24th February 1945.
Jesus is in the kitchen of the little house in the olive-grove, having supper with His disciples. They are talking of the events of the day, which, however, is not the special happening just described, because I hear them talking of other events, amongst which is the cure of a leper near the sepulchres, along the Bethphage road.
« There was also a Roman centurion watching » says Bartholomew. And he continues: « He asked me, while on horseback: “Does the man you follow often do such things?” and when I answered in the affirmative, he exclaimed: “Then He is greater than Aesculapius and will become richer than Croesus.” I replied: “He will always be poor, according to the world, because He never receives, but gives and only wants souls to take to the true God.” The centurion looked at me amazed, then spurred his horse and galloped away. »
« There was also a Roman lady in a litter. It must have been a woman. The curtains were not drawn but she was peeping through them. I saw her » says Thomas.
« Yes, it was near the top bend of the road. She had told them to stop when the leper cried: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” One of the curtains was then drawn and I saw her look at You through a valuable lens, then she laughed ironically. But when she saw that You cured him only by giving a command, she called me and asked me: “Is He the one they call the true Messiah?” I replied “Yes” and she said to me: “Are you with Him?” and then she asked: “Is He really good?” » says John.
« Then you saw her! What was she like? » ask Peter and Judas.
« Well!… A woman… »
« What a great discovery! » says Peter laughing. And the Iscariot insists: « But was she beautiful, young, rich? »
« Yes. I think that she was young and also beautiful. But I was watching Jesus more than I was looking at her. I wanted to see if the Master was setting out again… »
« Fool! » mumbles Judas between his teeth.
« Why? » asks James of Zebedee defending his brother. « My brother was not a dandy in search of affairs. He replied out of courtesy. But he did not lack in his first quality. »
« Which? » asks the Iscariot.
« That of a disciple, whose only love is the Master. »
Judas, very cross, lowers his head.
« In any case… it is not the right thing to be seen talking to the Romans » says Philip. « They are already accusing us of being Galileans, and thus less “pure” than Judaeans. And that because of our birth. Then they accuse us of staying often at Tiberias, a meeting place of Gentiles, Romans, Phoenicians, Syrians… and then… oh! of how many things they accuse us!… »
« You are good, Philip, and you are drawing a veil over the harshness of the truth you are telling. But the truth, without any veil, is this: of how many things they accuse Me » says Jesus Who has been quiet so far.
« After all, they are not completely wrong. Too many contacts with the heathens » says the Iscariot.
« Do you think that only those are heathens who have not Moses' law? » asks Jesus.
« Well, who else? »
« Judas!… Can you swear on our God that you have no heathenism in your heart? And can you swear that the most prominent Israelites have none? »
« Master… I do not know about the others… but I can swear with regard to myself. »
« According to you, what is heathenism? » asks Jesus again.
« It is to follow a false religion, to worship gods » replies Judas violently.
« Which are? »
« The gods of Greece and Rome, the Egyptian ones… that is the gods with thousands of names, and of non-existent people, who according to the pagans, fill their Olympus. »
« No other god exists? Only the Olympic ones? »
« Which other ones? Are they not already too many? »
« Too many, yes. But there are many more and incense is burnt at their altars by every man, also by priests, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, all people of Israel, am I right? Not only, but it is burnt also by My disciples. »
« Ah! Certainly not! » they all say.
« No? My friends… Which of you does not have a secret cult, or several secret cults? One has beauty and smartness. Another the pride of his knowledge. Another bums incense to his hope of becoming a great man, from a human point of view. Another worships women. Another money… Another kneels down before his knowledge… and so on. I solemnly tell you that there is no man who is not stained with idolatry. Why then disdain those who are pagans by misfortune, when you remain pagans by your own free will, although you belong to the true God? »
« But we are men, Master » exclaim many of them.
