18th July 1945.
The hills after Jabneel, running from west to east with regard to the pole-star, rise in height and behind them many more can be seen rising higher and higher. The green and violet summits of the Judaean mountains stand out in the distance, in the twilight. The day has rapidly come to its end, as is wont in southern regions. From the bright red sunset, in less than one hour it has passed to the first twinkling of stars and it seems impossible that the blazing sun has gone out so suddenly, deleting the blood-red sky with a thicker and thicker veil of red amethyst, which later becomes mallow and gradually changes colour becoming more and more singing: nightingales, gurgling waters, rustling leaves, chirping crickets, and toads which with the accompaniment of oboes sing to the dew. Perhaps also the stars are singing up there... as they are closer to the angels than we are. The heat is abating in the air of the night, damp with dew so pleasing to herbs, men and animals!
Jesus Who had waited at the foot of a hill for the apostles coming from Jabneel where John has gone to fetch them, is now speaking to the Iscariot, to whom He hands some purses of money with instructions on how to distribute it. Behind Him there is John, holding the billygoat. He is silent, between the Zealot and Bartholomew, who are talking of Jabneel where Andrew and Philip behaved so well. Farther back, there are all the others in a group, speaking loud and summarising their adventures in the Philistine region and openly expressing their joy for their return to Judaea for Pentecost in the very near future.
« Are we really going there soon? » asks Philip, who is very tired walking on the hot sand.
« That's what the Master said. You heard Him » replies James of Alphaeus.
« My brother certainly knows. But He seems lost in reverie. What they have done during these five days is a mystery » says James of Zebedee.
« Sure. I am dying to know. At least that as compensation for that... purgative at Jabneel. Five days during which we had to watch every word, every step and where we looked, to avoid getting into trouble » says Peter.
« However, we were successful. We are beginning to learn » says Matthew happily.
« To tell you the truth... I trembled with fear two or three times. That blessed boy of Judas of Simon!... Will he never learn to control himself? » says Philip.
« He will, when he is old. And yet, we may say that he does it for a good purpose. You heard Him? Also the Master said so. He does it out of zeal...» remarks Andrew to excuse him.
« Come off it! The Master said so because He is Goodness and Prudence. But I do not think He approves of Him » replies Peter.
« He does not tell lies » retorts Thaddeus.
« It is not a question of telling lies. But He knows how to reply most prudently, and we do not know how to do that, and He speaks the truth without breaking anybody's heart, without rousing anybody's indignation and without reproaching. Of course, He is He! » says Peter with a sigh.
They become silent while walking in the clearer and clearer moonlight. Then Peter says to James of Zebedee: « Try and call John. I do not know why he is avoiding us. »
« I can tell you at once: because he knows that we would torment him in order to find out » replies Thomas.
« Of course! And he is staying with the two most prudent and wise ones » confirms Philip.
« Well, try just the same, James, be good » insists Peter.
And James, condescendingly, calls John three times: the latter does not hear, or pretends not to hear. Bartholomew instead turns round and James says to him: « Tell my brother to come here » and then to Peter: « But I don't think he will tell us. »
John goes obediently at once and asks: « What do you want? »
« We want to know whether we are going straight to Judaea from here » replies his brother.
« That is what the Master said. He was almost on the point of not coming back from Ekron and was going to send me to fetch you. Then He preferred to come as far as these last slopes... Because one can go to Judaea also from here. »
« By Modin? »
« By Modin. »
« It is not a safe road. Bandits wait for caravans along it and make sudden attacks on them » objects Thomas.
« Oh!... with Him!... Nothing can resist Him!...» replies John looking up to the sky enraptured in who knows what memories and smiling.
They all watch him and Peter says: « Tell me: are you perhaps reading a blissful story in the starry sky, with that look on your face? »
« Me? No...»
« Come off it! Also stones can see that you are miles away from the world. Tell me: what happened to you at Ekron? »
« Nothing, Simon. I can assure you. I would not be happy if anything unpleasant had happened. »
« Not unpleasant. On the contrary!... Come on! Speak up! »
« But I can tell you nothing more than what He has already told you. They were kind like people amazed at miracles. That's all. Exactly as He said. »
« No » and Peter shakes his head. « No. You are not good at telling lies. You are as clear as spring water. No. You change colour. I have known you since you were a boy. You will never be able to tell lies. You are unable because of your heart, of your thoughts, of your tongue, of your very skin that changes colour. That is why I am so fond of you and I have always loved you. Listen, come here, to your old Simon of Jonah, your old friend. You remember when you were a boy and I was already a man? How I used to fondle you. You wanted stories and cork-boats “which never shipwreck”, you used to say and which you needed to go far away... Also now you are going far away and you are leaving poor Simon ashore. And your little boat will never be wrecked. It is sailing full of flowers like the ones you used to launch, when a child, at Bethsaida, on the river, so that the river would carry them to the lake and they would sail and sail... Do you remember? I love you, John. We all love you. You are our sail. You are our boat which does not wreck. We sail in your wake. Why don't you tell us of the miracle at Ekron? »
Peter has spoken clasping with one arm the waist of John, who endeavours to elude the question, saying: « Since you are our chief, why do you not speak to the crowds with the same persuasive strength as you are using with me? They need to be convinced, not I. »
« Because I feel more at ease with you. I love you, but I do not know them » says Peter excusing himself.
« And you do not love them. That's your mistake. Love them, even if you do not know them. Say to yourself: “They belong to our Father.” You will then seem to know them and you will love them. You will see in them so many Johns...»
« That is easily said! As if asps and hedgehogs could be exchanged for you, my eternal boy. »
« Oh! no! I am like everybody else. »
« No, brother. Not like everybody. We, with the exception perhaps of Bartholomew, Andrew and the Zealot, would have told everybody what happened to us and made us happy. You are silent. But you must tell me, your elder brother. I am like a father to you » says James of Zebedee.
« God is my Father, Jesus my Brother, and Mary my Mother...»
« So blood counts for nothing with you? » shouts James anxiously.
« Do not be upset. I bless the blood and the womb that formed me: my father and mother; and I bless you, my brother of the same blood: the former because they begot me and brought me up enabling me to follow the Master, and you because you are following Him. Since my mother became a disciple, I love her in two ways: with my flesh and blood as a son; with my soul as her fellow-disciple. Oh! what a joy to be united in His love!...»
Jesus has come back after hearing James' excited voice and the last words clarify the situation to Him. « Leave John alone. It is quite useless to torment him. He is very much like My Mother. And he will not speak. »
« Well, You tell us, then » they all implore.
« Well, here it is. I took John with Me because he is the most suitable for what I wanted to do. I have been helped and he has been perfected. That is all. »
Peter, John's brother James, Thomas, the Iscariot look at one another, making wry mouths, disappointed as they are. And Judas Iscariot, not satisfied with being disappointed, says so: « Why perfect him, who is already the best? »
Jesus replies to him: « You said: “Everybody has his way and makes use of it.” I have Mine. John has his, which is very like Mine. Mine cannot be perfected. His can. And I want that to be, because it is right that it should be so. And that is why I took him. Because I needed one who had that way and that soul. So let there be no bad mood and no curiosity. Let us go to Modin. The night is serene, cool and clear. We shall walk as long as it is moonlight, then we shall sleep until dawn. I will take the two Judas to venerate the tombs of the Maccabees, whose glorious name they bear. »
« Only the two of us with You! » exclaims the Iscariot happily.
« No. With everybody. But the visit to the tomb of the Maccabees is for you. That you may imitate them in a supernatural way, fighting and winning in a completely spiritual field. »