10th August 1945.
The calm sunny morning helps the apostolic group to climb up some hills stretching westwards, that is towards the sea.
« We did the right thing by arriving at the mountains early in the morning. We could not have stayed in the plain in this heat. It is shady and cool here. I feel sorry for those who are following the Roman road. It is all right in winter, of course » says Matthew.
« After these hills we shall meet the wind from the sea. It always mitigates the air » says Jesus.
« We shall eat up on the top. The other day it was so beautiful. And from here it must be even more so because we are closer to Mount Carmel and to the sea » adds James of Alphaeus.
« Our fatherland is beautiful indeed! » exclaims Andrew.
« Yes. There is really everything. Mountains covered with snow, pleasant hills, lakes and rivers, all kinds of trees, and there is also the sea. It is really the delicious country celebrated by our psalmists, prophets, our great warriors and poets » says Thaddeus.
« Repeat some of the passages, since you know so many things » asks James of Zebedee.
« “With the beauty of Paradise He formed the earth of Judas.
With the smiles of His angels He adorned the land of Naphtali
and with rivers of heavenly honey He flavoured the fruit of his land...
The whole creation is mirrored in you, gem of God,
granted by God to His holy people.
O blissful land, your beauty is for the hearts of your children
sweeter than the rich grapes maturing on your hillsides,
more delicious than the milk filling the udders of your ewe-lambs,
more inebriating than the honey with the flavour of flowers adorning you.
The sky descended to become a river uniting two gems,
forming a pendant and a girdle on your green dress.
The Jordan sings, one of your seas smiles,
while the other reminds men that God is full of awe
and in the evening the hills seem to be dancing like merry girls on a meadow,
and at angelical dawns your mountains pray or sing halleluja
in the ardour of the sun, or adore Your power with the stars,
Most High Lord. You did not enclose us in narrow borders,
but You gave us the open sea to tell us that the world is ours.” »
« Lovely Really beautiful! I have only been on the lake and to Jerusalem; for years and years I have seen nothing else. So far I know only Palestine. But I am sure there is nothing more beautiful in the world » says Peter full of national pride.
« Mary was telling me that also the Nile valley is beautiful » says John.
« And the man of Endor speaks of Cyprus as if it were paradise » adds Simon.
« Eh! But our land!...»
And all the apostles with the exception of the Iscariot and Thomas, who are with Jesus a little ahead of the others, go on praising the beauty of Palestine.
The women are last to come, as they cannot restrain themselves from picking seeds of flowers to be sown in their gardens, also because the flowers are beautiful and will be a remembrance of their journey.
Some eagles, I think they are sea-eagles or vultures, are flying in wide circles over the hill tops, swooping down now and again in search of prey. And two vultures begin to fight, attacking each other in swift evolutions in the air, both losing feathers at each assault: an elegant but fierce duel that ends with the flight of the defeated one, which perhaps withdraws to die on a remote mountain-top. At least that is what everybody thinks, judging by its laborious flying, as if it were about to die.
« Greed did it no good » comments Thomas.
« Greed and stubbornness always cause trouble. Also those three yesterday!... Eternal mercy! What a dreadful destiny! » says Matthew.
« Will they never recover? » asks Andrew.
« Ask the Master ».
When Jesus is asked, He replies: « It would be better to ask whether they will convert. Because I solemnly tell you that it is better to die a holy leper than a healthy sinner. Leprosy will remain on the Earth, in the grave. Sins last forever. »
« I liked Your speech of yesterday evening very much » says the Zealot.
« I, instead, didn't. It was too severe for too many people in Israel » says the Iscariot.
« Are you one of them? »
« No, Master. »
« Well, then. Why are you concerned? »
« Because it could be detrimental to You. »
« Should I then come to terms with sinners and be their accomplice, in order to avoid possible detriment? »
« I don't say that. You could not do that. But be quiet. Do not alienate the mighty ones...»
