7th July 1945.
They are all sitting in a circle in a thicket near Hebron and they are eating while speaking to one another. Judas, who is now sure that Mary will go to his mother's, is in the best of spirits and endeavours to erase the memory of his bad humour with his companions and the women, by showering his attention on them. He must have gone to the village to do the shopping and he says that he has found a great difference in it since last year. « The news of Jesus' preaching and miracles has reached this place. And the people have begun to ponder many things. Do You know, Master, that Doras has some property in this part of the country? Also Chuza's wife has some land on these mountains and a castle of her own, as marriage settlement. Obviously the ground has been prepared both by her and by Doras' peasants, because some of his men from Esdraelon must be here. He... Doras told them to be quiet. But they!... I don't think they would be silent even if he tortured them. The death of the old Pharisee greatly surprised everybody, You know? And the very good health of Johanna, who came here before Passover. Ah! Also Aglae's lover has served You. You know that she ran away shortly after we came here. And he played havoc among many innocent people to avenge himself. So that the people concluded by thinking of You as an avenger of the oppressed and they are now expecting You. I mean the better ones...»
« Avenger of the oppressed! I really am. But in a supernatural way. None of those who see Me with sceptre and axe in My hands as king and executioner according to the spirit of the earth, is right. I certainly came to free people from oppression. From the oppression of sin, which is the gravest, of illness, of desolation; from ignorance and selfishness. Many will learn that it is not fair to oppress people, simply because one has been placed by fate in a high position, and that, on the contrary, a high position should be used to raise up those who are down at the bottom. »
« Lazarus does that, also Johanna. But they are only two against hundreds...» says Philip disconsolately.
« Rivers are not as wide at their sources as they are at their estuaries. A few drops, a trickle of water, but later... There are rivers that look like seas at their mouths. »
« The Nile, eh? Your Mother told me of the time You went to Egypt. She always said to me: “A sea, believe Me, a green-blue sea. To see it in flood is a dream!” and She told me of the plants that seem to spring from the water and of all the greenery that seemed to be left by the receding water...» says Mary of Alphaeus.
« Well, I tell you that, as the Nile at its source is a trickle of water and then becomes the giant it is, so the tiny trickle of great people who for the time being bend with love and out of love over the least of their brothers, will become a multitude later. For the time being Johanna, Lazarus, Martha, but how many later! » Jesus seems to be seeing those who will be merciful to their brothers and He smiles, enraptured in His vision.
Judas confides that the head of the synagogue wanted to come with him, but he did not dare to take a decision by himself: « Do you remember, John, how he drove us away last year? »
« I remember... But let us ask the Master. »
And when Jesus is questioned He says that they will go into Hebron. If the people want them, they will call them and they will stop; otherwise they will pass without pausing.
« So we will see also the Baptist's house. To whom does it belong now? »
« To whoever wants it, I think. Shammai went away and never came back. He took away servants and furniture. The citizens to avenge themselves of his abuse of power, knocked the enclosure wall down, and the house now belongs to anybody. At least the garden does. They gather there to venerate their Baptist. They say that Shammai was murdered. I do not know why... apparently because of women...»
« Certainly some filthy plot at court!...» whispers Nathanael through his beard.
They get up and go towards Hebron, towards the Baptist's house. When they are almost there, they see a serried group of citizens coming forward rather hesitatingly. They seem curious and embarrassed. But Jesus greets them smiling. They take heart, they open out and that severe person, the head of the synagogue, whom they had met in the previous year, emerges from the group.
« Peace to you! » greets Jesus instantly. « Will you allow us to stop in your town? I am here with all My favourite disciples and with some of their mothers. »
« Master, but do You not bear us, or me, a grudge? »
« Grudge? I do not know what it is, neither do I know why I should bear it. »
« Last year I offended You...»
« You offended an Unknown man, thinking it was your right to do so. Later you understood and you were sorry you had done it. But that is past. And as repentance cancels sin, so the present deletes the past. Now I am no longer Unknown to you. So what are your sentiments towards Me? »
« Of respect. Lord. Of... desire...»
