24th January 1945.
It is dawn once again. And once again there are long lines of donkeys crowding at the Gate which is still closed. Jesus is with Simon and John. Some traders recognise Him and press round Him. Also a guard runs towards Him when the Gate is opened and sees Him. And he greets Him: « Hail, Galilean. Tell these restless people to be less rebellious. They complain of us. But they do nothing but curse us and disobey. And they say it is a form of cult for them. What religion have they got if it is based on disobedience? »
« Bear with them, My soldier. They are like those who have a guest in their house who is not wanted, but is stronger than they are. And they can only take vengeance with their tongues and by being spiteful. »
« Yes. But we must do our duty. And so we have to punish them. And thus we become more and more the unwanted guest. »
« You are right. You must do your duty. But do it always with humanity. You should always say: “If I were in their position, what would I do?” You will then see that you feel pity for the subjects. »
« I like to hear You speak. You are free from contempt and haughtiness. The other Palestinians spit at us, and loathe us… unless they can skin us properly for a woman or some purchase. Then the gold of Rome is no longer loathsome. »
« Men are men, soldier. »
« Yes and man is a bigger liar than a monkey. It is not pleasant, however, to be among those who are like snakes lying in wait… We also have homes, mothers, wives and children and our lives are dear to us. »
« There you are: if everybody remembered that, there would be no more hatred. You asked: “What religion have they?” I will answer you: a holy religion which prescribes as first commandment love for God and for our neighbour. A religion that teaches obedience to the laws. Also of enemy countries.
Because listen, My brothers in Israel, nothing happens unless God permits it. Also dominations: a misfortune without equal for a people. But if that people should examine itself in all fairness, almost always they should say that they brought on such a misfortune by their way of living contrary to God. Remember the Prophets. How many times have they spoken about that! How often have they shown with past, present and future events that a ruler is a punishment, the lash of chastisement on the back of an ungrateful son. And how many times have they taught how to avoid it: by going back to the Lord. Neither rebellion nor war cure wounds or tears, neither do they undo chains. To live as just people does all that. Then God intervenes. And what can arms and armies do against the splendour of the angelical cohorts fighting for good people? Have we been struck? Let us deserve to be no longer so, by living as children of God. Do not double your chains by committing new sins. Do not allow the Gentiles to think that you are without any religion or more pagan than they are because of your way of living. You are the people who received the Law from God Himself. Respect it. Get the rulers to bow down before your chains saying: “They are subjects but they are greater than we are, of a greatness that is not based on numbers, money, arms, power, but on the fact that they come from God. Here shines the divine paternity of a perfect, holy, powerful God. Here is the sign of a real Divinity. It shines through its children”. And may they meditate on that and come to the truth of the true God, abandoning their errors. Everyone, even the poorest, the most ignorant amongst the people of God can be a teacher to a Gentile by his way of living and can preach God to the heathens by the deeds of a holy life. Go. Peace be with you. »
« Judas is late and also the shepherds » points out Simon.
« Are You expecting someone, Galilean? » asks the soldier who has listened carefully.
« Some friends. »
« Come into the cool of the passageway. The sun is hot from the very early hours. Are You going to town? »
« No, I am going back to Galilee. »
« On foot? »
« I am poor: on foot. »
« Are You married? »
« I have My Mother. »
« Also I. Come… if You do not loathe us as the others do. »
« Only sin disgusts Me. »
The soldier looks at Him, surprised and thoughtful. « We will never have to interfere with You. Our swords will never be lifted against You. You are good. But the others!… »
Jesus is in the half light of the passageway. John is towards the town. Simon is sitting on a mass of stone which serves as a bench.
« What is Your name? »
« Jesus. »
« Ah! You are the one who works miracles also on deceased people?! I thought You were only a magician… We have some, too. A good magician, however. Because there are some… But ours cannot cure sick people. How do You do it? »
Jesus smiles and is silent.
