19th February 1945.
I see the market square in Jericho, its trees and shouting vendors. In a comer there is Zacchaeus, the tax-collector, intent on his legal and illegal extortions. He must deal also in jewellery because I see him weighing and appraising jewels and valuables, I do not know whether they are given to him as payment of taxes, instead of money, or whether they are sold for other necessities.
It is now the turn of a slender woman, who is completely clad in a huge rust-grey mantle. Also her face is covered with yellowish closely woven byssus which prevents her face from being seen. One can see only the slimness of her figure which is visible notwithstanding the huge greyish cloak that envelops her. She must be young, at least according to the little that can be seen, that is, one hand which for a moment she takes out of her mantle to hand over a gold bracelet, and her feet, shod in rather sophisticated sandals, fitted with uppers and interlacing leather straps, so that only her smooth juvenile toes and part of her slim white ankles are visible. She gives her bracelet without saying one word, takes the money without any objection and turns round to go away.
I now notice that behind her there is the Iscariot, who watches her carefully and when she is about to go away, he says a word to her, which I do not catch. But she does not reply, as if she were dumb, and she hastens away in her mass of clothes.
Judas asks Zacchaeus: « Who is she? »
« I do not ask my customers their names, especially when they are as kind as she is. »
« Young, isn't she? »
« Apparently. »
« Is she Judaean? »
« Who knows?! Gold is yellow in all countries. »
« Show me that bracelet. »
« Do you want to buy it? »
« No. »
« Well, nothing doing. What do you think? That it will start talking in her place? »
« I wanted to see if I could find out who she is… »
« Are you so interested? Are you a necromancer who divines, or a bloodhound that scents? Go away, forget her. If she is like that, she is either honest and unhappy or she is a leper. Therefore… nothing doing. »
« I am not craving for a woman » replies Judas contemptuously.
« May be… but by the looks of your face I can hardly believe it. Well, if you do not want anything else, please step aside. I have other people to attend to. »
Judas goes away angrily and asks a bread vendor and a fruit seller whether they know the woman who had just bought some bread and apples from them, and whether they know where she lives.
They do not know. They reply: « She has been coming here for some time, every two or three days. But we do not know where she lives. »
« But how does she speak? » insists Judas.
The two laugh and reply: « With her tongue. »
Judas abuses them and goes away… and runs into the group of Jesus and His disciples, who are coming to buy some bread and food for their daily meal. The surprise is reciprocal and… not very enthusiastic. Jesus says only: « You are here? » and while Judas mumbles something, Peter breaks into a loud laugh and says: « Here, I am blind and a misbeliever. I cannot see the vineyards. And I don't believe in the miracle… »
« What are you saying? » ask two or three disciples.
« I am speaking the truth. There are no vineyards here. And I cannot believe that Judas, in all this dust, can gather grapes simply because he is a disciple of the Rabbi. »
« Vintage finished a long time ago » replies Judas harshly.
« And Kerioth is many miles away » concludes Peter.
« You are attacking me at once. You are hostile to me. »
« No. I am not such a fool as you think. »
« That is enough » commands Jesus. He is severe. He addresses Judas: « I was not expecting to see you here. I thought you would be in Jerusalem for the Tabernacles. »
« I am going there tomorrow. I have been waiting here for a friend of our family, who… »
« Please, that is enough. »
« Do You not believe me, Master? I swear… »
« I did not ask you anything, and please do not say anything. You are here. That is enough. Are you thinking of coming with us or have you still got business to attend to? Answer frankly. »
« No… I have finished. In any case that fellow is not coming and I am going to Jerusalem for the Feast. And where are You going? »
« To Jerusalem. »
« Today? »
« I will be at Bethany this evening. »
« At Lazarus' house? »
« Yes, at Lazarus'. »
« Well, I will come too. »
« Yes, come as far as Bethany. Then Andrew with James of Zebedee and Thomas will go to Gethsemane to make preparations and wait for us all, and you will go with them. » Jesus stresses the last words in such a way that Judas does not react.
« And what about us? » asks Peter.
« You will go with My cousins and Matthew where I will send you and will come back in the evening. John, Simon, Bartholomew and Philip will stay with Me, that is, they will go and announce in Bethany that the Rabbi has come and will speak to the people at the ninth hour. »
They walk quickly across the barren countryside. There is an impending storm, not in the clear sky, but in their hearts, they are all conscious of it, and they proceed silently.
When they reach Bethany, and coming from Jericho Lazarus' house is one of the first to be met, Jesus dismisses the group that is to go to Jerusalem and then the other one which He sends towards Bethlehem saying: « Go and do not worry. Half way you will find Isaac, Elias, and the others. Tell them that I will be in Jerusalem for many days and I expect them to bless them. »
In the meantime Simon has knocked at the door and had it opened. The servants inform Lazarus who comes at once.
Judas Iscariot, who had gone a few yards ahead, comes back with the excuse of saying to Jesus: « I have displeased You, Master. I realize it. Forgive me » and at the same time through the open gate he casts sidelong glances at the garden and at the house.
« Yes. It is all right. Go. Do not keep your companions waiting. »
And Judas must go.
Peter whispers: « He was hoping there might be a change in the instructions. »
« Never, Peter. I know what I am doing. But bear with that man… »
« I will try. But I cannot promise… Goodbye, Master. Come, Matthew and you two. Quick. »
« My peace be always with you. »
Jesus enters with the remaining four and after kissing Lazarus He introduces John, Philip and Bartholomew, and then dismisses them and remains alone with Lazarus.
