24th August 1945.
Jesus is going back towards Nazareth along a road which winds through hills, benefitting from the shade of olive-groves and orchards spread in this fertile and well cultivated region.
But when He arrives at a cross-road, intersecting the road to Ptolemais, He stops and says: « Let us stop at that house, where I have rested before, we shall have our meal, and while the sun follows its course, let us stay together before we part again. We shall go towards Tiberias, My Mother and Mary will go to Nazareth, John and Ermasteus to Sicaminon. »
Through an olive-grove they turn their steps towards a low large house of peasants, adorned with the usual fig-tree, and decked with the festoons of a vine which climbs up an outside staircase and expands its branches over the terrace.
« Peace be with you. I am here once again. »
« Come Master. You are always welcome. May God grant peace to You and to Your friends » replies an elderly man who was crossing the yard carrying an armful of faggots. He then shouts: « Sarah! Sarah! The Master is here with His disciples. Add more flour to your bread! »
A woman covered with flour comes out of one of the rooms: she has obviously been sieving, because she is still holding in her hands a sieve with some bran in it; she kneels in front of Jesus smiling.
« Peace to you, woman. I brought you My Mother, as I promised you. Here She is. And this is Her sister-in-law, the mother of James and Judas. Where are Dinah and Philip? »
The woman, after greeting the two Maries, replies: « Dinah had her third baby-girl yesterday. We are a little sad, because we have not yet been given a nephew. But we are happy, too, is that right, Mattathias? »
« Yes, because she is a beautiful baby and she is always our blood. We will show her to You. Philip has gone to bring back Anna and Naomi from his old parents, but he will soon be back. »
The woman goes back to her baking while the man, after putting the faggots into the oven, takes care of the guests, offering them seats and new milk, if they want it, or fruit and olives, if they prefer them.
The room on the ground floor is cool and shady, large as it is and with two doors, one in the front, the other at the back, the forme! being shaded by the large fig-tree, the latter by a tall hedge of star-shaped flowers, which resemble sunflowers in shape, but with smaller corollas. Thus an emerald green light enters the largo room, and it is of great relief to eyes tired by the strong sunshine. There are benches and tables in the room, which is perhaps the one where the women spin and weave and the men repair their agricultural tools or store their supplies of flour and fruit, as would appear by some small beams with many hooks and boards placed on consoles, besides long chests along the walls. Fluffy hurds of linen or hemp look like loose plaits hanging on the white-washed wall, and a piece of bright red cloth stretched on an uncovered loom seems to cheer up the whole room with its pompous joyful colour.
The landlady, who has finished her baking, comes back and asks the guests whether they wish to see the new-born baby.
Jesus replies: « I will certainly bless her. »
Mary instead stands up saying: « I will come and greet the mother. »
All the women go out.
« It is very comfortable here » says Bartholomew who is clearly very tired.
« Yes. It is quiet and shady. We shall end up by falling asleep. confirms Peter, who is already drowsy.
« In three days' time we shall be at home for a long time. You will be able to rest because you will be going evangelizing in the neighbourhood » says Jesus.
« And what about You? »
« I will stay at Capernaum most of the time, going to Bethsaida now and again. And I will evangelize those who join Me there, Then at the moon of Tishri we shall begin to go about again. In the meantime, I will instruct you in the evening...»
Jesus becomes silent because He sees that sleep makes His words useless. He shakes His head smiling, while watching the group overwhelmed by fatigue and sleeping in more or less comfortable postures. There is dead silence in the house and in the sunny country. It looks like an enchanted place. Jesus goes to the door near the hedge of flowers and through the branches He contemplates the gentle Galilean hills, covered with grey still olive-trees.
A light shuffling is heard above His head together with the uncertain crying of a new-born baby. Jesus looks up and smiles at His Mother Who is coming down holding in Her arms a white little bundle from which three tiny red things emerge: a little head and two lively little fists.
« Look, Jesus, what a beautiful baby! She is somewhat like You when You were one day old. Your hair was so fair, that You did not seem to have any, if it had not been even then raised in light curls like a woolly cloud, and You were as red as a rose as well. And, look, look, now that she has opened her little eyes here in the shade and she is looking for her mother's breast, her eyes are dark blue, like Yours... Oh! darling! But I have no milk, My dear little one, My little rose, My little dove! » and Our Lady lulls the baby who stops crying and falls asleep, gurgling like a little dove.
« Mother, did You do that to Me also? » asks Jesus watching His Mother lull the baby, with Her cheek pressed against the little fair-haired head.
