17th April 1945.
Jesus is with His disciples in a very mountainous place. It is a bad and rough road and the elderly apostles find progress arduous. The younger ones, on the other hand, are very cheerful around Jesus and they climb nimbly, talking to one another.
The two cousins, the sons of Zebedee and Andrew are elated at the idea of going back to Galilee, and their joy is such that it enthralls also the Iscariot, who for some time has been in an excellent frame of mind. He simply says: « Master, at Passover, when we come to the Temple, will You come back to Kerioth? My mother is always hoping to see You. She sent me word. And also the people of the village… »
« Certainly. Now, even if we wanted to go, the season is too inhospitable to go along those impassable roads. See how troublesome it is even here. And without that compulsion, I would not have set out on this journey… But we could not stay any longer… » Jesus becomes silent and pensive.
« And later, I mean for Passover, will we be able to come? I would like to show Your grotto to James and Andrew » says John.
« Are you forgetting how much Bethlehem loves us? » asks the Iscariot. « Nay, how much they love the Master. »
« No. But I could go with James and Andrew. Jesus could stay at Juttah or in your house… »
« Yes, I like that. Will You come, Master? They will go to Bethlehem, and You will stay with me at Kerioth, You have never been all alone with me… and I am so anxious to have You all to myself… »
« Are you jealous? Do you not know that I love you all exactly the same? Do you not think that I am with all of you, also when I seem to be far away? »
« I know that You love us. If You did not love us, You would have to be much more severe, at least with me. I believe that Your spirit is always watching over us. But we are not only spirit. There is man, with the love of man, his desires, his regrets. Jesus, I know that I am not the one who makes You most happy. But I believe that You know how eager I am to please You and how I regret all the hours that I lose You through my misery… »
« No, Judas. I do not lose you. I am closer to you than to the others just because I know who you are. »
« What am I, my Lord? Tell me. Help me to understand what I am. I do not understand myself. I seem to be a woman who is troubled by whims caused by her pregnancy. I desire both holy things and depraved things. Why? What am I? » Jesus looks at him with an inscrutable expression. He is sad, but His sadness is mingled with pity, with so much pity. He looks like a doctor who observes the state of a patient and knows that he cannot recover his health… But He does not speak.
« Tell me, Master. Your opinion will be the least harsh for poor Judas. In any case… we are all brothers. It does not matter if they know of what I am made. On the contrary, if they hear Your opinion on me, they will amend their own and will help me. Won't you? »
The others are embarrassed and do not know what to say. They look at their companion, they look at Jesus.
Jesus draws the Iscariot near Himself, to the place where His cousin James was before, and says: « You are only confused. You have all the best elements, but they are not well settled, and the slightest breeze upsets them. A short while ago we passed through that gorge and we were shown the damage caused by the water, the land and the trees to the poor houses of the little village there. Water, land and trees are useful and blessed things, are they not? And yet they became a curse there. Why? Because the water of the torrent did not have a fixed course, but, also because of the indolence of man, it had dug various beds, according to its whims. That was all right as long as there were no storms. The clear water that irrigated the mountain in so many tiny streams looked like a jeweller's work, like necklaces of diamonds or emeralds, according to whether they reflected the light or the shade of the forests. And man enjoyed them, because the murmuring streams were useful to his fields. Also the plants were beautiful; they had been planted by playful winds, with bizarre foliage and branches and had left wide glades open to sunshine. Also the soft soil was beautiful, it had been deposited by, who knows which remote floods between the undulations of the mountain and was so fertile for cultivations. But when the storms came a month ago, the freakish streams joined together and overflowed in an irregular way along a different course, sweeping away the plants and dragging the soil down to the valley. If the water had been maintained in an orderly way, if the trees had been grouped together in woods, if the soil had been supported methodically by a suitable protection, the three good elements, wood, water and soil would not have become the ruin and death of that little village. You have intelligence, boldness, education, readiness, fine appearance and so many other attributes. But they are disorganised within you and you leave them as they are. See: you must work patiently and constantly to put your qualities in order, as order is also strength, so that when the storm of temptation comes, the good that is within you may not become an evil for yourself and others. »
« You are right, Master. Now and again I get upset by a storm and everything becomes ruffled. And You say that I could… »
« Your will is everything, Judas. »
« But there are such strong temptations… We hide ourselves up because we are afraid that the world might read them on our faces. »
« And that is the mistake! That is exactly the moment when you should not shut yourself up. But you ought to look for the world, for the world of good people, to be helped by them. A fever is abated also by contact with the peace of good people. And you ought to look also for the world of those who criticise you, because, owing to the pride which urges us to hide ourselves so that our tempted souls may not be “read”, that would serve as a reaction to our moral weakness. And you would not fall. »
« You went into the desert… »
« Because I could do it. But woe to those who are alone, unless in their solitude they are a multitude against a multitude. »
« How? I don't understand. »
« A multitude of virtues against a multitude of temptations. When virtue is feeble, one must do as this ivy, get hold of the branches of strong trees, to climb up. »
« Thank You, Master. I will cling to You and to my companions. But you must all help me. You are all better than I am. »
« It was the frugal honest surrounding where we were brought up, that was better, my friend. But now you are with us and we love you. You will see… I don't want to criticise Judaea, but believe me, in Galilee, at least in our villages, there is less wealth and less corruption. Tiberias, Magdala and other places of pleasure, are not far from corruption. But we live with “our” simple souls, which may be also coarse, if you wish so, but are active and holily happy with what has been granted to us by God » says James of Alphaeus.
