20th July 1945.
The train of animals following the apostolic college has undergone a change. The billygoat is no longer there and in its place there is a sheep and two lambs. A fat sheep with turgid udder, two little lambs as cheerful as urchins. A tiny flock that looks less magic than the very dark billygoat, and makes everybody happy.
« I told you that we would have a little goat to make Marjiam a little happy shepherd. Instead of the little goat, since you will not hear of goats, we got sheep. And white ones, exactly as Peter wanted them. »
« Of course! I thought I was pulling Beelzebub behind me » says Peter.
« In fact, since it was with us, how many unpleasant things have happened. It was a spell following us » confirms the Iscariot angrily
« A good spell, then. Because what harm has really befallen us? » says John calmly.
They all shout at him reproaching him for his blindness.
« Didn't you see how they were mocked at Modin? »
« And do you think my brother's fall was just nothing? He might have been ruined. If he had broken his legs or his back, how could we have carried him away from there? »
« And do you think that last night's incident was a pleasant one? »
« I saw everything, I considered everything and I blessed the Lord because nothing wrong happened to us. Evil came towards us, but then it ran away, as usual, and the incidents have certainly served to leave seeds of goodness both at Modin and with the vine-dressers, who came with the certainty that they would find at least one person wounded and with the remorse of having been without charity, and in fact they wanted to make amends; and the same happened last night with the robbers. They did no harm and we, that is Peter, got the sheep in exchange for the goat and as a present for their safety, and there is now a good deal of money for the poor because the merchants and the women gave us purses of money and offerings. And what is more important, they all received the word of Jesus. »
« John is right » say the Zealot and Judas Thaddeus. And the latter concludes: « Everything seems to be taking place through a clear foreknowledge of the future. It is odd that we should be there, and we were late, because of my fall, at the same time as the jewelled women, and the shepherds with large flocks, as well as the merchants lousy with money: all of whom were a wonderful prey for the robbers! Brother, tell me the truth. Did You know that all that was going to happen? » Thaddeus asks Jesus.
« I told you many a time that I can read the hearts of men, and when the Father does not dispose otherwise, I do not ignore what must happen. »
« Well, why do You at times make mistakes, such as going towards hostile Pharisees, or to towns that are completely hostile? » asks Judas Iscariot.
Jesus stares at him and then says calmly and slowly: « They are not mistakes. They are necessities of My mission. The sick need a doctor and the ignorant a master. Both the former and the latter at times reject doctor or master. But if they are good doctors and good masters, they continue to go to those who refuse them because it is their duty to go. And I go. You would like all resistance to collapse wherever I go. I could do that. But I do not use violence against anyone. I convince people. Coercion is to be used only in very exceptional cases and only when a spirit enlightened by God understands that it may serve to persuade that God exists, and is the strongest, or when many people are to be saved. »
« Like yesterday evening. eh? » asks Peter.
« Yesterday evening those robbers were afraid because they saw that we were wide awake and waiting for them » says the Iscariot with evident scorn.
« No. They were convinced by words » says Thomas.
« No. They would not dream of it! They are indeed tender souls that can be convinced by a couple of words, even if spoken by Jesus! I know what they are like when I was attacked with my family and many people of Bethsaida in the gorge of Adummim » replies Philip.
« Master, tell me. It's since yesterday that I wanted to ask You. Was it Your words or Your will to prevent anything from happening? » asks James of Zebedee.
Jesus smiles and is silent.
Matthew replies: « I think that it was His will to overcome the hardness of those hearts, which He almost paralysed in order to be able to speak and save them. »
« I say that, too. That is why He remained there by Himself, looking at the wood. He subdued them with His look, by means of His defenceless calm and by trusting them. He did not even have a stick in His hands!...» says Andrew.
« All right. That's what we say. That's what we think. But I want to hear it from the Master » says Peter.
There is a lively discussion, in which Jesus does not interfere. Some say that since Jesus has declared that He does not force anyone, He has not used coercion in the case of those robbers either. That is what Bartholomew states. The Iscariot instead, who is mildly supported by Thomas, declares that he cannot believe that the look of a man can do so much. Matthew retorts: « It can do that and much more. I was converted by His look even before He spoke to me. » The opposite opinions cause a lively discussion, as each stubbornly insists in his own. John, like Jesus, is silent and he smiles lowering his head to conceal his smile. Peter revives the discussion as none of the arguments of his companions convinces him. He thinks and says that the look of Jesus is different from the look of an ordinary man, and he wants to know whether it is because He is Jesus, the Messiah, or because He is always God.
