here also yesterday and also yesterday she was weeping. When You were speaking to Manaen she moved to come and meet You, then she went away. She must live in the village or nearby, because she has come back. She does not look ill..."
"Peace be with you, woman," says Jesus passing near her.
And she replies in a low voice: "And with You." Nothing else.
There must be at least three hundred people. Under the shed there are lame, blind, dumb people, a man shuddering from head to foot, a young man obviously hydrocephalous, whose hand is held by a man. He does nothing but howl, slaver and shake his huge idiotic looking head.
"Is he perhaps that woman's son? asks Jesus.
"l don't know. Simon looks after the pilgrims and he will know. They call the Zealot and ask him. But the man is not with the woman. She is by herself. "She does nothing but weep and pray. A short while ago she asked me: "Does the Master cure also the hearts of people?" explains the Zealot.
"Perhaps her husband is unfaithful to her." remarks Peter.
While Jesus goes towards the sick people, Bartholomew and Matthew go to the river with many pilgrims for the purification rite. The woman weeps in her corner and does not stir.
Jesus does not deny a miracle to anybody. Beautiful is the cure of the dull-witted boy into whom Jesus breathes intelligence, holding his huge head between His long hands. They all gather round Him. Also the veiled woman, perhaps because there is a large crowd, dares to draw close and she stands near the weeping woman. Jesus says to the idiot: "I want the light of intelligence to be in you to make way to the light of God. Listen: say with Me: 'Jesus.' Say it. I want it."
The dull-witted young man, who before could only howl like an animal, mumbles with difficulty: "Jesus", or rather: "Jejus."
Once again orders Jesus still holding the deformed head between His hands and dominating him with His eyes.
"Jesus!" says at last the poor idiot, whose eyes are no longer expressionless and whose lips now smile in a different way.
"Man" says Jesus to his father. "You had faith! Your son is cured. Question him. The Name of Jesus is miraculous against diseases and passions."
The man asks his son: "Who am I?"
And the boy: "My father."
The man presses his son to his heart and states: "He was born like that. My wife died in childbirth and he had an obstruction in his brain and his speech. Now you see. Yes, I had faith. I come from Joppa. What must I do for You, Master?"
"Be good. And Your son, too. Nothing else."
"And love You. Oh! Let us go and tell your grandmother. She convinced me to come. May she be blessed!"
The two go away happy. The only sign of the past misfortune is the huge head of the boy. His expression and speech are normal.
"But, was he cured by Your will or by the power of Your Name?" ask many.
"By the will of the Father, Who is always benign to His Son. But also My Name is salvation. You know: Jesus means Saviour. There is a salvation of the soul and a salvation of the body. Who pronounces the Name of Jesus with true faith is freed from disease and sin, because in every spiritual or physical disease there is the claw of Satan who creates physical diseases to drive people to rebellion and desperation through the pains of the flesh, and he creates moral or spiritual diseases to lead souls to damnation."
"So, according to You, Beelzebub is not alien to all the afflictions of mankind."
"No, he is not. Through him disease and death entered the world. And crime and corruption also entered the world through him. When you see anyone tortured by misfortune, you can be sure that he suffers on account of Satan. When you see one who is the cause of misfortune, you may conclude that he is an instrument of Satan."
"But illness comes from God."
"Illness is a disorder in the order. Because God created man wholesome and perfect. The disorder caused by Satan in the order given by God, has brought with it the illness of the flesh and its consequences, that is, death or sorrowful heredity. Man inherited from Adam and Eve the original sin. But not only that. And the stain has expanded wider and wider embracing the three branches of man: the flesh more and more vicious and consequently weak and diseased, the morals prouder and prouder and thus corrupted, the spirit more and more skeptical and thus more and more idolatrous. That is why it is necessary, as I did with the poor half- wit, to teach the Name that puts Satan to flight, engraving It on minds and hearts, placing It on one's ego as a seal of ownership."
"But do You possess us? Who are You, that You think so much of Yourself?"
"I wish it were so! But it is not. If I possessed you, you would be already saved. And it would be My right. Because I am the Saviour and I should have people who have been saved. But I will save those who have faith in Me."
"John... I come from John, he said to me: "Go to Him Who is preaching and baptising near Ephraim and Jericho. He has the power to forgive and to retain while I can only say to you: do penance to make your soul agile in following salvation" says one who had been cured miraculously and before was going on crutches whereas now he moves about quickly.
