THE WODOW'S MITE                                                                James Tissott

 

594. The Wednesday before Passover.  Discussions with Scribes and Pharisees. The Widow's Mite.

2nd April 1947.

Jesus enters into the Temple that is more crowded than on the previous days. He is all dressed in white in His linen garments. It is a sultry day.

He goes to the Court of Israel to worship, followed by a train of people, while other people have already taken the best places under the porches, and the majority are Gentiles who, not being allowed to go beyond the first court, that is the Court of the Gentiles, have taken advantage of the fact that the Hebrews have followed the Christ, to take favourable positions.

But a large group of Pharisees upsets them: they are always arrogant in their behaviour, and they push through the crowd overbearingly to approach Jesus, Who is bent over a sick man. They wait until He has cured him, then they send a scribe to question Him.

Actually they had a short discussion first, because Joel named Alamoth wanted to go to question the Master. But a Pharisee objected and the others supported him saying: « No, we know that you side with the Rabbi, although you do so secretly. Let Uriah go… »

« Not Uriah » says another young scribe, whom I do not know. « Uriah is too harsh in speaking. He would provoke the crowd. I will go. »

And without listening any more to the protests of the others, he approaches the Master, just when Jesus is dismissing the sick man saying to him: « Have faith. You are cured. Your fever and pain will not come back any more. »

« Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law? »

Jesus, behind Whose back the scribe is standing, turns round and looks at him. A faint luminous smile brightens His face, He then raises His head, as He had bent it because the scribe is short of stature, and further he had bowed to pay his respects to Him. Jesus looks round at the crowd, He stares at the group of Pharisees and doctors and He notices the pale face of Joel, who is half hidden behind a big sumptuously dressed Pharisee. His smile brightens. It is like a light that caresses the honest scribe. He then lowers His head looking at his interlocutor and replies to him: « The first of all the commandments is: "Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength". That is the first and greatest commandment. The second resembles it: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself". There are no greater commandments than these two. They comprise all the Law and the prophets. »

« Master, You have replied wisely and truthfully. It is so. There is only one God and there is no other god except Him. To love Him with all our hearts, with all our intelligence, with all our souls and all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is worth much more than any holocaust and sacrifice. I seriously think so when I meditate on David's words: "Holocausts give You no pleasure; a contrite heart is the sacrifice pleasing to God". »

« You are not far from the Kingdom of God, because you have understood which holocaust is pleasing to God. »

« But which is the most perfect holocaust? » asks the scribe in a low voice, as if he were speaking of a secret.

Jesus beams with love letting this pearl drop into the heart of this man who is opening to His doctrine, to the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, and bending over him He says: « The perfect holocaust is to love, as ourselves, those who persecute us and not bear any grudge. Who does that will possess peace. It is said: the lowly shall possess the Earth and shall enjoy the abundance of peace. I solemnly tell you that he who can love his enemies reaches perfection and possesses God. »

The scribe greets Him respectfully and goes back to his group, who reproach him in low voices for praising the Master, and they angrily say to him: « What did you ask Him secretly? Have you been seduced by Him as well? »

« I heard the Spirit of God speak from His lips. »

« You are silly. Do you perhaps think that He is the Christ? »

« Yes, I do. »

« Truly, before long we shall see the schools of our scribes empty, while they go roving after that Man! But how can you see the Christ in Him? »

« I do not know how. I know that I feel that it is He. »

« You're mad! » And they turn their backs on him worriedly.

Jesus has heard their conversation, and when He sees the Pharisees pass in front of Him in a close group and go away worriedly, He calls them saying: « Listen to Me. I want to ask you something. According to you, what do you think of the Christ? Whose son is He? »

« He will be the son of David » they reply, stressing the words "will be", because they want to make Him understand that, as far as they are concerned, He is not the Christ.

« How, then, does David, inspired by God, call Him "Lord" saying: "The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for You… ? So if David calls the Christ "Lord", how can the Christ be his son? »

As they do not know what to reply to Him, they go away ruminating their poison.

Jesus moves away from the place where He was and which is now flooded with sunshine, to go farther on, where the mouths of the Treasury are, near the hall of the Treasury. This side, still in the shade, is occupied by rabbis, who are haranguing with wide gestures addressing their Hebrew audience, which is increasing more and more, as the people pouring in the Temple are increasing continuously, as time passes.