Jesus speaks: « I solemnly tell you that not only I, but anyone who is united to God by means of faultless holiness, purity and faith will be able to do that and much more. The look of a child, if his spirit is united to God, can cause vain temples to collapse, without shaking them as Samson did, it can command wild beasts and men-beasts to be meek, it can repel death and defeat diseases of the spirit, and the word of a child, united to God and an instrument of God can also cure diseases, make the poison of snakes harmless, work all kinds of miracles. Because it is God Who works in him. »
« Ah! I understand! » says Peter. And He stares at John. And after a long internal conversation with himself, he concludes in a loud voice: « Yes! You, Master, can do that, because You are God, and because You are Man united to God. And the same happens to those who go so far, or have gone so far as to be united to God. I understand! I really understand! »
« But are you not inquiring about the key to that union, or about the secret of that power? Not all men are successful in going so far, although they all have the same means to succeed. »
« Quite right! Where is the key to that strength which unites man to God and dominates matter? A prayer or secret words...»
« A short while ago Judas of Simon was blaming the billygoat for all the unpleasant incidents that happened to us. There are no spells connected with animals. Reject superstitions, which are also a form of idolatry and can cause misfortunes. And as there are no formulas to work witchcraft, so there are no secret words to work miracles. There is only love. As I said yesterday evening, love calms the violent and satisfies the greedy. Love: God. With God within you, fully possessed through perfect love, your eye will become a fire capable of burning every idol and knocking down their simulacra, and your word will become power. And your eye will become an arm that disarms. You cannot resist God, you cannot resist Love. Only the demon can resist it, because he is perfect Hatred, and his children can resist with him. The others, the weak people seized with passions, but who have not sold themselves voluntarily to the demon, cannot resist. Whatever their religion may be, or their indifference to any faith, whatever the level of their spiritual baseness, they are struck by Love, the great Winner. Endeavour to arrive there soon, and you will do what the children of God and the bearers of God do. »
Peter does not take his eyes off John; also the sons of Alphaeus, James and Andrew are lively and watchful.
« Well, then, my Lord » says James of Zebedee, « what has happened to my brother? You are speaking of him. He is the boy who works miracles! Is that it? Is it so? »
« What has he done? He turned a page of the book of Life, and he read and learned new mysteries. Nothing else. He preceded you, because he does not stop to consider every obstacle, to weigh every difficulty, to work out every profit. He no longer sees the earth. He sees the Light, and goes to it. Without stopping. But leave him alone. The souls burning with greater flames are not to be disturbed in their ardour which gladdens and burns. You must let them burn. It is utmost joy and utmost toil. God grants them moments of darkness because He knows that fierce heat kills delicate souls, when they are exposed to continuous sunshine. God grants silence and mystic dew to such delicate souls, as He grants it to wild flowers. Let the athlete of love rest, when God allows him to rest. Imitate gymnasiarchs who grant their pupils due rest... When you arrive where he has already arrived, and beyond, because both you and he will go beyond that point, you will realise the need for respect, silence and dim light that souls feel when they become the prey of Love and its instrument. Do not think: “I will be glad to be known, and John is a fool, because the souls of our neighbours, like the souls of children, want to be attracted by wonders.” No, when you are there, you will have the same desire for silence and dim light as John has now. And when I shall no longer be amongst you, remember that when you have to pronounce sentence on a conversion or on possible holiness, you must always use humility as your measure. If a man is still proud, do not believe that he is converted. And if pride reigns in a man, who may even be said to be a “saint”, you may be sure that he is not a saint. He may quackishly and hypocritically play the saint and pretend he works wonders. But he is no saint. His appearance is hypocrisy, his wonders are satanism. Have you understood? »
« Yes, Master. »... They are all quiet and pensive. But if their lips are closed, it is possible to guess their thoughts by their countenance. A deep desire to know quivers like ether around them, emanating from them...