« Yes, Son. But I called You “My little lamb.” She is beautiful, is she not? »
« Really beautiful and strong. Her mother can be proud of her » confirms Jesus, Who is also stooped watching the sleep of the innocent child.
« Instead she is not... Her husband is angry because all the children are girls. It is true that men are better for the fields we have. But it is no fault of our daughter...» says with a sigh the landlady who has just arrived.
« They are young. Let them love each other and they will have boys also » says the Lord confidently.
« Here is Philip... He will become gloomy now...» moans the upset woman. And in a louder voice she says: « Philip, the Rabbi of Nazareth is here. »
« I am glad to see Him. Peace to You, Master. »
« And to you, Philip. I saw your lovely baby. I am still looking at her, because she is really praiseworthy. God blesses you with beautiful, healthy and good children. You must be very grateful to Him... Are you not replying to Me? You seem to be annoyed...»
« I was hoping it was a boy! »
« You are not going to tell Me that you are unfair by accusing the innocent child of being a female or that you are going to be hard on your wife? » asks Jesus severely.
« I wanted a boy! For the Lord and for myself! » exclaims Philip resentfully.
« And do you think you are going to get one through injustice and rebellion? Have you perhaps read God's thought? Are you above Him that you may say to Him: “Do that because that is just?” This woman disciple of Mine has no children, for instance. And yet she said to Me: “I bless my sterility which gives me wings to follow You.” And this disciple, the mother of four sons, is anxious that all four of them may no longer belong to her. Is it true, Mary and Susanna? Do you hear them? And you, although you have been married only a few years to a fertile woman, and have been blessed with three rose-buds who seek your love, you are angry? With whom? Why? You do not want to tell Me? Well, I will tell you because you are selfish. Pocket your ill-feeling. Open your arms to this child born of your seed and love her. Come on! Take her! » and Jesus takes the little bundle of linens and lays it in the arms of the young father. He then resumes speaking: « Go to your wife, who is weeping, and tell her that you love her. Or God really will never give you a son. I am telling you. Go!...»
The man goes up to his wife's room.
« Thank You, Master! » whispers his mother-in-law. « He has been very rude since yesterday...»
The man comes down after a few minutes and says: « I did it, my Lord. She thanks You. And she told me to ask You to name the baby because... in my unjust hatred I had decided on a name that was too ugly...»
« Call her Mary. She has sucked bitter tears with the first drop of milk, which was also bitter because of your harshness, so she may be called Mary and Mary will love her. Is that right, Mother? »
« Of course, poor little darling. And she is so pretty. And she will certainly be good and become a little star of Heaven. »
They go back into the large room where the apostles are fast asleep, with the exception of Judas, who seems to be on tenter hooks.
« Did you want Me, Judas? » asks Jesus.
« No, Master, but I cannot get to sleep and I would like to go out for a little while. »
« Who stops you? I am going out as well. I am going up to that hillock. It is all in the shade... I will rest praying. Do you want to come with Me? »
« No, Master. I would disturb You because I am not in condition to pray. Perhaps... perhaps I am not feeling very well and that is upsetting me...»
« Stay here, then. I do not force anybody. Goodbye. Goodbye, women. Mother, when John of Endor wakes, send him to Me, by himself. »
« Yes, Son. Peace be with You. »
Jesus goes out, Mary and Susanna bend to watch the cloth on the loom. Mary sits down with Her hands in Her lap, slightly bent. Perhaps She is praying, too. Mary of Alphaeus soon tires of watching the work. She sits in the darkest corner and soon falls asleep.
Susanna thinks it is a good idea and imitates her.
Only Mary and Judas are awake: the former deeply absorbed in Her thoughts, the latter looking at Her with wide open gaze, which never leaves Her. In the end he gets up and approaches Her slowly and noiselessly. Although he is most definitely a handsome man, he gives me the impression of a feline or snake approaching its prey, I do not know why. Probably because I dislike him, I feel I that his very steps are deceitful and dangerous... He calls Her in a low voice: « Mary! »
« What do you want from Me, Judas? » Mary asks kindly looking in him with Her most loving eyes.
« I would like to speak to You...»
« Do so. I am listening. »
« Not here... I do not want anybody to hear me... Would You mind
going out there for a moment? It is shady out there as well...»
« Let us go... But see. They are all sleeping... you could have spoken here as well » says the Blessed Virgin. But she gets up and goes out before him leaning against the tall flowery hedge.
