11th July 1945.
I do not see the return to Bethzur nor the rose-gardens of Bether, which I was so anxious to see. Jesus is alone with the apostles. Marjiam is not there either, as he has obviously been left with Our Lady and the woman-disciples. It is a very mountainous area, but also very rich in vegetation, with forests of conifers, or rather of pine-trees, and the balsamic invigorating scent of resin spreads everywhere. And Jesus is walking across those green mountains, with His disciples, facing westwards.
I hear them talking about Eliza who seems to have changed considerably and has been convinced to follow Johanna to her estate in Bether, and they are speaking also of Johanna's kindness. They are also discussing the tour they are about to make, towards the fertile plains before the sea. And the names of past glories come to light again, giving rise to stories, questions, explanations and friendly discussions.
« When we reach the top of this mountain, I will show you all the areas in which you are interested. They may suggest you thoughts for your sermons to the crowds. »
« But how can we do that, my Lord? I am not capable » moans Andrew, and Peter and James join him. « We are the most unlucky ones. »
« Oh! In that case I am no better. If it was gold or silver, I could talk about it, but about these things...» says Thomas.
« And what about me? What was I? » asks Matthew.
« But you are not afraid of the public, you are capable of debating » replies Andrew.
« Yes, but on different matters...» retorts Matthew.
« Of course!... But... Well, you already know what I would like to say, so just imagine that I have already told you. The fact is that you are worth more than we are » says Peter.
« Listen, My dear. There is no need to be sublime. Simply say what you think, with your firm belief. Believe Me, when one is convinced, one can always persuade others » says Jesus.
But Judas of Kerioth implores: « Give us some hints. An idea put forth properly may be useful in many ways. I think these places have been left without one word about You. Because no one seems to know You. »
« The reason is that there is still a strong wind blowing from the Moriah... It makes sterile...» replies Peter.
« It is because it has not been sown. But we will sow » retorts the Iscariot, who is sure of himself and happy after his first success.
They reach the top of the mountain. A wide panorama stretches out from there and it is beautiful to look at it standing in the shade of the thick trees which crown the top, so varied and sunny: overlapping chains stretching in every direction like petrified billows of an ocean lashed by opposite gales and then, as if in a calm gulf, everything subsides into an endless brightness showing a vast plain in which a little mountain rises, as solitary as a lighthouse at the entrance of a harbour.
« Look. That village spread along the crest, as if it wanted to enjoy all the sunshine, and where we will be stopping, is like the centre of a crown of historical places. Come here. There is (to the north) Jarmuth. Do you remember Joshua? The defeat of the kings who wanted to attack the camp of Israel, which was strengthened by the alliance with the Gibeonites. And near it there is Beth-shemesh, the sacerdotal town in Judah where the Ark was returned by the Philistines with the gold votive offerings prescribed by the diviners and priests to the people to be freed from the calamities that had struck the guilty Philistines. And over there is Zorah, lying completely in the sun, Samson's fatherland, and a little to the east Timnath where he got married and where he performed many brave deeds and did so many foolish things. And there are Azekah and Shochoh, formerly Philistine camps. Farther down is Zanoah, one of the towns in Judah. Now turn round, here is the Valley of the Terebinth, where David fought Goliath. And over there is Makkedah, where Joshua defeated the Amorites. Turn round again. Can you see that solitary mountain in the middle of the plain, which once belonged to the Philistines? Gath is there, Goliath's fatherland and the place where David took refuge with Achish to escape from the mad rage of Saul, and where the wise king pretended he was mad because the world defends fools from wise people. Where the horizon opens out, there are the plains of the very fertile land of the Philistines. We will go through there, as far as Ramie. And now let us enter Bethginna. You, precisely you, Philip, who are looking at Me so imploringly, will go round the village, with Andrew. While you are walking about, we shall stop near the fountain or in the village square. »
« Oh! Lord! Don't send us alone. Please, come with us! » they beg. « Go, I said. Obedience will be of more help to you than My mute presence. »
... And so Philip and Andrew go, at random, through the village, until they find a small hotel, an inn, rather than a hotel, and inside there are some brokers bargaining for lambs with some shepherds. They go in and stop disconcertedly in the middle of the yard, which is surrounded by very rustic porches.
