7th June 1945.
We are in Peter's kitchen once again. The meal must have been a hearty one because dishes with leavings of meat, fish, cheese, dried fruit and honey cakes are being piled up on a kind of cupboard, which reminds me of our Tuscan kneading troughs. Pitchers and chalices are still on the table.
Peter's wife must have worked miracles to satisfy her husband,and she must have worked all day. Now, tired but happy, she is in her little corner listening to what her husband and the others are saying. She watches her Simon, who, as far as she is concerned, must be a great man, even if he is somewhat exacting, and when she hears him speak new words, where before he could only talk of boats, nets, fish and money, she begins to blink as if she were dazzled by a bright light. Peter, both because of his joy in having Jesus at his table and because of the hearty meal he has had, is in the best of spirits this evening, and the future Peter, preaching to the crowds, is disclosed.
I do not know which remark of a companion originated the clear-cut reply of Peter who says: « It will happen to them what happened to the founders of the Tower of Babel. Their own pride will provoke the collapse of their theories and they will be crushed. »
Andrew objects to his brother: « But God is Mercy. He will prevent the collapse to give them time to mend their ways. »
« Do not believe that. They will crown their pride with false accusations and persecutions. Oh! I can already see it. They will persecute us to disperse us as unpleasant witnesses. And since they attack the Truth by laying snares for it, God will take revenge and they will perish. »
« Will we have the strength to resist? » asks Thomas.
« Well... as for me, I would not have it. But I put my trust in Him » and Peter nods to the Master Who is listening and is silent, His head slightly inclined, as if He wished to hide His understanding countenance.
« I think that God will not put us to tests beyond our strength » says Matthew.
Or He will at least increase our strength in proportion to the tests » concludes James of Alphaeus.
« He is already doing that. I was rich and powerful. If God had not decided to preserve me for a purpose of His, I would have surrendered myself to despair and perished when I was persecuted and an outcast. I would have acted harshly against myself... Instead a new wealth, which I had never possessed before, descended upon my desolation: the wealth of a conviction: “God exists.” First... God... Yes, I believed, I was a faithful Israelite. But mine was a faith of formalism. And I thought that the reward of my faith was always inferior to my virtue. I took the liberty of debating with God because I felt that I was still something on the earth. Simon Peter is right. I, too, was building a tower of Babel by praising myself and satisfying my ego. When everything collapsed around me and I was like a worm crushed by the weight of all this human futility, then I no longer debated with God, but with myself, with my stupid self and I ended up by demolishing it.
And as I did so, making room for what I think is the God immanent in our earthly beings, I gained a new strength and wealth: the certainty that I was not alone and that God was watching over man defeated by men and by evil. »
« According to you, what is God, “the God immanent in our earthly beings” as you said? What do you mean? I do not understand you and I think it is a heresy. God is the One we know through the Law and the Prophets. There is no other God » says rather sternly Judas of Kerioth.
« If John was here he would tell you better than I can. But I will tell you as best I can. God is the One we know through the Law and the Prophets. That is true. But in what do we know Him? And how? »
Judas of Alphaeus exclaims: « Little and badly. The Prophets, who described Him for us, knew Him. The idea we have is a muddled one, as we can just see through a mound of explanations piled up by sects...»
« Sects? What do you mean? We have no sects. We are the children of the Law. We all are » the angry aggressive Iscariot says.
« The children of the laws. Not of the Law. There is a slight difference. Plural, not singular. In actual fact, we are the children of what we created, no longer of what God gave us » retorts Thaddeus.
« The laws derive from the Law » says the Iscariot.
Also diseases originate in our bodies, but that does not mean that they are good » replies Thaddeus.
« But let me hear what this immanent God of Simon Zealot is. » The Iscariot, who cannot argue against the remark of Judas of Alphaeus, endeavours to take the discussion back to where it started.
Simon Zealot says: « Our senses need a term to catch an idea. Each of us, I am referring to us believers, believes, by the virtue of faith, in the Most High Lord and Creator, Eternal God, Who is in Heaven. But every being needs more than such bare, pure, incorporeal faith, which is fit and sufficient for the angels who see and love God spiritually, as they share with Him a spiritual nature and can see God. We have to create a “picture” of God for ourselves, which picture is made with the essential features that we ascribe to God, to give a name to His infinite absolute perfection. The more a soul concentrates, the more it succeeds in achieving an exact knowledge of God. That is what I say: the immanent God. I am not a philosopher. Perhaps I have applied the word wrongly. In short, I think that the immanent God is to feel, to perceive God in our spirits, to feel and perceive Him no longer as an abstract idea, but as a real presence, bestowing strength and a new peace upon us. »
« All right. But, to sum up, how did you feel Him? What is the difference between feeling by faith and feeling by immanence? » asks the Iscariot somewhat ironically.
