8th February 1945.
The disciples are having their supper in Joseph's large workshop. The big bench serves as a table, on which there is everything that is needed. But I see that the workshop is used also as a dormitory. The other two carpenter's benches have been changed into beds by placing mats on them, and little low beds (mats on hurdles) have been placed along the walls. The apostles are speaking to one another and to the Master.
« So You are really going up to Lebanon? » asks the Iscariot.
« I never promise what I am not going to keep. In this case I promised twice: the shepherds and Johanna of Chuza's nurse. I have waited for five days as I told her, and I have added today for prudence' sake. But now I am going. We shall start as soon as the moon rises. It will be a long way even if we go by boat as far as Bethsaida. But I want My heart to rejoice, greeting also Benjamin and Daniel. You have seen what souls the shepherds have. Oh! It is well worthwhile going to honor them, because not even God lowers Himself by honoring one of His servants, on the contrary He increases His justice. »
« In this heat? Watch what You are doing. I am telling You for Your own sake. »
« Nights are already less sultry. The sun will be in Leo only for a short time now, and the storms are mitigating the heat. And I tell you once again. I am not compelling anyone to come. Everything must be spontaneous in Me and around Me. If you have business to attend to, or if you feel tired, stay here. We will meet later. »
« Well, You said so. I have to attend to some family matters. Vintage time is near and my mother asked me to see certain friends… You know, I am the head of the family, after all. I mean: I am the man in the family. »
Peter grumbles: « It is a good thing that he remembers that a mother always comes first after a father. » Judas, whether he does not hear or he does not want to hear, shows no sign that he has heard the grumbling, which in any case Jesus checks by casting a glance, while James of Zebedee, who is sitting near Peter, gives a tug at his tunic to make him keep quiet.
« You may go, Judas. Nay, you must go. We must never be wanting in obedience to our mothers. »
« Well, I will go at once, if You allow me. I will be at Nain in time to find accommodation. Goodbye, Master. Goodbye, friends. »
« Be the friend of peace and deserve always to have God with you. Goodbye » says Jesus, whereas the others say goodbye all together.
There is not much grief at seeing him depart, on the contrary… Peter, perhaps because he is afraid that he may change his mind, helps him to tie the straps of his bag and to sling it across his back, he takes him to the door of the workshop, which is already open like the other door opening on to the kitchen garden, obviously to ventilate the sultry room after a very hot day. He remains at the door looking at Judas going away, and when he sees that he is really departing, he makes a gesture of joy and of ironical farewell and comes back in rubbing his hands. He says nothing… but has already said everything. Some of the disciples who have been watching, laugh up their sleeves.
But Jesus does not notice them, because He is scanning the face of His cousin James, who has blushed and looks grave, and has stopped eating his olives. He asks him: « What is the matter? »
« You said: “We must not lack obedience to our mother…” What about us, then? »
« Have no scruples. As a general rule that is how one must behave. When one is but a man and a child of the same flesh. But not when one has taken another nature and a different paternity. Such higher paternity is to be followed in its orders and desires. Judas came before you and Matthew… but he is still so far behind. He must form, and he will do so very slowly. You must all be charitable to him, you, too, Peter, be charitable! I understand… but I say to you: be charitable. To tolerate bothersome people is not an easy virtue. Make use of it. »
« Yes, Master… But when I see him so… so… Well, be quiet, Peter, because in any case He understands… I seem to be a sail too taut because of the wind… I creak under the stress, and something always breaks within me… But You know, or rather, You do not know because You are worth nothing as a boatman, so I tell You, if all the sheets of a sail snap because of excessive tension, I can assure You that the sail gives the stupid boatman such a slap, that it stuns him… Now I feel that… I risk having all the sheets broken… and then… It is better, yes, if now and again he goes away. So the sail droops because of lack of wind and I have time to reinforce the sheets. »
Jesus smiles and shakes His head, pitying the just and fiery Peter.
A loud noise of ironshod hooves and the shouting of children is heard in the street. « He is here! He is here! Stop, man. » And before Jesus and the disciples become aware of what is happening, the dark body of a horse steaming with sweat appears before the door, a horseman dismounts, dashes in and prostrates himself at Jesus' feet, kissing them with veneration.
They all look at him quite amazed. « Who are you? What do you want? »
« I am Jonathan. »
Joseph responds with a cry: as, sitting behind the high bench, and, because of the flashing arrival, it had been impossible for him to recognize his friend. The shepherd rushes toward the prostrated man: « You, it is you!… »
« Yes. I am worshipping my beloved Lord! Thirty years of hope, oh! What a long wait! Here: those years have now blossomed like the flower of a solitary agave, all of a sudden, in a blissful ecstasy, even more blissful than the one of long ago! Oh! My Savior! »
Women, children and some men, amongst whom also good Alphaeus of Sarah, still holding a piece of bread and cheese in his hand, gather at the door and even inside the large room.
