8th June 1945.
A clear dawn causes the lake to sparkle like pearls and envelops the hills in a mist as light as a muslin veil, through which olive and walnut-trees, houses and the background of villages look prettier than usual. Boats are sailing smoothly and quietly towards Capernaum. All of a sudden Peter turns the tiller of the rudder, so abruptly that the boat heels to one side.
« What are you doing? » asks Andrew.
« There is the boat of an owl (1). It is leaving Capernaum now. My eyes are good and since yesterday evening I have the scent of a hound. I do not want them to see us. I am going back to the river. We will go on foot. »
(1) The owl is considered the bird of evil-omen.
Also the other boat has followed the manouevre, but James, who is holding the rudder, asks Peter: « Why are you doing that? »
« I will tell you later. Follow me. »
Jesus, Who is sitting astern, rouses when they are almost off the Jordan. « What are you doing, Simon? » He asks.
« We are getting off here. There is a jackal about. It is not possible to go to Capernaum today. I want to go and find out what is happening first. I will go with Simon and Nathanael. Three worthy people against three unworthy ones... if the unworthy ones are not more. »
« You must not see traps everywhere, now! Is that not the boat of Simon the Pharisee? »
« It is just that one. »
« He was not present at John's arrest. »
« I don't know. »
« He has always shown respect to Me. »
« I don't know. »
« You make Me appear a coward. »
« I don't know. »
Although Jesus does not feel like laughing, He cannot help smiling at Peter's holy obstinacy. « But, after all, we must go to Capernaum. If not today, later...»
« I told You that I am going first, to see... and if necessary... I will also go... it will be a bitter pill to swallow... but I will do it for Your sake... I will go... to the centurion and ask his protection...»
« No! It is not necessary! »
The boat grounds on the little desert shore opposite Bethsaida. They all go ashore.
« You two come with me. You too, Philip. You younger ones, stay here. We will not be long. »
Elias, the new disciple, begs Jesus: « Come to my house, Master. I will be so happy to give You hospitality...»
« Yes, I will come. Simon: you will meet Me at Elias' house. Goodbye, Simon. Go. But be good, wise and merciful. Come here that I may kiss you and bless you. »
Peter does not guarantee that he will be good, patient and merciful. He is silent and kisses Jesus while being kissed by Him. Also the Zealot, Bartholomew and Philip kiss Jesus goodbye and the two parties go in opposite directions.
They enter Korazim when it is broad daylight. All the stems twinkle with dewy gems. Birds are singing everywhere. The air is pure and cool, it seems to savour of milk, of a vegetable milk rather than animal milk. The scent of the corn coming into ears, of the almond-groves laden with fruit... is the scent I could smell in cool mornings in the rich fields in the Po Valley.
They soon reach Elias' house. Many people in Korazim already know that the Master has arrived, and while Jesus is about to enter the house, a mother rushes towards Him shouting: « Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on my daughter! » She is carrying in her arms a little girl, about ten years old, who is very thin and waxen, or yellowish rather than waxen.
« What is the matter with your daughter? »
« She is feverish. She caught a disease at the pastures along the Jordan. Because we are the shepherds of a rich man. Her father sent for me when she was taken ill. He has gone back to the mountains. But You know that with this kind of disease one cannot stay up in high places. But how can I stay here? Our master has allowed me so far. But I look after the wool and the litters. This is the busy season for shepherds. If I stay here we will be dismissed or separated. And if I go back to the Hermon I will see my daughter die. »
« Do you believe that I can cure her? »
« I have spoken to Daniel, Elisha's shepherd. He said to me: “Our Child cures all diseases. Go to the Messiah.” I have come from beyond Merom carrying her in my arms and looking for You. I was going to walk until I found You...»
« You need walk no farther, but go home, to your peaceful work. Your daughter is cured because that is what I want. Go in peace. »
The woman looks at her daughter and at Jesus. She is perhaps hoping to see her daughter become fat and rosy all at once. Also the girl stares at Jesus with her tired eyes wide open and smiles.
« Do not be afraid, woman. I am not deceiving you. Her fever has gone forever. Day by day she will become a healthy girl. Let her go. She will no longer stagger neither will she feel tired. »
The mother puts the child down and she stands upright. She becomes more and more cheerful and at last she trills in her silvery voice: « Bless the Lord, mother! I am cured! I can feel it » and with the naivety of a little shepherd girl, she throws her arms round Jesus' neck and kisses Him. Her mother, reserved as her age demands, prostrates herself and kisses His tunic blessing the Lord.
« Go. Remember the gift of God and be good. Peace be with you. »
The crowds gather in Elias' little kitchen garden requesting Jesus to speak to them. And although He is not inclined to do so, sad as He is because of the Baptist's capture and the way it happened, He yields and begins to speak in the shade of the trees.
