17th August 1945.
And they are once again on their way, going eastwards, towards the country.
The apostles and the two disciples are now with Mary Clopas and Susanna, a few yards behind Jesus, Who is with His Mother and the two sisters of Lazarus. Jesus is engrossed in talking. The apostles instead are silent. They look tired or disheartened. Their attention is not even attracted by the beauty of the country, which is really wonderful, with gentle undulations across the plain like many green pillows under the feet of a giant king and its tiny hills spread here and there, preluding the mountain chains of Mount Carmel and Samaria. Both the plain, which is the dominating part of the country, and the small decorated hills and undulated ground, are completely covered with blooming flowers and full of ripening fruit. It must be a well-watered place, notwithstanding its position and the season, because it is too flourishing to be lacking in water. I now understand why the plain of Saron is so often mentioned enthusiastically in the Holy Scriptures. But that enthusiasm is not shared by the apostles, who look somewhat sulky, the only ones to look so, in this splendid day and in this charming country.
The consular road, which is well kept, cuts across the most fertile land like a white ribbon and in the early morning one frequently meets farmers laden with victuals and travellers going to Caesarea. One of the farmers, leading a line of donkeys laden with sacks, who catches up with the apostles and compels them to step aside to make room for the asinine caravan, asks arrogantly: « Is the Kishon here? »
« Farther back » replies Thomas dryly, and mutters between his teeth: « You lout! »
« He is a Samaritan and that's enough! » replies Philip.
They become silent again. After a few yards, as if he were concluding an internal speech, Peter says: « For what it was worth! Was it worth going all that road? »
« Of course! Why did we go to Caesarea if He did not say even one word? I thought He intended working some wonderful miracle to convince the Romans. Instead...» says James of Zebedee.
« He exposed us to ridicule, that's all » comments Thomas.
The Iscariot aggravates the situation saying: « And He made us suffer. But He likes to be insulted and He thinks we like that as well. »
« In actual fact it was Mary of Theophilus who suffered in this case » remarks the Zealot calmly.
« Mary! Mary! Has Mary become the centre of the universe? She is the only one who suffers, the only heroine, the only one to be perfected. If I had known, I would have become a robber and a killer in order to be the object of so much care » bursts out the Iscariot.
« Actually the last time we came to Caesarea and He worked a miracle and evangelized, we vexed Him by expressing our discontent because He had done so » remarks the cousin of the Lord.
« The trouble is that we do not know what we want... If He does one thing, we grumble, if He does the opposite thing, we still grumble. We are full of faults » says John seriously.
« Oh! There is the other wise man speaking! One thing is certain: no good has been done for some time. »
« No good, Judas? What about the Greek woman, and Ermasteus, and Abel, and Mary, but...»
« It is not with such nonentities that He will establish the Kingdom » retorts the Iscariot, who is haunted by the idea of an earthly triumph.
« Judas, please do not judge the actions of my Brother. It is a ridiculous pretence. A boy who wants to judge his master, or I should say: a nonentity wishing to be placed in high quarters » says Thaddeus, who has the same name and an invincible aversion for his namesake.
« Thank you for just calling me a boy. Actually, after living so long in the Temple I thought I could be considered at least of age » replies the Iscariot sarcastically.
« How dull these discussions are! » says Andrew with a sigh.
« True Instead of being united, the more we live together, we are being divided. And yet at Sicaminon He told us that we must be united to the flock... How shall we ever be so, if we are not united as shepherds? » remarks Matthew.
« So we must not speak? We must never express our ideas? I don't think that we are slaves. »
« No, Judas, we are not slaves. But we are not worthy of following Him, because we do not understand Him » says the Zealot peacefully.
« I understand Him very well. »
« No. You do not understand Him, and like you, those who criticise Him, do not understand Him either... To understand means to obey without discussing, because one is convinced of the holiness of the guide » says the Zealot.
« Ah! You are talking of understanding His holiness! I was referring to His words. His holiness is undisputed and indisputable » the Iscariot hastens to say.
« Can you separate one from the others? A saint will always possess Wisdom, and his words will be wise. »
« That is true. But He does harmful things. Because of His excessive holiness. I agree. But the world is not holy, and He causes trouble for Himself. Now, for instance, do you think that this Philistine and that Greek woman will do us any good? »
« If I am going to be harmful, I will withdraw » says Ermasteus, who feels mortified. « I came with the idea of honouring Him and doing the right thing. »
« You would grieve Him by going away for this reason » James of Alphaeus replies to him.
« I will pretend that I have changed my mind. I will say goodbye to Him... and I will go. »
« Surely not! You will not go away. It is not fair that the Master should lose a good disciple because of the short temper of other people » replies Peter promptly.
