7th February 1945. St. Romuald.
Jesus is on the beautiful hills of Galilee with His disciples. To escape the sun which is still high in the sky, although beginning to set, they walk under trees, mainly olive.
« Beyond that edge there is Nazareth » says Jesus. We shall soon be there. I now tell you that at the entrance to the town, we will part. Judas and James will go at once to see their father, as their hearts desire. Peter and John will give alms to the poor people, who will certainly be near the fountain. The others and I will go home for supper and then we will think about resting.
« We will go back to good Alphaeus. We promised him last time. But I will come only to say hello to him. I give my bed to Matthew who is not yet accustomed to hardships and privations » says Philip. « No, not you, you are old. I will not allow that. I have had very comfortable beds so far, but I suffered the pains of hell in them! Believe me: I am enjoying so much peace now, that even if I lie down on stones, I seem to be resting on feathers. Oh! It's your conscience that makes you sleep or not! » replies Matthew.
A charity competition starts among the disciples Thomas, Philip, Bartholomew and Matthew who are obviously the ones who the last time stayed in the house of this Alphaeus (who is certainly not James' father, because James speaking to Andrew says: « There will always be room for you, as the last time, even if his father's health has got worse. »
Thomas wins: « I am the youngest in the group. I am giving my bed. Never mind, Matthew. Little by little you will get used to it. Do you think that I will be put to a lot of trouble? No. I am like a young man in love who says: “I may be lying on a hard bed, but I am near my love.” » Thomas, about thirty eight years old, laughs happily and Matthew yields to him. The first houses of Nazareth are now only a few yards away.
« Jesus… we are going » says Judas.
« Yes, go. »
The two brothers almost run away.
« Eh! A father is a father » whispers Peter. « Even if he is sulky with us, he is always our same blood, and blood is thicker than water. In any case… I like Your cousins. They are very good. »
« Yes, they are very good. And they are humble, so humble that they do not even try to ascertain how humble they are. They always think that they are at fault, because they see good in everybody except themselves. They will go a long way… »
They are now in Nazareth. Some women see Jesus and greet Him, also men and children do likewise. But there is not the excitement for the Messiah as in other places: here it is friends greeting a friend who has come back. And they greet Him more or less effusively. In many I see an ironic curiosity while they watch the heterogenous group of Jesus' disciples, which is certainly not a train of regal dignitaries or stately priests. Hot, dusty, modestly dressed as they are, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, Matthew, Simon and Bartholomew – I have mentioned them in a descending order of smartness – they look more like a crowd of country folk going to a market, than followers of a king. Which king has of His own only His imposing stature and above all His stately countenance.
They walk for a few yards, then Peter and John leave and go to the right, whereas Jesus and the others proceed as far as a little square crowded with children shouting round a tank full of water, from which their mothers are drawing supplies.
A man sees Jesus and he makes a gesture of pleasant surprise. He rushes towards Him and greets Him:
« You are welcome! I was not expecting You so soon! Here: kiss my last grandson. He is little Joseph. He was born during Your absence » and he hands Him the little baby he is holding in his arms.
« Have you named him Joseph? »
« Yes. I cannot forget him who was almost a relative of mine, and even more than a relative, my great friend. Now I have given all the dearest names also to my grandchildren: Anne, my friend when I was a little boy, and Joachim. Then Mary… oh! what a celebration when she was born! I remember when they gave me her to kiss and they said to me: “See? That beautiful rainbow was the bridge on which she came down from Heaven. The angels use that road there” and she really looked like a little angel, she was so beautiful… Now here is Joseph. If I had known that You were coming back so soon, I would have awaited You for his circumcision. »
« I thank you for your love for My grandparents, My father and My Mother. He is a beautiful child. May he be forever as just as the just Joseph. » Jesus tosses the baby who smiles at Him babyishly.
« If You wait for me, I'll come with You. I am waiting for the amphoras to be filled. I don't want my daughter Mary to get tired. Nay, look, this is what I will do. I'll give the amphoras to Your disciples, if they will take them, and I'll speak to you for a little while, all by ourselves. »
« Of course we will take them! We are not Assyrian kings » exclaims Thomas, who is the first to take hold of an amphora.
