26th May 1945. The Sermon of the Mount continues.
The same place and the same time. The people, with the exception of the Roman, are the same. Perhaps the crowd is larger because many people are standing at the beginning of the paths leading to the little valley.
Jesus is speaking:
« One of the errors easily made by man is to have lack of honesty towards himself. And since man is rarely sincere and honest, he has made some provision for himself in order to be compelled to go along the way he wants. This curb, which, after all, as he is a fiery horse, he soon slackens or gives a pull, as he wishes, and thus changes his gait; or he removes it completely and does as he likes, without considering what reproach he may receive from God, from men and from his own conscience. That bit is the oath. But no oath is necessary amongst honest people and God never taught you it. On the contrary He commanded you: “You shall not bear false witness”, without any further addition. Because man ought to be frank without the need of anything except the loyalty of his word.
When in Deuteronomy mention is made of vows, also of the vows that are something which originated from a heart considered to be united to God, either through a feeling of need or a sentiment of gratitude, it is written: “Whatever passes your lips, you must keep to, and the vow that you have freely made with your own mouth to the Lord your God must be fulfilled.” Mention is always made of the word given, without anything else but the word. Who feels the need of taking an oath is neither sure of himself nor of the opinion his neighbour has of him. And who makes other people take an oath testifies thereby that he distrusts the frankness and honesty of the swearer. As you can see, the habit of taking an oath is one of the consequences of man's moral dishonesty. And it is a shame for man. It is a double shame because man is not even faithful to the shameful thing which an oath is and by deriding God as easily as he derides his neighbour, he swears falsely with the greatest ease and calmness.
Can there be a more contemptible man than a perjurer? A perjurer in fact convinces his neighbour to believe him, often by using a sacred formula, thus calling God to be his accomplice and to stand surety for him, or by invoking his dearest affections: his father, mother, wife, children, his dead relatives, his very life and most essential organs, to support his false statements. He thus deceives his neighbour. He is an impious person, a thief, a traitor, a murderer. Of whom? Of God, of course, because he contaminates the Truth with his disgraceful lies and jeers at Him, daring Him: “Strike me, give me the lie, if You can. You are there, I am here and I laugh at it.” Of course, you may laugh, liars and gibers! But the moment will come when you will not laugh and that will happen when He, to Whom all power is entrusted, will appear to you, dreadful in His majesty, and simply by His aspect will make you stand to attention and will strike you with the lightening of His eyes, before His voice hurls you to your eternal destiny branding you with His curse. He is a thief because he takes possession of a reputation which he does not deserve. His neighbour, impressed by his oath, grants it to him, and the serpent adorns himself with it, pretending to be what he is not. He is a traitor because by his oath he promises something which he does not want to keep. He is a murderer: he kills either the honour of his fellow man depriving him of his reputation through false witness or he kills his own soul because a perjurer is a vile sinner in the eyes of God, Who sees the truth, also when no one else sees it. God cannot be deceived, neither by means of false words, nor by means of hypocritical deeds. He sees. He does not lose sight of each man for a moment. And there is no fortified stronghold or deep cellar which His eyes cannot penetrate. Also within you, God penetrates the stronghold which every man has round his heart. And He judges you not according to what you swear, but to what you do.
I will therefore substitute another order for the one given to you, when the oath enjoyed great favour to put a restraint on lies and on the easiness of failure to keep a promise. I do not say as the ancients said: “Do not swear falsely, but keep your oath”, but I say to you: “Never swear.” Neither by Heaven which is the throne of God, nor by the earth which is the stool of His feet, nor for Jerusalem and her Temple which are the City of the Great King and the House of the Lord our God.