« If he wants to go away for so little, it means that he is not sure of his own will. So let him go » insists the Iscariot.
Peter loses his temper: « I promised Him, when He gave me Marjiam, that I would become paternal to everybody, and I am sorry to break my promise. But you force me to. Ermasteus is here and is staying here. Do you know what I must tell you? That you are the one who upsets the will of other people and makes them feel uncertain. You are one who causes separations and disorder. That is what you are. Shame on you. »
« What are you? The protector of...»
« Yes. You are quite right. I know what you mean. I am the protector of the Veiled woman, of John of Endor, of Ermasteus, of the slave, of anyone else who has been found by Jesus and is not one of those splendid ostentatious examples of the Temple, who are formed with the sacred mortar and cobwebs of the Temple, the wicks scented with the dregs of the lamps of the Temple, those like you, in other words, to make the parable clearer, because if the Temple is much, unless I have become a fool, the Master is much more than the Temple and you are lacking...» he shouts so loud that the Master stops and turns round and is about to walk back, leaving the women.
« He has heard! He will be sorrowful! » says the apostle John.
« No, Master. Don't come. We were discussing... to kill the boredom of the journey » says Thomas promptly. But Jesus remains still so that they can reach Him.
« What were you discussing? Must I tell you once again that the women disciples surpass you? » His kind reproach touches their hearts. They become silent and lower their heads. « My friends. Do not be the cause of scandal to those who are being born to the Light just now! Do you not know that an imperfection of yours is more harmful to the redemption of a heathen or a sinner, than all the errors of paganism? »
No one replies because they do not know what to say to justify themselves or to avoid accusing the others.
The wagon of Lazarus' sisters is near a bridge over a dry torrent. The two horses are grazing the thick grass on the banks of the torrent, which has perhaps run dry only recently and thus the banks are thick with grass. Martha's servant and another man, perhaps the driver, are also on the river-bed, whilst the women are in the closed wagon, which is completely enveloped with a heavy cover with tanned hides, which hang like heavy curtains down to the floor of the wagon. The women disciples move towards it, and the servant who is the first to see them, informs the nurse, while the other man takes the horses to the shaft.
In the meantime the servant rushes towards his mistresses bowing to the ground. The elderly nurse, a fine woman with an olive complexion, but pleasant, comes down from the wagon quickly and goes towards her mistresses. But Mary of Magdala says something to her and she directs her steps towards the Blessed Virgin saying: « Forgive me... But my joy in seeing her is so great that I see nobody else. Come, blessed Mother. The sun is scorching. It is cool in the wagon. »
All the women get on to it waiting for the men who are far behind. And while they are waiting and Syntyche, who is wearing the dress which the Magdalene had on yesterday, kisses the feet of her mistresses, as she insists in calling them, although they tell her that she is neither their slave nor their servant, but their guest in the name of Jesus, the Virgin Mary shows the precious little parcel of purple asking how the very short threads can be spun as they refuse to be moistened or twisted.
« That is not how to do it, Donna. They are to be reduced to powder and used as any other dye. It's the filament of the shell, not a hair. See how crumbly it is, now that it is dry? Reduce it to thin powder, sift it, to remove all long bits, which would stain the yarn or the cloth. It is better to dye the yarn in skeins. When You are sure that it is all fine powder, You dissolve it like cochineal, or saffron, or indigo powder or the powder of any other bark, root or fruit and You use it. Fasten the dye with strong vinegar the last time You rinse it. »
« Thank you, Naomi. I will do as you told Me. I have embroidered with purple threads, but they were given to Me ready to be used... Here is Jesus. It is time to say goodbye, My daughters. I bless you all in the name of the Lord. Go in peace and take peace and joy to Lazarus. Goodbye, Mary. Remember that you wept on My breast your first happy tears. I am therefore your Mother because a baby weeps its first tears on its mother's breast. I am your Mother and will always be such. What may be burdensome for you to tell also the most kind sister, the most loving nurse, come and tell Me. I will always understand you. What you would not dare say to My Jesus, because it is still stained with humanity, which He does not want in you, come and tell Me. I will always be indulgent to you. And if you should like to inform Me also of your triumphs – but I would prefer you told Him, like sweet-smelling flowers, because He is your Saviour, not I – I will rejoice with you. Goodbye, Martha. You are now going away happily, and your supernatural happiness will last.