The rabbis are striving to demolish with their speeches the teachings imparted by the Christ during the previous days or that same morning. And the more they see the crowd of believers grow bigger, the more they raise their voices. In fact the place, although very large, is crowded with people coming and going in all directions…

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Jesus says to me: « Insert here the vision of the widow's mite (19th June 1944) corrected as I will point out to you » (as I have already corrected it in the typewritten sheets that I have sent back). Then the vision continues.

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19th June 1944.

Only today, and insistently, I see the following vision appear.

At the beginning I see nothing but courts and porches, which I recognise belong to the Temple, and Jesus, Who looks like an Emperor, so solemn He is in His bright red tunic and darker red mantle, leaning on a huge square pillar supporting an arch of the porch. He looks fixedly at me. I am fully absorbed in looking at Him, delighting in contemplating Him Whom I had not seen and heard for two days.

The vision thus lasts for a long time. And while it lasts so, I am not writing it, because it is my joy. But now that I see the scene become animated, I understand that there is something else and I write.

The place is getting full of people coming and going in all directions. There are priests and believers, men, women and children. Some are walking, some are standing listening to the doctors, some are dragging little lambs or carrying doves going to other places, perhaps to sacrifice them.

Jesus is leaning on His column and is watching. He does not speak. Twice His apostles ask Him questions, but He shakes His head in denial and does not speak. He is watching very carefully. And according to His countenance, He seems to be judging those He is looking at. His eyes and face remind me of His looks when I saw Him in the vision of Paradise, judging souls in the particular judgement. Now, of course, He is Jesus, Man; up there He was Jesus Triumphant, so even more imposing. But the changeability of His countenance, that watches fixedly, is the same. He is serious, inquisitive, but if at times He is so severe as to make also the most insolent people tremble, at times He is so kind, and His smiling sadness is such that He seems to be caressing one with His eyes.

He does not seem to be hearing anything. But He must be listening to everything because, when from a group several metres away, gathered round a doctor, a nasal voice is heard proclaiming: « More than any other commandment this one is valid: what is for the Temple must go to the Temple. The Temple is above one's father and mother and if one wants to give what is superfluous to the glory of the Lord, one can do so and will be blessed for it, because there is no blood or love superior to the Temple » Jesus slowly turns His head round in that direction and looks in a way… that I would not like it to be meant for me.

He seems to be looking at everything in general. But when an old trembling man is on the point of climbing the five steps of a kind of terrace, which is close to Jesus, and which seems to lead to another inner court, and he presses his stick on the floor and almost falls when his foot is caught in his tunic, Jesus stretches out His long arm, grasps him and supports him, and does not leave him until He sees that he is safe. The old man raises his wrinkled face, looks at his tall saviour and whispers a word of blessing, while Jesus smiles at him and caresses his bald head. He then goes back to His column, and departs from it once again to lift a little boy who slips from his mother's hand and falls, weeping, against the first step, just at His feet. He lifts him up, caresses him and comforts him. The boy's embarrassed mother thanks Him. Jesus smiles at her as well, handing the child back to her.

But He does not smile when a conceited Pharisee passes by, or when a group of scribes and others whom I do not know pass near Him. The latter group greet Him gesticulating and bowing. Jesus looks at them so fixedly that He seems to pierce them, He replies to their greetings but without effusion. He is severe. He looks at some length also at a priest who passes by and must be an important person, because the crowd makes room for him and greets him as he struts along. Jesus looks at him in such a way that he, although very proud, lowers his head. He does not greet, but he cannot withstand Jesus' glance.

Jesus stops looking at him to watch a poor woman, dressed in dark brown, who is bashfully climbing the steps and goes towards a wall, where there is something like heads of lions or similar animals with open mouths. Many people are going there. But Jesus does not seem to pay attention to them. Now instead He looks where the woman is going. His eyes look at her compassionately and they shine with kindness when He sees her stretch out a hand and throw something into the stone mouth of one of those lions. And when the woman withdraws passing near Him, He is the first to say: « Peace to you, woman. »

She raises her head, utterly astonished, and remains dumbfounded. « Peace to you » repeats Jesus. « Go, because the Most High blesses you. » The poor soul is enraptured, then she whispers a greeting and goes away.