« Well then, look. Mary of Joseph is not at home. She is at Her brother-in-law's, you know. But the key is in my house. Ask them to give it to you, so that you may enter the house, the workshop, I mean. »
« Yes, go. You may also go into the house, I will come later. »
The apostles go away and Jesus is left with Alphaeus.
« I wanted to tell You… I am a true friend of Yours… And when one is a true friend, and is older, and is from the same place, one may speak. I think that one ought to speak… I… I do not want to give You any advice. You know better than I do. I only want to warn You that… Oh! I do not want to play the spy, neither do I wish to place Your relatives in an unfavorable light. But I believe in You, the Messiah, and… and it hurts me to hear them say that you are not Him, that is the Messiah, that You are unsound, that you are the ruin of the family, and of Your relatives. The town… you know, Alphaeus is held in high esteem and so people listen also to them, and he is now ill and I feel sorry for him… Also sufferings at times cause people to do wrong things. See, I was there that evening when Judas and James defended You and their liberty to follow You… Oh! what a row! I don't know how Your Mother can stand it! And that poor woman Mary of Alphaeus? Women are always the victims in certain family situations. »
« My cousins are now at their father's… »
« At their father's? Oh! I feel sorry for them! The old man is beside himself, it must be his age and his illness, but he is behaving like a madman. If he were not mad, I would feel even more sorry for him because… he would ruin his soul. »
« Do you think that he will treat his sons badly? »
« I am sure he will. I am sorry for them and for the women… Where are You going? »
« To Alphaeus' house. »
« Don't, Jesus. Don't let them be disrespectful to You! »
« My cousins love Me more than themselves and it is fair that I should reward them with equal love… There are two women there, who are dear to Me. I am going. Do not keep Me back. » And Jesus hurries towards Alphaeus' house, whereas the other man remains pensive in the street.
Jesus is walking fast. There He is, at the entrance to Alphaeus' kitchen garden. He hears the crying of a woman and the unbecoming shouting of a man. Jesus walks faster the few yards that separate the street from the house, across the very green kitchen garden. He is almost on the threshold of the house when His Mother looks out of the door and sees her Son.
« Mother! »
« Jesus! »
Two cries of love.
Jesus is going to enter, but Mary says: « No, Son. » And She stands on the threshold with Her arms stretched out, clasping the door jambs with Her hands: a barrier of body and love, and She repeats:
« No, Son. Do not go in. »
« Let Me in, Mother. Nothing will happen. » Jesus is very calm, although Mary's growing pallor is certainly upsetting Him. He takes Her slender wrist, moves Her hand away from the door jamb and goes in.
There are strewn on the kitchen floor, reduced to a slimy pulp, the eggs, the grapes and the jar of honey brought from Cana. From another room a querulous voice is heard, that of an old man who is cursing, accusing, complaining in one of those senile fits of temper, so unfair, impotent and painful to be seen, and so sorrowful to endure. « … there you are, my house is ruined, we have become the laughing-stock of the whole of Nazareth, and I am here, alone, helpless, struck in my heart, in the respect due to me, in my needs!… That is what is left for you, Alphaeus, for behaving as a true believer! Why? Why? Because of a madman. A madman who has made my foolish sons insane. Ah! Ah! What a pain! » And Mary of Alphaeus' tearful voice implores: « Be good, Alphaeus, be good! Don't you see that you are hurting yourself? Come, let me help you to lie down… You are always good, always just… Why are you behaving thus to yourself? To me? To the poor children?… »
« No! No! Don't touch me! I don't want you! The children are good? Ah! They certainly are! Two ungrateful sons! They brought me honey after filling me with bitterness. They brought me eggs and grapes, after feeding on my heart! Go away, I tell you. Away! I don't want you. I want Mary. She knows how to do things. Where is that weak woman now, who can't get Her Son to obey Her? »
Mary of Alphaeus, chased out, enters the kitchen while Jesus is about to go into Alphaeus' room. She sees Him and collapses on Him, sobbing desperately, while Mary, the Virgin, goes humbly and patiently near the old angry man.
