20th June 1945.
It is raining and Peter seems to me the opposite of Aeneas, because instead of carrying his father, he has little Jabez on his shoulders, completely covered by Peter's large mantle. The boy's little head emerges above the grey-haired head of Peter, who, with the boy's arms round his neck, dabbles in the puddles, laughing wholeheartedly.
« We might have been spared all this » grumbles the Iscariot, who is irritable because of the water pouring from the sky and splashing his clothes with mud.
« Eh! Many things could be spared! » replies John of Endor, staring at handsome Judas with his one good eye, which I think can see as well as two.
« What do you mean? »
« I mean that it is useless to expect the elements to have consideration for us, when we have none for our neighbour, and concerning matters that are by far more important than a few drops of water or a splash of mud. »
« That is true. But I like to be tidy and clean when I go to town. I have many friends there, and high up. »
« Then watch that you do not fall. »
« Are you teasing me? »
« Nooooh! But I am an old teacher and... an old pupil. I have been learning since I was born. First I learned to vegetate, then I observed life, then I became acquainted with the bitterness of life, I practised a useless justice, the justice of “man alone” against God and society. God punished me with remorse, society with fetters, so, after all, I was the victim of justice. At last, now, I have learned, I am learning how “to live.” Now, since I am a teacher and a pupil, you will realise that it is natural for me to repeat the lessons. »
« But I am an apostle...»
« And I am a poor wretch, I know, and I should never take the liberty of teaching you. But, see, you never know what one may become. I thought I was going to die an honest and respected teacher in Cyprus and I became a murderer and a convict serving a life sentence. But when I raised a knife to take vengeance, and when I was dragging the fetters hating the universe, if anyone told me that I was to become a disciple of the Holy One, I would have doubted whether his mind was sound. And yet... Here I am! So, I may be able to give a good lesson also to you, an apostle. Because of my experience. Not because of my holiness, I would not dream of it. »
« That Roman was right in calling you Diogenes. »
« Of course. But Diogenes was looking for a man and could not find one. I, luckier than he, found a snake where I thought there was a woman, and an adulterer where I thought I saw a friendly man, but after wandering about for many years, as I became insane through such experience, I have found the Man, the Holy One. »
« I know no other wisdom but Israel's. »
« If that is so, you already have the means for salvation. But now you have also the science, nay the wisdom of God. »
« It is the same thing. »
« Oh! no! It is like a foggy day compared to a sunny day. »
« Well! Are you anxious to teach me? I don't feel like it. »
« Let me speak! Once, I used to speak to children: they were absent-minded. Then I spoke to shadows, they cursed me. Then to chicken: they were better, far better than the first two groups. Now I speak to myself as I am not yet able to speak to God. Why do you want to stop me? I have but one eye, the mines ruined my life, I have suffered from heart trouble for years. At least let my mind be fruitful. »
« Jesus is God. »
« I know, and I believe it. More than you do. Because I have revived through His work, you have not. No matter how good He is, He is still God, and I, a poor wretch dare not treat Him with familiarity as you do. My soul speaks to Him... my lips dare not. My soul does, and I think that He perceives it weeping out of gratitude and repentant love. »
« That is true, John. I do perceive your soul. » Jesus comes into the conversation of the two. Judas blushes with shame, the man of Endor with joy. « I perceive your soul, that is true. And I perceive also the work of your mind. What you said is correct. When you have been formed in Me, your experience as a teacher and a diligent pupil will be of great help to you. Speak, do speak, also to yourself. »
« Once, Master, not long ago, you told me that it is wrong to speak to one's ego » remarks Judas insolently.
« That is true, I did. But that was because you were grumbling with your ego. This man is not grumbling, he is meditating, and for a good purpose. He is not doing anything wrong. »
« In brief, I am wrong! » Judas is aggressive.
