28th October 1944.
You are beautiful, o banks of the Jordan, as beautiful as you were in the times of Jesus! I admire you and am enraptured by your solemn green-blue peace, resounding with flowing waters and leafy branches, as sweet as a melody.
I am on a road which is quite wide and also well maintained. It must be a highway, or more likely a military road, built by the Romans to link the various regions with the capital. It runs near the river, but not precisely along it. It is in fact separated from it by woodland, the function of which I think is to consolidate the river banks and contain the water in times of flood. The woodland continues on the other side of the road, so that the road looks like a natural tunnel over which the trees interlace their leafy branches, a beneficial protection for wayfarers in the hot climate of this country.
At the point where I am, the river, and consequently also the road, form a wide bend, so that the leafy embankment appears to me like a huge green barrier built to enclose a basin of calm waters. It almost looks like a lake in a luxury park. But the water is not as still as the water of a lake. It flows, although slowly. This is evident from its rustling against the first reed thickets, the more daring ones that have grown down there, in the gravel bed, and also from the undulation of the long ribbon-like leaves of the canes, reaching down to the water by which they are sweetly lulled. Also a group of willows, with flexible falling branches have entrusted the ends of their green foliage to the river, that combs the thin branches with a graceful caress, stretching them softly on the water surface.
There is peace and silence in the early morning. One can sense only the warbling of birds, the rustling of water and leaves, the glittering of dew drops on the tall green grass between the trees, a grass not yet hardened or parched by the summer sunshine, but tender and fresh, since it came up after the springtime showers, which nourished the earth, in its very depth, with moisture and rich juices. Three wayfarers are standing on the road, in the middle of the bend. They look up and down, to the south, where Jerusalem is and to the north, where Samaria lies. They look anxiously between the trees to see whether anyone is arriving as expected. They are Thomas, Judas Thaddeus and the healed leper. They are speaking.
« Can you see anything? »
« No, I can't. »
« Neither can I. »
« And yet this is the place. »
« Are you sure? »
« I'm sure, Simon. One of the six said to me, when the Master was going away amid the acclamations of the crowd, after the miraculous healing of a crippled beggar, who was healed at the Fish Gate: “We are now going out of Jerusalem. Wait for us five miles between Jericho and Doco, at the bend of the river, along the road in the woodland.” This one. He also said: “We will be there in three days' time at dawn.” This is the third day, and we have been here before dawn. »
« Will He come? Perhaps we should have followed Him from Jerusalem. »
« You were not yet allowed to mix with the crowds, Simon. »
« If my cousin told you to come here, He will certainly come here. He always keeps His promise. All we can do is wait. »
« Have you always been with Him? »
« Yes, always. Since He came back to Nazareth He was my good companion. We were always together. We are about the same age, I am a little older. And I was the favorite of His father, who was my father's brother. Also His Mother was very fond of me. I grew up more with Her than with my own mother. »
« She was fond… Is She no longer as fond of you, now? »
« Oh! Yes, She is. But we have parted a little since He became a prophet. My relatives are not happy about it. »
« Which relatives? »
« My father and the two older brothers. The other one is undecided… My father is very old and I did not have the courage to hurt him. But now… Now, no longer so. Now I am going where my heart and my mind tell me. I am going to Jesus. I don't think I am offending the Law by doing so. In any case… if what I want to do was not right, Jesus would tell me. I will do what He says. Is it right for a father to prevent a son from doing good? If I feel that my salvation is there, why prevent me from reaching it? Why, at times, are our fathers our enemies? »
Simon sighs, as if he were overwhelmed by sad memories, he lowers his head, but does not speak. Thomas instead replies: « I have already overcome the obstacle. My father listened to me and he understood me. He blessed me saying: “Go. May this Passover be for you the liberation from the slavery of waiting. You are fortunate because you can believe. I will wait. But if it is really 'Him', and you will find out following Him, then come and say to your old father: 'Come, Israel has the Expected One' ”. »
« You are luckier than I am. And we always lived beside Him! And we, in the family, do not believe!… We say, that is: they say: “He has gone mad!”»
« There, there is a group of people » shouts Simon. « It's Him, it's Him! I recognize His fair head! Oh! Come! Let us run! » They start walking fast southwards. When they reach the centre of the bend, the trees cover the remainder of the road, so that the two groups face each other unexpectedly. Jesus seems to be coming up from the river, because He is among the trees on the bank.
« Master! » « Jesus! » « My Lord! »
The three cries of the disciple, the cousin and the cured leper are full of joy and veneration.
« Peace to you! » There is the beautiful, unmistakable, full, resonant, calm, expressive, clear, virile, sweet, incisive voice! « You too, Judas, My cousin, are here? »
They embrace each other. Judas is weeping.
« Why are you weeping? »
« Oh! Jesus! I want to stay with You! »
« I have been waiting for you all the time. Why did you not come? »
Judas lowers his head and is silent.