« Desire? What do you want from Me? »
« To know You better than I do at present. »
« How? In what way? »
« Through Your word and Your deeds. We have received news about You, Your doctrine, Your power, and we were told that You were involved in the liberation of the Baptist. So You did not hate him, You did not try to oust our John!... He himself admitted that it was through You that he saw once again the valley of the holy Jordan. We went to him and spoke to him of You and he said to us: “You do not know what you have rejected. I should curse you, but I forgive you because He taught me to forgive and to be meek. But if you do not wish to be anathematised by the Lord and by me, love the Messiah. And have no doubts. This is His evidence: spirit of peace, perfect love, greatest wisdom, heavenly doctrine, absolute meekness, power over everything, total humility, angelical chastity. You cannot be wrong. When you breathe peace near a man Who says He is the Messiah, when you drink the love emanating from Him, when you pass from your darkness into Light, when you see sinners being redeemed and flesh being cured, then say: 'This is truly the Lamb of God!'.” We know that Your deeds are those mentioned by John. Therefore forgive us, love us, give us what the world expects from You. »
« That is why I am here. I have come from far away to give to the town of John also what I give every place that accepts Me. Tell Me what you wish from Me. »
« We also have sick people, and we are ignorant. We are ignorant particularly with regard to what is love and goodness. John, in his total love for God, has an iron hand and a fiery word and he wants to bend everybody as a giant bends a blade of grass. Many give way to dejection, because man is more sinful than holy. It is difficult to be saints!... You... they say that You raise, You do not bend, You do not cauterise, You use balms, You do not crush, You caress. We know that You are paternal with sinners and You are powerful against diseases, whichever they may be, also and above all the diseases of hearts. Our rabbis can no longer do that. »
« Bring Me your sick people and then gather in this garden, which has been abandoned and was desecrated by sin after it had been made a temple for the Grace that lived in it. »
The people of Hebron spread out in all directions as fast as wallows. Only the head of the synagogue remains and together with Jesus and the disciples he goes in beyond the enclosure of the garden, to the shade of a bower where entangled roses and vines have grown wild. The population is soon back. With them there is a paralytic in a litter, a blind young woman, a dumb boy and two sick people, whose trouble I do not know. The last two are walking supported by other people.
Jesus greets each sick person saying: « Peace to you. » Then He asks the kind question: « What do you want Me to do for you? » followed by the chorus of lamentations, as each one wishes to tell his own story.
Jesus, Who was sitting, stands up and goes to the dumb boy, whose lips He wets with His saliva and utters the great word: « Open. » And He repeats it wetting the sealed eyelids of the woman with His finger moistened with saliva. He then stretches out His hand to the paralytic and says to him: « Rise! », and finally He imposes His hands on the two sick people saying: « Be cured, in the name of the Lord! ». And the boy who previously mumbled, says distinctly: « Mummy! », while the young woman winks at the light with her unsealed eyelids, and with her fingers screens her eyes from the unknown sun, weeping and laughing, and looks again, with half open eyes, not being accustomed to the light, at the leaves, the earth, the people and particularly at Jesus. The paralytic comes boldly off the stretcher and his compassionate bearers lift it, empty as it is, to make the people afar understand that the grace has been granted, while the two sick people cry for joy and kneel down to venerate their Saviour.
The crowds are frantically shouting hosanna, Thomas, who is near Judas, looks at him so intensely and with such a clear expression, that Judas declares to him: « I was foolish, forgive me. »
When the shouting subsides, Jesus begins to speak.
« The Lord spoke to Joshua saying: “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: Choose the cities of refuge of which I spoke to you through Moses, where a man who has killed accidentally, unwittingly, may find sanctuary and may thus avoid the wrath of the next of kin, the avenger of blood.” And Hebron was one of those towns. It is also written: “And the elders of the town will not hand the innocent man over to him who wants to kill him, but they will receive him and assign him a place where to live and he will remain there until he appears for judgement and until the death of the high priest then in office; only then he may go back to his town and to his house.”
That law already contemplates and prescribes merciful love towards our neighbour. God enacted that law because it is not legal to condemn without interrogating the accused, neither is it legal to kill in a fit of wrath. The same can be said with regard to moral crimes and accusations. It is not legal to accuse unless one knows, neither can one pass judgement without interrogating the accused. But nowadays a new series of sentences and accusations has been added to those already existing in respect of the usual sins or alleged offences: the ones moved against those who come in the name of God. In the past they were moved against the Prophets, now they are repeated against the Precursor of Christ and against Christ.
