8th May 1945.
Jesus is on the lake, in Peter's boat, behind two other boats; one is a common fishing boat, like that of Peter, the other is a slender expensive pleasure boat. It belongs to Johanna of Chuza. But the owner is not in her boat. She is at Jesus' feet, in Peter's humbler craft.
I would say that they met by chance somewhere on the flowery shore of Gennesaret, most beautiful in this first appearance of Palestinian springtime, which strews its clouds of blossoming almond-trees and lays the pearls of future flowers on pear and apple-trees, on pomegranates, quince-trees, on all the trees which are most fruitful and bear the most beautiful blossoms and fruit. When the boat keeps close to the shore exposed to the sun, one can already see millions of buds swelling on the branches, awaiting to blossom, while the petals of the early almond-trees flutter in the quiet air until they alight in the clear water. The shores, covered with the new grass, which looks like bright green silk, are studded with the golden eyes of buttercups, or radiate-star daisies, near which the beautiful, thin bluish forget-me-nots, stiff on their stems like little crowned queens, smile gently, as placid as children's eyes, and they seem to be saying “yes, of course” to the sun, to the lake, to the other herbs, which are happy to bloom, under the sky-blue eyes of their Lord.
At the beginning of spring the lake has not yet the opulence that will turn it into a triumph the following months, it has not the luxurious pomp, which I would call sensual, of the many thousand rigid or supple roseries, in the form of tufts in gardens or veils against walls, of the many thousand corymbs of cytisi and acacias, of the thousands and thousands of groups of tuberoses, of the thousands and thousands of waxed stars of citrus trees, of all the blending of hues, of strong, soft, inebriating perfumes, which form the environment and spur of human great desire for enjoyment that desecrates this corner of the earth, which is so pure, and is the lake of Tiberias, the place chosen centuries ago to be the theatre of the greatest number of miracles worked by our Lord Jesus.
Johanna looks at Jesus absorbed in the beauty of His Galilean lake and her face smiles reflecting, like a faithful mirror, His smile. They are speaking in the other boat. There is silence here. The only noise is the thud of the bare feet of Peter and Andrew, who are manoeuvring the boat, and the sigh of the water opened by the prow and whispering its pain to the sides of the boat, and then changing into laughter at the stern, when the wound heals and becomes a silvery wake that the sun causes to sparkle as if it were diamond dust.
At last Jesus ends His contemplation and turns His eyes towards Johanna. He smiles at her and asks her: « We are almost there, are we not? And you will be saying that your Master is not a very pleasant companion. I have not spoken one word to you. »
« But I have read them on Your face, Master, and I heard everything You said to these things which are around us. »
« Well, then, what was I saying? »
« Love, be pure, be good. Because you come from God, and nothing bad or impure has come out of His hands. »
« You have read right. »
« But, my Lord, the herbs will do that... Also the animals will do it. Man... Why will he not, although he is the most perfect? »
« Because Satan's tooth has pierced man only. He pretended to demolish the Creator through His greatest prodigy, most like Him. »
Johanna lowers her head in thought. She seems to be hesitating and weighing two opposite desires. Jesus is watching her. She then raises her head and says: « Would You mind approaching some friends of mine, who are pagans? You know... Chuza is a courtier... And the Tetrarch – and even more so the true mistress of the Court: Herodias, to whose will every desire of Herod yields, as it is... fashionable, to show that they are more refined than any other Palestinian, to be protected by Rome by worshipping Rome and everything that is Roman – flirts with the Romans of the proconsular household... and almost imposes them on to us. Really I must say that the women are not worse than we are. Also amongst us, on these very shores, there are some women who have fallen very low. And what can we speak of, unless we speak of Herodias?... When I lost my child and I was ill, they were very good to me, although I did not seek them. And after, we have remained friends. But if You tell me that it is wrong, I will put an end to it... No? Thank You, my Lord. The day before yesterday I was with one of these friends. It was a friendly visit, as far as I was concerned, a duty call with regard to Chuza. It was an order of the Tetrarch who... would like to come back here but does not feel too safe and so... he enters into more interested relations with Rome, in order to be protected. Nay... please... You are a relative of the Baptist, are You not? Well, tell him not to be too trustful. He should never leave Samaria. On the contrary, if he does not mind, he should hide there for some time. The snake is going near the lamb and the lamb has a lot to be afraid of. Of everything. Let him be watchful, Master. But it must not be known that I said it. It would be the end of Chuza. »
« Do not worry, Johanna. I will inform the Baptist in such a way that no harm will be done. »
« Thank You, my Lord. I want to serve You... but by doing so, I would not like to harm my husband. Nay... I... will not always be able to come with You. Sometimes, I will have to stay, because he wants me to, and it is just...»
« You will stay, Johanna. I understand everything. Say no more, because it is not necessary. »
« But will You want me to be near You in the most dangerous hours for You? »
« Certainly, Johanna. »
« Oh! What a burden it was for me having to say that and actually giving voice to the words! But now I am relieved...»
« If you have faith in Me, you will always be relieved. But you were talking about a Roman lady friend...»
« Yes. She is a close friend of Claudia and I think she must be a relative of hers, too. And she would like to speak to You, or at least, listen to You. And she is not the only one. Now that You have cured Valeria's child, and the news travelled as quick as lightning, they are more anxious than ever. At the banquet the other evening, there was a lot of talking, in your favour and against You. Because some Herodians were present, as well as some Sadducees... although, if you asked them they would deny it... and there were also some women... rich... but... but not honest. There was... I regret telling You because I know that You are a friend of her brother... but there was Mary of Magdala with her new friend and another woman, a Greek, I think, as dissolute as she. You know... among heathens, women are at table with men and that is very... very... What a nuisance! My friend was so kind as to choose my husband as my companion and that was a great relief. But the others... oh!... Well... They were talking about You, because Faustina's miracle caused a stir and if the Romans admired You as a great doctor or magician – forgive me, my Lord – the Herodians and the Sadducees vomited venom on Your Name. And Mary! Oh Mary! How horrible!... She began sneering and then. No, I will not tell You. I wept all night over it...»
« Never mind. She will recover. »
« But she is all right, You know? »
« Her body is. All the rest is poisoned. She will recover. »
« You say so... The Roman women, You know what they are like... said: “We are not afraid of witchcraft, neither do we believe in lies. We want to judge by ourselves”; and after they said to me: “Could we not hear Him?” »
« Tell them that at the end of the month of Shebat I will be in your house. »
« I will tell them, my Lord. Do You think they will come to You? »
« There is a world to be rebuilt in them. First it is necessary to destroy, then to build. But it is not impossible. Johanna, there is your house and your garden. Work in it for your Master, as I told you. Goodbye, Johanna. The Lord be with you. I bless you in His name. »
The boat draws near to the shore. Johanna begs: « Are You really not coming? »
« Not now. I must revive the flames. In the absence of a few months, they have almost gone out. And time flies. »
The boat stops in the little bay which penetrates into Chuza's garden. Some servants rush to assist their mistress in getting off. Her boat arrives at the wharf after Peter's, and John, Matthew, the Iscariot and Philip come off it and get on board Peter's boat, which slowly departs and resumes its voyage to the opposite shore.