13th January 1945.
« At what time will we be arriving? » asks Jesus Who is walking in the centre of the group behind the sheep, grazing on the grass on the banks.
« At about the third hour. It's almost ten miles » replies Elias.
« Are we going to Kerioth afterwards? » asks Judas.
« Yes, we will go there. »
« Was it not quicker to go to Kerioth from Juttah? It cannot be a great distance. Is that correct, shepherd? »
« About two miles longer, more or less. »
« This way, we will be doing over twenty for nothing. »
« Judas, why are you so worried? »
« I am not worried, Master. But You promised You would come to my house. »
« And I will. I always keep My promises. »
« I sent word to my mother… and after all, You said so Yourself, one can be near the dead also with one's soul. »
« I did. But just think, Judas: you have not yet suffered because of Me. These people have been suffering for thirty years, and they have never betrayed, not even My memory they betrayed. They did not know whether I was dead or alive… and yet they remained faithful. They remembered Me as a newly-born baby, an infant with nothing but tears and the need of milk… and they have always worshipped Me as God. Because of Me they have been beaten, cursed and persecuted as if they were the disgrace of Judaea, and yet their faith has never faltered, neither did it wither under blows, on the contrary it took deeper roots and became stronger. »
« By the way. For some days I have been anxious to ask You a question. These people are Your friends and the friends of God, are they not? The angels blessed them with the peace of Heaven, did they not? They have been faithful against all temptations, have they not? Would You explain to me, then, why they are unhappy? And what about Anne? She was killed because she loved You… »
« Are you therefore deducing that to be loved by Me and to love Me brings bad luck? »
« No… but… »
« But you are. I am sorry to see you so closed to the Light and so open to human things. No, never mind John, and you too, Simon. I prefer him to speak. I never reproach. I only want you to open your souls to Me that I may enlighten them. Come here, Judas, listen. You are basing yourself on an opinion which is common to many people of our times and will be common to many in future. I said: an opinion. I should say: an error. But since you do not do so out of malice, but out of ignorance of the truth, it is not an error, it is only an incorrect opinion like a child's. And you are like children, My poor men. And I am here, as a Master, to make adults of you, capable of telling the truth from the false, good from bad and what is better from what is good. Listen to Me, therefore.
What is life? It is a period of pause, I would say the limbo of Limbo, that the God Father grants you as trial to ascertain whether you are good or bad children, after which He will allot, according to your deeds, a future life without pauses or trials. Now tell Me: would it be fair if a man, simply because he has been granted the rare gift of being in the position of serving God in a special way, had also an everlasting wealth throughout his life? Do you not think that he has already been granted a great deal and may therefore consider himself happy, even if human things are against him? Would it not be unfair if he, who already has the light of divine revelation in his heart and the smile of a clear conscience, should also have worldly honors and wealth? And would it not also be unwise?»
« Master, I would also say that he would be a desecrator. Why put human joys where You already are? When one has You – and they had You, they are the only rich people in Israel because they have had You for thirty years – one should have nothing else. We do not put human things on the Propitiatory… and the consecrated vase is used only for sacred uses. And these people are consecrated since the day they saw Your smile… and nothing but You is to enter their hearts, which possess You. I wish I was like them! » says Simon.
« But you wasted no time, immediately after you saw the Master and were cured, in getting back your property » Judas replies ironically.
« That is true. I said I would and I did. But do you know why? How can you judge if you do not know the whole situation? My representative was given precise instructions. Now that Simon Zealot has been cured – and his enemies can no longer harm him, neither can they persecute him because he belongs only to Jesus and to no sect: he has Jesus and nothing else – Simon can dispose of his wealth which an honest and faithful servant kept for him. And I, being the owner for a further short time, gave instructions that the estate should be reorganised, so that I would get more money when selling it and I would be able to say… no, I am not telling what. »
« The angels tell, Simon and they are writing it in the eternal book » says Jesus.
Simon looks at Jesus. Their eyes meet: Simon's express surprise, Jesus' blessing approval.
« As usual. I am wrong. »
« No, Judas. You have a practical sense, you said so yourself. »
« Oh! but with Jesus!… Also Simon Peter was full of practical sense, now instead!… You, too, Judas, will become like him. You have only been with the Master a short time, we have been longer with Him, and we are already better » says John who is always kind and conciliatory.
« He did not want me. Otherwise I would have been His since Passover. » Judas is really bad-tempered today.
Jesus puts an end to the argument by asking Levi: « Have you ever been to Galilee? »
« Yes, my Lord. »
« You will come with Me, to take Me to Jonah. Do you know him? »
« Yes, I do. We always met at Passover. I used to go and see him then. »
Joseph, mortified, lowers his head. Jesus notices and says: « You cannot both come. Elias would be left alone with the sheep. But you will come with Me as far as the Jericho pass, where we will part for some time. I will tell you after what you have to do. »
« What about us? Will we not do anything? »
« Yes, you will, Judas, you will. »
« There are some houses over there » says John, who is walking a few steps in front of the others.