You are aware of it. Drawn by deception out of the land of Shechem, the Baptist is now awaiting death in Herod's prison, because he will never submit to falsehood or compromise, and his life may be crushed and his head cut off, but they will not be able to suppress his honesty or cut his soul off the Truth, which he has served faithfully in all its divine, supernatural and moral forms. And likewise Christ is persecuted with double and decuple fury, because He does not confine Himself to saying: “It is not lawful” to Herod, but He thunders the same “It is not lawful” wherever He finds sin or knows it is a sin, without excluding any class, in the name of God and for God's honour.
How can that happen? Are there no more servants of God in Israel? Yes, there are. But they are “idols.”
In Jeremiah's letter to the exiles, the following is written among many other things. And I am drawing your attention to it because every word of the Book is a lesson that, as the Spirit had it written for a current event, refers to an event that will take place in the future. So it is written: “... When you enter Babylon you will see gods made of gold, silver, stone, wood... Be on your guard, do not imitate the foreigners, do not have any fear of their gods... Say in your hearts: 'Lord, it is You only that we must worship'.” And the letter describes the details of those idols whose tongues are made by a craftsman and they do not make use of them to reproach their false priests, who strip them of their gold to clothe prostitutes with it and later they remove the same gold, desecrated by the perspiration of prostitution, to reclothe the idol; idols that rust and woodworm can corrode and are clean and tidy only if man washes their faces and clothes them, whereas they can do nothing by themselves, although they have sceptre and axe in their hands. And the Prophet concludes: “Therefore be not afraid of them.” And he continues: “Those gods are as useless as broken pots. Their eyes are full of the dust raised by the feet of those who enter the temple, and they close them tight, as in a sepulchre or like a man who has offended the king, because anyone can steal their precious robes. They cannot see the light of the lamps, so they are like temple beams, and the lamps serve only to blacken them with smoke, while owls, swallows and other birds fly over their heads and soil them with excrement, and cats nestle among their clothes and tear them. So you must not be afraid of them, they are dead things. Neither is their gold of any use to them, it is only a display, and if it is not polished, the idols do not shine, as they did not feel anything when they were made. Fire did not awake them. They were bought at fabulous prices. They are carried wherever man wants to take them because they are shamefully powerless... So why are they called gods? Because they are worshipped with offerings and a show of false ceremonies, which are not felt by those who perform them, nor believed by those who see them. Whether they are treated badly or well, they are incapable of paying back either treatment, as they are incapable of electing or overthrowing a king, they can give neither wealth nor evil, they cannot save a man from death or deliver a weak man from an overbearing one. They feel no pity for widows and orphans. They are like the stones of the mountains.”.. The letter says more or less that.
Now, we also have idols, no more saints, in the ranks of the Lord. That is why Evil can rise against Good. The evil that soils with excrement the intellects and hearts of those who are no longer saints, and nestles among the false robes of goodness.
They can no longer speak the words of God. Of course! Their tongue is made by man and they speak the words of man, when they do not speak Satan's. And they can only foolishly reproach the innocent and the poor, but they are silent where they see the corruption of powerful people. Because they are all corrupt and they cannot accuse one another of the same crimes. They are greedy, not for the Lord, but for Mammon, and they work accepting the gold of lust and crime, bartering it, stealing it, seized with immoderate desire exceeding every limit and imagination. They are covered with dust, which rots on them and if they show clean faces, God sees their filthy hearts. They are corroded by the rust of hatred and the worm of sin and they cannot react to save themselves. They brandish maledictions as if they were sceptres and axes, but they do not know that they are cursed. Isolated in their thoughts and their hatred, like corpses in a sepulchre or prisoners in jail, they remain there, clinging to the bars lest somebody might take them away from there, because those dead people are still something: mummies, nothing else but mummies looking like human beings, while their bodies have turned into dry wood, and outside they would be old-fashioned articles in a world seeking Life, in need of Life as a child needs a mother's breast, a world that wants who can give it Life and not the stench of death.
