2nd February 1945.
It is market morning at Capernaum. The square is full of traders selling all kinds of goods.
Jesus, coming from the lake, arrives in the square and sees His cousins Judas and James coming towards Him. He quickens His pace in their direction and after embracing them affectionately, He asks them solicitously: « How is your father? What has happened? »
« Nothing new, as far as his life is concerned » answers Judas.
« Why did you come then? I told you to stay. »
Judas lowers his head and is silent. But James bursts out: « It is my fault if he did not obey You. Yes, it's my fault. But I could not put up with the situation any longer. They are all against me. Why? Is there any harm in loving You? Are we wrong in being fond of You? So far I was held back by the scruple of doing the wrong thing. But now that I know, now that You said that not even a father is above God, I could not bear the situation any longer. Oh! I have tried to show respect, to make him understand my reasons, to clarify the situation. I said: “Why are you against me? If He is the Prophet, the Messiah, why do you want the world to say: 'His own family was against Him? The world followed Him, His family did not?' Because, if He is as insane as you say, should we of the family not be close to Him to prevent His insanity from harming Him and us?” O Jesus, that's what I said arguing in a human way, as they did. But You know that Judas and I do not believe that You are insane. You know that we consider You the Holy Man of God. You know that we have always looked at You as our Major Star. But they would not understand us. They would not listen to us any more. And I came away. Between Jesus and the family, I chose You. Here I am, if You want me. If You do not want me, I'll be the most unhappy of all men, because I will not have anything: neither Your friendship nor the love of the family. »
« Have we got to this stage? O James, My poor James, I wish I had not seen you suffer so, because I love you! But if Jesus-Man is crying with you, Jesus-Word is jubilant on account of you. Come. I am sure that the joy of bringing God to men will increase your happiness every hour of the day until it reaches its full rapture in the last hour of the earth and in the eternal hour of Heaven. »
Jesus turns round and calls His disciples, who had discreetly stopped a few yards away. « Come here, My friends. My cousin James is now one of My friends and thus a friend of yours. How I longed for this hour, for this day because he was a perfect friend in My childhood and a good brother in My youth! »
The disciples welcome the newcomer and Judas, whom they had not seen for several days.
« We looked for you at home… but you were on the lake. »
« Yes, I was on the lake for two days with Peter and the others. Peter had a good haul. Is that right? »
« Yes, but what annoys me is that now I will have to give many didrachmas to that thief over there… » and he points at Matthew, the exciseman, whose bench is besieged by people paying for the stall ground, I think, or for foodstuffs.
« It will all be proportioned, I suppose. The better the haul, the more you pay and the more you earn. »
« No, Master. The more I catch, the more I earn. But if the weight of my draught of fish is doubled, that man there does not make me pay twice as much. He charges me four times as much… The profiteer! »
« Peter! Well, let us go just there. I want to speak. There is always a lot of people near the customs bench. »
« No wonder! » grumbles Peter. « Lots of people and imprecations. »
« Well, I will go and grant blessings. Perhaps some honest feeling will enter the exciseman's heart. »
« You need not worry about that. Your words will never go through his crocodile skin. »
« We shall see. »
« What are You going to say to him? »
« Nothing directly. But I will speak in such a way that My words will be addressed also to him. »
« Say that a thief is both who assails people in the road and who fleeces poor people who work for their daily bread and not for women and orgies. »
« Peter, do you want to speak in My place? »
« No, Master: I would not be able to speak properly. »
« And with your acrimony you would harm yourself and him. »
They have reached the customs bench. Peter is about to pay. Jesus stops him and says: « Give Me the money. I will pay today. » Peter looks at Him amazed and then gives Him a leather purse containing some money.
Jesus waits for His turn and when He is before the exciseman He says: « I am paying for eight baskets of fish belonging to Simon of Jonas. The baskets are over there, where the servants are standing. You can check, if you wish. But honest people should be able to trust each other's word. And I think that you will believe that I am honest. How much do I pay? »
Matthew, who was sat at his bench, when Jesus says: « And I think that you will believe that I am honest », stands up. He is a small and rather elderly man, about Peter's age, but his face has the weary look of the pleasure-lover and he is obviously bewildered. At first he lowers his head, then he raises it and looks at Jesus. And Jesus stares at him gravely, dominating him from His imposing height.
