11th February 1945.
Jesus is in the beautiful sea-town, which on the map has a natural wide and well-protected gulf, with a capacity for taking many ships, made even safer by a massive harbour wall. It must be used also a great deal for military purposes, because I see Roman triremes with soldiers on board. They are disembarking, though I do not know whether because they are relieving troops or because they are reinforcing the garrison. The harbour, that is the port, vaguely reminds me of Naples, dominated by the Vesuvian mountains.
Jesus is sitting in a humble house near the harbour. It is certainly the house of fishermen, probably friends of Peter and John, because I see that they feel at their ease in the house and with its residents. I do not see the shepherd Joseph. And, of course, I do not see the Iscariot, still absent. Jesus is speaking informally to the members of the family and to other people who have come to listen to Him. But it is not a real sermon. His words are full of advice and comfort, such as only He can give.
Andrew comes in, he seems to have gone out on some errand, because he also has some loaves in his hands. He blushes when drawing near, because it must be a real torture for him to attract people's attention to himself, and rather than speak he whispers: « Master, could You come with me? There… there is some good to be done. But only You can do it. »
Jesus gets up without even asking what is the good.
But Peter asks: « Where are you taking Him? He is so tired. It is supper time. They can wait for Him till tomorrow. »
« No… it must be done at once. It is… »
« Why don't you speak, you frightened gazelle? How can a great big strapping man be like that!… You look like a little fish caught in the net! »
Andrew blushes even more. Jesus defends him by drawing him to Himself. « I like him thus. Leave him alone. Your brother is like wholesome water. It works noiselessly in the depths, it comes out from the earth like a very fine stream, but it cures those who go near it. Let us go, Andrew. »
« I'm coming, too! I want to see where he takes You » insists Peter.
Andrew implores: « No, Master. Only You and I, alone. If there is a crowd it is impossible. It's a matter of love… »
« What's that? Are you playing the paranymph now? »
Andrew does not reply to his brother. He says to Jesus: « A man wants to repudiate his wife and… and I have spoken. But I am not capable. But if You speak… oh! You will succeed, because the man is not a bad person. He is… he is… he will tell You. »
Jesus goes out with Andrew without saying anything further.
Peter is somewhat undecided, he then says: « I will go. At least I want to see where they go. » And he goes out, although the others tell him not to do so.
Andrew is about to come out from a narrow thronged street. And Peter follows him. He goes round a little square full of old women. And Peter follows him. He threads his way through a large door that opens on to a wide yard surrounded by poor little low houses. I call it a large door because there is an arch. But there is no door. And Peter follows him. Jesus enters one of the little houses with Andrew. Peter lies in wait outside. A woman sees him and asks: « Are you a relative of Aava? And those two? Have you come to take her away? »
« Be quiet, you cackle of a hen! I am not to be seen. »
To keep a woman quiet! It is a difficult task. And since Peter casts withering glances at her, she goes to chat with the other old women. Poor Peter is immediately surrounded by a circle of women, boys and also men, who simply by commanding one another to be silent, make a noise that gives away their presence. Peter is consumed with anger… but to no avail.
Jesus' full, calm, beautiful voice comes from inside the house, together with the broken voice of a woman and the hoarse voice of a man. « If she has always been a good wife, why repudiate her? Have you ever wronged him? »
« No, Master, I swear it! I have loved him like the pupil of my eye » moans the woman.
And the man, sharp and hard: « No. She never wronged me except in being sterile. And I want children. I don't want God's malediction on my name. »
« It is not your wife's fault, if she is such. »
« He lays the blame on me. On me and my relatives, as if we betrayed… »
« Woman, be sincere. Did you know that you were sterile? »
« No. I was and I am like all women. Also the doctor said so. But I am not successful in having children. »
« You can see that she has not betrayed you. She suffers for that, too. Will you answer sincerely, too: if she were a mother, would you repudiate her? »
« No. I swear it. There is no reason. But the rabbi said so, and also the scribe: “A barren woman is the curse of God on a house and it is your right and duty to give her a divorce libel and not to vex your virility by depriving yourself of children.” I am doing what the Law states. »
« No. Listen. The Law says: “Do not commit adultery” and you are about to commit it. That is the original commandment and nothing else. And if on account of the hardness of your hearts Moses granted divorce, it was to prevent intrigues and concubinages hateful to God. Then your vice expanded more and more Moses' clause, creating the wicked chains and murderous stones which are the present lot of women, always victims of your arrogance, of your whims, of your deafness and your blindness to affections. I tell you: it is not legal to do what you want to do. Your action is an offence to God. Did Abraham perhaps repudiate Sarah? And Jacob, Rachel? And Elkanah, Anna? And Manoah, his wife? Do you know the Baptizer? You do? Well: was his mother not sterile up to her old age and then gave birth to the holy man of God, as Manoah's wife gave birth to Samson, and Anna of Elkanah to Samuel, and Rachel to Joseph, and Sarah to Isaac? To the husband's continence, to his compassion for his sterile wife, to his fidelity to marriage, God grants a prize, and a prize celebrated through centuries, as He grants consolation to the weeping sterile women, no longer sterile nor depressed, but glorious in the exultation of being mothers. You are not allowed to offend her love. Be just and honest. God will reward you beyond your merit. »
« Master, You are the only one to speak so… I did not know. I asked the doctors and they said to me: “Do it.” But not one word to tell me that God rewards a good deed with gifts. We are in their hands… and they close our eyes and our hearts with an iron hand. I am not a bad man, Master. Don't be angry with me. »
« I am not angry. I feel sorry for you more than I do for this weeping woman. Because her pain will end with her life. Yours will begin then, to last forever. Think about it. »
« No, it will not begin. I don't want it to begin. Will You swear to me by the God of Abraham that what You say is the truth? »
« I am the Truth and Wisdom. Who believes in Me will have justice, wisdom, love and peace. »
« I want to believe You. Yes, I want to believe You. I feel there is something in You which is not in the others. Well. I will now go to the priest and I will say to him: “I am not going to repudiate her any longer. I will keep her and I will only ask God to help me to feel less the pain of being childless.” Aava: do not cry. We will ask the Master to come again to keep me good, and you… continue to love me. »
The woman cries louder, because of the contrast between her previous sorrow and her present joy.