"Does the Baptist not suffer through losing followers?" asks one. And the one who had spoken before replies: "Suffer? He says to everybody: "Go! Go! I am the star that is setting. He is the Star that is rising and is fixed eternally in its brightness. If you do not want to be left in darkness, go to Him before my wick goes out"...
"The Pharisees don't say that! They are full of bitter hatred because You draw the crowds to You. Did You know?"
"l know" replies Jesus briefly.
They start a dispute on the rights and wrongs of the behaviour of the Pharisees. But Jesus cuts it short saying: "Do not criticise so sharply that no reply is possible."
Bartholomew and Matthew come with those who have been baptised.
Jesus starts speaking.
"Peace be to you all."
"Since you come here in the morning and it is more comfortable for you to leave half way through the day, I have decided to speak to you of God in the morning. I have also thought of giving hospitality to the pilgrims who cannot go back to their homes before night. I am a pilgrim Myself and I possess the bare necessaries given to Me by a compassionate friend. John has even less than I have. But wholesome people, or not seriously ill, go to John, such as cripples, blind or dumb people. But not dying people or affected by high temperature as they come to Me. They go to him for a baptism of penance. You come to Me also to be cured in your bodies. The Law says: "Love your neighbour as you love yourself". I think and say: how would I be showing love to My brothers, if I closed My heart to their needs, also to their physical needs? And I conclude: I will give them what I was given. Holding out My hand to rich people, I will ask for bread for the poor, depriving Myself of My bed I will receive in it who is tired and suffering."
We are all brothers. And you do not give proof of your love by means of words but by deeds. Who closes his heart to his fellowman, has a heart like Cain. Who has no love, is a rebel against the command of God. We are all brothers. And yet I see, and you also see, that there is hatred and disagreement within a family, where the same blood and flesh corroborate the brotherhood which comes to us from Adam. Brothers are against brothers, children against their parents, and parents are hostile to each other."
But in order not to be always wicked brothers, and in future adulterous husband and wife, it is necessary to learn from an early age to respect the family, which is the smallest and the greatest organization in the world. The smallest as compared to the organization of a town, of a region, of a country, of a continent. But the greatest because it is the oldest; because it was established by God, when the concept of fatherland, of country did not yet exist, but the family nucleus was already alive and active, a source to race and races, a small kingdom in which man is king, woman queen and the children subjects. Can a kingdom last if it is divided and there is enmity among its inhabitants? It cannot. And truly a family will not last if it lacks obedience, respect, economy, good will, activity, love."
"Honour your father and mother" says the Decalogue. How are they to be honoured? Why are they to be honoured?
"They are honoured by true obedience, by correct love, by loving respect, by a reverential fear that does not bar confidence, but at the same time does not make us treat our elders as if we were servants and underlings. They are to be honoured because after God, a father and mother are the donors of life and of all the material necessities of life, they are the first teachers and the first friends of the young being born on the earth.
We say: "May God bless you" or "Thank you" when someone picks up for us something we have dropped or gives us a piece of bread. Shall we not say, with love: "May God bless you" or "Thank you" to those who break their backs working in order to feed us, weaving our clothes and keeping them clean, who rise from their beds to watch our sleep, who deprive themselves of their rest to cure us, and make a bed for us of their laps, when we are most tired and sorrowful?
They are our teachers. A teacher is feared and respected. But a teacher takes us when we already know what is indispensable to support and feed ourselves and say the essential things, and he leaves us when we are still to be taught the most difficult lesson in life, that is, "to live". It is our father and mother who prepare us for school first, and then for life."
"They are our friends. But which friend can be more friendly than a father? And which more friendly than a mother? Can you be terrified of them? Can you say: "I have been betrayed by him or by her?" And yet there is the foolish boy or the even more foolish girl, who make friends with strangers and close their hearts to their father and mother and they spoil their minds and hearts with unwise if not guilty friendships, which are the cause of paternal and maternal tears, that like drops of molten lead burn their parents' hearts. Those tears, however, I tell you, do not fall on the dust or into oblivion. God picks them up and counts them. The anguish of a downtrodden parent will receive a prize from the Lord. But the behaviour of a son who tortures his parents will not be forgotten either, even if the father and mother, in their sorrowful love, implore from God mercy on their guilty son."