Do not swear either by the graves of the deceased or by their souls. Graves are full of the dross of the inferior part of man, which is common also to animals, and with regard to their souls, leave them in their dwellings. Do not cause them to suffer or to be struck with horror, if they are the souls of just people already in the foreknowledge of God. And although they are in such foreknowledge, which is partial knowledge, because they will not possess God in the fullness of His brightness until the moment of Redemption, they can but suffer seeing you sinners. And if they are not just, do not increase their torture by reminding them of their sin through yours. Leave the holy deceased in their peace and the unholy ones in their pains. Do not deprive the former of anything, do not add anything to the latter. Why appeal to the dead? They cannot speak. The saints because charity prevents them from speaking: they would have to give you the lie too many times. The damned because hell does not open its gates and the damned only open their mouths to curse, and their voices are suffocated by the hatred of Satan and of the demons, because the damned are like demons.
Do not swear by the head of your father or of your mother, or by the head of your wife or of your innocent children. You have no right to do so. Are they perhaps money or merchandise? Are they a signature on a document? They are more and they are less than such things. They are blood and flesh of your own blood, man, but they are also free creatures and you cannot use them as slaves to guarantee your false statements. And they are less than your own signature, because you are intelligent, free and grown up, you are not interdicted, neither are you a child who does not know what he is doing and must be represented by his parents. You are a man gifted with reason and consequently responsible for your actions and you must act by yourself, employing, as a guarantee for your own deeds and words, your own honesty and your own frankness, the reputation that you enjoy with your neighbour, not the honesty, the frankness of your relatives and the reputation they enjoy. Are fathers responsible for their children? Yes, they are, but only as long as they are under age. After, everybody is responsible for himself. Not always just children are born of just parents, nor is it so that a holy woman is married to a holy man. Why then use the justice of a relative as a guarantee? Likewise, holy children may be born of a sinner, and as long as they are innocent, they are holy. Why then appeal to a pure soul for an impure act of yours, such as an oath which you wish to swear falsely?
Do not swear by your own head, your eyes, your tongue, your hands. You have no right to. Everything you have belongs to God. You are only the temporary guardians, the bankers of the moral or material treasures which God granted you. Why then make use of what does not belong to you? Can you add one hair to your head or change its colour? And if you cannot do that, why do you use your sight, your word, the freedom of your limbs to corroborate your oath? Do not challenge God. He could take you at your word and dry your eyes as He can dry up your orchards, or take your children away from you, or crush your houses to remind you that He is the Lord and you His subjects, and that who idolizes himself and thinks he is above God, challenging Him with his falsehood, is cursed.
Let your speech be simply: yes, it is; no, it is not. Nothing else. Any addition is suggested by the Evil one, who later will laugh at you, because you cannot remember anything and you will contradict yourself and you will be jeered at and recognised as a liar.
Be sincere, My children, both in your words and in your prayers. Do not behave like the hypocrites, who, when praying, love to stand in synagogues or in the corners of squares where they may be seen by people and praised as just and pious men, whereas, within their families, they are guilty towards God and towards their neighbour. Do you not consider that that is like a form of perjury? Why do you want to maintain as true what is not true in order to win a reputation which you do not deserve? An hypocritical prayer aims at saying: “I am truly a saint. I swear it in the presence of those who see me and cannot deny they saw me praying.” Like a veil laid on existing wickedness, a prayer said for such purposes becomes blasphemy.
Let God proclaim you saints and live in such a way that your whole life may shout on your behalf: “Here is a servant of God.” But you must be silent for your own sake. Do not allow your tongue to be urged by pride and thus become an object of scandal in the angels' eyes. It would be better for you to become mute at once if you do not have the power to control pride and tongue, and you proclaim yourselves just and pleasing to God. leave that poor glory to proud and false people. Leave that fleeting reward to haughty and deceitful people! A poor reward! But that is what they want and they will not have any other, because you cannot have more than one. Either the true reward, the Heavenly one, which is eternal and just, or the sham one, the earthly one, which lasts as long as the life of man, and even less, and which is paid for, after this life, with a truly mortifying punishment, because it is an unjust reward.
Listen how you must pray with your lips and with your work and with your whole selves, urged by your hearts which do love God and feel He is your Father, but they always remember who the Creator is and what the creature is, and in the presence of God they are always full of reverential love, whether you are praying or are busy, whether you are walking or resting, earning or helping.
