6th February 1945.
I see the beautiful new town of Tiberias. Its whole lay-out makes me understand that it is a new and a wealthy town: the town plan is neater than that of any other town in Palestine and shows a civilized and harmonious ensemble not to be found even in Jerusalem. There are beautiful avenues and straight roads, already provided with a sewer system whereby water and rubbish are cleared away. There are also wide squares with large fountains, the bases of which are built with the most beautiful marbles. Many buildings copy the Roman style, with spacious arcades. Through some front doors, already open at this early hour, one can see large halls, marble peristyles decorated with valuable curtains, chairs and tables; in almost every building there is a central yard, paved with marble, with a jet-fountain and marble vases full of blossoming flowers. It is definitely an imitation of the Rome architecture, which has been copied very well and very richly. The loveliest houses are in the streets nearest to the lake. The first three streets, parallel to the lake, are really luxurious. The first one follows the gentle curve of the lake and is absolutely magnificent. The last part is a series of “villas” with the main facades on the back street, and on the lake side they have luxuriant gardens, which stretch so far down as to be lapped by the waves of the lake. Almost every one has a little harbour, in which there are leisure boats with precious canopies and purple seats.
Jesus does not seem to have disembarked from Peter's boat in the harbour of Tiberias, but somewhere else, probably in the suburbs and is now walking along the avenue alongside the lake.
« Have You ever been to Tiberias, Master? » asks Peter.
« No. Never. »
« Eh! Antipas has done things well and in great style to flatter Tiberius! He is corrupted indeed!… »
« It seems more a holiday resort than a business town. »
« The trading centre is on the other side. It has a lot of trade and is wealthy. »
« And these houses? Do they belong to Palestinians? »
« Some do, some don't. Many belong to Romans, and many… although full of statues and similar trash, belong to Jews. » Peter sighs and mumbles: « … I wish they had taken away only our independence… but they have taken away also our faith… We are becoming more heathen-minded than they are!… »
« Not through their fault, Peter. They have their habits and they do not force us to adopt them. We want to become corrupted ourselves. Because of material interest, of the fashion, servilism… »
« You are right. And the Tetrarch is the first one… »
« Master, here we are » says the shepherd Joseph. « This is the house of Herod's steward. »
They stop at the end of the avenue, where there is a fork and the avenue becomes the second street, so that the “villas” are situated between it and the lake. The house indicated by Joseph is the first one and is really beautiful, with a flower garden all round it. Branches of jasmin and roses and their sweet smell spread out as far as the lake.
« Is this where Jonathan lives? »
« I was told that he lives here. He is the steward's steward. He has been fortunate. Chuza is not a bad man and is just in acknowledging the merits of his steward. He is one of the few honest men at the court. Shall I go and call him? »
« Go. »
Joseph goes to the tall front door and knocks. The door-keeper comes to the door. They exchange a few words. I see that Joseph shows disappointment and the porter puts out his grey head and looks at Jesus; he then asks something and Joseph nods assent. They go on speaking.
Joseph then comes towards Jesus Who has been waiting patiently under the shade of a tree. « Jonathan is not here. He is up on High Lebanon. He has taken Johanna up there, in the fresh and pure air, because she is very ill. The servant said that Jonathan went because Chuza is at court and he cannot come away after the scandal of the escape of the Baptist. She was getting worse and the doctor said that she would die here. But the servant says that You should go in and rest. Jonathan has spoken of the baby Messiah and also here You are known by name and You are expected. »
« Let us go. » The group begins to move.
The porter, after casting a sidelong glance, calls other servants and opens wide the door, so far only half open, and runs towards Jesus, with the utmost respect: « Bless us, Lord, and this sad house. Come in. Oh! Jonathan will be very sorry that he is not here! He was hoping so much to see You. Please come in with Your friends. »
In the hall there are servants and maids of all ages. They all bow down respectfully, greeting Jesus, and they are curious at the same time. A little old woman is weeping in a comer. Jesus goes in and blesses with His usual gesture and His greeting of peace. They offer Him refreshments. Jesus sits on a chair and they all gather round Him. « I can see that I am not unknown to you » remarks Jesus.
« Oh! Jonathan brought us up, telling us about You. Jonathan is good. He says that he is good because the kiss he gave You made him good. But it is also because he is good. »
« I have given and received kisses… but, as you say, it is only in good people that they increase their goodness. Is he absent just now? I came to see him. »
« As I said: he is up in Lebanon. He has friends there… It is the last hope for our young mistress, if it does not help… »
The little woman in the comer cries louder. Jesus looks at her inquisitively.