They do live in the Temple and the smoke of the lamps, that is of honours, blackens them, but no light descends upon them; and all passions nestle in them like birds and cats, while the fire of their mission does not give them the mystical torture of being burnt by the fire of God. They are refractory to Love. The fire of Charity does not inflame them, as Charity does not clothe them with its golden brightness. The Charity of double form and double source: charity of God and of neighbour, the form; charity from God and from man, the source. Because God withdraws from a man who does not love, and thus the former source ceases; and man withdraws from a wicked man, and also the latter source ceases. Charity deprives a loveless man of everything. They allow themselves to be bought at a cursed price, and to be led where it suits profit and power.
No. It is not right! No money can buy a conscience, particularly the conscience of a priest or a teacher. It is not right to acquiesce in the mighty things of the earth when they induce acts contrary to God's commandments. That is spiritual inability and it is written: “A eunuch is not to be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” Thus, if a man, impotent by nature, cannot belong to the people of God, can a spiritually impotent man be His minister? Because I solemnly tell you that many priests and masters are suffering from guilty spiritual barrenness, as they lack spiritual virility. Many. Too many!
Meditate. Observe. Compare. You will see that we have many idols, but few ministers of the Good which is God. That is why the sanctuary towns are no longer a sanctuary. Nothing is now respected in Israel and saints die because those who are not saints hate them.
But I invite you: “Come!” I call you in the name of your John who is languishing because he is a saint, who was struck because he precedes Me and because he endeavoured to remove the filth from the paths of the Lamb. Come to serve God. The time is near. Do not be unprepared for Redemption. Let the rain fall on the sown ground. Otherwise it will fall in vain. You people of Hebron must be the leaders! You lived here with Zacharias and Eliza: the holy people who deserved John from Heaven; and here John spread the scent of Grace by means of his true childish innocence and from the desert he sent you the anti-corrupting incense of his Grace, which has become a wonder of penance. Do not disappoint your John. He raised the love for our neighbour to an almost divine level, whereby he loves the last dweller on the desert, as he loves you, his fellow-citizens, and he certainly implores Salvation for you. And Salvation means to follow the Voice of the Lord and believe in His Word. And from this sacerdotal town come in a body to the service of God. I am passing and I call you. Do not be inferior to prostitutes, for whom one word of mercy is sufficient to persuade them to abandon their previous life and come on to the way of Good.
I was asked upon My arrival: “But do You not bear us a grudge?” Grudge? No, I have love for you! And I hope to see you in the multitude of My people, whom I lead to God, in the new exodus towards the true Promised Land: the Kingdom of God, beyond the Red Sea of sensuality and the deserts of sin, free from all kinds of slavery, to the eternal Land, which abounds in delight and is saturated with peace... Come! This is Love passing by. Whoever wishes can follow Him, because only good-will is required to be accepted by Him. »
Jesus has finished and there is wonder-struck silence. It seems that many are weighing, testing, enjoying and comparing the words they have heard.
While that is happening and Jesus, Who is tired and hot, sits down and speaks to John and Judas, a loud noise is heard coming from the other side of the garden enclosure. The shouts, at first confused, become clearer: « Is the Messiah there? Is He there? » and when they receive an affirmative reply, they bring forward a cripple who is so deformed that he looks like an S.
« Oh! it is Mashal! »
« But he is too crippled! What does he expect? »
« There is his mother, poor woman! »
« Master, her husband left her because of that freak of nature, her son, and she lives here of charity. But she is old and will not live very long...»
The freak of nature, he really is, is now before Jesus. It is not possible to see his face as he is so bent and twisted. He looks like the caricature of a man-chimpanzee, or of a humanised camel. His mother, a poor old wretch, does not even speak, she only moans: « Lord, Lord... I believe...»
Jesus lays His hands on the crooked shoulders of the man, who hardly reaches up to His waist, looks up to Heaven and thunders: « Rise and walk in the ways of the Lord », and the man gives a start and then springs up as straight as the most perfect man. His movement is so rapid that one would think that the springs holding him in that abnormal position, had suddenly broken. He now reaches up to Jesus' shoulders, he looks at Him, then falls on his knees, with his mother, kissing the feet of his Saviour.
What happens in the crowd is indescribable... And against His will, Jesus is compelled to stay in Hebron, because the people are ready to make barriers at the gates to prevent Him from going out.
He thus enters the house of the elderly head of the synagogue, who is so changed from last year...