« She is happy in her unhappiness » says Jesus breaking His silence. « She is now happy because God's blessing is with her. Listen, My friends, and those who are around Me. Do you see that woman? She only gave two small coins, not enough to by food for one meal for a sparrow kept in a cage, and yet she has given more than all those who have given their offerings to the Treasury of the Temple, since it was opened this morning at dawn. Listen. I have seen large numbers of rich people put in those mouths sums which would feed that woman for a year and clothe her poverty, which, is decent only because it is clean. I have seen rich people, who with evident satisfaction have put in there sums that could have fed the poor people of the Holy City for one or more days, and thus make them bless the Lord. But I solemnly tell you that nobody has given more than she did. Her offering is charity. The others are not. Hers is generosity. The others are not. Hers is sacrifice. The others are not. Today that woman will not eat anything, because she has nothing left. She will have to work first to earn some money, to be able to get some bread to appease her hunger. She has no money laid aside, neither has she relatives who can earn money on her behalf. She is all alone. God has taken her relatives, her husband and children, He has taken the little wealth they had left her, and rather than God, men have taken it, those men who with large gestures, see?, are continuing to throw in there their surplus, much of which is extorted through usury from the poor hands of poor and hungry people. They say that there is no blood or love superior to the Temple, and they thus teach people not to love their neighbour. I tell you that above the Temple there is love. The law of God is love and he, who does not take pity on his neighbour, does not love. Superfluous money, money soiled with usury, with hatred, with hardness, with hypocrisy, sings no praise to God and does not attract heavenly blessings on the donor. God rejects it. It enriches these coffers. But it is not gold for the incense: it is filth that overwhelms you, o ministers, who do not serve God, but your interests; it is a string that strangles you, o doctors, who teach a doctrine that is yours; it is poison that corrodes the remains you still have of your souls, o Pharisees. God does not want remains. Be not Cains. God does not want what is the fruit of hardness. God does not want what, raising a weeping voice, says: "I had to appease the hunger of a starving man. But I was prevented from doing so because I had to display my pomp in here. I was to help an old father and a decrepit mother, but I was forbidden, because such help would not have been known to the world, and I must blow my trumpet so that the world may see the donor". No, rabbi, who teach that what is superfluous is to be given to God and that it is lawful to refuse assistance to fathers and mothers to give it to God. The first commandment is: "Love God with all your heart, with your soul, with your intelligence, with your strength". So not what is superfluous, but what is our blood is to be given to Him, by loving to suffer for Him. To suffer. Not to make people suffer. And if it costs to give a lot, because it is unpleasant to deprive oneself of one's riches and the treasure is the heart of man, who is vicious by nature, it is just because it costs, that one must give. Out of justice: because everything one has, one has it through God's goodness. Out of love: because it is a proof of love to love sacrifice in order to give joy to those whom one loves. To suffer for the sake of suffering. But to suffer. I repeat: not to make others suffer. Because the second commandment says: "Love your neighbour as yourself". And the law specifies that, after God, one's parents are the neighbour to whom one is bound to give honour and assistance. So I solemnly tell you that that poor woman has understood the law better than wise men and she is justified more than anybody else and blessed, because in her poverty she gave God everything, whereas you give what is superfluous and you give it to grow in the esteem of men. I know that you hate Me because I speak so. But as long as these lips can speak, they will speak so. You join your hatred for Me to the contempt for the poor woman I am praising. But do not think that with these two stones you will make a double pedestal for your pride. They will be the millstone that will crush you. Let us go. Let the vipers bite one another increasing their poison. Let those who are pure, good, humble, contrite, and who wish to know the true face of God, follow Me. »

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Jesus says:

« And you who are left with nothing, as you have given Me everything, give Me these last two small coins. As compared with the much that you have given, they seem nothing to strangers. But to you, who have but these, they are everything. Put them in the hand of your Lord. And do not weep. Or, at least, do not weep alone. Weep with Me, Who am the only One who can understand you and I understand you without any human fog, which is always an interested veil for the truth. »

Written by Maria Valtota.  From:  POEM OF THE MAN-GOD, Volume #5, Chapter 594.

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