« That is true. Then… be charitable to everybody because I have come for everybody and you are not worth more than I am. »
« However, we are being accused and Your mission is being obstructed. »
« It will be carried on just the same. »
« With regard to women » says Peter, who probably because he is sitting next to Jesus, is in such a transport of delight, that he is very good. « For some days, and precisely since You spoke at Bethany the first time after we came back to Judaea, a woman, all covered with a veil, has been following us all the time. I do not know how she finds out our intentions. I know that she is almost always either in the last rows of people listening to You when You speak, or behind the crowds that follow You when You walk about, or even behind us when we go announcing You in the country. At Bethany, the first time, she whispered to me from behind her veil: “That man you said is going to speak, is He really Jesus of Nazareth?” I replied to her that He was and in the evening she was behind the trunk of a tree listening to You. Then I lost sight of her. But now, here in Jerusalem, I have seen her two or three times. Today I asked her: “Do you need Him? Are you not well? Do you want alms?” She always shook her head, because she never speaks to anyone. »
« One day she said to me: “Where does Jesus live?” and I said to her: “At Gethsemane” » says John.
« You clever fool! You shouldn't. You should have said: “Uncover your face. Make yourself known and I will tell you” » says the Iscariot, bad tempered.
« But when have we ever asked for such things?! » exclaims John, simple-minded and innocent.
« You can see other people. She is always veiled. She is either a spy or a leper. She must not follow us and learn about us. If she is spying, it is to harm us. Perhaps she is paid by the Sanhedrin for that… »
« Ah! Does the Sanhedrin use such methods? » asks Peter. « Are you sure? »
« Most certain. I was of the Temple and I know. »
« Lovely! That fits like a glove what the Master just said » remarks Peter.
« What? » Judas is already flushed with anger.
« That also amongst priests there are heathens. »
« What's that to do with paying a spy? »
« Quite a lot! Too much, indeed! Why do they pay? To overthrow the Master and triumph over Him. So they are placing themselves on the altar with their foul souls under their clean clothes » replies Peter with good common sense.
« Well, the fact is » cuts short Judas « that woman is dangerous to the crowd and to us. To the crowd if she is a leper, to us if she is a spy. »
« That is, to Him, eventually » replies Peter.
« But if He falls, we fall, too… »
« Ah! Ah! » laughs Peter and concludes: « And the idol will break into pieces, if it falls, and we lose our time, our reputation and perhaps our lives, then, Ah! Ah! it is better to try and not let it fall or… move away in time, is that right? I instead… look, I embrace Him closer. If He falls, overthrown by the traitors of God, I want to fall with Him » and Peter clasps Jesus in his short arms.
« I did not realise that I had done so much harm, Master » says John very sadly: he is facing Jesus. « Hit me, ill-treat me, but save Yourself. It would be dreadful if I were the cause of Your death!… I could never forgive myself. I feel that tears would leave burning marks on my cheeks and scald my eyes. What have I done! Judas is right: I am a fool. »
« No, John, you are not, and you did the right thing. Let her come. Always. And respect her veil. It may be worn as a protection in the struggle between sin and the desire for redemption. Do you know what wounds are caused on a being when such struggle takes place? Do you know how much one weeps and blushes? You, John, a dear son with the heart of a good child, you said that your face would be marked by tears if you were to cause harm to Me. But you must know that when a revived conscience begins to gnaw at the flesh, that was sinful, in order to destroy it and triumph with its soul, it must consume everything that was an attraction for the flesh, and the creature ages and withers under the blaze of the devouring fire. Only later, when redemption is complete, a second, holy and more perfect beauty is formed again, because it is the beauty of the soul that emerges from the eyes, from the smile, from the voice and from the honest pride on the forehead on which God's forgiveness has descended and shines like a diadem. »
« So I did not do the wrong thing?… »
« No, you did not. Neither did Peter. Leave her alone. Now you may all go and rest. I will stay with John and Simon, to whom I wish to speak. Go. »
The disciples withdraw. Perhaps they sleep in the oil-mill. I do not know. They go away, and they certainly do not go back to Jerusalem, where the gates have been closed for hours.
