17th March 1945.
« My children in the Lord, the Feast of Purification is now at hand, and I, the Light of the world, am sending you prepared with the minimum necessities to celebrate it properly. It is the first light of the feast from which you will light all the others. Because he who should pretend to light many lamps without having the means to light the first one, would be quite foolish. And even more foolish would be he who pretended to start his own sanctification from the most arduous things, neglecting what is the basis of the immutable building of perfection: the Decalogue.
We read in the Book of Maccabees that Judas with his men, after reconquering the Temple and the City with the protection of the Lord, destroyed the altars and the temples of the foreign gods and purified the Temple. He then erected another altar, and with flints he lit a fire, offered sacrifices, burnt the incense, placed the lights and laid the loaves of the proposition and then, they all prostrated themselves and begged the Lord not to let them sin any more and if, owing to their weakness, they should fall into sin again, to be treated with divine mercy. And that happened on the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev.
Let us consider and apply the narrative to ourselves, because every word in the history of Israel, the chosen people, has a spiritual meaning. Life is always a lesson. The life of Israel is a teaching not only for our earthly days, but also for the conquest of the eternal days.
“They destroyed the altars and the pagan temples.”
That is the first operation. The one I told you to carry out when I mentioned the individual gods that take the place of the true God: the idolatries of sensuality, of gold, of pride, the capital vices that lead to the desecration and death of the soul and of the body and to the punishment of God. I did not crush you under the numberless formulae which now oppress the believers and are a bulwark against the true Law, which is oppressed and concealed by heaps of exterior prohibitions, which by their very oppression cause the believers to lose sight of the unswerving clear holy voice of the Lord Who says: “Do not curse. Do not idolise. Do not desecrate the festivals. Do not dishonour your parents. Do not kill. Do not fornicate. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet other people's belongings. Do not covet your neighbour's wife.” Ten prohibitions. Not one more. And they are the ten columns of the temple of the soul. Above them shines the gold of the holiest precept: “Love your God. Love your neighbour.” It is the coronation of the temple. It is the protection of its foundations. It is the glory of its builder.
Without love one could not keep the ten rules and the columns would fall, all of them or some, and the temple would crash, all of it or part. But it would always be a ruin and no longer suitable to receive the Most Holy. Do what I told you, knock down the three lusts. Be sincere in giving a name to your vices, as God is sincere in saying to you: “Do not do this or that.” It is useless subtilising forms. Who loves something more than he loves God, whatever that love may be, is an idolater. Who invokes God professing himself His servant and then does not obey Him, is a rebel. Who out of greed works on the Sabbath is a distrustful presumptious desecrator. Who refuses help to his parents, advancing pretexts, even if he says that they are works given to God, is one who is hated by God, Who put fathers and mothers as His image on the earth. Who kills is always a murderer. Who fornicates is always lustful. Who steals is always a thief. Who lies is always vile. Who covets what is not his, is always a greedy loathsome glutton. Who desecrates a nuptial bed is always filthy.
It is so. And I remind you that after the erection of the golden calf, there came the wrath of the Lord; after Solomon's idolatry there was the schism that divided and weakened Israel; and our present misfortunes of spirit, fate and nationality came after Hellenism was accepted, nay, introduced and welcomed by unworthy Judaeans under Antiochus Epiphanes. I remind you that Nadab and Abihu, false servants of God, were struck by Jehovah. Remember that the manna was not holy on Sabbaths. Remember Cam and Absalom. And I recall the sin of David against Uriah and the sin of Absalom against Amnon. I recall the end of Absalom and Amnon, the fate of Heliodorus, a thief, and of Simon and Menelaus. I remind you of the ignoble end of the two false elders who had borne false witness against Susanna. And I could continue with instances without finding an end to them. But let us go back to the Maccabees.
“And they purified the Temple.”
It is not enough to say: “I destroy.” It is necessary to say: “I purify.” I told you how a man is purified: by humble and sincere repentance. There is no sin that God will not forgive if the sinner is really repentant. Have faith in the Divine Bounty. If you were able to understand what that Bounty is, even if all the sins of the world were upon you, you would not flee from God, on the contrary you would run to His feet, because only the Most Good One can forgive what man does not forgive.