I said urged by your hearts. It is the first and essential feature. Because everything comes from your hearts and your minds: your words, your eyes, your deeds are like your hearts. A just man draws good from his just heart and the more he draws the more he finds, because the good done creates more good, like blood that is renewed circulating in the veins and flows back to the heart enriched with new elements taken from the oxygen, which it had absorbed or from the food juices, which it had assimilated. Whereas a wicked man can draw but fraud and poison from his gloomy heart full of fraud and poison, which grow more and more because they are corroborated by accumulating sins, while the blessings of God accumulate in a good man. You may be sure that it is the exuberance of the heart that overflows from lips and reveals itself in deeds.
Make your hearts humble, pure, loving, trustful and sincere and love God with the chaste love of a virgin for her bridegroom. I solemnly tell you that each soul is a virgin married to the Eternal Lover, to God Our Lord; this world is the time of engagement during which the guardian angel of every man is the spiritual paranymph, and all the hours and contingencies of life are as many maids preparing the nuptial trousseau. The hour of death is the hour for the accomplished wedding when the introduction, embrace and union take place and the soul can raise the veil of the bridal dress and throw itself into the arms of God and the Spouse will not cause scandal by loving so.
But for the time being, o souls still victimised in the bonds of the engagement to God, when you wish to speak to the Spouse, withdraw to the peace of your abode, above all to the peace of your inner abodes and, angels of flesh helped by your guardian angels, speak to the King of angels. Speak to your Father in the secrecy of your hearts and of your inner rooms. Leave outside everything that belongs to the world: eagerness to be noted and to edify, and the scruples of long prayers full of words, of monotonous, tepid words lacking love.
For God's sake, get rid of standards in your prayers. There are really some people who waste many hours reciting a monologue only with their lips and which is a real soliloquy because not even the guardian angels listen to it; it is such a vain noise that they become absorbed in fervent prayer for the silly men guarded by them, in an effort to find a remedy. There are in fact some men who would not spend those hours in a different way, not even if God appeared to them saying: “The salvation of the world depends on your leaving such soulless manner of speech and going, shall we say, just to draw water from a well and pour it on to the ground for My sake and the sake of your fellow men.” There are indeed many who believe that their monologue is more important that the kindness in receiving a visitor or the charity in helping a person in need. They are souls which have fallen into the idolatry of prayer.
Prayer is an act of love. And one can love praying or baking bread, meditating or assisting a sick person, making a pilgrimage to the Temple or looking after the family, sacrificing a lamb or sacrificing one's desires, even the honest desire to concentrate on the Lord. It is sufficient for you to have your whole selves and all your actions impregnated with love. Be not afraid! The Father sees, understands, listens, grants. How many graces are granted for one single, true perfect sigh of love! How much wealth for an intimate sacrifice made with love. Do not be like the Gentiles. God does not need to be told what He has to do for your needs. The pagans may tell their idols, which cannot understand. But you cannot tell God, the True Spiritual God, Who is not only God and King, but also your Father and knows what you need, even before you ask Him.
Ask and it will be given to you, look and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. Because whoever asks, will receive, whoever looks, will find and it will be opened to whomsoever knocks. When your child stretches his little hand towards you saying: “Father, I am hungry” do you perhaps give him a stone? Will you give him a snake if he asks for a fish? No, you will give him bread and fish, and caresses and blessings over and above, because it is pleasant for a father to nourish his son and see his happy smiles. If therefore you, whose hearts are imperfect, are capable of giving gifts to your children, out of a natural love that is common also to animals for their offspring, how much more will your Father, Who is in Heaven, grant to those who ask Him for the good and necessary things for their welfare. Do not be afraid to ask and do not be afraid not to receive!
However, I wish to warn you against an easy error: do not behave like those who are weak in their faith and in their love. Also amongst believers there are pagans whose poor religion is a mixture of superstition and faith, a building tampered with, into which all kinds of parasitic herbs have penetrated, so much so that it falls to pieces, and they, weak and pagans as they are, feel their faith is dying if they are not heard.