« You said, Simon, that Lazarus sent Isaac and Maximinus to you today, when I was at David's Tower. What did he want? »
« He wanted to tell You that Nicodemus is at his house and would like to speak to You secretly. I took the liberty of saying: “Let him come. The Master will wait for him at night.” You can be alone only by night. That is why I said to You: “Dismiss them all, except John and me.” We need John to go to the Kidron bridge and wait for Nicodemus who is in one of Lazarus' houses, outside the wall. I had to stay to explain the situation. Have I done the wrong thing? »
« No, you have done the right thing. Go, John, to your place. »
Jesus and Simon are by themselves. Jesus is pensive. Simon respects His silence. But Jesus interrupts it suddenly and, as if He were concluding an internal thought in a loud voice, He says: « Yes. That is the best thing to do. Isaac, Elias and the others are sufficient to keep alive the idea which is becoming known amongst good and humble people. For the mighty ones… There are other means. There is Lazarus, Chuza, Joseph, and others… But the mighty ones… do not want Me. They tremble and are afraid for their power. I will go away from these Judaean hearts, who are becoming more and more hostile to the Christ. »
« Are we going back to Galilee? »
« No, but we are going far from Jerusalem. Judaea is to be evangelised. It is part of Israel, too. But here, you see what happens… Everything serves to accuse Me. I am withdrawing. And for the second time… »
« Master, here is Nicodemus » says John going in first.
They greet one another, then Simon takes John and goes out of the kitchen, leaving the two alone.
« Master, forgive me if I wanted to speak to You in secret. I do not trust many people with regard to You and myself. I am not acting entirely out of cowardice. It is also prudence and the desire to be of greater assistance to You, than if I belonged to You openly. You have many enemies. I am one of the few here who admire You. I sought Lazarus' advice. Lazarus is powerful by birth, he is feared because he stands high in the favour of the Romans, he is just in the eyes of God, he is wise by matured talent and learning, he is a true friend of Yours and mine. Those are the reasons why I wanted to speak to him. And I am happy that he came to the same conclusion as I did. I informed him of the last… discussions at the Sanhedrin about You. »
« The last accusations. Tell the plain truth. »
« The last accusations. Yes, Master. I was about to say: “Well, I am one of His followers, too” so that at least one would be in Your favour in that assembly. But Joseph, who was beside me, whispered: “Be quiet. Do not let us disclose our thoughts. I will explain later.” And when we came out he said: “It is better that way. If they know that we are His disciples, they will keep us in the dark about their thoughts and decisions, and will be able to harm Him and us. If, instead, they think that we are only inquiring into His life, they will not resort to subterfuges.” I realised that he was right. They are so… wicked! I also have my interests and my duties… and Joseph has his… You understand, Master… »
« I do not reproach you in any way. I was saying that to Simon, before you came here. And I have decided to go away from Jerusalem. »
« You hate us because we do not love You! »
« No. I do not hate even My enemies. »
« You say so. It is true. You are right. How sorrowful for me and Joseph! And Lazarus? What will Lazarus say, who today had decided to let You leave this place and go to one of the houses he owns in Zion. Lazarus is a very wealthy man. A large part of the town belongs to him as well as much land in Palestine. His father, to his own wealth and to Eucheria's, who belonged to Your tribe and family, added the reward of the Romans to their faithful servant, and he bequeathed a very large heritage to his children. And what matters more, a veiled but potent friendship with Rome. Without it, no one would have saved the household from abuse, after Mary's disgraceful behaviour, her divorce, which was granted to her only because of her position, her licentious life in that town which is his domain, and in Tiberias, the elegant brothel which Rome and Athens have turned into a prostitution bed for many of the chosen people. Truly, if the Syrian Theophilus had been a more convinced proselyte, he would not have given his children the Hellenistic upbringing which kills so much virtue and disseminates so much voluptuousness, and which, imbibed and expelled without any consequence by Lazarus and especially by Martha, infected and proliferated in the dissolute Mary and made her the disgrace of her family and of Palestine! No, without the powerful shelter of the favour of Rome, they would have been anathematised more than lepers. But since the situation is such, take advantage of it. »
« No. I am going to withdraw. Who wants Me will come to Me. »
« I should not have spoken! » Nicodemus is depressed.
« No. Wait and be convinced » and Jesus opens a door and calls: « Simon! John! Come here. »
The two disciples rush in.