“And they erected another altar.”
Oh! Do not try to deceive the Lord. Do not be false in your behaviour. Do not mix God and Mammon. You would have an empty altar: God's. Because it is useless to erect a new altar if there are still remains of the other one. Either God or the idol. Make your choice.
“And they lit the fire with flint and tinder.”
The flint is the firm will to belong to God. The tinder is the desire to cancel in God's heart even the memory of your sin during the rest of your lives. Then the fire is lit: love. Because the son who by means of an honourable life endeavours to console the parent he had offended, does love his father, as he wants him to be happy on account of his son, who before was the cause of his tears and is now his joy.
Now, at this point, you may offer sacrifices, burn incense, lay the lights and the loaves. The sacrifices will be acceptable to God, and the prayers agreeable, the altar will really be lit up, rich in the food of your daily offers. You may pray saying: “Be our Protector”, because He will be your friend. But His mercy did not wait for you to ask for it. It anticipated your desire. And He sent Mercy to say to you: “Do have hope. I am telling you: God forgives you. Come to the Lord.”
There is an altar already amongst you: the new altar. Streams of light and forgiveness flow from it. Like oil they spread, cure, reinvigorate. Believe the Word that comes from it. Weep with Me over your sins. Like a Levite who conducts a chorus, I will direct your voices to God, and your wailing, if united to My voice, will not be rejected. I lower Myself with you, the Brother of men according to the flesh, the Son of the Father according to the spirit, and I say for you and with you: “From this deep abyss, where I-Mankind have fallen, I cry to You, Lord. Listen to the voice of him who looks at himself and sighs, and do not close Your ears to my words. O God, I am horrified at seeing myself. I am horrible in my own eyes! And what shall I be in Your eyes? Do not look at my faults, o Lord, otherwise I will not be able to withstand Your presence, but have mercy on me. Because You said: 'I am Mercy'. And I believe in Your word. My soul, wounded and depressed, confides in You, in Your promises, and from dawn till dusk, from my youth till my old age I will hope in You.”
Although guilty of homicide and adultery and reproved by God, David was forgiven after he cried to the Lord: “Have mercy on me, not out of respect for me, but for the glory of Your mercy which is infinite. And in Your mercy wipe away my sin. There is no water that can wash my heart unless it is taken from the deep water of Your holy goodness. Wash me of my injustice with it and purify me of my foulness. I do not deny that I sinned. Nay, I confess my crime, my sin is constantly in my mind like an accusing witness. I offended man in my neighbour and in myself, but I am particularly sorry that I sinned against You. And may this tell You that I acknowledge that You are just in Your words and I am afraid of Your judgement which triumphs over all human power. But consider, o Eternal God, that I was born guilty and that she who conceived me was a sinner, and that You have loved me so much as to reveal and give me Your wisdom as my teacher that I might understand the mysteries of Your sublime truth. And if You have done so much, shall I fear You? No. I do not fear You. Sprinkle me with the bitterness of sorrow and I shall be purified. Wash me with tears and I shall become like mountain snow. Let me hear Your voice, and Your humiliated servant will rejoice, because Your voice is joy and happiness, even when it reproaches. Turn Your face to my sins, and Your eyes will cancel my iniquity. The heart You gave me was desecrated by Satan and by my human weakness. Create a clean heart in me, and destroy what is corrupted in the viscera of Your servant, so that an upright spirit only may reign in him. Do not banish me from Your presence and do not deprive me of Your friendship, because only Your salvation is the joy of my soul and Your sovereign spirit is the consolation of a humiliated heart. May I be Your messenger among men and say to them: 'See how good the Lord is. Walk in His ways and you will be blessed, as I am, I the abortion of man who am becoming a son of God through His grace which is restored in me'. And the sinner will return to You. Blood and flesh are boiling and howling in me. Save me from them, o Lord, salvation of my soul, and I will sing Your praise. I did not know. But now I have understood. You do not want a sacrifice of rams, but the holocaust of a broken heart. A crushed and broken heart is more pleasing to You than rams, because You created us for Yourself and You want us to remember that and to give back to You what is Yours. Be benign to me in Your great goodness and rebuild my Jerusalem and Yours: a purified and forgiven soul on which sacrifice, oblation and holocaust may be offered for sins, thanksgiving and praise. And may every new day of mine be an offering of holiness consumed upon Your altar to ascend to You with the scent of my love.”