« God is safety, boy. When you perceive Him, as Simon says, by means of that word, which I do not understand literally, but I understand its spirit – and believe me, the trouble is that we understand only literally and we do not understand the spirit of God's words – it means that you are able to grasp the idea of the terrible majesty, but also of the most sweet paternity of God. It means that, should all the world judge and condemn you unjustly, you would feel that One only, He, the Eternal One, Who is your Father, does not judge you, but absolves and comforts you. It means that if all the world should hate you, you would feel over you a love greater than any this world can offer. It means that if you were isolated in jail or in a desert you would always hear One speak to you and say: “Be holy, that you may be like your Father.” It means that for the true love for this Father and God, Whom at last you perceive as such, you accept, work, take and leave without any human consideration, as you are concerned only to return love for love and to copy God as much as possible in your actions » says Peter.
« You are proud! To copy God! You are not entitled to » declares the Iscariot.
« It is not pride. Love leads to obedience. To copy God seems to me a form of obedience because God said that He made us in His own image and likeness » replies Peter.
« He made us. We must not go higher up. »
« You are a poor wretch, my boy, if that is what you think! You are forgetting that we fell and that God wants to take us back to what we were. »
Jesus begins to speak: « Even more, Peter, Judas and you all. Even more than that. Adam's perfection was still susceptible of improvement through love, which would have made him a more precise image of his Creator. Adam without the stain of sin would have been a most shining mirror of God. That is why I say: “Be perfect as your Father Who is in Heaven is perfect.” Like your Father. Therefore like God. Peter is quite right. And so is Simon. I ask you to remember their words and apply them to your souls. »
Peter's wife almost faints from joy on hearing her husband being praised thus. She weeps behind her veil: she is quiet but happy.
Peter blushes so much that he seems to be having a stroke of apoplexy. He remains dumb for a few moments, then says: « Well, then, give me my reward. The parable of this morning...»
Also the others join Peter saying: « Yes, You promised. Parables serve very well to make people understand the comparison. But we know that they have a higher meaning than the comparison. Why do You speak to them in parables? »
« Because they are not to understand more than I explain. You are granted much more, because as My disciples, you must be acquainted with the mystery; and you are therefore given to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why I say to you: “Ask Me if you do not understand the spirit of the parable.” You give everything and everything is given to you, so that you, in your turn, may give everything. You are giving everything to God: love, time, interests, freedom, lives. And God gives you everything to reward you and to enable you to give everything in the name of God to those who come after you. Thus, to him who has given will be given abundantly. But he who gave only partly or did not give at all, will be deprived also of what he has.
I speak to them in parables, so that, while seeing, they may see only what is illuminated by their will to adhere to God, and while listening, always through the same will of adherence, they may hear and understand. See! Many hear My word, few adhere to God. Their spirits lack good will. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them: “You will hear with your ears and will not understand, you will look with your eyes and will not see.” Because this people is hardhearted; their ears are hard and their eyes are closed, so that they may not see and hear, that they may not understand with their hearts and convert, that I may cure them. But you are blessed because your eyes see and your ears hear, and because of your good will! I solemnly tell you that many Prophets and many just people were anxious to see what you see and they did not see it, and to hear what you hear and they did not hear it. They pined away with the desire to understand the mystery of the words, but as soon as the light of the prophecy went out, the words remained like burnt out coals, also for the holy man who had received them.
Only God reveals Himself. When His light fades out, as soon as the purpose of illuminating the mystery comes to its end, the inability to understand envelops the regal truth of the word received, like the bandages of a mummy. That is why I said to you this morning: “The day will come when you will find everything I have given you.” Now you cannot remember. But later light will come upon you, not just for a moment, but for an inseparable union of the Eternal Spirit with yours, whereby your teaching concerning what pertains to the Kingdom of God will be infallible. And what applies to you, will apply also to your successors, if they live of God as of one bread only.
Now listen to the spirit of the parable.
We have four kinds of fields: the fertile ones, the thorny ones, the stony ones and the ones full of paths. We also have four types of spirits.