« Silence gives consent. I do not consent to sin. Neither of common people, nor of mighty ones. »
« See what happened to the Baptist? »
« His glory. »
« His glory? I think it was his ruin. »
« Persecution and death suffered to be faithful to our duty are a glory for man. A martyr is always glorious. »
« But by his death he prevents himself from being a master, and grieves disciples and relatives. He frees himself from every pain, but leaves others in greater suffering. The Baptist has no relatives, that is true. But he still has duties towards his disciples. »
« Even if he had relatives, it would still be the same. Vocation is more than blood. »
« And what about the fourth commandment? »
« It comes after those concerning God. »
« You saw yesterday how a mother can suffer for her son...»
« Mother! Come here. »
Mary hastens towards Jesus and asks: « What do You want, Son? »
« Mother, Judas of Kerioth is pleading Your cause, he loves You and loves Me. »
« My cause? In regard to what? »
« He wants to persuade Me to be more prudent, so that I may not have to suffer like our relative, the Baptist. And he is telling Me that sons must have mercy on their mothers, by sparing themselves on their behalf, because that is what the fourth commandment prescribes. What do You say? You may speak, Mother, so that You may kindly instruct our Judas. »
« I say that I would no longer love My Son as God, that I would begin to doubt whether I have always been mistaken and whether I have always been deceived concerning His Nature, if I saw Him fail in His perfection, by lowering His thought to human consideration, losing sight of superhuman considerations that is, the redemption, the effort to redeem men, for their own sake and for the glory of God, at the cost of procuring for Himself affliction and hatred. I would still love Him as a Son led astray by a wicked power, I would love Him out of pity, because He is My Son, because He would be a poor wretch, but I could not love Him with the fullness of love with which I love Him now that I see Him faithful to the Lord. »
« You mean to Himself. »
« To the Lord. Now He is the Messiah of the Lord and must be loyal to the Lord like anybody else, more than anybody else, because His mission is greater than any other that was, is or ever will be on the Earth, and He certainly has from God suitable assistance for such a great mission. »
« But if anything wrong happened to Him, would You not weep? »
« I would shed all My tears. But I would weep tears of blood if I saw Him faithless to God. »
« That will greatly diminish the guiltiness of those who will persecute Him. »
« Why? »
« Because both You and He almost justify them. »
« Do not believe it. Their sins will always be the same in the eyes of God, whether we judge that it is inevitable, or we deem that no man in Israel ought to be guilty towards the Messiah. »
« Man in Israel? And if they were Gentiles would it not be the same? »
« No, it would not. The Gentiles would be in the wrong only towards a fellow-man. Israel knows who Jesus is. »
« Many in Israel do not know. »
« They do not want to know. They are deliberately incredulous. They thus add incredulity to anti-charity and they deny hope. It is not a small sin, Judas, to tread on the three main virtues. It is a grave sin, more grave spiritually than any material action against My Son. »
Judas, who is short of arguments, bends to lace a sandal and is left behind.
They reach the top of the mountain, or rather a ledge almost at the top, a ledge protruding forth as if it wished to run towards the beautiful blue sea. A thick wood of holm-oaks filters a clear emerald light, pierced by soft sunbeams as thin as needles. The charming airy mountain crest opens on to the nearby sea coast, opposite the majestic Mount Carmel chain. Below, at the foot of the mountain with the ledge protruding as if it were anxious to fly up, after some little fields situated in the central part of the mountain side, there is a narrow valley with a deep torrent, which must certainly be imposingly impetuous in time of floods, but is now reduced to a tiny silvery foaming stream in the middle of its bed. The torrent flows towards the sea along the foot of Mount Carmel. A road runs along the torrent, above its right hand bank and links a town situated in the middle of the bay to other inland towns, perhaps in Samaria, if I am taking my bearings correctly.
« That town is Sicaminon » says Jesus. « We shall be there late in the evening. Let us have a rest now, because the descent is difficult, though cool and short. »
And sitting in a circle, they talk to one another and to the women, while roasting on a rustic spit a lamb, certainly a gift of the shepherds...