Come! Let us go to the Lord. I in front, you behind. Let us go to the wholesome water, to the holy pastures, to the land of God. Forget the past. Smile at the future. Do not worry about the mire, look at the stars. Do not say: “I am darkness”; say: “God is Light.” I have come to announce peace to you, to give the Good News to the meek, to cure those whose hearts are crushed by too many things, to preach freedom to all the slaves, and first of all to the slaves of Mammon, to free prisoners from lust.
I tell you: the year of grace has come. Do not weep, if you are sad because you know that you are sinners, do not weep, exiles of the Kingdom of God. I will replace your ashes with gold, and your tears with oil. I will put the best clothes on you to introduce you to the Lord and say to Him: “Here are the sheep You set Me to look for. I visited and gathered them, I counted them, I looked for the ones which had gone astray and I have brought them to You, protecting them from rain and fog. I have taken them amongst all the peoples, I have gathered them from every region to lead them to the Land which is not on the earth, which You prepared for them, Holy Father, to take them up to the heavenly tops of your fertile mountains, where everything is light and beauty, along the streams of celestial bliss where the spirits You love are sated with You. I also looked for the wounded ones, I cured the ones which were injured, I restored the weak ones, I did not neglect even one. And I carried on My shoulders, like a loving yoke, the one which had almost been torn to pieces and devoured by the wolves of sensuality and I lay her at Your feet, benign holy Father, because she can no longer walk, neither does she know Your words, she is a poor soul chased by remorse and men, she is a mourning trembling soul, she is like a heavy wave that breaks on the coast. She comes forward with her desire, but the knowledge of herself drives her back… Open Your bosom to her, Loving Father, so that this lost creature may find peace in it. Say to her: 'Come!' Say to her: 'You are Mine'. She belonged to the whole world, but she loathes it and is afraid of it. She says: 'Every master is a filthy bravo'. Let her say: 'This King of mine has given me the joy of being caught!' She does not know what love is. But if You receive her, she will learn that this celestial love is the nuptial love of God and the human spirit, and like a bird freed from the cage of cruel people, she will climb higher and higher, up to You, to Heaven, to joy and glory, singing: 'I have found Whom I sought. My heart has no further desire. I rest and rejoice in You, eternal Lord, blessed forever!' .”
Go. Celebrate the Feast of Purification with a new spirit. And may the light of God shine within You. »
The conclusion of Jesus' speech has been overwhelming. His eyes were shining in His bright face and His smile and voice were of a gentleness never known before.
The people are almost fascinated and they do not move until He repeats: « Go. Peace be with you. » The pilgrims then start to leave speaking among themselves.
The veiled woman walks away quickly, as usual, with her lightly swaying agile step. She seems to have wings as the wind swells her mantle round her shoulders.
« I will now see whether she is from Israeli » says Peter.
« Why? »
« Because if she remains here, it means…»
« …that she is a poor woman without a house of her own. Nothing more, remember that, Peter. » Jesus walks towards the village.
« Yes, Master, I will remember. And what shall we do now that they will all be staying at home for the Feast? »
« Our women will be lighting the lamps in our place. »
« I am sorry… It is the first year that I do not see them being lit in my house, or that I do not light them myself. »
« You are a big baby. We will light the lamps, too. So you will not be in a sulk any longer. And you will be the very one to light them. »
« Me? Not I, Lord. You are the Head of our family. It's for You to light them. »
« I am a lamp which is always lit… and I would like you all to be such, as well. I am the eternal Purification, Peter. Do you know that I was born on the twenty-fifth of Chislev? »
« I wonder how many lamps? » asks Peter full of admiration.