« Simon, tell Nicodemus what I was saying to you when he arrived. »
« That the shepherds are sufficient for the humble people, Lazarus, Nicodemus and Joseph with Chuza for the mighty ones and that You are going away from Jerusalem without leaving Judaea. That is what You were saying. Why do You ask me to repeat it? What has happened? »
« Nothing. Nicodemus is afraid I might be going away because of what he told Me. »
« I told the Master that the Sanhedrin is more and more hostile, and that He ought to put Himself under Lazarus' protection. He protected your property because Rome is on his side. He would protect also Jesus. »
« It is true. It is good advice. Although my caste is disliked also by Rome, a word of Theophilus saved my property during my proscription and my leprosy. And Lazarus is very friendly to You, Master. »
« I know. But I have decided. And I do what I said. »
« We are going to lose You, then! »
« No, Nicodemus. Men of all sects go to the Baptist. Men of all sects and positions will be able to come to Me. »
« We came to You because we knew that You were greater than John. »
« You may still come. I will be a solitary rabbi like John, and I will speak to the crowds willing to hear the voice of God and capable of believing that I am that Voice. And the others will forget Me. If they are at least capable of that. »
« Master, You are sad and disappointed. And You are right. Everybody listens to You. And they believe in You so much that they obtain miracles. Even one of Herod's men, whose natural goodness must be corrupted by that incestuous court, even Roman soldiers believe in You. Only we in Zion are so hard… But not everybody. You know… Master, we know that You have come from God, that You are His doctor, and there is none greater than You. Also Gamaliel says so. No one can work the miracles that You work unless God is with him. Also learned people like Gamaliel believe that. Why then can we not have the same faith as the humble people of Israel? Oh! Tell me. I will not betray You, even if You should say to me: “I lied to corroborate My wise words with a seal that nobody can deride.” Are You the Messiah of the Lord? The Expected One? The Word of the Father, incarnate to teach and redeem Israel according to the Covenant? »
« Are you asking that by yourself, or have others sent you to ask it?. »
« By myself, Lord. I have a storm and a torment within me. Contrasting winds and voices. Why do I, a mature man, not have the Peaceful certainty that this fellow has, although he is almost illiterate and a boy, the certainty that gives such a smile to his face, such light to his eyes, such sunshine to his heart? How do you believe, John, to be so certain? Teach me, son, your secret, by means of which you were able to see and understand that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah! »
John becomes as red as a strawberry, he then bends his head, as if he were apologising for saying such a great thing, and replies simply: « By loving. »
« By loving! And what about you, Simon, an upright man, on the threshold of old age, you, a learned man, so tried as to be induced to fear deceit everywhere? »
« By meditating. »
« Loving! Meditating! I also love and meditate and I am not yet certain! »
Jesus cuts in saying: « I will tell you the true secret. They knew how to be born again, with a new spirit, free from all ties, virgin of all ideas. And they therefore understood God. If one is not born again, one cannot see the Kingdom of God nor believe in its King. »
« How can a grown man be born again? Ejected from his mother's womb, man cannot go back into it. Are You referring perhaps to reincarnation, in which many pagans believe? No, it is not possible of You. In any case it would not be going back into a womb, but a reincarnation beyond time. That is, not now. How? »
« There is but one life of the body in the world and only one eternal life of the soul beyond the world. Now I am not speaking of the flesh and blood, but of the immortal spirit, which is born to true life by means of two things: through water and the Spirit. But the greater is the Spirit, without Whom water is but a symbol. He who has been cleansed through water, must then purify himself through the Spirit and through the Spirit he must become inflamed and shine, if he wishes to live in the bosom of God here and in the eternal Kingdom. Because what is born of the flesh, is and will remain flesh, and dies with the flesh after serving it in its carnal lusts and sins. But what is born of the Spirit is spirit and it lives going back to the Spirit of which it was born, after bringing up its own spirit to the perfect age. The Kingdom of Heaven will be inhabited only by those beings which have reached a perfect spiritual age. Do not be surprised, therefore, if I say: “It is necessary for you to be born again.” These two knew how to be born again. The younger subdued the flesh and caused his spirit to revive by putting his ego on the stake of love. All matter was burnt. From the ashes there arose his fresh spiritual flower, a wonderful helianthus that turns towards the eternal Sun. The older one laid the axe of honest meditation to the root of his old way of thinking, he uprooted the old plant leaving only the shoot of good will, of which he caused his new thoughts to be born. He now loves God with a new spirit and sees Him. Everybody has his own method of reaching the harbour.