« Do not cry, aunt. I will go in now. »
« No, no! Don't let him insult You! He seems to be mad. He has a stick. No, Jesus, no. He struck also his sons. »
« He will not do anything to Me » and Jesus, resolutely, though kindly, moves His aunt to one side and goes in.
« Peace to you, Alphaeus. »
The old man, who is on the point of lying down with endless complaints and reproaches to Mary, because She is not capable of doing anything (before he had said that only She knew how to do things) suddenly turns round. « You are here? Here to scoff at me? Also that? »
« No. To bring you peace. Why are you so cross? You are making your condition worse. Mother, leave him. I will lift him. I will not hurt you and you will not have to make any effort. Mother, lift the blankets. » And Jesus carefully gets hold of the heavy-breathing, weak, wicked, weeping, miserable little heap of bones and lays him with great care, as if he were a new-born baby, on his bed.
« There you are. As I used to do to My father. Let us lift this pillow. It will raise you up and you will breathe better. Mother, put that little one there, under his back. He will be more comfortable. And now the light like that, that it may not hurt his eyes, while letting in the fresh air. That is it. Now… I saw a decoction on the fire. Bring it to Me, Mother. And make it very sweet. You are all perspiration and you are getting cold. It will do you good. »
Mary goes out obediently.
« But I… but I… Why are You good to me? »
« Because I love you, you know that. »
« Before I loved You, too… but now… »
« Now you no longer love Me. I know. But I love you, and that is enough for Me. After… you will love Me…»
« Well then… Ah, Ah… how painful! then if it is true that You love me, why do You give offense to my grey hair? »
« I do not offend you, Alphaeus, in any way. I honor You. »
« Honor me? I am the laughing-stock of Nazareth. »
« Why do you say so, Alphaeus? In what way have I made you a laughing-stock? »
« With regard to my sons. Why are they rebels? Because of You. Why am I mocked at? Because of You. »
« Tell Me: if Nazareth should praise you because of the destiny of your sons, would you feel the same pain? »
« In that case, I would not! But Nazareth does not praise me. They would praise me if You were a conqueror. But that they should leave me on account of one who is little less than an insane man who roams about the world, drawing upon himself hatred and derision, a poor man amongst the poor! Ah! Who would not laugh? My poor home! What an end for you, poor house of David! And I was to live so long to see this misfortune? To see You, the last shoot of the glorious family, become corrupt with insanity because of excessive servility! Ah! Misfortune has befallen us since the day my faint-hearted brother agreed to be united to that insipid yet overbearing woman who had full control over him. I then said: “Joseph is not cut out for marriage. He will be unhappy!” And he was. He knew what it was like, and he never wanted to have anything to do with marriage. Cursed be the Law of orphan heiresses! Cursed be fate. Cursed be that wedding. »
The « Virgin heiress » has come back with the decoction in time to hear Her brother-in-law's jeremiad. She is even more pale. But Her patient gracefulness is not upset. She goes near Alphaeus and with a gentle smile helps him to drink.
« You are unfair, Alphaeus. But you are so ill, that you are forgiven everything » says Jesus, Who is holding up is head.
« Oh! Yes! Very ill! You say that You are the Messiah! You work miracles. So they say. If at least You cured me, to compensate me for the sons You have taken. Cure me… and I will forgive You. »
« Forgive your sons. Endeavor to understand their souls, and I will give you relief. If you have still a grudge against them, I can do nothing. »
« Forgive them? » The old man has an outburst of rage, which, of course, sharpens his agonies of pain and that makes him enraged again.
« Forgive them? Never! Go away! Away, if that is what You have to tell me! Go away! I want to die without being troubled any further. »
Jesus makes a gesture of resignation. « Goodbye, Alphaeus, I am going away… Must I really go? Uncle… must I really go? »
« If You are not going to satisfy me, yes, go away. And tell those two serpents that their old father is dying with a grudge against them. »
« No. Do not do that. Do not lose your soul. Do not love Me, if you wish so. Do not believe that I am the Messiah. But do not hate. Do not hate, Alphaeus. Scoff at Me. Call Me insane. But do not hate. »
« But why do You love me, if I insult You? »
« Because I am He Whom you do not want to acknowledge. I am the Love. Mother, I am going home. »
« Yes, My Son. I will not be long. »
« I leave My peace with you, Alphaeus. If you want Me, send for Me, at any time, and I will come. » Jesus goes out, as calm as if nothing had happened. He only looks paler.