« But, don't you know, James, that Judas' mother is a holy woman? Her goodness in written all over her face » objects John.
Judas of Kerioth smiles happily at the praise, and he smiles even more when Jesus confirms: « You are right, John. She is a holy creature. »
« Eh! It was my father's dream to make me a great man of the world and he took me away too early and too deeply from my mother… »
« What have you got to say that you are always speaking? » asks Peter from far away. « Stop! Wait for us! It is not fair that you should go on like that without considering that my legs are so short. » They stop until the other group join them.
« Ah! My little boat, how I love you! I have to work here like a slave… What were you talking about? »
« We were saying what is necessary to be good » replies Jesus.
« And are You not telling me, Master? »
« Of course: order, patience, perseverance, humility, charity… I told you many times! »
« Not order. What has it to do with it? »
« Disorder is never a good quality. I have just explained that to your companions. They will tell you. And I mentioned it first, whereas I mentioned charity last, because they are the two extremities of the straight line of perfection. Now you know that a straight line on a plane has neither beginning nor end. Each extremity can be either the beginning or the end, whereas in the case of a spiral, or any other design which is not enclosed in itself, there is always a beginning and an end. Holiness is linear, simple, perfect and has but two extremities, like a straight line. »
« It is easy to draw a straight line… »
« Do you think so? You are wrong. In a drawing, even if it is a complicated one, some imperfections may not be noticed. But an error is noticed at once in a straight line: either in inclination or uncertainty. Joseph, when he taught me the trade, insisted a great deal that the boards should be straight and quite rightly he used to say: “See, son? A small imperfection may not be seen in a decoration or in a turned work, because the eye, unless it is very experienced, if it watches one point, does not see another. But if a board is not as straight as it should be, even the most simple work will not be satisfactory, such as a poor table for a peasant. It will be on a slant or it will wobble. It is only good for the fire.” We can say the same applies to souls. If we do not want to be good but for the eternal fire, that is, if we want to conquer Heaven, we must be perfect like a board which is planed and squared properly. Who starts his spiritual work in an unplanned manner, starting from useless things, jumping from one thing to another, like a restless bird, will end up by not being able to join the various parts of his work. They will not fit in. Therefore, order and charity. Then, holding those two extremities firm in two vices, so that they may not move, you can work at all the rest, decorations or carving, whatever it may be. Have you understood? »
« Yes, I have. » Peter endures his lesson in silence and suddenly concludes: « So my brother is more clever than I am. He is really tidy. One step after the other, calm and quiet. He does not seem to be moving, instead… I would like to do a lot of things quickly. And I do nothing. Who will help me? »
« Your good will. Do not be afraid, Peter. You do things, too. You are making yourself. »
« What about me? »
« You, too, Philip. »
« And what about me? I do not seem to be good for anything. »
« No, Thomas. You work, too. You all work. You are wild trees, but the grafts will slowly and certainly change you and you are My joy. »
« There You are. We are sad and You console us. We are weak, and You fortify us. We are afraid and You encourage us. You are always ready with advice and comfort for everybody and for every case. How can You be always ready and so good, Master? »
« My friends, that is why I came, knowing what I was going to find and what I had to do. If one has no illusions, one has no disappointments and thus one does not lose enthusiasm. And one proceeds. Remember that when you, too, will have to work at the animal man to make the spiritual man. »