« How much? » Jesus asks again, after a few seconds.
« There is no taxation for the disciple of the Master » replies Matthew. And in a lower voice he adds: « Pray for my soul. »
« I carry it within Me, because I am gathering sinners. But… why do you not look after it? » And Jesus turns His back on him at once and goes back to Peter, who is struck with wonder. Also the others are dumbfounded. They whisper and wink meaningfully…
Jesus leans against a tree, about ten yards from Matthew and begins speaking.
« The world may be compared to a large family, the members of which are in different trades, all of which are necessary. There are farmers, shepherds, vine-dressers, carpenters, fishermen, bricklayers, joiners and blacksmiths, and then clerks, soldiers, officers responsible for special missions, doctors, priests. There is everything. The world could not consist of only one class of people. They are all necessary, all holy, if they do what they should do with honesty and justice. How can they achieve that if Satan tempts them on all sides? By turning their thoughts to God, Who sees everything, also the most concealed deeds, and to His Law, that says: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself, do not do to other people what you do not want done to yourself, do not steal in any way.”
Tell Me, you who are listening to Me: when a man dies, does he take his purses of money with him? And even if he were so silly as to have them buried with him in his tomb, could he make use of them in the other world? No. Money becomes a piece of metal corroded on the rot of a decomposed corpse. But his soul would be naked elsewhere and even poorer than blessed Job, it would be deprived of the smallest coin, even if he had left heaps of talents here and in his tomb. Nay, listen, listen! I solemnly tell you that it is difficult to gain Heaven with riches, on the contrary Heaven is generally lost because of riches, also if they are obtained honestly or by inheritance, because only few rich people know how to make use of their wealth honestly.
What is necessary then to gain Paradise and rest on the Father's bosom? It is necessary not to be greedy for wealth. That is, not to be eager by wanting wealth at all costs, even by going against honesty and love. Not to be eager to such an extent as to love the wealth one possesses more than Heaven and one's neighbour, refusing to assist a needy neighbour. Not to be greedy for what wealth can offer, that is: women, pleasures, a bountiful table, magnificent garments, which are an insult to those who are cold and hungry. There is a currency that can change the unjust money of the world into a currency having legal tender in the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is the holy wisdom in turning into eternal riches, the human riches which are often unjust or the cause of injustice. That is, you must earn honestly, give back what you obtained unfairly, make use of your riches with parsimony and detachment, learning how to become detached from them, because sooner or later they will leave us, whereas good deeds will never leave us. You must consider that!
We would all like to be called “just” and to be considered as such and to be rewarded by God for being just. But how can God reward who is just only by name but in fact is not so? How can He say: “I forgive you”, when repentance is expressed only by word of mouth and is not supported by a real change of the spirit? There is no real repentance as long as the lust for the thing for which we sinned will last. But when a man humbles himself, when he severs all links with evil passions, such as women or gold and says: “For Your sake, o Lord, I will have no more of this”, he is really repentant. And God receives him saying: “Come, you are as dear to Me as an innocent child, and a hero.” »
Jesus has finished. He goes away without even turning towards Matthew, who had come near the ring of listeners after the very first words.
When they are near Peter's house, his wife runs to meet her husband and says something to him. Peter beckons Jesus to go near him. « The mother of James and Judas is here. She wants to speak to You but does not want to be seen. What shall we do? »
« Thus. I will go into the house as if I wanted to rest and you will all go and give alms to the poor. Take also the money that was not wanted for the taxation. Go.» Jesus waves them all farewell, while Peter harangues them persuading them to go with him.
« Where is the mother, woman? » Jesus asks Peter's wife.
« On the terrace, Master. It is still in the shade and is cool. You may go up. And there is more privacy than in the house. »
Jesus climbs up the tiny staircase.
In a corner, under the thick vine pergola, there is Mary of Alphaeus, sitting on a little bench against the parapet, dressed completely in black, with her veil pulled over her face. She is weeping, silently.