« Oh! Jesus, Jesus, forgive him » moans Mary of Alphaeus.
« Of course, Mary. There is not even any need to forgive him. Who suffers, is forgiven everything. Now he is already more calm. Grace works also unknown to one's heart. And then there are your tears, and certainly Judas' and James' sufferings, and their loyalty to their vocations. May peace be in your anguished heart, aunt. » He kisses her and goes out into the kitchen garden to go home.
When He is about to set foot on the road, Peter comes in, and behind him John, panting as if they had been running. « Oh! Master! What's the matter? James said to me: “Run to my house. I wonder how Jesus is being treated!” No, I'm wrong. Alphaeus came in, the man of the fountain, and he said to Judas: “Jesus is in your house” and then James said so. Your cousins are distressed. I don't understand what it is all about. But I see You… and I take heart. »
« It is nothing, Peter. A poor invalid, made intolerant by pain. It is all over now. »
« Oh! I am glad! And why are you here? » Peter asks the Iscariot, who has rushed there too, and his tone is not very kind.
« You are here too, are you not? »
« I was asked to come and I came. »
« I came too. If the Messiah was in danger, and in His own fatherland, I, having already defended Him in Judaea, can defend Him also in Galilee. »
« We are quite capable of that. But there is no need in Galilee. »
« Ha! Ha! Ha! Indeed! His fatherland is ejecting Him like heavy food. Well. I'm glad for you, who were scandalized by a little incident, which took place in Judaea, where He is unknown. Here, instead!… » and Judas ends whistling a tune which is a masterpiece of a satire.
« Listen, boy. I am not in the right mood to put up with you. Stop it, therefore… if… something is dear to you. Master, did they hurt You? »
« No, My dear Peter. I can assure you. Let us walk faster to comfort My cousins. »
They go and enter the large workshop. Judas and James are near the big carpenter's bench. James is standing, Judas is sitting on a stool, his elbow on the bench, his head resting on his hand. Jesus goes towards them, smiling, to reassure them at once that His heart loves them: « Alphaeus is calmer, now. His pains are subsiding and everything is peaceful again. You must be calm, too. »
« Did You see him? And mother? »
« I saw everybody. »
Judas asks: « Also our brothers? »
« No, they were not in. »
« They were there. They did not want to be seen by You. But with us! Oh! If we had committed a crime, we would not have been treated like that. And we flew from Cana for the joy of seeing him again and bringing him what he is fond of! We love him… but he no longer understands us… he no longer believes us. » Judas bends his arm and cries, his head resting on the bench. James is stronger. But his internal torture can be read on his face.
« Do not cry, Judas. And you… do not suffer. »
« Oh! Jesus! We are his children… and he cursed us. But even if that tears our hearts, no, we are not turning back! We belong to You and we will remain Yours, even if they threaten us with death to detach us from You! » exclaims James.
« And you said that you were not capable of heroism? I knew. But you have said it yourself. Really, you will be faithful also against death. And you, too » Jesus caresses them. But they are suffering. The stony vault resounds with Judas' crying.
And it is thus possible for me to become better acquainted with the disciples' souls.
Peter, whose honest face is sorrowful, exclaims: « Yes! It is painful… A sad situation. But, my dear boys (and he shakes them affectionately) not everybody deserves such words… I… I realize that I have been fortunate in my vocation. That good woman, my wife, always says to me: “It is as if I were repudiated, because you are no longer mine. But I say: 'Oh! happy repudiation!'”. You should say that, too. You lose your father but you gain God. »
The shepherd Joseph, an orphan, devoid of experience of family life is amazed that a father can be the cause of so many tears, and says: « I thought I was the most unhappy of all, because I am fatherless. But I see that it is better to moan over his death than to bewail him as an enemy. »
John kisses and caresses his friends.