There are the honest spirits, the spirits of good will, prepared by their own will and by the work of an apostle, of a “true” apostle; because there are apostles who have the name but not the spirit of an apostle and they are more lethal for the will in formation, than birds, thorns and stones. They upset in such a way, through their intolerance, their haste, their reproaches and their threats, as to drive people away from God forever. There are others who, on the contrary, through an excess of benignity, utterly out of place, cause the seed to rot in too soft a soil. Because of their lack of vigour, they kill the vigour of the souls they cure. But let us consider the true apostles, that is, the shining mirrors of God. They are paternal, merciful, patient, and at the same time they are strong, as their Lord is strong. Now: the souls prepared by them and by their own will can be compared to the fertile fields, free from stones and brambles, from couch-grass and darnel, in which the word of God thrives and every word, that is every seed, bears a bundle of ears, yielding in some places one hundred, in others sixty, thirty per cent. Are there any like that among those who follow Me? There certainly are. And they will be holy. They come from all castes and countries. And there are Gentiles among them and they will yield one hundred per cent because of their good will, only because of that, or because of their good will and that of an apostle or disciple who prepares them for Me.
The thorny fields are those in which thorny tangles of personal interests, which suffocate the good seed, have been allowed to grow by carelessness. You must watch yourselves all the time. Never say: “Oh! I am well formed, I have been sown, I can rest assured that I will bear seeds of eternal life.” Watch yourselves; the struggle between Good and Evil is still on. Have you ever watched a colony of ants that install themselves in a house? There they are, near the fireplace. The housewife takes all foodstuff away from there and puts it on the table. They sniff the air and attack the table. The housewife puts the food in a cupboard and they get into the cupboard through the keyhole. The woman hangs her food supply from the ceiling, and they go a long way along walls and beams, down the rope and reach the food. The woman burns them, scalds them, poisons them. And thinking that she has destroyed them she is happy. But if she does not watch, what a surprise she gets! The new hatched ones come out and she has to start all over again. And that is what happens while you live; you must be careful and uproot the evil weeds as soon as they come up. Otherwise they will form a ceiling of brambles which suffocate the corn. Worldly cares, deceiving wealth form the tangle, suffocate the seed of God and prevent it from coming into ears.
And here are the fields full of stones. How many there are in Israel! They are the ones that belong to the “children of the laws” as My cousin Judas quite rightly said. In them there is not the one Stone of Witness, nor the Stone of the Law. There is the quarry of poor petty human laws made by men. They are so many that with their weight they have broken also the Stone of the Law into chips. A disaster which does not allow the seed to take root. The root is no longer nourished because there is neither soil nor sap. The water stagnating on the stone pavement causes the seed to rot, the sun makes the stones hot and parches the little plants. Such are the spirits of those who put complicated human doctrines in place of the simple doctrine of God. They even receive My word with joy. At first it shakes and allures them. But later... They would need to be heroes and work hard to clean the field, their souls and minds of all rhetorical stones. The seed would then take root and bear long spikes. As it is... it bears nothing. The fear of human retaliation is enough. It is enough to say: “And after? What will the mighty ones do to me?” and the poor seed languishes without nourishment. It is enough for the whole quarry to stir with the vain sound of the hundreds of precepts, which have been put in place of the Precept, that man perishes with the seed received... Israel is full of them. That explains why the coming to God is in inverse ratio to human power.
The last are the dusty barren fields full of roads. Those of worldly selfish people. Their comfort is their law, enjoyment their aim. Their ambitions: to do no work, to slumber, to enjoy themselves, to feast... The spirit of the world is their king. The dust of worldliness covers the soil which becomes mouldy. Birds, that is dissipation, rush on to the thousand paths which have been built to make life easier. The spirit of the world, that is, of the Evil one, picks up and destroys all the seed that falls on this soil open to all sensuality and laxity...
Have you understood? Have you any questions to ask? No? In that case we can go and rest and tomorrow we will leave for Capernaum. There is one place to which I must go before starting on My journey to Jerusalem for Passover. »
« Shall we go through Arimathea again? » asks the Iscariot.
« I am not sure. It depends on...»
There is a loud knocking at the door.
« Who can it be at this time? » asks Peter getting up to open the door.
John comes in. He is most upset, covered in dust, and he has obviously been weeping.
« You are here! » they all shout. « What's the matter? »
Jesus, Who has stood up, says only: « Where is My Mother? »
And John, coming forward and kneeling at the feet of the Master, holding his arms as if he were asking for help, says: « Your Mother is well, but She is weeping as I am, as many others are, and She begs You not to come following the Jordan on our side. That is why She sent me back, because Your cousin John has been captured...» And John weeps while everybody is bewildered.
Jesus turns very pale but does not become excited. He says only: « Stand up and tell us. »
« I was going down with Your Mother and the other women. Isaac and Timoneus were also with us. We were three women and three men. I was carrying out Your instruction to take Mary to John... Ah! You knew it was their last farewell!... It was to be their last farewell... Because of the storm of a few days ago, we had to stop for a little while. But it was enough to make it impossible for John to see Mary... We arrived at noon and he was captured at daybreak...»
