11th August 1945.
It is on the bank of the deep torrent that Jesus finds Isaac with many known and unknown disciples.
Among the known ones there are: the head of the synagogue of the Clear Water, Timoneus; Joseph of Emmaus, the one accused of incest; the young man who did not bury his father to follow Jesus; Stephen; Abel, the leper cured near Korazim with his friend Samuel; Solomon, the ferryman of Jericho, and many more, whom I recognise, but I do not remember in the least where I saw them or their names. Many faces indeed are known to me, but only as faces of disciples. And there are other people who have been converted by Isaac or by the above mentioned disciples and are following the main group hoping to find Jesus.
Their meeting is tender, joyful and respectful. Isaac's eyes are beaming with joy, when he looks at the Master and shows Him his new flock and as a reward he asks Jesus to say a few words to his people.
« Do you know any quiet place where we can gather together? »
« At the end of the bay there is a desert beach, with some hovels of fishermen, which are empty at this time of the year because they are unhealthy and because the fishing season of fish to be salted is over and the fishermen have gone to Syro-Phoenicia to fish for murices. Many of them already believe in You because they heard You speak in sea towns or because they found disciples, and they have given us the little houses to rest in. We go there after a mission. Because there is a lot to be done in this area. It is deeply corrupted by many things. I would like to go as far as Syro-Phoenicia, and I could do it by sea, because the coast is parched by the sun and it is impossible to go there on foot. But I am a shepherd, not a sailor, and among my people there is not even one who can sail. »
Jesus, Who listens carefully, smiling lightly, lowering His head a little, as He is so tall compared with the little shepherd who, like a soldier, is reporting everything to his general, replies: « God helps you because of your humility. If I am known here it is due to you, My disciple, and to no one else. We will now ask the men of the lake whether they feel they can sail the sea, and if possible, we will go to Syro-Phoenicia. » And He turns round looking for Peter, Andrew, James and John, who are talking animatedly to some disciples, while Judas is warmly congratulating Stephen, and the Zealot, Bartholomew and Philip are near the women. The other four are with Jesus.
The four fishermen come at once. « Do you feel up to sailing the sea? » asks Jesus.
The four look at one another perplexedly. Peter ruffles his hair while pondering on the matter. He then asks: « But where? Off shore? We are fresh water fish...»
« No, along the coast, as far as Sidon. »
« H'm! I think it can be done. What do you say? »
« I think so, too. Sea or lake, it is still the same thing: water » says James.
« Nay: it will be even more beautiful and easier » exclaims John.
« I don't know how you can say that » replies his brother.
« It's his fondness for the sea. He who loves something, sees every perfection in it. If you loved a woman like that, you would be a perfect husband » says Peter jokingly shaking him affectionately.
« No, I am saying so because at Ashkelon I saw that manoeuvres are the same and navigation very smooth » replies John.
« Well, let us go, then! » exclaims Peter.
« However, it would be better to have someone from here. We have no experience with this sea and its depth contour » remarks James.
« Oh! I would not even think of that. We have Jesus with us! Before I was not yet certain, but after He calmed the lake! Let us go with the Master to Sidon. Perhaps there is some good to be done there » says Andrew.
« Well, we shall go. You will get the boats tomorrow. Ask Judas of Simon to give you the purse. »
And all mixed together, apostles and disciples – and it is needless to say how happy many are, particularly the ones already well known to Jesus – they retrace their steps going back towards the town, and walk round the outskirts, until they reach the end of the bay, which protrudes into the sea like a bent arm. A few little houses there, spread on the narrow pebbly shore, represent the most poverty-stricken and depopulated quarter of the town, which is inhabited only at intervals. The walls of the little cubic shaped houses are worn away by saltness and age and they are all closed. When the disciples open them, they show their smoky misery and bare essential furnishings.
« Here they are. They are not beautiful, but are clean and comfortable » says Isaac, who is doing the honours of the house.
« The poor things are certainly not beautiful. The Clear Water was a royal palace in comparison. And there were some who complained!...» grumbles Peter.
« But they are a real fortune to us. »
« Of course! The all important thing is to have a roof over your head and to be fond of one another. Oh! look, there is our John! How are you? Where were you? »
But John of Endor, although smiling at Peter, runs to greet Jesus Who replies to him with very kind words.
« I did not let him come because he has not been well... I prefer him to stay here. He is so clever with citizens and with those who ask information on the Messiah...» says Isaac.
The man from Endor is indeed much thinner than previously. But his countenance is serene. His emaciation ennobles his features, so that one thinks of him as a man already affected by the double martyrdom of flesh and soul.