« It's Hebron. Between two rivers with its crest. See, Master? That house there, amidst all the green, a little higher up than the others? That's Zacharias' house. »
« Let us quicken our paces. »
They cover the last stretch of the road very rapidly and go into the village. The sheep's little hooves sound like castanets on the uneven stones of the road, which is paved very roughly. They reach the house. People look at the group of men, who are so different by look, age and garments amongst the white sheep.
« Oh! It's different! There was a gate here! » says Elias. Now in place of the gate there is a metal door which prevents one from seeing, and also the enclosure wall is higher than a man and thus nothing can be seen inside.
« Perhaps it will be open at the back. » They go round a large quadrilateral wall, it is rather a long rectangular one, but the wall is the same height all round.
« The wall was built not long ago » remarks John, examining it. « There is not a scratch on it and there is still lime rubble on the ground. »
« I cannot even see the sepulcher… It was near the wood. Now the wood is outside the wall and… and it seems to belong to everybody. They are gathering firewood in it. » Elias is puzzled.
A man, an old woodcutter, small but strong, who is watching the group, stops sawing a trunk which he has cut down, and goes towards the group. « Whom are you looking for? »
« We wanted to go in, to pray on Zacharias' tomb ».
« There is no tomb any longer. Don't you know? Who are you? »
« I am a friend of Samuel, the shepherd. This… »
« It is not necessary, Elias » says Jesus and Elias keeps quiet.
« Ah! Samuel!… I see! But since John, Zacharias' son, was put into prison, the house is no longer his. And it is a misfortune, because he had all the profit of his property given to the poor people in Hebron. One morning a man came from Herod's court, he threw Jowehel out, he affixed seals, then he came back with bricklayers and they started raising the wall… The sepulcher was over there, in the corner. He did not want it… and one morning we found it all spoiled and half destroyed… the poor bones were all scattered… We put them together again, as well as we could… They are now in a sarcophagus… And in the house of the priest Zacharias, that filthy man keeps his lovers. Now there is a mime from Rome. That is why he raised the wall. He does not want people to see… The house of the priest a brothel! The house of the miracle and of the Precursor! For it is certainly him, if he is not the Messiah. And how much trouble we had because of the Baptist! But he is our great man! He is really great! Even when he was born there was a miracle. Elizabeth was as old as a withered thistle but she became as fruitful as an apple in Adar, and that was the first miracle. Then a cousin of hers came and She was a holy woman, and She served her and loosened the priest's tongue. Her name was Mary. I remember Her, although we saw Her very rarely. How it happened I don't know. They say that to make Elizabeth happy, She made Zacharias put his mute mouth against Her pregnant bosom or that She put Her fingers into his mouth. I don't know. It is a fact, that after nine months' silence, Zacharias spoke praising the Lord and saying that there was a Messiah. He did not explain more. But my wife was there that day and she assured me that Zacharias, praising the Lord, said that his son would precede Him. Now I say: it is not what people believe. John is the Messiah and he goes before the Lord, as Abraham went before God. That's what it is. Am I not right? »
« You are right with regard to the spirit of the Baptist, who always proceeds before God. But you are not right with regard to the Messiah ».
« Well, the woman who said that She was the Mother of the Son of God – Samuel said so – was it not true that She was? Is She still living? »
« Yes, She was. The Messiah was born, preceded by him who raised his voice in the desert, as the Prophet said. »
« You are the first to say so. John, the last time that Jowehel took him a sheepskin, which he did every year at the beginning of winter, although he was questioned about the Messiah, did not say: “The Messiah is here.” When he will say so… »
« Man, I was a disciple of John and I heard him say: “Here is the Lamb of God” pointing to… » says John.
« No, no. He is the Lamb. A true Lamb who grew up by himself, almost without the need of a father and mother. As soon as he became a son of the Law, he lived isolated in the mountain caves overlooking the desert, and he grew up there conversing with God. Elizabeth and Zacharias died, and he did not come. God only was his father and mother. There is no holy man greater than he is. You can ask everyone in Hebron. Samuel used to say so, but the people in Bethlehem must have been right. John is the holy man of God. »
« If someone said to you: “I am the Messiah”, what would you say? » asks Jesus.