You ask. And you think it is fair to ask. And for that particular moment a certain grace may be right. But life does not end at that moment. And what is good today may not be good tomorrow. You do not know that, because you know only the present, and that is a grace of God, too. But God knows also the future. And God to save you a greater pain does not hear your prayers.
During My year of public life more than once I heard hearts moaning: “How much I suffered then, when God did not hear me. But now I say: 'It was better thus, because that grace would have prevented me from reaching this hour of God'.” I heard others say to Me: “Why, Lord, do You not hear me? You grant it to everybody but not to me?” And yet, although I was sorry to see them suffer, I had to say: “I cannot”, because to hear them would have meant hindering their flight to a perfect life.
Also the Father sometimes says: “I cannot.” Not because He cannot satisfy the request immediately, but because He does not want to satisfy it in view of future consequences. Listen. A child is suffering from intestinal trouble. His mother calls a doctor and the doctor says: “He must fast to be cured.” The mother, always pitiful, joins her moaning to her son's. She thinks that the doctor's order is severe and hard. She feels that such fasting and crying may be detrimental to her son. But the doctor is inflexible. At last he says: “Woman, I know, you don't. Do you want to lose your son or do you want me to save him?” The mother shouts: “I want him to live.” “In that case” says the doctor “I cannot let him have any food. It would kill him.” Also the Father sometimes says so. You, pitiful mothers of your own ego, do not want to hear it weep because some grace has been denied. But God says: “I cannot. It would do you harm.” The day will come, or eternity will come, when you will say: “Thank You, my God, for not listening to my foolishness!”
What I said with regard to prayers, I say with regard to fasting. When you fast, do not look sad, as hypocrites do, who on purpose disfigure their faces that the world may know and believe that they are fasting, even if it is not true. They also have received their reward with the praise of the world, and will not receive another one. Instead, when you fast, look happy, wash your faces thoroughly so that they may look fresh and smooth, put oil on your heads and scents on your hair and smile like one who has been well fed. Oh! Truly there is no food that nourishes as much as love does! And who fasts with a loving spirit, feeds on love! I solemnly tell you that even if the world calls you “vain” and “publicans”, the Father will see your heroic secret and will give you a double reward. One for your fasting and the other for the sacrifice of not being praised for it.
And now go and feed your bodies, since your souls have been nourished. Those two poor people may stay here with us. They will be blessed guests who will give flavour to our bread. Peace be with you. »
And the two poor people stay. One is a very lean woman, the other a very old man. They are not together. Chance had joined them, as they were standing dejected in a corner, stretching out in vain their hands towards those who passed in front of them.
Jesus goes straight towards them since they dare not come forward and takes them by the hand leading them to the middle of the group of the apostles, under a kind of tent that Peter has put up in a corner and under which they perhaps take shelter at night and they gather during the hot hours of the day. It is a shed formed by branches and... mantles. But it serves its purpose, although it is so low that Jesus and the Iscariot, the tallest of the lot, have to bend to enter.
« Here a father and a sister. Bring what we have. While taking our food we will hear their story. » And Jesus personally serves the two shy old souls and listens to their sorrowful stories. The old man is alone, after his daughter went far away with her husband and forgot her father. The woman is also alone, after a fever killed her husband and, in addition, she is ill.
« The world despises us because we are poor » says the old man. « I wander about begging for alms to scrape together some money to celebrate Passover. I am eighty years old. I have always kept Passover and this may be the last time. But I do not want to go to Abraham's bosom with any regret. As I forgive my daughter, so I hope to be forgiven. And I want to keep my Passover. »
« It is a long way, father. »
« The way to Heaven is even longer, if one is not present at the rite. »
« Are you going by yourself? And if you feel ill on the way? »
« The angel of God will close my eyes. »
Jesus caresses his white trembling head and asks the woman: « And what about you? »
« I am looking for work. If I were better fed I would get rid of my fever. And if I were cured I could work at the corn. »
« Do you think that food alone could cure you? »
« No, You could, too. But I am a poor thing, too poor to ask You for mercy. »
« And if I cured you, what would you like afterwards? »
« Nothing else. I would already have had more than I could hope for. »
Jesus smiles and hands her a piece of bread dipped into some water and vinegar, which I think is their drink. The woman eats it without speaking and Jesus continues smiling.