« Where? How? By whom? In his cave? » they all ask, they all want to know.
« He was betrayed!... They used Your name to betray him! »
« How horrible! Who did that? » they all shout.
And John shuddering, whispering in a low voice what not even the air should hear, states: « It was one of his disciples...»
The confusion is at its highest pitch. Some curse, some weep, some are petrified with astonishment.
John throws his arms round Jesus' neck and shouts: « I am afraid for You!... for You! The saints have their traitors who sell themselves for gold and for fear of the mighty ones, yearning for reward, obeying Satan. For thousands of things! Oh! Jesus! Jesus! How dreadful! My first master! My John who gave me to You! »
« It is all right! Do not worry! Nothing will happen to Me for the time being. »
« But later? What will happen later? I look at myself, at these... I am afraid of everybody, also of myself. Will one of us be Your traitor?....
« Are you mad? And do you think that we would not tear him to pieces? » shouts Peter.
And the Iscariot: « Oh! You really are mad! It will never be I! But if I should feel so weak as to eventually become so, I would kill myself. Better than be the murderer of God. »
Jesus frees Himself from John's grip, shakes Judas violently saying: « Do not swear! Nothing can make you weak, unless you want! And if that should happen, make sure you weep for it, and do not commit another crime in addition to deicide. He becomes weak, who cuts off his vital link with God. » He then returns to John, who is weeping with his head on the table and he says: « Speak calmly. It grieves Me, too. He was of My blood and was My Precursor. »
« I only saw some of the disciples, who were dismayed and furious with the traitor. The others accompanied John towards his prison to be near him at his death. »
« But he is not dead yet... the last time he managed to escape. » says the Zealot endeavouring to comfort John of whom he is very fond.
« He is not dead yet. But he will die » replies John.
« Yes, he will die. He knows as well as I do. Nothing and no one will save him this time. When? I do not know. I know that he will not come out of Herod's hand alive. »
« Yes, Herod. Listen. John went to the mountain gorge, between Mount Ebal and Gerizim, where we also passed coming back to Galilee, because the traitor said to him: “The Messiah is dying after being attacked by His enemies. He wants to see you to entrust a secret to you.” And he went with the traitor and some other people. Herod's armed men were in the shade of the valley and they captured him. The others ran away and gave the news to the disciples who had remained near Hennon. They had just come when I arrived with Your Mother. And the dreadful thing is that he was one from our towns... and that the Pharisees of Capernaum are the leaders of the plot to catch him. They went to John saying that You had been their guest and that You were leaving from there to go to Judaea... he would not have left his refuge but for You...»
Dead silence follows John's report. Jesus looks bloodless, His deep blue eyes are dimmed. He is standing with his head bowed, His hand still on John's shoulder, and His hand is trembling lightly. No one dare speak. Jesus breaks the silence: We shall go to Judaea following a different route. But I must go to Capernaum tomorrow. As early as possible. Rest now. I am going up to the olive-grove. I need to be alone. » And He goes out without saying anything else.
« He is certainly going to weep » whispers James of Alphaeus. « Let us follow Him, brother » says Judas Thaddeus.
« No. Let Him weep. But let us go out quietly and keep watch. I fear tricks everywhere » replies the Zealot.
« Yes, let us go. We fishermen to the shore. If anybody comes from the lake we will see him. You go to the olive-grove. He is certainly in the usual place, near the walnut-tree. At dawn we will have the boats ready to go away early. Those snakes! Ehi! I did tell you! Tell me, boy? But... is His Mother really safe? »
« Oh! Yes! Also the shepherd disciples of John have gone with Her. Andrew... we will never see our John again! »
« Be quiet! It sounds like the song of the cuckoo... One precedes the other and... and...»
« By the Holy Ark! Be quiet! If you go on talking about misfortunes to the Master, I will start from you, letting your backs feel the weight of my oar! » shouts an enraged Peter. « You...» he then says to those who are to go to the olive-grove: « Get some clubs, some big branches, you will find some in the wood-shed... and spread out, armed with them. The first one to come near Jesus to harm Him, kill him. »
« The disciples! We must be careful with the new ones! » exclaims Philip.
The new disciple feels hurt and asks: « Are you in doubt about me? He chose me and wanted me. »
« Not about you. I mean the scribes and Pharisees and their worshippers. That is where the trouble will come from, believe me. »
They go out, some towards the boats, some towards the olive-trees on the hills, and it all ends.