Jesus watches him and asks: « Are you not well, John? »
« I am not any worse than I was before seeing You. And that as far as my body is concerned. With regard to my soul, I think I am recovering from my peculiar wounds. »
Jesus looks at his peaceful eyes and hollow temples but does not say anything. He lays a hand on his shoulder while entering a little house with him, into which they have brought basins of salt water to refreshen their tired feet and pitchers of cool water to quench their thirst, while outside they are laying the table on a rustic board shaded by a very poor pergola of creepers.
While twilight is falling and the sea is whispering its evening prayers with the surf rustling on the pebbly shore, it is beautiful to see Jesus having supper with the women and the apostles, sitting at the coarse board, while the others, sitting on the ground, or on seats or baskets turned upside down, form a circle round the main table.
The meal is soon over and the table is cleared even sooner, because there were only very few plates, only for the more important guests. The sea has become indigo-black in the starless night. And all its majesty appears in this sad but solemn hour, typical of sea shores.
Jesus, Whose tall white figure is outstanding in the darker and darker shadows, rises from the table and comes towards the middle of the apostolic group, while the women withdraw. Isaac and another man light little fires on the beach to illuminate and keep away the clouds of mosquitoes, which probably come from nearby marshes.
« Peace to you all.
The mercy of God has joined us before the appointed time, giving reciprocal joy to our hearts. I have searched all your hearts, which are morally good, as is evidenced by your being here, waiting for Me, formed in Me, but still spiritually imperfect as is proved by some of your reactions that show how the old man of Israel still persists in you with all his ideas and prejudices, and the new man, the man of Christ with Christ's wide, bright merciful mentality and even wider charity has not yet come out of him, like a butterfly from its larva. Do not feel mortified if I have scanned you and pried into all your secrets. A teacher must know his pupils in order to correct their faults, and believe Me, if he is a good teacher, he is not disgusted with the more faulty ones, on the contrary he pays greater attention to them, to improve them. You know that I am a good Master. And now let us consider those reactions and prejudices, let us consider together the reason why we are here, and because of the joy we experience by being together, let us bless the Lord, Who always achieves a collective welfare from an individual one.
I have heard from your own lips how much you admire John of Endor, and your admiration is even more remarkable because he professes to be a repentant sinner and on his past and present condition he bases the argument of his preaching to those whom he wants to bring to Me. It is true: he was a sinner. Now he is a disciple. Many of you have now come to the Messiah through his merit. You can thus see that God creates the new people of God just by those means that the old man of Israel would despise.
I now ask you to refrain from misjudging the presence of a sister, whom old Israel cannot understand to be a disciple. I told the women to go and rest. I was not so anxious to let them rest as I was to be able to give you a holy careful consideration on her conversion and thus prevent you from committing a sin against love and justice, and that is why I gave that command, which has certainly disappointed them.
Mary of Magdala, the great sinner, who had no excuse for her sin, has come back to the Lord. And from whom will she expect faith and mercy but from God and the servants of God? The whole of Israel, and with Israel the foreigners who are amongst us, who know her very well and judge her very severely, criticise and deride her resurrection, now that she is no longer their accomplice in vice.
Resurrection. That is the exact word. To raise the flesh from death is not the greatest miracle. It is only a relative miracle because it is destined to be cancelled one day by death. I do not give immortality to those whose flesh I raise from death, but I give eternity to those who resuscitate in their souls. And while a man, whose body is dead, does not join his will to Mine in order to come back to life and therefore he has not merit, there is a firm will in the man who revives spiritually, nay his will is there first. And he thus has merit.
I am not saying this to justify Myself. I have to give account of My action to God only. But you are My disciples. And each of you must be another Jesus. And none of you must be ignorant or guilty of any of those deep-rooted faults, whereby so many are united to God only by name.
Everything can become a good action. Also what seems less suitable to become so. When matter is presented to the will of God, even if it were the most inert, cold and filthy, it can become living, blazing pure beauty.
I will give you an instance taken from the book of the Maccabees. When Nehemiah was sent back to Jerusalem by the king of Persia, they decided to offer sacrifices on the purified altar in the rebuilt Temple. Nehemiah remembered that at the time they were captured by the Persians, the priests assigned to the cult of God used to take the fire of the altar and hide it in a secret place, at the bottom of a valley, in a deep dry well, and did it so carefully and secretly that they were the only ones who knew where the sacred fire was. As Nehemiah remembered all that, he asked the grandchildren of those priests to go to the place which the priests, before dying, had disclosed to their sons, who in turn had informed their children, handing on the secret from father to son, and to take the sacred fire to light the fire for the sacrifice. But when the grandchildren went down into the secret well, they did not find the fire, and they found instead thick water, a putrid, stinking, heavy slime, which had filtered down there from all the obstructed sewers of the devastated city of Jerusalem. And they told Nehemiah, who told them to take some of that water and bring it up to him. After laying firewood on the altar and the victims on top of it, he sprayed everything copiously with the slimy water. The people was amazed and the priests scandalised, but they watched and did everything respectfully, only because it was Nehemiah who told them. But how sad their hearts were! And how discouraged they felt! As the overcast sky made the day a sad one, so uncertainty made men melancholy. But the sun broke through the clouds and its rays descended upon the altar and the firewood sprayed with the slimy water caught fire, which soon consumed the sacrifice, while the priests were saying the prayers that Nehemiah had written, singing the most beautiful hymns of Israel, until the whole sacrifice was consumed. And in order to convince the crowds that God can work miracles also with the most unsuitable means, when they are used for a righteous purpose, Nehemiah ordered the remaining water to be sprayed on to some large stones. And as soon as the stones were sprayed, they caught fire and were burnt out in the great light coming from the altar.