« I would call him a “blasphemer” and I would drive him away, throwing stones at him. »
« And if he worked a miracle to prove that he was the Messiah? »
« I would say that he was “possessed”. The Messiah will come when John reveals himself in his true nature. The very hatred of Herod is the proof. Cunning as he is, he knows that John is the Messiah. »
« He was not born in Bethlehem. »
« But when he is freed, after announcing by himself his impending oncoming, he will reveal himself in Bethlehem. Also Bethlehem is waiting for that. Whilst… Oh! Go, if you have plenty of guts, and talk to the Bethlehemites of another Messiah… and you will see… »
« Have you a synagogue? »
« Yes, about two hundred steps straight ahead. You cannot go wrong. Near it there is the sarcophagus with the violated remains. »
« Goodbye, may God enlighten you. »
They go away. They turn round on to the front of the house.
At the door there is a young woman impudently dressed. She is beautiful. « My Lord, do you wish to come into the house? Come in. »
Jesus stares at her as severe as a judge, but does not speak.
But Judas does, supported by all the others. « Go back in, shameless woman! Do not desecrate us with your breath, ravenous bitch. »
The woman blushes and lowers her head. She is about to disappear abashed and scoffed at by urchins and passersby.
« Who is so pure as to say: “I have never desired the apple offered by Eve?” » asks Jesus severely and He adds: « Show Me him and I will call him a holy man. Nobody? Well, then, if not out of disgust, but out of weakness, you feel unable to go near this woman, you may withdraw. I will not force weaklings into unequal struggles. Woman, I would like to come in. This house belonged to a relative of Mine and is dear to Me. »
« Come in, my Lord, if You do not loathe me. »
« Leave the door open, that the world may see and may not tattle… »
Jesus enters serious and solemn. The woman, subdued, bows down before Him and dares not move. But the quips of the people cut her to the quick. She runs away to the end of the garden, while Jesus goes as far as the foot of the staircase. He looks in through the half open doors but does not go in. He then goes to the place of the sepulcher, where there is now a kind of small pagan temple.
« The bones of the just, also when dry and scattered, ooze a purifying balm and spread seed of eternal life. Peace to the dead who lived doing good! Peace to the pure who are sleeping in the Lord! Peace to those who suffered, but knew no vice! Peace to the real great ones of the world and of Heaven! Peace! »
The woman has reached Jesus, walking along the hedge that protects her.
« My Lord! »
« Woman. »
« Your Name, my Lord. »
« Jesus. »
« I never heard it. I am Roman: a mime and dancer. I am an expert only in lust. What is the meaning of Your name? My name is Aglae and… and it means: vice. »
« Mine means: Savior. »
« How do You save? And whom? »
« Those who are anxious to be saved. I save by teaching to be pure, to prefer sorrows to honors, to desire good at all costs, » Jesus speaks without bitterness, without even turning towards the woman.
« I am lost… »
« I am the One seeking who is lost. »
« I am dead. »
« I am the One who gives Life. »
« I am filth and falsehood. »
« I am Purity and Truth. »
« You are also Bounty, You do not look at me. You do not touch me, You do not tread on me. Have mercy on me… »
« First, you must have mercy on yourself. On your soul. »
« What is the soul? »
« It is what makes a god of man and not an animal. Vice and sin kill it, and once it is killed, man becomes a repulsive animal. »
« Will it be possible for me to see You again? »
« Who looks for Me, finds Me. »
« Where do You live? »
« Where hearts need doctors and medicines to become honest again. »
« In that case… I will not see You again… I live where no doctor, medicine or honesty is wanted. »
« Nothing prevents you from coming to where I am. My name will be shouted in the streets and will reach you. Goodbye. »
« Goodbye, my Lord. Allow me to call You “Jesus”. Oh! Not out of familiarity!… But that a little of salvation may come to me. I am Aglae, remember me. »
« I will. Goodbye. »
The woman stays at the end of the garden, Jesus comes out of it severe. He looks at everybody. He sees perplexity in His disciples and hears jeers from the Hebronites. A servant closes the door.
Jesus goes straight along the road. He knocks at the synagogue.
A resentful old man looks out. He does not even give Jesus time to speak. « The synagogue is forbidden, in this holy place, to those who deal with prostitutes. Go away. »
Jesus turns away without replying and continues walking along the road. His disciples follow Him. They begin to speak when they are outside Hebron.
« You asked for trouble, Master » says Judas. « A prostitute, of all people! »
« Judas, I solemnly tell you that she will surpass you. And now, since you are reproaching Me, what do you say of the Judaeans? In the most holy places in Judaea we have been scoffed at and driven away… That is the truth. The day will come when Samaria and the Gentiles will worship the true God, and the people of the Lord will be soiled with blood and a crime… a crime in comparison with which the sins of prostitutes who sell their bodies and their souls, will be a very small thing. I was not able to pray on the tomb of My cousins and of the just Samuel. It does not matter. Rest, holy bones, rejoice, souls, that dwelt in them. The first resurrection is near. Then the day will come when you will be shown to the angels as the souls of the servants of the Lord. »
Jesus stops speaking and the vision ends.