25th February 1945.
Jesus is climbing the steep path that takes one to the plateau on which Bethany is built. This time He is not going along the main road, He has taken another road which is steeper and faster and runs from northwest to east and is much less beaten, probably because it is so steep. Only wayfarers in a hurry make use of it; those who have herds and prefer to avoid the bustle of the main road; those, who, like Jesus today, do not wish to attract the attention of many people. He is climbing ahead of His disciples, talking animatedly to the Zealot. Behind, in a group, are His cousins with John and Andrew, then in another group James of Zebedee, Matthew, Thomas and Philip; Bartholomew, Peter and the Iscariot are last.
When they reach the plateau, on which Bethany looks very pleasant in the sunshine of a clear November day, and from which, looking eastwards, the Jordan valley and the Jericho road can be seen, Jesus tells John to go and inform Lazarus of His arrival. While John walks away fast, Jesus proceeds slowly with His disciples, and is greeted everywhere by local people.
The first person to come from Lazarus' house is a woman, who prostrates herself to the ground saying: « Happy is this day for the house of my landlady. Come, Master. Here is Maximinus, and there is Lazarus, at the gate. »
Also Maximinus comes towards them. I do not know exactly who he is. I am under the impression that he is either a relative, not quite so rich, entertained as a guest by Theophilus' children, or a steward of their large estates, treated as a friend because of his merits and his long service in the house. Perhaps he is the son of one of the stewards of the father, and has been given the same position by Theophilus' children. He is a little older than Lazarus, that is, he is about thirty-five years old, perhaps a little more. « We were not expecting to have You so soon » he says.
« I ask hospitality for one night. »
« If it was forever, You would make us very happy. »
They are at the entrance and Lazarus kisses and embraces Jesus and greets the disciples. Then holding his arm round Jesus' waist, he enters the garden with Him and departs from the others asking at once: « To what do I owe the joy of having You? »
« To the hatred of the members of the Sanhedrin. »
« Have they done You ill? Again? »
« No. But they want to. The time has not yet come. Until I have ploughed the whole of Palestine and sown the seed, I must not be overthrown. »
« You must also reap the harvest, my good Master. It is only fair that it should be so. »
« My friends will reap My harvest. They will use the sickle where I sowed. Lazarus, I have decided to go away from Jerusalem. I know it is of no use. I know beforehand. But it will enable Me to evangelise, if nothing else. In Sion I am denied also that. »
« I sent Nicodemus to tell You to go to one of my houses. No one dares to violate it. You would fulfill Your mission without any trouble. And, oh! my house. It would be the most blessed of all my houses because it would be sanctified by Your teaching, by Your very breathing in it! Give me the joy of being useful to You, my Master. »
« You see that I am already giving you it. But I cannot stay in Jerusalem. I would not be molested, but those who came to Me would. I am going towards Ephraim, between this place and the Jordan. I will evangelise it and I will baptise as the Baptist did. »
« In that part of the country I have a little house. It is used to store the tools of workers. Sometimes they sleep there when making hay or at vintage time. It is a very poor house. Just a roof on four walls. But it is in my land. And it is known… And such knowledge will frighten jackals. Accept it, Master. I will send servants to prepare it… »
« It is not necessary. If your peasants sleep there, it will be quite sufficient also for us. »
« I will not make it magnificent, but I will add more beds, oh! plain ones, as You wish, and I will make them take blankets, seats, amphoras and cups. You must eat and cover yourselves, particularly during the winter months. Let me see to it. I do not even have to do it myself. Here is Martha coming. She has a practical and diligent talent for all household matters. She was born for the house and to be the comfort of the bodies and souls in the house. Come, my gentle and chaste hotel-keeper! See? I, too, have taken shelter under her motherly care, in her part of the heritage. Thus I do not miss my mother so badly. Martha, Jesus is retiring to the plain of the “Clear Water”. There is nothing beautiful there, except the soil which is fertile; the house is a sheepfold. But He wants a poor house. We must furnish it with the bare essentials. Give the orders, please, you are so clever! » and Lazarus kisses the beautiful hand of his sister who then lifts it to caress him with true motherly love.
