19th June 1945.
As a river grows larger when new tributary streams flow into it, so the road from Shechem to Jerusalem is becoming gradually more and more crowded, as believers heading for the Holy City pour on to it along secondary roads from villages. A situation which is of great help to Peter in distracting the attention of the boy who is now passing near the hills where he was born and where his parents are buried under a landslide. The child is not aware of it.
After a long march interrupted – after Shiloh, on its steep hill, had been left behind to the left – by a pause to rest and take some food in a green valley resounding with pure crystal-clear waters, the pilgrims set forth again and cross a little calcareous mountain, which is rather barren, and on which the sun is blazing down mercilessly. They then begin to descend through a range of most beautiful vineyards, which with their festoons adorn the crags of the calcareous mountains. The area is most sunny.
Peter smiles significantly and makes a sign to Jesus, Who in turn smiles. The boy does not notice anything, engrossed as he is in listening to John of Endor who is speaking to him of other lands he has visited where the most sweet grapes grow that, however, are not so much used to make wine, as to make cakes, which are more delicious than honey cakes.
They are now climbing a very steep hill, because they have left the dusty crowded main road and have taken this short cut through woods. And when they reach the summit, they can distinctly see in the distance a huge bright light shining above an agglomeration, perhaps whitewashed houses.
« Jabez » calls Jesus « come here. Can you see that golden spot? It is the House of the Lord. There you will swear to obey the Law. But do you know it well? »
« My mother used to speak to me about it and my father taught me the precepts. I can read... and... and I think I know what “they” told me before they died...» The boy, who had come smiling when Jesus called him, is now weeping with his head lowered and his trembling hand in Jesus' hand.
« Do not weep. Listen. Do you know where we are? This is Bethel. Holy Jacob dreamt of the angels here. Do you know? Do you remember? »
« Yes, Lord. He saw a ladder that from the earth reached up to Heaven and the angels went up and down, and my mother used to say that when one dies, if one has always been good, one sees the same thing and goes up that ladder to the House of God. My mother used to tell me many things... But now she does not tell me any more... I have them all in here and that is all I have of hers...» Tears stream down his little sad face.
« Do not weep like that! Listen, Jabez. I also have a Mother and Her name is Mary and She is holy and good and can tell many things. She is wiser than a teacher and more gentle and beautiful than an angel. We are going to see Her now. She will love you so much. And She will tell you many things. And then John's mother is with her and she is very good, too, and her name is Mary. And there is the mother of my brother Judas, and she is as sweet as a honey cake and her name is Mary, too. They will love you so much. Because you are a clever boy and for My sake, because I love you so much. And you will grow up with them and when you are big, you will be a holy man of God, like a doctor you will preach Jesus Who has given you a new mother here and Who will open the gates of Heaven to your dead mother and to your father, and will open them also to you when your hour comes. You will not even need to climb the long ladder of Heaven when you die. You will have climbed it during your lifetime, being a good disciple, and you will find yourself up there, at the gate of Paradise, and I will be there and I will say to you: “Come, My friend and son of Mary” and we shall be together. » Jesus' bright smile, while walking slightly bent to be closer to the raised face of the child who is walking beside Him with his hand held by Jesus, and the wonderful story wipe his tears and make him smile.
The boy, who is far from being dim of wit but is only stunned by grief and the hardships he has suffered, is interested in the story and asks: « You said that You will open the gates of Heaven. Are they not closed because of the great Sin? My mother used to say that no one could enter until forgiveness had come and the just were waiting for it in Limbo. »
« It is so. But preaching the word of God I will go to the Father and... having obtained forgiveness for you, I will say to Him: “Father, I have fulfilled Your will. Now I want My reward for My sacrifice. Let the just, who are waiting, come to Your Kingdom.” And the Father will say to Me: “Let it be done as You wish.” I will then come down and I will call all the just, and at the sound of My voice Limbo will open its gates and the holy Patriarchs, the bright Prophets, the blessed women of Israel will come out rejoicing. And do you know how many children? There will be children of all ages, as many as the flowers in a flowery meadow! And they will follow Me singing and will ascend to the beautiful Paradise. »
« And will my mother be there? »
« Most certainly. »
« You did not say to me that she will be with You at the gate of Heaven when I am dead, too...»
« There is no need for her and for your father to be at that gate. Like bright angels they will fly continuously from Heaven down to the earth, from Jesus to their little Jabez, and when you are about to die, they will do what those two little birds over there, in that hedge, are doing. Can you see them? » And Jesus takes the boy in His arms to let him see better. « See how they are sitting on their little eggs. They are waiting for them to hatch, then they will spread their wings over the brood to protect them from all evils, and then, when they are grown and ready to fly, they will support them with their strong wings and will take them up, up, up... towards the sun. Your parents will do the same with you. »
« Will it be just like that? »
« Exactly like that. »
« But will You tell them to remember to come? »
« That is not necessary, because they love you, but I will tell them. »
« Oh! How I love You! » The child, who is still in Jesus' arms, presses against His neck and kisses Him with such joyful effusion that is really moving.