So you need nothing else but to make progress in justice, in the peace which now nothing perturbs in you. Do it for the sake of Jesus, Who has loved you so much as to love your sister whom you love with complete love. Goodbye, Naomi. Go with the treasure you have found. As you used to satisfy her hunger with your milk, satisfy now your own, with the words that she and Martha will tell you, so that you may see in My Son much more than the exorciser who frees hearts from Evil. Goodbye, Syntyche, flower of Greece, you perceived by yourself that there is something more than flesh. Bloom now in God and be the first of the new Grecian flowers in Christ. I am very happy to leave you united thus. I bless you with My love. »
The shuffling of feet is now close at hand. They lift the heavy curtain and see Jesus Who is a few feet from the wagon. They come off in the parching sun, which is blazing down on the road.
Mary of Magdala kneels at Jesus' feet saying: « I thank You, for everything. And I thank You also very much for making me do this pilgrimage. You only possess Wisdom. I am now leaving divested of the remains of the Mary of time ago. Bless me, My Lord, to fortify me more and more. »
« Yes. I bless you. Enjoy the company of your brother and sister and with them form yourself more and more in Me. Goodbye, Mary. Goodbye, Martha. Tell Lazarus that I bless him. I entrust this woman to you. I am not giving her to you. She is My disciple. But I want you to give her the opportunity, however small, of understanding My doctrine. I will come later. Naomi, I bless you, and you two, as well. »
Martha and Mary have tears in their eyes. The Zealot greets them in particular handing them a letter for his servant. The others greet them all together. The wagon then sets out.
« And now let us go and look for some shady spot. May God guide them... Are you so sorry, Mary, that they have gone? » He asks Mary of Alphaeus, who is weeping silently.
« Yes. They were very good...»
« We shall be meeting them again soon. And they will have grown in numbers. You will have many sisters... or daughters, if you prefer so. It is all love, whether it is maternal or brotherly » says Jesus comforting her.
« Providing that does not cause trouble...» grumbles the Iscariot.
« Trouble to love one another? »
« No. Trouble having people of different races or origin. »
« You mean Syntyche? »
« Yes, Master. After all she was the property of the Roman and it was wrong to take possession of her. He will be angry with us and we will draw upon ourselves the rigour of Pontius Pilate. »
« What do you think Pontius Pilate cares if one of his subordinates loses a slave? He will know what a slave is worth. And if he is generally honest, as they say he is, at least at home, he will say that the woman did the right thing to run away. If he is dishonest, he will say: “Serves him right. I may find her.” Dishonest people are not sensitive to other people's sufferings. In any case, poor Pontius! With all the trouble we make for him, he has enough to worry about instead of wasting his time with the complaint of a man who let his slave run away! » says Peter. And many say that he is right and laugh at the anger of the lewd Roman.
But Jesus discusses the matter at a higher level. « Judas, are you familiar with Deuteronomy? »
« Certainly, Master. And, I do not hesitate to say, as very few people are. »
« And what do you consider it is? »
« The spokesman of God. »
« Spokesman. So it repeats the word of God. »
« Exactly. »
« You judge it correctly. But, then, why do you not think that it is right to do what it commands? »
« I never said that. On the contrary! I find that we neglect it too much by following the new Law. »
« The New Law is the fruit of the old one, that is, it is the perfection achieved by the tree of Faith. But none of us neglect it, as far as I know, because I am the first to respect it and to prevent others from neglecting it. » Jesus is very incisive in saying these words. He resumes: « The Deuteronomy is untouchable. Also when My Kingdom will triumph, and with My Kingdom the New Law and its new codes and clauses, the Deuteronomy will always be applied to the new dictates, as the squared stones of ancient buildings are used for new ones, because they are perfect and make very strong walls. But My Kingdom does not yet exist, and I, a faithful Israelite, do not offend or neglect the Mosaic Book. It is the base of My behaviour and My teaching. Upon the base of the Man and of the Master, the Son of the Father places the heavenly construction of His Nature and Wisdom. In Deuteronomy it is written: “You shall not hand over to his master the slave who has come to you. He shall live with you, wherever he pleases, he shall stay peacefully in one of your towns and you shall not molest him.” This decree applies in any case where a slave has been compelled to run away from a cruel master. In My case, in the case of Syntyche, the flight is not towards a limited freedom, but towards the unlimited freedom of the Son of God. And now that this skylark has escaped from the hunters' trap, do you expect Me to put her into a net once again and hand her over to her prison to deprive her also of hope, after taking away her freedom? No, never! I bless the Lord because, as our trip to Endor brought this son back to the Father, so our visit to Caesarea has brought this woman to Me, that I may lead her to the Father. At Sicaminon I spoke to you of the power of faith. Today I will speak to you of the light of Hope. But now let us eat and rest in this orchard. Because the sun is scorching as if hell were open. »