"It is said: "Honour your father and mother, if you want to have a long life on the earth". And I add: "And for ever in Heaven". A short life here would be too light a punishment for those who wrong their parents! Life to come is not an idle story, and in life to come there will be a prize or a punishment according to how we lived. Who wrongs a parent, offends God, because He orders us to love our parents, and who does not love them, commits a sin. Thus, rather than his material life, he loses the true life of which I spoke to you, and goes to his death, nay he is already dead, because his soul is deprived of the grace of God, he is already a criminal because he offends the most holy love after the love for God, he has in himself the germ of future adulteries, because from a bad son he will become an unfaithful husband, he already possesses the incentive of social depravation, because from a bad son originates the future thief, the fierce violent killer, the cold blooded usurer, the cynical hedonist, the disgusting betrayer of his fatherland, of his friends, of his children, of his wife, of everybody. Can you hold in high esteem and trust a man who has been capable of betraying the love of a mother and mocking at the grey hair of a father?"
"But listen a little further: to the duty of children corresponds a similar duty of parents. Cursed be the guilty son! But cursed be also the guilty parent. Do not cause your children to criticise you and imitate you in doing wrong. Get them to love you on account of the love you give them with justice and mercy. God is Mercy. Let parents, who are second only to God, be mercy. Be an example and consolation to your children. Be their peace and guide. Be the first love of your children. A mother is always the first image of the bride we would like to have. A father is for his young daughters the image of the husband they dream of. Behave in such a way that your sons and daughters may wisely choose their wives and husbands, thinking of their father and mother and seeking in their partners the sincere virtues of their parents."
"If I were to speak until I treated the whole subject fully, a whole day and night would not suffice. So, for your sake, I will curtail My speech. May the Eternal Spirit tell you the rest. I spread the seed and move on. But in good people the seed will take root and bear fruit. Go. Peace be with you."
Those who have to leave, go away quickly. Those who are staying, go into the third big room and eat their bread or the bread given to them by the disciples in the name of God. Boards and straw have been placed on rustic trestles so that the pilgrims can sleep there.
The veiled woman walks away with quick steps, the other one who was crying before and cried all the time that Jesus spoke, roams about, undecided as to what to do, then makes up her mind and goes away.
Jesus goes into the kitchen to take His food. But He has just started eating when they knock at the door.
Andrew, who is the nearest to it, gets up and goes out into the yard. He speaks and then comes back in: Master, a woman, the one who was weeping, wants You. She says that she has to go away and must speak to You."
"If we go on like this, when and how is the Master going to get some food?" exclaims Peter.
"You should have told her to come later." says Philip.
"Be quiet. I will eat after. Go on eating."
Jesus goes out. The woman is out there.
"Master... one word... You said... Oh! Come behind the house! It's painful to tell my sorrow!"
Jesus pleases her without saying anything. Only when He is behind the house He asks: What do you want from Me?"
"Master... I heard You before, when You were speaking amongst us... and then I heard You when You were preaching. You seem to have spoken just for me. You said that in every physical or moral disease there is Satan... I have a son whose heart is ill. I wish he heard You when You were speaking of parents! He is my torture. Bad companions have led him astray and he is exactly as You said... a thief... at home for the time being, but... he is quarrelsome, overbearing... young as he is, he is ruining himself through lust and orgies. My husband wants to throw him out. I... I am his mother and I am dying broken-hearted. See how my breast is panting. It's my heart that is broken because of the pain. I have been wishing to speak to You as from yesterday because. . . I hope in You, my God. But I did not dare to speak. It is so painful for a mother having to say: ‘I have a cruel son"!" The woman is weeping, bent and grieved, in front of Jesus.
"Do not weep any more. He will be cured of his illness."
"Yes, he would, if he could hear You. But he does not want to hear You. Oh! he will never be cured!"
"Have you faith in Me for him? Do you want in his place?"
"Why ask me? I have come from High Perea to beg You on his behalf..."
"Then go. When you reach your home, your son will come to meet you and will be repentant."
"How? Do you think that God cannot do what I ask for? Your son is there. I am here. But God is everywhere. I say to God: "Father, have mercy on this mother". And the call of God will resound like thunder in your son's heart. Go, woman. One day I will pass through the villages of your country and you, a proud mother of your son, will come with him to meet Me. And when he will cry on your knees, asking you to forgive him and will tell you of the mysterious struggle from which he emerged with a new soul and will ask you how it happened, say to him: "It is through Jesus that you have returned to an honest life". Speak to him of Me. If you came to Me, it means that you know. Let him know and make him think of Me that he may have the strength of salvation. Goodbye. Peace to the mother who had faith, to the returning son, to the happy father, to the united family. Go!"
The woman goes toward the village and it all ends.
Written by Maria Valtorta. From POEM OF THE MAN-GOD, volume #1, chapter 122.