« Do You use magic words? Have You ointments of dead people's marrows, dried snakes reduced to powder, magic stones taken from the Python's caves? »
« None of that. I have only My power. »
« Then You really are a saint. We have the haruspices and the vestals… and some of them work wonders and they say that they are the most holy ones. But do You believe it? They are worse than the rest. »
« Well, then, why do you venerate them? »
« Because… because it is the religion of Rome. And if a citizen does not respect the religion of his country, how can he respect Caesar, his fatherland, and so on, many things? »
Jesus stares at the soldier. « Truly you are well advanced on the way of Justice. Proceed, o soldier, and you will get to know what your soul feels it has in itself, without being able to give a name to it. »
« Soul? What is it? »
« When you die, where will you go? »
« Who knows?… I don't know. If I die as a hero, on the funeral pyre of heroes… if I am a poor old man, a mere nothing, perhaps I will rot in my hole or on the side of a road. »
« That is as far as your body is concerned. But where will your soul go? »
« I don't know whether all men have a soul or only those destined by Jupiter to the Elysian Fields after a wonderful life, unless he takes them up to Olympus as it happened to Romulus. »
« Every man has a soul and it is the thing that distinguishes men from animals. Would you like to be a horse? Or a bird? A fish? Flesh, that-dying, is only rot? »
« Oh! no. I am a man and I prefer to be such. »
« Well, what makes you a man is your soul. Without it you would be nothing more than a speaking animal. »
« And where is it? What is it like? »
« It has no body. But it exists. It is in you. It comes from Him Who created the world and goes back to Him after the death of the body. »
« From the God of Israel, according to You. »
« From the only, one, eternal, supreme God, Lord and Creator of the universe. »
« And also a poor soldier like me, has a soul and it goes back to God? »
« Yes. Also a poor soldier, and his soul will have God as a Friend, if it was always good, or God as a Punisher, if it was bad. »
« Master, there is Judas with the shepherds and some women. If I am right, there is the girl we spoke of yesterday » says John.
« I am going, soldier. Be good. »
« Will I not see You again? I would like to know… »
« I will stay in Galilee until September. Come, if you can. At Capernaum or Nazareth anyone will tell you where I am. At Capernaum ask for Simon Peter. At Nazareth for Mary of Joseph. She is My Mother. Come. I will speak to you of the true God. »
« Simon Peter… Mary of Joseph. I'll come, if I can. And if You come back, remember Alexander. I belong to the Jerusalem Century. »
Judas and the shepherds are already in the passageway.
« Peace to you all » says Jesus.
And He is about to say more, when a slender smiling girl makes her way through the group and throws herself at His feet: « Your blessing on me again, Master and Saviour and my kiss again to You! » And she kisses His hands.
« Go. Be happy and good. A good daughter, then a good wife, and then a good mother. Teach your future children My Name and My doctrine. Peace to you and to your mother. Peace and blessings to all those who are friends of God. Peace also to you, Alexander. »
Jesus goes away.
« We are late. But some women besieged us » explains Judas. « They were at Gethsemane and wanted to see You. We had gone there without knowing of them, to join You and come here together. But You had already gone away and the women instead were there. We wanted to leave them… But they were more insistent than flies. They wanted to know so many things… Have You cured the girl? »
« Yes. »
« And have You spoken to the Roman? »
« Yes. He has an honest heart. And he is seeking the Truth… »
« Why are you sighing, Judas? » asks Jesus.
« I am sighing because I wish our people would seek the Truth. Instead they evade it, or sneer at it, or remain indifferent. I feel discouraged. I feel as if I do not want to come back here again, but do nothing else but listen to You. In any case, as a disciple, I am good for nothing. »
« And do you think that I am very successful? Do not be discouraged, Judas. It is the struggle of the apostolate. There are more defeats than victories. Defeats here. Up there they are always victories. The Father sees your good will and even if you are not successful He blesses you just the same. »
« Oh! You are good! » Judas kisses His hand. « Will I ever become good? »
« Yes, if you want to. »
« I think I have been good these past days… I suffered to be so… because I have many desires… but I always thought of You. »
« Persist, then. You give Me so much joy. And what news have you got for Me? » He asks the shepherds.
« Elias sends You his greetings, and also some food. And he asks You not to forget him. »
« Oh! I have My friends in My heart! Let us go as far as that little village, surrounded by green fields. Then we will proceed in the evening. I am happy to be with you, I am glad that I am going to My Mother and that I have spoken of the Truth to an honest man. Yes, I am happy. If you knew what it is for Me to do My mission and see souls coming to it, that is to the Father, oh! you would follow Me more and more with your souls!… »
I see nothing else.