Then Martha says: « I will go at once. I will take Maximinus and Marcella with me. The men of the wagon will help to sort things out. Bless me, Master, so that I may take with me something of Yours. »
« Yes, My kind hotel-keeper. I will call you as Lazarus did. I give you My heart to take with you, in your own heart. »
« Do You know, Master, that Isaac, Elias and the others are in this part of the country today? They asked me for pastures down in the plain, to be together for a little while, and I agreed. They are moving today. I expect them here for their meal. »
« I am glad. I will give them instructions… »
« Yes, so that we may keep in touch with one another. However, You will come now and again… »
« Yes, I will. I have already spoken to Simon about it. And as it is not fair that I should invade your house with My disciples, I will go to Simon's house… »
« No, Master. Why give me that pain? »
« Do not investigate, Lazarus. I know it is the right thing. »
« But, then… »
« But, then, I will always be in your domains. What even Simon does not know, I do know. He who wanted to purchase, without showing himself and without discussion, to be near Lazarus of Bethany, was the same son of Theophilus, the faithful friend of Simon the Zealot and the great friend of Jesus of Nazareth. It is one whose name is Lazarus, who doubled the amount of money for Jonah and did not deduct it from Simon's substance to give him the joy of being able to do a lot for the poor Master and for the poor of the Master. It is Lazarus of Bethany, who discreetly and diligently organises, guides and helps all the good efforts to assist, comfort and protect Me. I know. »
« Oh! don't say that! I thought I had arranged things so well and secretly! »
« There is secrecy for men. Not for Me. I read into hearts. Shall I tell you why your natural goodness is tinged with supernatural perfection? Because you are asking for a supernatural gift, the salvation of a soul, your own holiness and Martha's. And you feel that it is not enough to be good according to the world, but it is necessary to be good according to the laws of the spirit, to receive grace from God. You did not hear My words. But I said: “When you do a good deed, do it secretly, and the Father will give you a great reward.” You did it out of a natural inclination to humility. And I solemnly tell you that the Father is preparing for you a reward that you cannot even imagine. »
« Mary's redemption?!… »
« That, and much, much more. »
« What then, Master, more than that is impossible? »
Jesus looks at him and smiles. He then says in the tone of a psalm:
« The Lord reigns and His saints with Him. With His beams He interlaces wreaths and lays them on the heads of His saints. That they may shine forever in the eyes of God and of the universe.
Of what material is it made? Of which stones is it adorned? Gold, most pure gold is the ring, made with the double fire of the divine love and the love of man, chiselled by the will that hammers, files, cuts and refines.
Pearls in great abundance and emeralds more green than grass in April, turquoises as blue as the sky and opals as translucent as the moon, amethysts like chaste violets, and jaspers and sapphires and hyacinths and topazes. They are set for a whole lifetime.And a ring of rubies as the final touch, a great crown on the glorious forehead.
Because the blessed man will have had faith and hope, he will have had meekness and chastity, moderation and strength, justice and prudence, infinite mercy and at the end he will have written with his blood My Name and his faith in Me, his love for Me, and his name in Heaven.
Rejoice, just people of the Lord. Man does not know and God sees. In eternal books He writes My promises and your deeds, and your names with them, princes of the future century, eternally triumphant with the Christ of the Lord. »
Lazarus looks at Him amazed. He then whispers: « Oh!… I… will not be able…»
« Do you think so? » And Jesus picks a flexible willow branch hanging loose over the path and says: « Look: as My hand easily bends this branch, so love will mould your soul and make an eternal crown of it. Love is the individual redeemer. Who loves begins his own redemption. The Son of man will accomplish its fulfillment. »
It all ends.