Jesus calls her: « Mary! My dear aunt! »
She lifts her poor sorrowful face and stretches out her hands: « Jesus! How sad at heart I am! »
Jesus is near her. He makes her remain sat. He remains standing with His mantle on, one hand on His aunt's shoulder, while the other is clasped within hers. « What is the matter with you? Why are you crying so much? »
« Oh! Jesus! I came away from home saying: “I am going to Cana to get some eggs and wine for the invalid.” Your Mother is with Alphaeus and is nursing him and You know how capable She is, and I am not worried. But actually I came here. I have been running for two nights to get here quicker. I am exhausted… But the exertion is nothing… It's the pain in my heart that hurts so much!… My Alphaeus… my Alphaeus… my children… Why is there so much difference between those who are of the same blood and why is such difference as hard as millstones to crush a mother's heart? Are Judas and James with You? Are they? Then You know… Oh! Jesus! Why does my Alphaeus not understand? Why is he dying? Why does he want to die like that? And Simon and Joseph? Why are they against You and not with You? »
« Do not cry, Mary. I bear them no grudge. I already told Judas. I understand and I am sorry for them. If that is the reason why you are crying, please cry no more. »
« Yes, that's why, because they offend You. That's one reason and then… then… I do not want my husband to die being hostile to You. God will not forgive him… and I, oh! I will not have him… not even in future life… » Mary is really distressed. She is crying her heart out and her tears fall on Jesus' left hand, which she is still holding in her own and now and again kisses it and lifts her poor face tortured by pain.
« No » says Jesus. « No. Do not say that. I forgive. And if I forgive… »
« Oh! Come, Jesus. Come and save his soul and his body. Come… People are saying also, to accuse You, they are already saying that You have taken away two sons from a dying man, that's what they are saying in Nazareth, see? They also say: “He works miracles everywhere, but He is not capable of working them in His own home” and they contend with me when to defend You I say: “What can He do if you have practically driven Him away with your reproaches and if you do not believe?”»
« You said the right words: if you do not believe. What can I do where there is no faith? »
« Oh! You can do everything. I believe for them all. Please come. Work a miracle… for Your poor aunt…»
« I cannot. » Jesus is most sad in saying so. Standing up and clasping the head of the crying woman to His chest, he seems to be confessing His inability to nature itself and to be calling nature as a witness to His pain at not being able because of an eternal decree.
The woman is crying more loudly.
« Listen, Mary. Be good. I swear that if I could, if it were the right thing to do, I would do it. Oh! I would snatch this grace from the Father, for you, for My Mother, for Judas and James, and also for Alphaeus, Joseph and Simon. But I cannot. You are now so broken-hearted that you cannot understand the justice of My inability. I will tell you, although you will not understand. When it was the hour of My father's death, I did not bring him back to life again, and you know how just he was and how much My Mother loved him. I did not bring him back to life again. It is not just that a family should be exempt from the inevitable misfortunes of life only because one of its members is a holy person. If that was the case, I should remain on the earth forever, and yet I will soon die, and Mary, My holy Mother, will not be able to snatch Me from death. I cannot. This is what I can do and I will do. » Jesus has sat down and is holding His relative's head against His shoulder. « This is what I will do. I promise peace for your Alphaeus on account of your pain and I give you assurance that you will not be separated from him and I give you My word that our family will be united again in Heaven forever, and as long as I live and even afterwards, I will grant you so much peace and so much strength that you will become My apostle for so many poor women, whom it will be easier for you, a woman, to contact. You will be My beloved friend in this time of evangelization. Alphaeus' death – do not cry – will free you from your duties of a wife and will raise You to the more sublime status of a mystical female priesthood, so necessary near the altar of the Great Victim and amongst so many heathens, who will yield more willingly to the holy heroism of female disciples than of male ones. Oh! your name, dear aunt, will be like a bright star in the Christian sky… Do not cry any more. Go in peace. Be strong, resigned and holy. My Mother… became a widow before you… and will console you as She can console. Come. I do not want you to go away in this heat. Peter will take you in his boat as far as the Jordan and then to Nazareth on a donkey. Be good. »
« Bless me, Jesus. Give me strength. »
« Yes, I bless you and kiss you, My good aunt. » And He kisses her tenderly, pressing her for a long while to His heart until He sees that she has calmed down.