Every wind is good providing one knows how to unfurl the sails – You feel the wind blowing, and according to its direction you can adjust the brails. But you cannot tell where the wind comes from, neither can you call the one you need. Also the Spirit calls and It comes calling and passes by. But only who is alert can follow it. A son knows the voice of his father, the spirit knows the voice of the Spirit of which it was born. »
« How can that happen? »
« You, a teacher in Israel, are asking Me? Do you not know these things? We speak about and witness to what we know and have seen. Now, then, I speak about and witness to what I know. How will you ever be able to believe what you have not seen, if you do not believe the witness I am bearing to you? How can you believe in the Spirit, if you do not believe in the Incarnate Word? I have descended to ascend again and take with Me those who are down here. Only One descended from Heaven: the Son of Man. And only One will ascend to Heaven with the power to open Heaven: I, the Son of Man. Remember Moses. He raised a serpent in the desert to heal the diseases of Israel. When I am raised, those who are now blind, deaf, dumb, mad, lepers, ill because of the fever of sin, will be cured and whoever believes in Me will have eternal life. Also those who believe in Me, will have that blissful life. Do not bend your forehead, Nicodemus. I have come to save, not to lose. God did not send His Only-Begotten Son into the world so that those in the world might be condemned, but that the world might be saved through Him. In the world I have found all the sins, all the heresies, all the idolatries. But can the swallow flying swiftly over dust soil its feathers with it? No. It only takes along the sad roads of the earth a particle of blue sky, and the scent of the sky, it utters a call to rouse men and make them raise their eyes from the mud and follow its flight which returns to the sky. I do likewise. I have come to take you with Me. Come!… Who believes in the Only Begotten Son will not be judged. He is already saved, because the Son speaks in his favour to the Father and says: “He loved Me.” But it is useless to perform holy deeds, if one does not believe. He has already been judged because he did not believe in the name of the Only-Begotten Son of God. Which is My Name, Nicodemus? »
« Jesus. »
« No. Saviour. I am Salvation. Who does not believe in Me, rejects his salvation and is judged by the eternal Justice. And this is the judgement: “Light was sent to you and to the world, in order to save you, but you and men preferred darkness to light, because you preferred evil actions, which were customary to you, to the good actions that He pointed out to you, that you might follow them and be saints.” You hated the Light because evil-doers love darkness for their crimes, and you avoided the Light that It might not illuminate your hidden wounds. I am not referring to you, Nicodemus. But that is the truth. And the punishment will be proportioned to the judgement, both for individuals and for communities. With regard to those who love Me, and practise the truth I teach, and are therefore born in their spirits a second time, by a more genuine birth, I say that they are not afraid of the light, on the contrary they go towards it, because their own light increases the light by which they were enlightened, a reciprocal glory that makes God happy in His children and the children in the Father. No, the children of the Light are not afraid of being enlightened. Nay, in their hearts and by means of their deeds they say: “Not I, He, the Father, He, the Son, He, the Spirit, have worked the good in me. Glory be to them, forever.” And from Heaven replies the eternal song of the Three Who love one another in their perfect Unity: “Eternal blessing to you, true son of Our will.” John, remember those words when the time comes to write them. Nicodemus, are you convinced? »
« Yes, Master, I am. When will I be able to speak to You again? »
« Lazarus will know where to take you. I am going to him before going away from here. »
« I am going, Master. Bless Your servant. »
« My peace be with you. »
Nicodemus goes out with John.
Jesus addresses Simon: « Do you see the work of the power of Darkness? Like a spider, it lays its snares and entangles and imprisons who does not know how to die in order to be born again like a butterfly, so strong as to tear the dark cobweb and go beyond it, carrying on its golden wings pieces of shining network as a souvenir of its victory, like oriflammes and banners taken from the enemy. To die to live. To die to give you strength to die. Come, Simon, and rest. And God be with you. »
It all ends.