« Stand up, Jonathan. I was about to come and look for you, Benjamin and Daniel… »
« I know… »
« Stand up, that I may give you the kiss that I gave your friends. » Jesus forces him to stand up and kisses him.
« I know » repeats the robust old man, who is well preserved and well dressed. « I know. She was right. It was not the delirium of a dying person! Oh! Lord God! How a soul hears and perceives You, when You call it! » Jonathan is moved. But he recovers. He does not waste time. Full of adoration and yet active, he comes to the point.
« Jesus, our Savior and Messiah, I have come to beg You to come with me. I have spoken to Esther and she told me… But earlier, Johanna had spoken to You and she told me… oh! do not laugh at a happy man, you who hear me, for I am happy and yet distressed, until I hear You say “I will come.”
You know that I was travelling with my dying mistress. What a journey! It was quite good from Tiberias to Bethsaida. But after we left the boat and took a wagon, although I had fitted it out as well as I could, it was a torture. We travelled slowly, by night, but she suffered. At Caesarea Philippi she was on the point of death, vomiting blood. We stopped… The third morning, seven days ago, she sent for me. She was so pale and exhausted, that she looked as if she were already dead. But when I called her, she opened her mild eyes, like those of a dying gazelle and smiled at me. With her little ice-cold hand she beckoned me to bend down, her voice being so weak, and she said to me: “Jonathan, take me home. But at once.” Her effort in giving the order was so great that, although she is always more gentle than a good little child, her cheeks turned scarlet and for a moment her eyes brightened up. She continued: “I dreamed of my house at Tiberias. There was in it One Whose face was like a star, He was tall, fairhaired, His eyes were as blue as the sky and His voice sweeter than the sound of a harp. He was saying to me: 'I am the Life. Come. Come back. I am waiting for you to give you it'. I want to go.” I said: “My mistress! You cannot! You are not well! When you are better, we will see.” I thought it was the delirium of a dying person. But she was weeping and then… – oh! it is the first time she said so during the six years that she had been my mistress, and she even sat up in her anger, whereas before she could not move – and then she said to me: “Servant, I want to go. I am your mistress. Obey!” and she then fell back vomiting blood. I thought she was dying… and I said: “Let us make her happy. She will die one way or the other!… I will feel no remorse for displeasing her at the end, after pleasing her all the time.” What a journey! She would not rest except in the morning between the third and the sixth hour. I wore the horses out to come quickly. We arrived at Tiberias today at the ninth hour… And Esther told me… I then understood that it was You Who had called her. Because that was the hour and the day You promised Esther a miracle and You appeared to the soul of my mistress. She wanted to start again immediately after the ninth hour and she sent me on first… Oh! come, my Savior! »
« I will come at once. Faith deserves a reward. Who wants Me, will have Me. Let us go. »
« Wait. I threw a purse of money to a young man, saying: “Three, five, as many donkeys as you like, if you have no horses, and at once, at Jesus' house.” They are about to come. We will be quicker. I hope to meet her near Cana. If at least… »
« What, Jonathan? »
« If at least she is alive… »
« She is alive. But even if she were dead, I am the Life. Here is My Mother. »
The Virgin, Who has obviously been informed by someone, is hastening towards them followed by Mary of Alphaeus. « Son, are You going away? »
« Yes, Mother. I am going with Jonathan. He has come. I knew I would be able to let You see him. That is why I waited an extra day. »
Jonathan at first has bowed down deeply, with his arms crossed over his chest, he now kneels down and lightly lifts the hem of Mary's dress and kisses it saying: « I salute the Mother of my Lord! »
Alphaeus of Sarah says to the curious onlookers: « Oh! What do you say? Should we not be ashamed of being the only faithless ones? »
The noise of many hooves is heard in the street. It is from the little donkeys. I think that all the donkeys in Nazareth are there, and they are so many that they would be sufficient for a squadron. While Jonathan picks the best and negotiates, paying without haggling over the price, and takes two Nazarenes with some more donkeys, lest some might lose a shoe, and that the two men might bring back all the braying herd of donkeys, Mary and the other Mary help to close the haversacks and sacks.
Mary of Alphaeus says to her sons: « I will leave your beds here. And I will caress them… And I will feel as if I were caressing you. Be good, worthy of Jesus, sons… and I… I will be happy… » and in the meantime she is shedding large tears.
Mary instead helps Jesus and caresses Him lovingly, giving Him much advice and many messages for the other two Lebanese shepherds, because Jesus states that He will not be back until He finds them. They depart. It is evening and the first quarter of the moon is rising now. Jesus is in front with Jonathan, all the others are behind. While they are in town they go at a walking pace, because of the people gathering near them. But as soon as they are out, they break into a gallop, while the caravan resounds with hooves and harness bells.