« No, your heart is impatient. But the weather cannot be always good. Farmers want rain. It is charity to pray that it may rain. And also this is charity. But look, there is a beautiful rainbow forming an arch from Ataroth to Ramah. We are already beyond Ataroth, we have passed the large sad valley, and here the country is cultivated and pleasant under the sun, which is breaking through the clouds. When we are in Ramah we shall be thirty-six stadia from Jerusalem. We shall see the Holy City again after that hill, by the men of Gibeah. What a terrible thing is the concupiscence of the flesh, Judas...»
Judas does not reply, instead he delays splashing angrily in the puddles.
« What's the matter with him, today? » asks Bartholomew.
« Be quiet, lest Simon of Jonah should hear you. Let us avoid all arguments... and do not let us upset Simon. He is so happy with his boy! »
« Yes, Master. But it is not right. I will tell him. »
« He is young, Nathanael. You were young, too...»
« Yes... but... He should not be lacking in respect towards You! » He raises his voice without wishing to do so.
Peter rushes towards them: « What's the matter? Who is lacking in respect? The new disciple? » and he looks at John of Endor, who has discreetly withdrawn when he understood that Jesus was correcting the apostle and is now speaking to James of Alphaeus and Simon Zealot.
« Not in the least. He is as respectful as a young girl. »
« Oh! Good! Otherwise... his only eye was in danger. Well... it must be Judas!...»
« Listen, Simon, could you not busy yourself with your little friend? You took him away from Me, and now you want to become engaged in a friendly conversation I am having with Nathanael. Do you not think that you want to do too many things? »
Jesus smiles so gently that Peter becomes uncertain about his own thoughts. He looks at Bartholomew... who, however, has raised his aquiline face and is scanning the sky... Peter's suspicion fades away.
Peter's attention is completely diverted by the apparition of the Holy City, which is now near, and is visible in all the beauty of its hills, olive-groves, houses, and above all of the Temple, a sight which must always have been a source of emotion and pride for Israelites. The warm April sun of Judaea has soon dried up the slabstones of the consular road. Puddles of water have disappeared completely. The apostles are tidying themselves on the side of the road, they let down the tunics which they had pulled up, they wash their muddy feet in a clear stream, they tidy their hair and drape their mantles. Also Jesus does that. I see them all doing it.
The entrance into Jerusalem must have been an important matter. To present oneself at the walls on these feast-days was like presenting oneself to a sovereign. The Holy City was the « real » queen of Israelites. I realise that this year, because I can notice the crowds and their behaviour on the consular road. The processions of the various families form here, the women in one group, the men in another, the children in either, but all very serious and serene at the same time. Some fold up their old mantles and pull out a new one from their travelling bags, or change sandals. Their gait then becomes solemn, it is already hieratic. In each group there is a soloist who gives the tone, and the hymns, the glorious old hymns of David, are intoned. And people look at one another more lovingly, as if they had been pacified by the sight of the House of the Lord and they look at the Holy House, a huge cube of marble surmounted by golden domes, placed like a pearl in the centre of the imposing enclosure of the Temple.
The apostolic procession is formed as follows: Jesus and Peter in front, with the boy between them; behind them Simon, the Iscariot and John; then Andrew, who has forced John of Endor to stay between him and James of Zebedee; in the fourth row the two cousins of the Lord and Matthew; last Thomas, Philip and Bartholomew. It is Jesus Who intones in His beautiful powerful voice of a light baritone, a mellow voice with refined tenor vibrations, and Judas Iscariot, a pure tenor, answers together with John, with his limpid voice typical of young people, the two baritone voices of Jesus' cousins and the almost bass voice of Thomas, whose baritone voice is so deep that it can hardly be classifed as such. The others, who are not gifted with such beautiful voices, follow the chorus of the virtuosi singing in low voices. (The psalms are the known ones, called gradual psalms). Little Jabez, the voice of an angel among the strong voices of men, sings very well, probably because he knows Psalm CXXI better than the others: « How I rejoiced when they said to me: “We shall go to the house of the Lord.” » His little face, which only a few days ago was so sad, is now bright with joy.
The walls are now close at hand. Here is the Gate of the Fish. And the overcrowded streets.
They go straight to the Temple to say the first prayer. And then peace in the peace of Gethsemane, then supper and rest.
The journey towards Jerusalem is over.