« She is Esther, the mistress's wet-nurse. She is crying because she cannot resign herself to lose her. »
« Come, mother. Do not cry like that » Jesus encourages her. « Come here near Me. A disease does not necessarily mean death! »
« Oh! it is death! it is death! After she had her only unfortunate childbirth, she is dying! Adulteresses have deliveries secretly and yet they live, and she, so good, so honest, dear, so dear, she must die! »
« What is the matter with her now? »
« She has a fever that consumes her… She is like a lamp that bums in a very windy place… it gets stronger every day and she gets weaker. Oh! I wanted to go with her. But Jonathan wanted young maids, because she has no strength left and she has to be lifted bodily and I am no longer capable… Not capable of that… but I am capable of loving her. I received her from her mother's womb… I was a servant and I was married, and I had a child one month old and I suckled her, because her mother was very weak and could not… I acted as her mother when she became an orphan and she could hardly say mummy. I have grown old and wrinkled watching at her bedside when she was ill… I dressed her as a bride and led her to her nuptial bed… I smiled at her hopes of becoming a mother… I wept with her over her dead baby… I have gathered all the smiles and all the tears of her life… I have given her all the smiles and all the consolation of my love… and now she is dying and I am not beside her… » One Can but feel sorry for the old woman.
Jesus caresses her, but to no avail. « Listen, mother. Have you faith? »
« In You? Yes, I have. »
« In God, woman. Do you believe that God can do everything? »
« I do, and I believe that You, His Messiah, can do it, too. Oh! They already speak in town of Your power! That man there (and she points to Philip) some time ago was speaking of Your miracles near the synagogue. And Jonathan asked him: “Where is the Messiah?” and he replied: “I do not know.” Jonathan then said to me: “If He were here, I swear it, she would be cured.” But You were not here… and he has gone away with her… and now she will die… »
« No. Have faith. Tell me exactly what you feel in your heart: can you believe that she will not die because of your faith? »
« Because of my faith? Oh! If that is what You want, here it is. Take also my life, my old life… just let me see her cured. »
« I am the Life. I give life and not death. You gave life to her, one day, with the milk of your breast, and it was a poor life that could finish. Now with your faith, you are giving her an endless life. Smile, mother! »
« But she is not here… » The old woman is uncertain between hope and fear. « She is away, and You are here… »
« Have faith. Listen. I am now going to Nazareth for a few days. Also there are some friends of Mine who are ill… I will then go to Lebanon. If Jonathan comes back within six days, send him to Nazareth, to Jesus of Joseph. If he does not come, then I will go. »
« How will you find him? »
« Tobias' archangel will guide Me. Fortify your faith. That is all I ask of you. Do not cry any longer, mother. »
The old woman, instead, cries louder. She is at Jesus' feet, resting her head on His divine knees, kissing and crying on His blessed hand.
Jesus caresses her with His other hand and as the other servants gently reproach her because she is getting exhausted weeping, He says: « Leave her alone. It is a relief for her to shed tears now. It will do her good. Are you all glad that your mistress may be restored to health? »
« Oh! She is so good! When one is like her, one is not a master, but a friend and is loved as such. We love her, believe us. »
« I can see into your hearts. Be always good, too. I am going. I cannot wait. I have a boat. I bless you. »
« Come back, Master. Come back again! »
« I will come back. I will often come back. Goodbye. Peace to this house and to you all. »
Jesus goes out with His disciples, in the company of the servants cheering Him.
« You are better known here than in Nazareth » remarks His cousin James sadly.
« This house has been prepared by a man who had true faith in the Messiah. As far as Nazareth is concerned, I am only a carpenter… Nothing else. »
« And… we have not the strength to preach You for what You are… »
« Have you not? »
« No, my cousin. We are not heroes like Your shepherds… »
« Do you think so, James? » Jesus smiles looking at His cousin who is so much like His putative father, with his brown eyes and hair, and swarthy face, whereas Judas looks paler, as his face is framed by a very dark beard and curly hair, and his eyes are almost a violet blue hue, and are vaguely like Jesus'.
« Well I tell you that you do not know yourself. You and Judas are two strong characters. » His cousins shake their heads.
« You will realize that I am not mistaken. »
« Are we really going to Nazareth? »
« Yes. I want to speak to My Mother and… and do something else. Who wants to come, can come. »
They all want to go. The cousins are the happiest of the lot. « It is because of our father and mother, see? »
« Yes, I understand. We will go to Cana and then to Nazareth. »
« To Cana? Oh! Well, we will go to Susanna's. She will give us eggs and fruit for our father, James. »
« And she will certainly give us some of her good honey. He likes it so much! »
« And it is very nourishing. »
« Poor father! He suffers so much! Like an uprooted tree, he feels his life is fading away… and he would like not to die… » James looks at Jesus. With a silent prayer… Jesus pretends not to see him.
« Joseph also died like that, with severe pains, did he not? »
« Yes, he did » replies Jesus. « But he suffered less because he was resigned. »
« And he had You. »
« Also Alphaeus could have Me… »
The cousins sigh sadly and it all ends.