« She is in the wagon with Esther » explains Jonathan. « Oh! My mistress! What a joy to make you happy! To bring Jesus to you! Oh! my Lord! To have You here, beside me! To have You! Your face is really like the star that she saw and Your hair is fair and Your eyes like the sky and Your voice is really the sound of a harp… oh! But Your Mother! Will You bring Her to my mistress, one day? »
« Your mistress will come to Her. They will be friends. »
« Will they? Oh!… Yes, she can. Johanna is married and had a child. But her soul is as pure as a virgin's. She can be near the blessed Mary. »
Jesus turns round because of a hearty laugh from John, which all the others imitate.
« It's me, Master, that makes them laugh. On the boat I am more steady than a cat… but here! I am like a barrel left loose on the deck of a boat caught in a southwest wind » says Peter.
Jesus smiles and encourages him, promising that the trot will soon be over.
« Oh! It's all right. It's all right if the boys laugh. Let us go and make this good woman happy. » Jesus turns round again at another outburst of laughter. Peter exclaims: « No, I will not tell You that one, Master. But why not? Yes, I will tell You. I was saying “Our prime minister will bite his fingers when he finds out that he was absent when there was the possibility of strutting about with a lady of rank.” And they laugh. But it is so. I am sure that if he had imagined that, he would not have had paternal vineyards to look after. »
Jesus does not reply.
The road is quickly covered by the well-fed little donkeys. Cana is soon left behind them in the clear moonlight.
« If You allow me, I will go ahead. I will stop the wagon. Its jolting makes her suffer so much. »
« Yes, go. »
Jonathan puts his horse to the gallop.
They go a long way in the moonlight. Then they meet the dark shape of a large covered wagon, stopped at the roadside. Jesus spurs His donkey which breaks into a canter. He is now near the wagon and dismounts.
« The Messiah! » announces Jonathan.
The old nurse rushes out of the wagon on to the road, and then throws herself down on to the dust.
« Oh! save her! She is dying. »
« Here I am. » And Jesus climbs into the wagon, where there is a pile of cushions and a slender body on them. There is a little lamp in a comer, and cups and amphoras. A young maid servant is weeping, while wiping the cold perspiration from the dying woman. Jonathan hastens in with one of the wagon lamps.
Jesus bends over the unconscious woman, who is really dying. There is no difference between the whiteness of her linen dress and the palor, which is even faintly bluish, of her emaciated hands and face. Only her thick eyebrows and her very dark long eyelashes give some color to the snow white face. Her cheeks do not even have the ominous bright scarlet of consumptives. Her lips are only a shade of violet pink, half open while breathing is difficult.
Jesus kneels down beside her and watches her. The nurse takes her hand and calls her. But her soul, already on the threshold of death, does not give any response.
The disciples have arrived with the two young men from Nazareth and they gather round the wagon. Jesus lays His hand on the forehead of the dying woman, who for one instant opens her dimmed hazy eyes and then closes them again.
« She no longer hears » moans the nurse. And she cries louder.
Jesus makes a gesture: « Mother, she will hear. Have faith. » He then calls her: « Johanna! Johanna! It is I! I am calling you. I am the Life. Look at Me, Johanna.»
The dying woman opens her large dark eyes with a brighter glance and looks at the face bending over her. She shows joy and smiles. She slowly moves her lips forming a word which, however, has no sound.
« Yes. It is I. You have come and I have come. To save you. Can you have faith in Me? »
The dying woman nods her head. All her vitality and all the words which she is unable to express otherwise are concentrated in her glance.
« Well (Jesus, while still kneeling down and holding His left hand on her forehead, straightens Himself up, exerting His Heavenly power) Well: I want it. Be cured. Rise. » He removes His hand and stands up.
A fraction of a second, then Johanna of Chuza, without any help whatsoever, sits up, gives a cry and throws herself at Jesus' feet, calling in a loud happy voice: « Oh! To love You, my Life. Forever! Yours! Forever Yours! Nurse! Jonathan! I am cured! Oh! Quick! Run and tell Chuza. That he may come to adore the Lord! Oh! bless me again, and again, and again! Oh! My Savior. » She weeps and smiles, kissing Jesus' tunic and hands.
« Yes, I bless you. What else shall I do for you? »
« Nothing, Lord. Beside loving me and allowing me to love You. »
« And would you not like to have a child? »
« Oh! a child!… Do as You please, Lord. I leave everything to You: my past, my present and my future. I owe You everything and I give You everything. Give to Your servant, what You know is better. »
« Eternal life then. Be happy. God loves you. I am going. I bless You, and I bless you all. »
« No, my Lord. Stop in my house, which now is, oh! is really a flowery rose-garden. Allow me to go back in there with You… Oh! How happy I am! »
« I will come. But I have My disciples. »
« My brothers, Lord. Johanna will have for them, as for You, food and drinks and every refreshment. Make me happy! »
« Let us go. Send the donkeys back and follow us on foot. The road is a short one now. We shall go slowly, that you may follow us. Goodbye, Ishmael and Aser. Give My greetings to My Mother, on My behalf, and to My friends. »
The two Nazarenes, dumbfounded, depart with their braying donkeys, whereas the wagon starts its return journey, this time with its load of joy. The disciples follow in group making their comments. And it all ends.