Jesus kisses him, too, and puts him down.
« Well! Let us go on. Towards the Holy City. We must arrive there tomorrow, towards evening. Why such a hurry? Can you tell me? Is it not the same if we arrive the day after tomorrow? »
« No. It would not be the same. Because tomorrow is Parasceve and after sunset one can walk only for six stadia. You are not allowed to go farther because the Sabbath and its rest have begun. »
« So one idles about on the Sabbath. »
« No. You pray the Most High Lord. »
« What is His name? »
« Adonai. But saints can pronounce His name. »
« Also good children. Tell Me if you know. »
« Jaavè » (the boy pronounces it thus: a very soft G, which is almost a J, and a very long 'a').
« And why does one pray the Most High Lord on the Sabbath? »
« Because He told Moses, when He gave him the tables of the Law. »
« Oh! Did He? And what did He say? »
« He said that we must keep it holy. “For six days you shall labour, but on the seventh day you shall rest and make others rest, because that is what I did, too, after the creation.” »
« What? Did the Lord rest? Did He become tired creating? And was it He Who created. How do you know? I know that God never tires. »
« He was not tired, because God does not walk and does not move His arms. But He did it, to teach Adam and us, and to have a day on which we think of Him. And He created everything, most certainly. The Book of the Lord tells us. »
« But was the Book written by Him? »
« No. But it is the Truth. And one must believe it unless one wants to go to Lucifer. »
« You said that God does not walk and does not move His arms. How did He create then? What is He like? A statue? »
« He is not an idol: He is God. And God is... God is... let me think and remember what my mother said, and even better than she did, that man that in Your name goes to visit the poor people at Esdraelon... My mother used to say, to make me understand God: “God is like my love for you. It has no body, but it exists.” And that little man, but with such a gentle smile, would say: “God is an Eternal Spirit, One and Trine, and the Second Person became flesh for the sake of us, poor people, and His name is...” Oh! My Lord! Now that I think of it... it's You! » The child, dumbfounded, prostrates himself on the ground adoring.
They all run thinking that he has fallen, but Jesus with His finger on His lips beckons them to be silent and then says: « Stand up, Jabez. Children must not be afraid of Me! »
The boy looks up reverently and looks at Jesus with a changed expression, almost of fear.
But Jesus smiles and stretches out His hand saying: « You are a wise little Israelite. Let us continue the examination. Now that you have recognised Me, do you know whether the Book mentions Me? »
« Oh! Yes, Lord. From the beginning to now. Everything speaks of You. You are the promised Saviour. Now I understand why You will open the gates of Limbo. Oh! Lord! Lord! And do You love me so much? »
« Yes, Jabez. »
« No, no longer Jabez. Give me a new name that means that You loved me and saved me...»
« I will choose a name together with My Mother. All right? »
« But a name that means just that. And I will have it as from the day I become a son of the Law. »
« You will have it as from that day. »
They pass Bethel and rest in a little cool valley, rich in water, to take some food. Jabez is half stunned by the revelation and eats in silence, accepting with veneration every mouthful that Jesus hands to him. But he slowly takes heart again, and after playing happily on the green grass with John while the others are resting, he goes back to Jesus together with his smiling friend John, and the three chat together.
« You did not tell Me who speaks of Me in the Book. »
« The Prophets, Lord. And even before, the Book speaks of You when Adam was expelled, and... then to Jacob, Abraham and Moses... Oh!... My father told me that he went to John – not this one, the other John, the one of the Jordan – and he, the great Prophet, called You the Lamb... Oh! Now I understand the lamb of Moses... You are Passover! »
John teases him: « But which Prophet spoke best of Him? »
« Isaiah and Daniel. But I... I like Daniel more, now that I love You as my father. Can I say that? That I love You as I loved my father? Yes? Well, now I prefer Daniel. »
« Why? Who speaks most of the Christ is Isaiah. »
« Yes, but he speaks of the sorrows of the Christ. Daniel instead speaks of the beautiful angel and of Your coming. It is true... he also says that Christ will be sacrificed. But I think that the Lamb will be sacrificed with one single blow. Not as Isaiah and David say. I always wept when my mother read them and she did not read them any more. » He is almost weeping even now while caressing Jesus' hand.
« Forget about it for the time being. Listen. Do you know the precepts? »
« Yes, my Lord. I think I know them. I used to repeat them when I was in the wood, so that I would not forget them, also because I wanted to hear the words of my mother and my father. But now I will not weep any more (tears, however, are shining in his eyes) because I have You. »
John smiles and embraces Jesus saying: « The same words as mine! All those who are children in their hearts speak the same language. »
« Yes. Because their words come from one wisdom only. But now we ought to go, so that we can be in Beeroth very early. The number of the people is increasing and the weather looks threatening. There will be a rush for shelters. And I do not want you to be taken ill. »
John calls his companions and they set forth again towards Beeroth, across a plain which is not very well cultivated, but is not so barren as the little mountain they climbed after Shiloh.