Andrew sighs and is quiet. He is pining to speak but his shyness gags him.
Thomas, Philip, Matthew and Nathanael are speaking in low voices in a comer, with the respect due to real sorrow.
James of Zebedee is praying, just intelligibly, that God may grant peace.
Simon Zealot, oh! how much I like his gesture! He leaves his corner and comes near the two distressed men, he lays one hand on Judas's head and with his other arm he embraces James' waist and says: « Don't cry, son. Jesus did say to us, to you and to me: “I am uniting you: you who are losing your father because of Me, and you who have a father's heart, without having any children.” And we did not understand how much of a prophesy there was in His words. But He knew. Now: I beg you. I am old and I always dreamt of being called “father”. Accept me as such, and I, as a father, will bless you every morning and evening. Please accept me as such. »
The two brothers nod in assent sobbing more loudly. Mary comes in and hastens towards the two sad men. She caresses Judas' dark head and James' cheeks. She is as pale as a lily. Judas takes Her hand, kisses it and asks: « What is he doing? »
« He is sleeping, son. Your mother sends you her kisses » and She kisses them both.
Peter's harsh voice bursts out: « Listen, come here a moment, I want to tell you something » and I see Peter get hold of an arm of the Iscariot with his strong hand and take him out in the street. And then he comes back in alone.
« Where did you send him? » asks Jesus.
« Where? To get some fresh air, or I would have ended up by giving him some myself, but in a different way… and I did not do it only because of You. Oh! I feel better now. Who laughs in the presence of sorrow is an asp, and I crush snakes. You are here… and I only sent him out in the moonlight. It may well be… but I will become even a scribe, a change that only God can work in me, as I hardly know that I am in this world, but he… he will not become good, not even with the help of God. Simon of Jonas can assure You, and I am not mistaken. No! Don't worry! He could not believe that he was getting away from a sad situation. He is more arid than a flint-stone in the sun in August. Come on, boys! There is a Mother here that not even Heaven has a sweeter one. There is a Master here Who is more loving than Paradise, and there are so many hearts that sincerely love you. Storms do a lot of good: they clear away the dust. Tomorrow you will be fresher than flowers, swifter than birds, to follow our Jesus. »
And it all ends on these simple good words of Peter.
Then Jesus says:
« After this vision you will put the one I gave you in spring 1944, the one in which I asked My Mother Her impression on the apostles. By now their moral characters are sufficiently clear to allow that vision to be put here without scandalising anybody. I did not need anybody's advice. But when we were alone, and the disciples were scattered among friendly families or in nearby villages, when I stopped in Nazareth, how pleasant it was to speak to and ask advice of My kind Friend: My Mother, and have confirmation from Her graceful wise lips of what I had already seen. I have never been anything but “Her Son” with Her. And among those born of woman there was never a mother more “mother” than She, in all the perfections of human and moral motherly virtues, neither was there a son more “son” than I with regard to respect, confidence and love.
And now that you also have had at least a little knowledge of the Twelve, of their virtues, faults, characters, struggles, is there still anyone who believes that it was an easy task for Me to keep them together, elevate and perfect them? And is there still anyone who considers the life of an apostle to be easy, and that to be an apostle or, as very often is the case, to consider oneself such, one is entitled to a smooth life, free from sorrows, contrasts, defeats? Is there still anybody who, only because he serves Me, expects Me to be his servant and to work miracles uninterruptedly in his favor, making his life as beautiful as a flowery carpet, easy and glorious from a human point of view? My way, My work, My service is the cross, sorrow, abnegation, sacrifice. I did that. Let those who say that they are “My” friends do the same. The above is not for the Johns, but for discontented and difficult doctors. And also for doctors of captious objections I say that I made use of the words: uncle and aunt, which are unusual in Palestinian languages, to clarify and settle a disrespectful question concerning My condition of only-begotten Son of Mary and the Virginity of My Mother prae – and postpartum; She in fact had Me through spiritual divine union, and let Me repeat it once again, She knew no other union, neither did She give birth to any other child: Inviolate Flesh, which even I did not rend, closed on the mystery of a tabernacle-womb, the throne of the Trinity and of the Incarnate Word. »