Every soul is a sacred fire laid by God on the altar of man's heart that it may burn the sacrifice of life through love for the Creator of life. Every life is a holocaust, if spent properly, and every day is a sacrifice to be offered holily. But marauders come, the oppressors of man and of man's soul. The fire falls into the deep well, not through any holy need, but through fateful stupidity. And submerged by all the drainage of the dens of vice, it becomes heavy putrid mud, until a priest descends to that bottom and brings that mud up to daylight, laying it on the holocaust of his own sacrifice. Because – and remember this – the heroism of the man to be converted is not sufficient: also the heroism of him who converts is required. Nay, the latter must precede the former, 'because souls are saved through our sacrifice. Because thus we are successful in getting mud to change into fire and God to judge perfect and pleasing to His holiness the sacrifice that is being consumed.
Then, as it is still not enough to convince the world that repentant mud burns more than common fire, even if it is consecrated fire, which common fire serves only to burn wood and victims, that is, combustible material, then the repentant mud becomes so powerful as to set on fire and burn even stones, which are incombustible material. Are you not wondering whence such property comes to that mud? Do you not know? I will tell you: because in the ardour of repentance they merge with God, flame with flame; rising flame, descending flame; flame which offers itself loving, flame which gives itself loving; the embrace of two who love and find each other, who join together forming one thing only. And since the flame of God is a greater one, it overflows, excels, penetrates, absorbs and the flame of the repentant mud is no longer a relative flame of a created thing, but it is the infinite flame of the Uncreated Thing: of the Most High, Most Powerful, Infinite God.
That is what truly and wholly converted big sinners are, who have generously devoted themselves to their conversion without keeping anything of their past, burning themselves as the first thing, in their heavier part, by means of the flame rising from their mud, which has run towards Grace and has been touched by Grace. I solemnly tell you that many stones in Israel will be attacked by the fire of God because of these burning furnaces, which will blaze more and more, until the human creature is utterly consumed. And from their thrones in Heaven they will continue to burn the stones, the tepidity, uncertainty, timidity of the Earth, and as true supernatural burning glasses they will collect the One and Trine lights to converge them on to mankind and set it afire in God.
I would repeat that I did not have to justify My actions, but I wanted you to understand My conception and make it your own. A wrong conception, a Pharisaical suspicion of contaminating God by taking a repentant sinner to Him must never stop you from such a deed that is the perfect coronation of the misson for which I destine you. Always bear in mind that I have not come to save saints, but sinners. And do likewise, because a disciple is not worth more than his Master, and if I do not loathe taking by the hand the dregs of the Earth who feel the need of Heaven, who at long last feel it, and exulting I take them to God, because that is My mission, and every conquered soul justifies My incarnation, which humiliated My Infinity, neither you must loathe doing so, as you are imperfect men, and you have all become more or less acquainted with imperfection, as you are of the same nature as your brother sinners, and I have elected you to the rank of saviours so that My work on the Earth may be continued forever, as if I continued to live on it in an endless life.
And such it will be, because the union of My priests will be like the vital part of the great body of My Church, of which I will be the animating Spirit, and the numberless particles of believers will assemble round this vital part to form one only body, which will be called after My Name. But if the sacerdotal part should lack vitality would the numberless particles be able to live? In actual fact, as I am in the body, I could extend My Life as far as the most remote particles, neglecting the obstructed and useless channels and cisterns, reluctant to fulfill their mission. Because rain falls wherever it wishes and the good particles, being capable by themselves of desiring life, would still live My Life. But what would Christianity then be? A close assembly of souls, one near the other. One near the other and yet separated by channels and cisterns that no longer link them, distributing to each particle the vital blood coming from one only centre. But there would be dividing walls and precipices across which the particles would look at one another, and they would be humanly hostile, supernaturally anguished, saying in their spirits: “And yet we were brothers and we still feel as such, notwithstanding they have divided us!” It would be a closeness of souls, not a fusion or an organism. And My love would shine sorrowfully upon such ruin... Further, do not think that that applies only to religious schisms. No. It applies also to all the souls that remain all alone because priests refuse to support them, to take care of them, to love them, violating their mission, which is to say and do what I say and do, that is: “Come to Me, all of you, and I will lead you to God.”