The hotel-keeper rushes towards them: « What do you want? Lodgings? »
They consult looking at each other, and they appear to be utterly dismayed. Probably they cannot remember even one word of what they had decided to say. Andrew is the first to regain control of himself and he replies: « Yes, lodgings for us and for the Rabbi of Israel. »
« Which rabbi? There are many of them! But they are wealthy gentlemen. They do not come to the villages of poor people to bring their wisdom to the poor. The poor have to go to them and we are lucky if they allow us to go near them! »
« There is only one Rabbi of Israel. And He has come to bring the Gospel to the poor, and the poorer and more sinful they are, the more He looks for them and approaches them » replies Andrew kindly.
« In that case He will not make much money! »
« He does not seek wealth. He is poor and good. When He can save a soul it is a full day for Him » replies once again Andrew.
« Oh! It is the first time that I hear that a rabbi is good and poor. The Baptist is poor but severe. All the others are severe and rich, as greedy as leeches. You over there, have you heard? Come here, you who travel round the world. These men say that there is a poor but good Master Who comes looking for poor people and sinners. »
« Ah! It must be the one who wears a white robe like an Essene. I saw him some time ago at Jericho » says one of the brokers.
« No. That one is by himself. It must be the one of whom Thomas told us, because he happened to speak about him with some shepherds on the Lebanon » replies a tall brawny shepherd.
« Indeed! And he would come as far as here, if he was on the Lebanon! For the sake of your eyes of a cat! » exclaims another one.
While the innkeeper is speaking and listening to his customers, the two apostles have remained standing in the middle of the yard like two poles.
At last one of the men says to them: « Ehi! You! Come here! Who is He? Where does that man you spoke of, come from? »
« He is Jesus of Joseph, from Nazareth » says Philip gravely and he looks as if he were expecting to be laughed at.
But Andrew adds: « He is the Messiah foretold. I implore you, for your own good, listen to Him. You have mentioned the Baptist. Well, I was with him, and he pointed to us Jesus Who was passing and said: “There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.” When Jesus descended into the Jordan to be baptised, the Heavens opened and a Voice cried out: “This is My beloved Son, My favour rests on Him” and the Love of God descended like a dove, shining over His head. »
« See? It is the Nazarene! But tell me, since you say you are His friends...»
« No, not His friends: we are His apostles, His disciples and we have been sent to announce that He is coming, so that those who are in need of salvation may go to Him » clarifies Andrew.
« All right. But tell me. Is He really as some say, that is, a holy man, holier than the Baptist, or is He a demon as others describe Him? You are always with Him, because if you are His disciples, you must be with Him, tell us frankly. Is it true that He is lewd and a guzzler? That He loves prostitutes and publicans. That He is a necromancer and He evokes spirits at night to find out the secrets of hearts? »
« Why do you ask these men such questions? Ask them instead whether it is true that He is good. They will take it amiss and they will go and tell the Master our evil reasoning and we will be cursed. One never knows!... Whether He is God or a demon, it is better to treat Him well. »
It is Philip who speaks now: « We can reply to you quite frankly because there is nothing wicked to be concealed. He, our Master, is the Saint of all saints. He spends His days teaching. He goes tirelessly from place to place seeking the hearts of men. He spends the night praying for us. He does not disdain the pleasures of the table and friendship, but not for His own advantage, but only to approach those who otherwise would be unapproachable. He does not repel publicans and prostitutes but only because He wants to redeem them. His way is traced out with miracles of redemption and miracles over diseases. Winds and seas obey Him. But He does not need anybody to work His prodigies, neither does He have to evoke spirits to know hearts. »
« How can He?... You said that winds and seas obey Him... But they are not endowed with reason. How can He give them orders? » asks the innkeeper.
« Tell me, man: according to you is it more difficult to give an order to the wind or the sea or to death? »
« By Jehovah! You cannot give orders to death! You can throw oil on the sea, you can hoist sails over it, or, more wisely, you can avoid going to sea. You can lock doors against the wind. But you cannot give an order to death. There is no oil capable of calming it. There is no sail which, hoisted on our little boat, can make it sail so fast as to leave death behind. And there are no locks for it. It comes in when it wants to, even if the doors have been locked. Oh! No one gives orders to that queen! »
« And yet our Master commands it. Not only when it is near. But also after it has come. A young man of Nain was about to be put into the dreadful mouth of his sepulchre, and He said to him: “I tell you: rise!” and the young man came back to life. Nain is not in the country of the hyperboreans. You can go and see. »
« Just like that? In the presence of everybody? »
« On the road. In the presence of the whole of Nain. »
The innkeeper and his customers look at one another in silence. Then the innkeeper says: « But He will do that only for His friends. »
« No, man. For all those who believe in Him and not for them only. He is Mercy on the earth, believe me. No one applies to Him in vain. Listen. Is there anyone amongst you who suffers from or weeps because of diseases in the family, doubts, remorse, temptations, ignorance? Go to Jesus, the Messiah of the Gospel. He is here today. He will be elsewhere tomorrow. The Grace of the Lord Who is passing should not be let pass in vain » says Philip who has become more and more sure of himself.