Jesus instead smiles. « Do not cry. Look at Me. Look up woman. »
She looks up. She looks at His bright face through her tears.
« Come here, man. Kneel down beside your wife. I will now bless” you and sanctify your union. Listen: “Lord God of our fathers, Who made Adam with the dust of the soil and gave him Eve as a helpmate, that they might populate the earth with men, bringing them up in Your holy fear, descend with Your blessing and Your mercy, open and fecundate the womb that the Enemy had closed to lead them to a double sin of adultery and despair. Have mercy on these two children, Holy Father, Supreme Creator. Make them happy and holy. May she be as prolific as a vineyard, and he her protector, as the elm-tree supports the vine. Descend, o Life, to give life. Descend, o Fire, to inflame. Descend, o Power, to activate. Descend! Grant them that for the praise feast for the fruitful crops next year they may offer You their living sheaf, their first born, a son, sacred to You, Eternal Father, Who bless those who hope in You.” » Jesus has prayed in a thundering voice, His hands stretched out over their bowed heads. The people no longer refrain themselves and they gather together, Peter in front of them all.
« Stand up. Have faith and be holy. »
« Oh! Stay, Master! » beg the reconciled couple.
« I cannot. I will come back. I will be here very often. »
« Stay, stay. Speak also to us! » shout the crowd. Jesus blesses but does not stop. He promises only to come back soon. And He goes to His hospitable house, followed by a small crowd.
« Inquisitive man: what should I do to you? » He asks Peter on the way.
« Whatever You wish. However, I was there… »
They enter the house, they dismiss the crowd that make comments on the words they heard, and they sit down to supper.
Peter is still inquisitive. « Master, will there really be a son? »
« Have you ever seen Me promise things which do not come true? Do you think that I would take the liberty of using the confidence in the Father to lie and deceive? »
« No… but… Could You do that to all married couples? »
« I could. But I do it only where I see that a son can be an incentive to holiness. I do not do it where it would be a hindrance. »
Peter ruffles his grizzled hair and becomes quiet.
The shepherd Joseph comes in. He is covered in dust like one who has walked a long way.
« You? Why are you here? » asks Jesus after a greeting kiss.
« I have some letters for You. Your Mother gave me them and one is from Her. Here they are. » And Joseph hands Him three small rolls of a kind of thin parchment, tied with a little ribbon. The largest one is also sealed. The second one has only a knot, the third one shows a broken seal. « This one is from Your Mother » says Joseph, pointing at the one with the knot. Jesus unfolds it and reads it. First in a low voice and then loud. « “To My beloved Son, peace and blessings. A messenger from Bethany arrived here at the first hour on the calends of the month of Elul. It was the shepherd Isaac, to whom I gave the kiss of peace and refreshments in Your name and out of gratitude on my part. He brought Me these two letters which I am sending on to You, and he told Me that Your friend Lazarus of Bethany presses You to consent to his request. My beloved Jesus, blessed Son and Lord, I also have two things to ask You. One is to remind You that You promised Me to call Your poor Mother to instruct Her in the Word. The other is that You should not come to Nazareth without speaking to Me first” »
Jesus stops all of a sudden, He stands up, and goes towards James and Judas. He embraces them tightly and ends repeating by heart the words: « “Alphaeus has returned to the bosom of Abraham at the last full moon, and great was the mourning of the town… » The two sons weep on Jesus' chest, Who goes on: « “At the last hour he wanted You. But You were far away. But it is a consolation for Mary, who considers it a sign of God's forgiveness, and it must give peace also to My nephews.” Have you heard? She says so. And She knows what She is saying. »
« Give me the letter » implores James.