« As we are still in the lovely season when the corn bursts into ears, I wish to tell you a parable taken from the corn. Listen.
The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while the man and his servants were asleep, his enemy came and sowed darnel seeds among the wheat and went away. At first no one noticed anything. Winter came with rain and frost, the end of the month of Tebeth came and the corn sprouted. The tiny little green leaves which had just come up, looked all alike in their innocent early days. The months of Shebat and Adar came and the plants grew and the spikes seeded. They then saw that it was not all wheat, and that there was also darnel, twisted with its thin strong bearbines round the corn stalks.
The servants of the master went to his house and said: “Lord, what seed did you sow? Was it not selected seed, free from every other seed?”
“It was certainly so. I picked all the grains and they were all of the same quality. I would have noticed any other seed.”
“If so, why has so much darnel grown among your corn?”
The landlord became pensive and said: “Some enemy has done that to harm me.”
The servants then asked: “Do you want us to go into the field and free the corn from the darnel, weeding it out patiently? Tell us and we will do it.”
But the master said: “No. Because you might weed out also the corn and almost certainly you would damage the ears which are still tender. Let them both grow till the harvest. Then I will say to the reapers: 'Cut everything together, but before tying the sheaves, since the bearbines of the darnel are withered and friable, whereas the closed ears are stronger and harder, pick the darnel from the wheat and tie it into separate bundles. You will burn them and they will fertilize the soil. Take instead the good corn into the granaries and it will be used to bake good bread, to the great shame of my enemy who will have gained only to become despicable to God because of his envious malice'.”
Consider now how often and how plentifully the Enemy sows in your hearts. And you must understand that it is necessary to watch patiently and constantly to ensure that little darnel is mixed with the chosen wheat. The fate of the darnel is to be burnt. Do you wish to be burnt or to become citizens of the Kingdom? You say that you want to become citizens of the Kingdom. Well, endeavour to be so. The good God gives you the Word. The enemy is vigilant to make it harmful, because the flour of wheat if mixed with the flour of darnel makes a bitter bread, which is harmful to the stomach. If there is darnel in your souls, pick it with good will and throw it away, so that you may not be unworthy of God. Go, My children. Peace be with you. »
The crowds slowly disperse. The eight apostles, Elias, his brother and mother, old Isaac, whose soul rejoices seeing his Saviour, stay in the kitchen garden.
« Gather round Me and listen. I will explain the full meaning of the parable to you, as it has two more meanings, besides what I told the crowd.
In the universal sense the purport of the parable is as follows: the field is the world. The good seed is the children of the Kingdom of God sown by God in the world, while they wait to reach their end and be cut by the Mower and be taken to the Master of the world Who will store them in His granaries. The subjects of the Evil one are the darnel, which has also been spread in the field of God for the purpose of causing grief to the Master of the world and damage to the corn of God. The enemy of God has sown them deliberately, through witchcraft, because the demon really perverts the nature of man making him a creature of his own and then sows it to lead astray other people whom he has not been able to enslave otherwise. The harvest, that is the tying of the sheaves and carrying them to the granaries, is the end of the world and that is accomplished by the angels. They are given instructions to gather together the creatures which have been cut, to separate the corn from the darnel, and as in the parable the darnel is burnt, so the damned will be burnt in the eternal fire, at the Last Judgement.
The Son of man will have all scandalmongers and performers of iniquity removed from His Kingdom. Because the Kingdom then will be on the earth and in Heaven and many sons of the Enemy will be mixed among the citizens of the Kingdom. And, as prophesied also by Prophets, they will reach the perfection of scandal and abomination in every ministry on the earth and will be of great annoyance to the children of the spirit. The corrupt will have already been driven out of the Kingdom of God in Heaven, because no corruption will enter Heaven. And now the angels of the Lord, brandishing their sickles among the group of the last harvest, will mow down and separate the corn from the darnel and will throw the latter into the burning furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. The just, instead, the chosen seed, will be taken to the eternal Jerusalem, where they will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of My Father and yours.
That is the universal sense. But there is another sense, which is the answer to the question which you have been asking yourselves many times and particularly since yesterday evening. Your question is: “Can there be traitors in the mass of disciples?” and your hearts tremble with horror and fear. Yes, there may be some. There are certainly some.
The Sower sows the good seed. In this case, instead of sowing, we could say that He “picks.” Because the master, whether it is I or the Baptist, chose his disciples. How were they, therefore, led astray? No, I did not use the right word saying that the disciples are the “seed.” You may misunderstand. I will call them “field.” As many disciples as fields, chosen by the master to form the area of the Kingdom of God, the wealth of God. The master tires himself cultivating them so that they may yield one hundred per cent. He takes care of everything with patience, love, wisdom, working hard and perseveringly. He also sees their wicked inclinations, their barrenness and avidity, their stubbornness and weakness. But he hopes all the time, corroborating his hope through prayer and penance, because he wishes to lead them to perfection.