The Zealot endeavours to divert their attention and thus gain time to speak to them separately and advise them to be quiet. I think that the Zealot has taken that task upon himself in the apostolic group. He is the moderator, the adviser, the peacemaker of his companions, besides being one who understands the Master so well. He says: « We are already in Johanna's estate. That village in that little valley is Bether. The large building on that top is the castle where she was born. Can you smell this perfume in the air? It comes from the roseries which begin to give off scent in the morning sun. In the evening it is a powerful fragrance. But it is so beautiful to see them in the cool morning, covered with dew drops, like millions of diamonds thrown on to millions of opening corollas. When the sun sets they pick all the roses that are completely open. Come. I want to show you from a knoll the view of the roseries that overflow from the top, like a waterfall, down the crags on the other side. A cascade of flowers, which climbs back up again, like a wave, on two other hills. It is an amphitheatre, a lake of flowers. It is really wonderful. The road is steeper. But it is worth while climbing up, because from that spot one overlooks all this paradise. And we shall soon be at the castle. Johanna lives there in perfect freedom, amongst her peasants, who are the only guards of so much wealth. But they are so fond of their mistress, who has turned these valleys into a paradise of beauty and of peace, that they are worth much more than all Herod's guards. Here, look, Master. Look, my friends » and he points at a semicircle of hills invaded with roses.
Wherever one's eyes rest, one can see roseries, under very tall trees, to shield them from winds, from excessive heat of the sun and hailstorms. There is sunshine and air also under this light roof, which is like a veil but is not oppressive, and is duly controlled by the gardeners, and the most beautiful roseries in the world grow there. There are thousands and thousands of all kinds of rose-bushes. There are miniature, low, tall, very tall plants. They grow in tufts, like cushions studded with flowers, at the foot of trees, on very green meadows, as hedges along paths, on the banks of streams, in circles around irrigation vats, spread over the whole park which comprises hills, or twined round tree trunks, or from tree to tree forming flowery festoons and garlands. It is really a dream. All sizes and shades are present blending beautifully, with the ivory hue of tea-roses close to the blood red of other corollas. The true roses, which like the cheek of a child, shade on the contours into white tinged with pink, reign as queens, also because of their number.
They are all struck by so much beauty.
« But what does she do with all this? » asks Philip.
« She enjoys it » replies Thomas.
« No. She extracts the essence and thus employs hundreds of servants and gardeners who work at the presses. The Romans make great use of it. Jonathan was telling me when he showed me the figures of the last crop. But there is Mary of Alphaeus with the boy. They have seen us and they are calling the others...»
In fact there are Johanna and the two Maries, who are preceded by Marjiam, who runs down towards Jesus and Peter, with his arms stretched out ready for an embrace. The women arrive as well and they prostrate themselves before Jesus.
« Peace to you all. Where is My Mother? »
« Among the roseries, Master, with Eliza. Oh! She is definitely cured! She can now face the world and follow You. Thanks for making use of me for that purpose. »
« Thanks to you, Johanna. You can see that it was useful to come to Judaea. Marjiam: here are your presents. This lovely puppet and these beautiful sheep. Do you like them? »
The boy is breathless with joy. He leans towards Jesus Who has bent to give him the puppet and has remained thus to look at him in the face, and he clasps His neck, kissing Him with utmost ardour.
« And thus you will become as meek as the little sheep and then you will become a good shepherd for those who believe in Jesus. Is that right? »
Marjiam replies « Yes » in a choked voice, while his eyes shine with joy.
« Now go and see Peter, because I am going to My Mother. I can see a strip of Her veil moving along a hedge of roses. »
And He runs to Mary embracing Her to His heart at a corner of a path. After a first kiss, Mary, still panting, explains: « Eliza is coming behind Me... I ran to kiss You, because it was not possible for Me not to kiss You... but I did not want to kiss You in front of her... She has changed a great deal... But her heart still aches in the presence of other people's joy, now denied to her forever. Here she is coming. »
Eliza walks the last few yards with a rapid step and kneels down to kiss Jesus' tunic. She is no longer the tragic woman of Bethzur. She is an old austere lady, marked by sorrow that has left a deep trace on her countenance.
« May You be blessed, my Master, now and ever, for giving back to me what I had lost. »
« May a greater peace be with you, Eliza. I am happy to see you here. Stand up. »
« I am happy, too. I have so many things to tell You and to ask You, Lord. »
« We will have plenty time because I am staying here for a few days. Come, that I may introduce My disciples to you. »
« Oh!!! You have already understood what I wanted to tell You?! That I want to start a new life: Yours; and have a new family: Yours; and sons: Yours; as You told me speaking of Naomi, in my house, at Bethzur. I am the new Naomi through Your grace, my Lord. May You be blessed for it. I am no longer depressed and barren. I will still be a mother. And if Mary allows me, I will also be a mother to You, besides being a mother to the sons of Your doctrine. »
« Yes. You will be. Mary will not be jealous and I will love you so much that you will not regret coming with us. Let us go now to those who wish to tell you that they love you as brothers. » And Jesus takes her by the hand and leads her towards her new family.
The journey made while waiting for Pentecost is over.