« They did not let you! And now? »
« Jesus, I… I cannot obey them. I want to obey only You. »
« But I did not give you an order. »
« No, You did not. But it is Your mission that gives it! It is He, Who sent You, Who is speaking here, in my heart, and says to me: “Go to Him”. It is She, Who bore You, my sweet teacher, Who with Her gentle look, as mild as a dove's, says to me without uttering a word: “Be of Jesus!”. Can I ignore that heavenly voice that pierces my heart? Can I ignore the prayers of such a Holy Woman, Who implores me for my own good? Only because I am Your cousin on Joseph's side, am I not to acknowledge You for what You are, whereas the Baptist recognized You, although he had never seen You, here, on the banks of this river and he greeted You as the “Lamb of God”? And I, should I not be capable of anything, although I was brought up with You, and I was good because I followed You, and I became a son of the Law through Your Mother, from Whom I learned not the six hundred and thirteen precepts of the rabbis, besides the Scriptures and the prayers, but the essence of them all? »
« And your father? »
« My father? He does not lack bread and assistance, and then… you give me the example. You have thought of the welfare of the people, rather than the little advantage of Mary. And She is alone. Tell me, Master, is it not right for a son to say to his father, without lacking respect: “Father, I love you. But God is above you and I will follow Him”? »
« Judas, My cousin and My friend, I tell you: you have made good progress on the way to Light. Come. It is lawful to speak thus to a father, when it is God Who calls. There is nothing above God. Also the laws of relationship cease, that is they are raised to a dignity, because with our tears, we give our fathers and mothers a greater help and for something everlasting, not for a short time in this world. We draw them with us to Heaven, and by sacrificing our affections, to God. So, Judas, stay here. I have been waiting for you and I am happy to have you, the friend of My life at Nazareth. »
Judas is touched.
Jesus addresses Thomas: « You obeyed faithfully. That is the first virtue of a disciple. »
« I came because I want to be faithful to You. »
« And you will be. I tell you. And you, who are hiding shyly in the shade, come here. Do not be afraid. »
« My Lord! » The ex-leper is at Jesus' feet.
« Stand up. Your name? »
« Simon. »
« Your family? »
« My Lord… it was powerful… I was powerful too… But bitter sectarian hatred… and errors of youth damaged its power. My father… Oh! I must speak against him, who caused me to shed so many earthly tears! You see, You saw the gift he gave me. »
« Was he a leper? »
« He was not. Neither was I. But he suffered from another disease which we in Israel associate with various forms of leprosy. He… his caste was then triumphant, he lived and died as a powerful man, at home. I… if You had not saved me, I would have died in the valley of sepulchers. »
« Are you alone? »
« Yes, I am. I have a faithful servant who looks after what property is left. I sent word to him. »
« And your mother? »
« She… is dead. » The man seems embarrassed.
Jesus looks at him attentively. « Simon, you asked me: “What shall I do for You?” Now I say to you: “Follow Me.” »
« I will, at once, my Lord… But… But I… let me tell You one thing. I am, I was called “Zealot” because of the caste, and “Cananean”, because of my mother. See. I am of a dark complexion. In my veins there is the blood of a slave woman. My father had no children from his wife, and he had me from a slave. His wife was a good woman and she brought me up as her own son, she took care of me in my endless illnesses until she died… »
« There are no slaves or freemen in the eyes of God. There is only one slavery in His eyes: sin. And I have come to abolish it. I am calling everybody, because the Kingdom is of all men. Are you a learned man? »
« Yes, I am. I also had my position amongst the important people, as long as my disease was hidden under my clothes. But when it spread to my face… My enemies then could not believe they were at last able to confine me amongst the “dead”, although a Roman doctor of Caesarea, when I consulted him, told me that mine was not real leprosy, but hereditary serpigo, which I would spread only by procreation. Is it possible for me not to curse my father? »
« You must not curse him. He has caused you all sorts of trouble… »
« Yes, he did! He was a squanderer, a vicious, cruel, heartless man without any love. He deprived me of my health, he denied me love and peace, he branded me with a shameful name and with a disease which is a mark of infamy… He wanted everything for himself, even his son's future. He deprived me of everything, also of the joy of being a father. »
« That is why I say to you: “Follow Me”. As My follower you will find father and children. Look up, Simon. There, the True Father is smiling at you. Look at the wide world, at the continents, at the countries: there are children and children everywhere; children of the souls for the childless. They are waiting for you, and many like you are also waiting. There are no foundlings under My Sign. There is no solitude, no difference in My Sign. It is a sign of love, and it gives love. Come, My childless Simon. Come, Judas, who are losing your father for My sake. I join you in the same destiny. »
They are both beside Him. He is holding His hands on their shoulders as if He were taking possession of them and imposing a common yoke on them. He then says: « And I unite you together. But now I will separate you. Simon, you will stay here with Thomas. You will prepare with him the way for My return: I will be back soon, and I want the people to be waiting for Me. Tell the sick people that He Who can cure their illnesses, is about to come here: you can certainly tell them that. Tell those who are waiting, that the Messiah is among His people. Tell the sinners that He Who forgives has come to give them strength to rise… »
« Will we be able to do that? »
« Yes, you will. All you have to say is: “He has come. He calls you. He is waiting for you. He has come to grant you graces. Come here to see Him”, and to these words, add a report of what you know. And you, Judas, My cousin, come with Me and these. But you will stay at Nazareth. »
« Why, Jesus? »
« Because you must prepare My way in My fatherland. Do you think it is a small mission? I can tell you that there is not a harder one… » Jesus sighs.
« And will I succeed? »
« You will and you will not. But it will be sufficient to be justified. »
« Justified of what? And with whom? »
« With God. With your fatherland. With your family. They will not be able to reproach us, because we offered good things: and if the fatherland and the family will disdain our offer, we shall not be blamed for their loss. »
« And what about us? »
« You, Peter? You will go back to your fishing nets. »
« Why? »
« Because I will teach you slowly and I will take you with Me, when I find that you are ready. »
« But will we see You, then? »
« Certainly. I will often come to see you, or I will send for you when I am at Capernaum. Now, let us say goodbye, My friends and let us go. I bless you, who are staying here. May My peace be with You. »
And the vision ends.