Go in peace, now, and God be with you. »
The crowd disperse slowly, going to their little houses. Also John of Endor stands up. He took notes while Jesus was speaking and in order to see what he was writing, he became red-hot near the fire. But Jesus stops him saying: « Stay for a little while with your Master ». And He keeps him close to Himself until they have all gone away. « Let us go as far as that rock near the water. The moon is high in the sky and we can see our way. »
John agrees without demur. They move away from the houses about two hundred metres and they sit on a huge boulder, which I do not know whether it is the ruin of a pier, or the extreme ramification of a cliff fallen into the sea, or the wreck of one of the little houses swallowed by the water that through centuries advanced on the shore. I know that whilst from the little beach it is possible to climb on to the rock, making use of the cavities and juts, which form a sort of steps, on the sea side the face is a sheer cliff ending in the blue sea. Because of the tide, half of the rock is surrounded by water, which grumbles and lightly smacks the obstacle and then withdraws with the sound of a huge sigh, becomes silent for a moment, starting all over again, with regular motions and sounds of slaps, aspirations and pauses, like syncopated music. They sit on the very top of the boulder struck by the sea. The moon forms a silvery road on the water and the sea looks deep blue in the moonlight, whereas before the moon rose, it was like a large blackish expanse in the dark night.
« John, are you not telling your Master the reason why your body suffers? »
« You know, my Lord. But do not say: “it suffers.” Say: “it is being consumed.” That is more exact, and You know, and You also know that it is being consumed with delight. Thank You, Lord. I recognised myself, too, in the mud that becomes flame. But I shall not have time to set the stones afire. I shall soon die. I have suffered too much through the hatred of the world and I exult too much because of the love of God. But I do not regret life. I might sin again here, or fail in the mission to which You destine us. I have already failed twice in my life. In my mission of a master, because I should have been able to find what was necessary to perfect myself and I did not train myself... In my mission of a husband, because I was not able to mould my wife... which was logical. As I was not able to perfect myself, I could not perfect her either. I might fail in my mission as a disciple. And I do not want to fail with You. Blessed therefore be death if it comes to take me where one can no longer sin! But if I am not destined to be a teaching disciple, I shall be a victim disciple, which fate is more like Yours. You said that this evening: “Burning ourselves as first thing.” »
« John, is it a fate, which you suffer or is it an offer you are making? »
« An offer, which I am making, if God does not disdain mud that has become fire. »
« John, you are doing much penance. »
« Saints do, You are the first. It is fair that he should do it, who has so much to pay. But do You think that mine is not pleasant to God? Are You prohibiting me from doing it? »
« I never interfere with the good yearnings of a loving soul. I have come to preach by actual facts that suffering is expiation and sorrow redemption. I cannot contradict Myself. »
« Thank You, Lord. It will be my mission. »
« What were you writing, John? »
« Oh! Master! Sometimes old Felix emerges again with his habits of a teacher. I am thinking of Marjiam. He has a whole life to preach You, but because of his age, he is not here to hear Your sermons. I thought I should write certain instructions You have given us and which he has not heard, because he is intent on playing, or he is far away with one of us. There is so much wisdom in Your words, also in the least ones! Your familiar conversations are a lesson on matters of every day and every man, on the least things in life, which after all are the most important, because by piling up they form a heavy burden, which requires patience, perseverance, resignation to be borne holily.
It is easier to accomplish one only great heroic deed than a thousand little ones for which a constant presence of virtue is required. And yet one will not attain a great deed, both in good and in evil, I know by experience with regard to evil, unless one stores up many little deeds, which seem insignificant. I began to kill when, tired of the frivolity of my wife, I looked at her scornfully for the first time. I have written Your short lessons for Marjiam. And this evening I wanted to take a note of Your great lesson. I will leave my work to the boy, so that he may remember me, the old master, and he may have what otherwise he would never have had. Your words: a wonderful treasure for him. Will you allow me? »
« Yes, John. But be in complete peace, like this sea. See? It would be too warm for you to go about in the heat of the sun, and apostolic life is really hard. You have fought so much in life. Now God calls you to Himself in this placid moonlight that makes everything calm and pure. Proceed in the kindness of God. I can tell you: God is pleased with you. »
John of Endor takes Jesus' hand, kisses it and whispers: « And yet it would have been lovely to say to the world: “Come to Jesus!” »
« You will say that from Paradise, where You will be a burning glass, too. Let us go, John. I would like to read what you have written. »
« Here it is, Lord. And tomorrow I will give You the other roll on which I wrote the other words. »
They descend from the boulder, and in a most clear moonlight, which has changed the pebbly shore into silver, they go back to the houses. They say goodbye to each other, John kneeling down, Jesus blessing him with His hand laid on his head and giving him His peace.