They go towards the house. This time, under the beautiful porch there is a woman. She is Martha. She is swarthy and tall, although not quite so tall as her sister, who is fair-haired and rosy; but she is a beautiful young woman with a balanced and well shaped plump body, a little dark head, a smooth brown forehead. Her eyes are kind, mild, dark long-shaped and as soft as velvet, between her dark eyelashes. Her nose is slightly turned down and her small lips are very red against her dark cheeks. She smiles showing strong snow-white teeth.
She is wearing a dark blue woollen dress with red and dark green galloons round the neck and at the end of her wide short sleeves, from which two other sleeves unfold, of very fine white linen, tied and pleated at the wrists by a little cord. Her very fine white blouse shows also at the top of her breast, round the lower part of her neck where it is held tight by a cord. As a belt she is wearing a scarf of blue, red and green, of a fine cloth which is tied round the upper part of her hips and hangs down her left side in a tuft of fringes. A rich and chaste dress.
« I have a sister, Master. Here she is, Martha, she is good and pious. She is the consolation and the honor of the family and the joy of poor Lazarus. Before she was my first and only joy. Now she is the second, because You are the first. »
Martha prostrates herself on the floor and kisses the hem of Jesus' tunic.
« Peace to the good sister and to the chaste woman. Stand up. »
Martha rises to her feet and goes into the house with Jesus and Lazarus. She then asks to leave to attend to the house.
« She is my peace… » whispers Lazarus, and he looks at Jesus. An inquisitive look. But Jesus pretends He does not see it.
Lazarus asks: « And Jonah? »
« He is dead. »
« Dead? Then… »
« I got him when he was dying. But he died a free man and happy in My house, at Nazareth, between Me and My Mother. »
« Doras practically killed him for You before handing him over! »
« Yes, with fatigue and also with blows. »
« He is a devil and hates You. That hyena hates the whole world… Did he not tell You that he hates You? »
« Yes, he did. »
« Distrust him, Jesus. He is capable of anything, Lord… what did Doras tell You? Did he not tell You to shun me? Did he not place poor Lazarus in a disgraceful light? »
« I think that you know Me well enough to understand that I judge for Myself and according to justice, and that when I love, I love without considering whether such love may procure Me good or evil according to the views of the world. »
« But that man is cruel and he injures and hurts severely… He tormented me also some days ago. He came here and he told me… Oh! I am so vexed already! Why does he want to take You also away from me? »
« I am the solace of those who are tormented and the companion of those who are forlorn. I have come to you also for that.. »
« Ah! Then You know?… Oh! shame on me! »
« No. Why on you? I know. So what? Shall I anathematise you, who are suffering? I am Mercy, Peace, Forgiveness, Love for everybody; and what shall I be for those who are innocent? The sin for which you suffer is not yours. Shall I be pitiless towards you if I feel pity also for her?… »
« Have You seen her? »
« I have. Do not cry. »
But Lazarus, his head resting on his folded arms on a table, is weeping, sobbing painfully.
Martha appears at the door and looks in. Jesus nods to her to be silent. And Martha goes away with big tears running silently down her cheeks.
Lazarus calms down little by little and apologises for his weakness. Jesus comforts him and since His friend wishes to withdraw for a moment, He goes out into the garden and walks among the flower-beds, where some purple roses are still in bloom.
Martha joins Him shortly afterwards. « Master, has Lazarus spoken to You? »
« Yes, Martha, he has. »
« Lazarus cannot set his mind at rest since he is aware that You know and that You have seen her… »
« How does he know? »
« First, that man who was with You and says he is Your disciple: the young one, tall, swarthy, cleanshaven… then Doras. The latter lashed You with his contempt, the former only said that You had seen her on the lake… with her lovers… »
« Do not cry for that! Do you think that I am unacquainted with your wound? I was aware of it since I was with the Father… Do not lose heart, Martha. Raise your heart and your head. »
« Pray for her, Master. I pray… but I cannot forgive completely and perhaps the Eternal Father rejects my prayer. »
« You are right: you must forgive to be forgiven and heard. I already pray for her. But give Me your forgiveness and Lazarus'. You, a good sister, can speak and achieve even more than I can. His wound is too fresh and sore for My hand to touch it even lightly, You can do it. Give Me your full holy forgiveness, and I will… »
« Forgive… We will not be able. Our mother died of grief through her ill deeds and… they were still slight compared with the present ones. I see my mother's torture… it is always present to me. And I see what Lazarus is suffering. »
« She is ill, Martha, and insane. Forgive her. »
« She is possessed, Master. »
« And what is diabolic possession but a disease of the spirit infected by Satan to the extent of degenerating into a spiritual diabolic being? How can certain perversions in human beings be explained otherwise? Perversions that make man much worse than beasts in ferocity, more lewd than monkeys in lust, and so on, and make a hybrid, in which man, animal and demon are mingled. That is the explanation of what amazes us as an inexplicable monstrosity in so many creatures. Do not weep. Forgive. I see. Because My sight is sharper than the sight of the eye or of the heart. I see God. I see. I tell you: forgive, because she is ill. »
« Cure her, then! »
« I will cure her. Have faith. I will make you happy. But forgive and tell Lazarus to forgive. Forgive her. Love her. Be on familiar terms with her. Speak to her as if she were like you. Speak to her of Me… »
« How do You expect her to understand You, the Holy One? »
« She may not seem to understand. But My Name, even by Itself, is salvation. Get her to think of Me and to mention My Name. Oh! Satan runs away when a heart thinks of My Name. Smile, Martha, at this hope. Look at this rose. The rain of the past days had spoiled it, but look, the sun today has opened it, and it is even more beautiful because the drops of rain on the petals adorn it with diamonds. Your house will be like that… Tears and sorrow, now, and later… joy and glory. Go! Tell Lazarus, while I, in the peace of Your garden, will pray the Father for Mary and for you… »
It all ends thus.