But the fields are open. They are not gardens enclosed in walls of protection, of which the only owner is the master, who is the only one who can go in. They are open. Placed as they are in the centre of the world, among the world, anyone can go near them and into them. Everybody and everything. Oh! darnel is not the only bad seed sown! Darnel could be the symbol of the bitter frivolity of the worldly spirit. But all the other seeds, scattered by the Enemy, come up in them. There are nettles, couch-grass, dodder, bearbines, and finally hemlock and poisonous herbs. Why? What are they?
Nettles: stinging untameable spirits which hurt through their excess of poison and cause so much trouble. Couch-grass: parasites who wear out the master as they can only creep and suck, taking advantage of his work and injuring the willing ones, who would make much more profit if the master were not upset and distracted by the cares required by the couch-grass. The sluggish bearbines rise from the ground only by making use of the efforts of other people. Dodders: they are a torture on the already painful road of the master and a torment to the faithful disciples who follow him. They twist, pierce, tear to pieces, scratch, cause mistrust and pain. The poisonous ones: the criminal disciples, who go as far as betraying and killing as hemlock and other poisonous plants do. Have you noticed how beautiful they are with their little flowers which later become white, red, blue-violet berries? Who would say that the white or pinkish star-shaped corolla, with its little golden heart, or the many-coloured corals, so much like other little fruits which are the delight of birds and children, can cause death, once they are ripe? No one. And the innocent ones fall into the trap. They believe that everybody is as good as they are... they pick and die.
They believe that everybody is as good as they are! Oh! The truth that makes the master sublime and condemns his traitor! How? Does goodness not disarm wickedness? Does it not make harmless? No. It does not, because the man who has fallen a prey to the Enemy is indifferent to what is superior. And what is superior changes aspect, as far as he is concerned. Kindness becomes weakness on which is lawful to tread and it stimulates his as the scent of blood stimulates a beast to slaughter.
Also the master is always innocent... and he lets his traitor poison him, because he cannot possibly believe that a human being can murder an innocent person.
The enemies come into the fields of the Master, that is to His disciples. They are many and Satan is the first one. The others are his servants, that is, men, passions, the world and the flesh. The disciple who is more easily struck by them is the one who is not entirely close to the Master, but is between the Master and the world. He is not capable and does not want to part completely with the world, the flesh, passions and demons, to belong entirely to Him Who wants to take him to God. And the world, flesh, passions and the demon scatter their seed in him: gold, power, women, pride, the fear of an unfavourable opinion of the world, the spirit of utilitarianism. “The great ones are the strongest. I will serve them so that they will be friendly to me.” And they become criminals and damned for such miserable things!...
Why does the Master, Who sees the imperfection of a disciple, not cast him away at once, even if He is not prepared to submit to the thought: “He will be My murderer”? That is what you are asking yourselves. Because it is useless to do so. If He did so he would not avoid having him as an enemy, a double and more dangerous enemy, because of his anger and his sorrow at being found out or at being driven away. Yes, because of his sorrow. Because sometimes a bad disciple does not realise that he is such. The demon's action is so subtle that he is not aware of it. He becomes wicked without even suspecting that he is subject to such action. And because of his anger. He is enraged at being known for what he is, when he is aware of Satan's work and of his followers: the men who tempt weak people in their weak points, to remove from the world a saint who offends them, wicked as they are, when compared with his goodness. The saint then prays and trusts in God. “Let what You allow, be done” he says. He adds only the clause: “providing it serves Your purpose.” The saint knows that the time will come when the wicked darnel will be rejected from the harvest. By whom? By God Himself Who does not allow more than what is useful to the triumph of His loving will. »
« If You maintain that Satan and his followers are always to be blamed... it seems to me that the responsibility of the disciple diminishes » says Matthew.
« Do not believe that. If there is Good there is also Evil and man is gifted with discernment and freedom. »
« You say that God does not allow more than what is useful to the triumph of His loving will. Therefore also such error is useful, if He allows it, and it serves the triumph of the divine will » says the Iscariot.
And you infer, as Matthew does, that that justifies the disciple's crime. God created the lion without ferocity and the snake without poison, now one is ferocious and the other poisonous. That is why God separated them from man. Ponder over that and draw conclusions. Let us go to the house. The sun is already too warm. It looks as if there is going to be a storm. And you are tired because of the sleepless night. »
« The rooms in the house are high, large and cool. You will be able to rest. » says Elias.
They go up the outside staircase. But only the apostles lie down on the mats to rest. Jesus goes out on to the terrace, a corner of which is shaded by a very tall oak-tree, and becomes engrossed in thought.