The meal is over. It was so frugal! The apostles and disciples look for a shady place along the slopes and among the thickets. Jesus remains under the tent. The old man is lying on the grass and tired as he was, has fallen asleep.
After a short time the woman, who had gone away looking for some shade where to rest, comes towards Jesus Who smiles at her to cheer her up. She comes forward looking shy, but happy, almost as far as the tent. She is then overcome by joy, she walks with a vigorous stride and falling flat on her face with a choked cry exclaims: « You have cured me! May You be blessed! At this time I used to shiver with fever, but I am not now... Oh! » and she kisses Jesus' feet.
« Are you sure that you have been cured? I did not tell you. It might be by chance...»
« Oh! no! Now I understand Your smile when You handed me the bread. Your virtue entered me with that morsel. I have nothing to give You in exchange, except my heart. Order Your maid, Lord, and she will obey You until she dies. »
« Yes. See that old man? He is all alone and he is just. You had a husband and death took him away. He had a daughter and selfishness took her away. And that is worse. And yet he does not curse. But it is not fair that he should go about alone in his last hours. Be a daughter to him. »
« Yes, my Lord. »
« Mind you, it means working for two. »
« I am strong now, and I will do it. »
« Go up there, then, to that cliff and tell the man who is resting there, the one wearing a grey tunic, to come to Me. »
The woman goes away quickly and comes back with Simon Zealot.
« Come, Simon, I want to speak to you. Woman, wait here. »
Jesus walks away for a few yards.
« Do you think that Lazarus would find it difficult to take on another worker? »
« Lazarus? I do not think that he even knows how many servants he has! One more, one less!... But who is it? »
« That woman. I cured her and...»
« That is enough, Master. If You cured her it means that You love her. What You love is sacred to Lazarus. I commit myself for him. »
« That is true. What I love is sacred to Lazarus. You are right. And that is why Lazarus will become a saint, because by loving what I love he will love perfection. I want to join that old man to that woman and let that patriarch keep his last Passover in great joy. I am very fond of old holy people and I am happy if I can given them a serene sunset. »
« You love also children...»
« Yes, and sick people...»
« And those who weep...»
« And those who are alone...»
« Oh! My Master! Don't You realise that you are fond of everybody? Also of Your enemies? »
« I do not realise it, Simon. To love is My nature. There... the patriarch is waking up. Let us go and tell him that he will be keeping Passover with a daughter beside him, and without any more need for bread. »
They do back to the tent where the old woman is waiting for them and the three of them go towards the old man who has sat up and is tying his sandals.
« What are you going to do, father? »
« I am going down to the valley. I hope to find some shelter for the night and tomorrow I will beg on the road and then down, down, in a month's time, if I am not dead, I will be in the Temple. »
« No. »
« Must I not?... Why! »
« Because God does not want it. You will not go alone. This woman will come with you. She will take you where I tell her and you will be made welcome for My sake. You will keep your Passover, but without any trouble. You have already carried your cross, father. Put it down now. All you have to do is to concentrate in prayer thanking the good Lord. »
« But why... why... I... I do not deserve so much... You... a daughter... It is more than if You gave me twenty years... And where, where are You sending me?...» The old man is weeping into his long beard.
« I am sending you to Lazarus of Theophilus. I do not know whether you know him. »
« Oh!... I come from the border of Syria and I remember Theophilus. But... Oh! Blessed Son of God, allow me to bless You! »
And Jesus, sitting on the grass, in front of the old man, does bend His head to let him impose solemnly his hands on it, thundering out in a very deep voice the old blessing: « May the Lord bless You and keep You. May the Lord let His face shine on You and be gracious to You. May the Lord uncover His face to You and bring You to peace. »
Jesus, Simon and the woman reply together: « Amen. »