« It was impossible to count them… All the stars in the sky…»
« No! Did they not celebrate Your birthday at Nazareth? »
« I was not born in Nazareth, but in a stable in Bethlehem. I see that John knows how to be quiet. John is very obedient. »
« And he is not curious, whereas I am very much so! Will You tell Your poor Simon all about it? Otherwise how can I speak about You? Many times people ask me questions, and I never know what to say… The others are clever, I mean Your brothers and Simon, Bartholomew and Judas of Simon. Yes, also Thomas is good at speaking… he sounds like a crier at the market… selling goods. But he can speak… Matthew… well, it's no problem for him! He makes use of his old skill at the customs bench to fleece people and compel them to say: “You are right.” But I!… poor Simon of Jonas! What did the fish teach you? And the lake? Two things… but they are of no use: the fish to be silent and persevering. They persevered in escaping from the net and I persevered in keeping them in it. The lake taught me to be brave and vigilant. And what about the boat? It taught me to slog away without sparing any of my muscles and to stand up even when the lake was rough and one might fall. To watch the pole-star, to hold the rudder with a firm hand, to be strong, brave, constant, careful, that is what my poor life taught me…»
Jesus lays a hand on his shoulder and shakes him looking at him with loving admiration, a true admiration of such sincerity and says to him: « Do you not think that is a lot, Simon Peter? You have what is necessary to be My “stone”. Nothing to be added, nothing to be taken away. You will be the eternal navigator, Simon. And you will say to who comes after you: “Watch the pole-star, that is, Jesus. A firm hand on the rudder, strength, courage, firmness, carefulness, hard work without sparing oneself, an eye on everything, capability of standing up also on rough seas…” With regard to being silent… well… the fish did not teach you that! »
« With regard to what I should be able to say, I am more mute than fish. The other words?… Also magpies can chatter as well as I do… But tell me, my Master? Will You give a son also to me? We are old… But You said that the Baptist's mother was old… Now you said: “And you will say to him who comes after you…” Who comes after a man but his son? » Peter's face expresses prayer and hope.
« No, Peter. And do not be upset about it. You look just like your lake when the sun is hidden by a cloud. From bright it becomes dull. No, My dear Peter. You will not have one, but a thousand, ten thousand sons, and in every country… Do you not remember what I said to you: “You will be a fisher of men”? »
« Oh!… Yes… but… A child who called me “father” would be so kind! »
« You will have so many that you will not be able to count them. And you will give them eternal life. And you will find them in Heaven and will bring them to Me saying: “Here are the children of Your Peter and I want them to be where I am”, and I will say to you: “Yes, Peter. It will be done as you wish. Because you have done everything for Me and I will do everything for you.” » Jesus is most kind in making such promises.
Peter swallows saliva while weeping over the dying hope of an earthly paternity and at the same time shedding joyful tears at the rapture announced to him. « Oh! Lord! » he says. « But to give eternal life it is necessary to persuade souls to be good. And we are back to the same point: I am not good at speaking. »
« When the time comes, you will be able to speak better than Gamaliel. »
« I want to believe You… But, You work the miracle, because if I have to do it by myself…»
Jesus smiles at him gently and says: « Today I am entirely yours. Let us go through the village. We will go and see the widow. I have a secret offer. A ring to be sold. Do you know how I got it? A stone fell near My feet, while I was praying under this willow tree. A little parcel was tied to the stone with a tiny strip of parchment. Inside the little parcel there was the ring and on the parchment one word: “Charity”. »
« Let me see? Oh? beautiful! A woman's ring. What a tiny finger! But how heavy it is!…»
« Now you will sell it. I am not capable. The hotel-keeper buys gold. I will wait for you near the baker's. Go, Peter. »
« But… I don't know what to do. I… gold… I know nothing about gold! »
« Just think that it is bread for people who are hungry, and do your best. Goodbye. »
And Peter turns to the right, while Jesus, more slowly, goes to the left, towards the village, which appears in the distance from behind a thicket on the other side of the steward's house.