« No, it would hurt you. »
« Why? What can it say more painful than the death of a father?… »
« That he cursed us » sighs Judas.
« No. Not so » says Jesus.
« You say so… not to pierce us. But it is so. »
« Read, then. »
And Judas reads: « “Jesus: I beg You, and also Mary begs You; do not come to Nazareth until the mourning is over. Their love for Alphaeus makes the Nazarenes unfair towards You and Your Mother cries because of that. Our good friend Alphaeus comforts Me and calms the town. The report by Aser and Ishmael on Chuza's wife caused a great stir. But Nazareth is now a sea agitated by different winds. I bless You, My Son, and I ask Your peace and blessing for My soul. Peace to My nephews. Mother”. »
The apostles make their comments and comfort the weeping brothers.
But Peter says: « Are You not reading those? »
Jesus nods assent and opens Lazarus' letter. He calls Simon Zealot. They read together, in a comer. They then open the other roll and read it as well, they discuss between themselves; and I see that the Zealot endeavors to persuade Jesus about something, but he is not successful.
Jesus, with the rolls in His hand, comes to the centre of the room and says: « Listen, friends. We are one family and there are no secrets among us. And if it is compassion to conceal evil, it is justice to make good known. Listen to what Lazarus of Bethany writes: “To Lord Jesus peace and blessing, and peace and health to my friend Simon. I received Your letter and, servant as I am, I placed my heart, my speech and all my means at Your service to make You happy and to have the honor of not being a useless servant. I went to Doras, to his castle in Judaea, to ask him to sell me his servant Jonah, as You wish. I confess that if I had not been requested by Simon, a faithful friend, on Your behalf, I would not have faced that mocking, cruel, impious jackal. But for You, my Master and Friend, I feel I can face also Mammon. Because I think that who works for You, is near You and consequently is protected. And I have certainly been helped, because, contrary to expectations, I won. The discussion was a hard one and his first refusals humiliating. Three times I had to bow down to that powerful slave-driver. He then forced me to wait some days. At last here is the letter. It befits the asp he is. And I almost dare not say to You: – Give in to gain Your ends –, because he is not worthy to have You. But there is no other way. I accepted on Your behalf and I signed. If I did the wrong thing, rebuke me. But believe me: I tried to serve You as well as I could. Yesterday a Judaean disciple of Yours came, stating that he came in Your name to find out whether there was any news to be taken to You. He said he was Judas of Kerioth. But I preferred to wait for Isaac to send the letter. And I was surprised that You had sent someone else, since You know that Isaac comes here every Sabbath to rest. I have nothing else to tell You. Only, kissing Your holy feet, I beg You to bring them to Your servant and friend Lazarus, as promised by You. Health to Simon. To You, Master and Friend, a kiss of peace and a prayer for blessing. Lazarus”.
And now the other one: “Health to Lazarus. I decided. You will have Jonah for twice the amount. But I make the following terms and I will not change them for any reason. I want Jonah to finish the harvests of the year, that is he will be handed over at the moon of Tishri, at the end of the moon. I want Jesus of Nazareth to come personally to take him, and I will ask Him to enter my house, that I may meet Him. I want payment immediately after signing the contract. Goodbye. Doras”. »
« What a pest! » shouts Peter. « But who is paying? I wonder how much he wants and we… we are always without a farthing! »
« Simon is paying. To make Me and poor Jonah happy. He is buying only the wreck of a man, who will not serve him at all. But he gains great merit in Heaven. »
« You? Oh! » They are all surprised. Even Alphaeus' sons forget their sorrow because of their amazement.
« It is he. It is just that it should be known. »
« It would also be just if it were known why Judas Iscariot went to Lazarus. Who sent him? Did You? »
But Jesus does not reply to Peter. He is very grave and pensive. He comes out of His meditation only to say: « Give some refreshment to Joseph and then let us go and rest. I will prepare a reply for Lazarus… Is Isaac still at Nazareth? »
« He is waiting for me. »
« We shall all go. »
« No. Your Mother says… » They are all in utter confusion.
« Be quiet. That is what I want. My Mother speaks with Her loving heart. I judge with My reason. I prefer to do it while Judas is away. And I want to hold out a friendly hand to My cousins Simon and Joseph, and mourn with them before the mourning is over. We will then go back to Capernaum, to Gennesaret, that is to the lake, awaiting the end of the month of Tishri. And we will take the Maries with us. Your mother needs affection. We will give it to her. And Mine needs peace. I am Her peace. »
« Do You think that at Nazareth?… » asks Peter.
« I do not think anything. »
« Oh! Well! Because, if they should hurt Her, or cause Her sorrow!… They will have to deal with me! » says Peter completely upset.
Jesus caresses him, but He is lost in thought. He is sad, I would say. He then goes between Judas and James and sits down embracing them to comfort them. The others speak in low voices not to disturb their sorrow.