The innkeeper ruffles his hair, opens and closes his mouth, tortures the fringes of his belt... at last he exclaims: « I will try! I have a daughter. Up to last summer she was all right. Then she became a lunatic. She remains like a mute animal in a corner, she never moves from it and only with difficulty her mother can dress her and feed her. The doctors say that her brains have been burnt out by too much sunshine, others say that it is due to an ill-starred love. The people say she is possessed. How can that be, as she has never been away from here?! Where would she have got that demon? What does your Master say? That a demon can take also an innocent person? »
Philip replies without hesitation: « Yes, to torture the relatives and drive them to despair. »
« And... Can He cure lunatics? Should I hope? »
« You must believe » says Andrews promptly. And he tells them of the miracle of the Gerasenes and concludes: « If those who were a legion in the hearts of sinners fled thus, why should the one who forced his way into the heart of a young person not flee? I tell you, man: for those who hope in Him also what is impossible becomes as easy as breathing. I have seen the works of my Lord and I am a witness of His power. »
« Oh! in that case which of you is going to call Him? »
« I will go myself, man. I will soon be back. » And Andrew runs away while Philip remains speaking to them.
When Andrew sees Jesus standing in a lobby out of the merciless sun shining in every part of the square, he runs towards Him saying: « Come, Master. The daughter of the innkeeper is lunatic. Her father implores You to cure her. »
« Did he know Me? »
« No, Master. We have tried to make You known to him...»
« And you have succeeded. When one reaches the point of believing that I can cure an incurable disease, one is already well advanced in faith. And you were afraid that you did not know how to do it. What did you tell him? »
« I don't think I could tell You. We told him what we thought of You and of Your deeds. Above all we told him that You are Love and Mercy. The world has such wrong knowledge of You!!! »
« But you know Me well. And that is enough. »
They arrive at the small inn. All the customers are standing at the door, full of curiosity, and in the middle there is Philip with the innkeeper who keeps talking to himself.
When he sees Jesus, he runs to meet Him: « Master, Lord, Jesus... I... I believe so firmly that You are You, that You know everything, You see everything, You can do everything, I believe it so firmly that I say to You: Have mercy on my daughter although I have so many sins in my heart. Do not punish my daughter because I have been dishonest in my trade. I will no longer be grasping, I swear it. You can see my heart with its past and with its present thought. Forgive and have mercy on us, Master, and I will speak of You to everybody who comes here, to my house...» The man is on his knees.
Jesus says to him: « Stand up and persevere in your present sentiments. Take Me to your daughter. »
« She is in a stable, my Lord. The sultry weather makes her feel worse. And she will not come out. »
« It does not matter. I will go to her. It is not the sultry weather. It is the demon who perceives My coming. »
They go into the yard and then into a dark stable, followed by all the rest.
The girl, unkempt and lean, becomes agitated in the darkest corner and as soon as she sees Jesus, she shouts: « Back, go back! Do not disturb me. You are the Christ of the Lord, I am one struck by You. Leave me alone. Why do You always follow me? »
« Go out of this girl. Go. I want it. Give your prey back to God and be quiet! »
There is a heart-rending shout, a jerk, her body becomes flabby and collapses on to the straw... then she calmly, sadly asks questions expressing her amazement: « Where am I? Why am I here? Who are they? » and she invokes: « Mummy ». The young girl becomes shy when she realises that she is without veil and with a torn dress in the presence of many strangers.
« Oh! Eternal Lord! But she is cured...» and strange to be seen the innkeeper weeps like a child and tears stream down his ruddy cheeks... He is happy and he weeps and does not know what to do, except kiss Jesus' hands, while the mother of the girl also weeps, surrounded by her amazed little ones, and kisses her first-born now free from the demon.
All the people present shout in amazement and many more rush to see the miracle. The yard is full.
« Remain with us. Lord. It is getting dark. Rest under my roof. »
« Man, we are thirteen. »
« Even if you were three hundred it would not matter. I know what You mean. But the greedy dishonest Samuel is dead, Lord. Also my demon has fled. Now there is a new Samuel. And he will still be the innkeeper. But a holy one. Come, come with me, that I may pay you homage as a king, a god. Such as You are. Oh! blessed be the sun that brought You here today...»