« What do you want from Me, Judas? » She asks again, staring at the apostle who appears to be somewhat upset and to find difficulty in speaking. « Are you not feeling well? Or have you done something wrong and you do not know how to tell? Or do you feel t hat, you are on the point of doing something wrong and it is a burden for you to admit that you are tempted? Speak, son. As I cured your body, I will cure your soul. Tell Me what is upsetting you, and if I can I will help you. If I cannot do so by Myself, I will telI Jesus. Even if you had committed a grave sin, He will forgive you if I ask Him. Really, Jesus would forgive you at once, as well... But perhaps you are ashamed of Him, the Master. I am a mother... I do not make anyone feel ashamed...»
« No, You do not, because You are a mother and You are so good. You are peace to all of us. I feel... very upset. I have a very bad character, Mary. I do not know what I have in my blood and in my heart... Now and again I am no longer able to control them... and then I would do the strangest... and worst things. »
« Even with Jesus near you, can you not resist temptation? »
« Yes. And I suffer because of that, believe me. It is so. I am a poor wretch. »
« I will pray for you, Judas. »
« It is not enough. »
« I will get just people to pray for you without telling them for whom it is. »
« It is not enough. »
« I will make children pray. So many of them come to Me, to My kitchen garden, like little birds looking for corn. And My caresses and the words I speak to them are corn to them. I speak to them of God... And they, little innocent souls, prefer that to games and tales. The prayer of children is pleasing to the Lord. »
« Never as much as Yours. But it is still not enough. »
« I will tell Jesus to pray the Father for you. »
« It is still not sufficient. »
« More than that is impossible! Jesus' prayer defeats also demons...»
« Yes, but Jesus would not always pray. And I would go back to being myself... Jesus always says so, He will go away one day. must think of the time when I shall be without Him. Jesus now wants to send us evangelizing. I am afraid to go with this enemy of mine, which is myself, to spread the word of God. I would like to be already perfected. »
« But, son, if not even Jesus is successful, who can ever be so?.
« You, Mother! Let me stay a little while with You. Pagans and prostitutes have stayed with You. So I can stay as well. If You do not want me to be where You live, at night I will go and sleep at Alphaeus and Mary of Clopas', but I will spend the day with You and the children. In the past I tried to do things by myself, and made the situation worse. If I go to Jerusalem, I have too many wicked friends and in the situation I am in now, when I feel l like this, I become their laughing-stock... It is the same if I go to any other town. The temptation of the road burns me with this one which I already have. If I go to Kerioth, to my mother's, I become the slave of pride. If I withdraw to a solitary place, silence rends me with Satan's voices. But if I am staying with You, oh! I feel that it will be different!... Let me come! Tell Jesus to grant me this! Do You want me to be lost? Are You afraid of me? You are looking at me with the countenance of a wounded gazelle which has no strength left to escape its assailants. But I will not offend You. I have a mother, too... and I love You more than her. Have mercy on a sinner, Mary! Look: I am weeping at Your feet... If You reject me, it may be my spiritual death...» and Judas is really weeping at Mary's feet; She looks at him and Her eyes are full of pity and anguish mixed with fear. She is very pale.
But She takes a step forward, because She had almost sunk into the hedge to keep away from Judas who was going too close to Her, and She lays a hand on Judas' dark hair. « Be quiet, lest they should hear you! I will speak to Jesus. And if He agrees... you will come to My house. I disregard the opinion of the world. It does not injure My soul. I would be horror-struck only at being guilt y towards God. Calumny leaves Me cold. No one will speak ill of Me because Nazareth knows that its daughter does not cause scandal to Her town. In any case, let come what may, I am anxious that you may save your soul. I am now going to Jesus. Peace to you. » And She covers Herself with Her veil, which is white like Her dress and She walks fast along the path which leads up to a hillock covered with olive-trees.
She looks for Her Jesus and finds Him engrossed in meditation. « Son, it is I... Listen to Me!.
« Oh! Mother! Have You come to pray with Me? What joy and relief You bring to Me! »
« What is it, Son? Is Your soul anguished? Are You sad? Tell Your Mother! »
« You have said it, anguished and tired. Not so much because of work or of the miseries I see in hearts, as for the immutability of My friends. But I do not wish to be unfair to them. One only worries Me: Judas of Simon...»
« Son, I have come to speak to You of him...»
« Has he wronged You? Has he grieved You? »
« No. But I feel sorry for him just as I would feel sorry if I saw a very infected person... Poor son! How ill his soul is! »
« And You feel sorry for him? Are You no longer afraid of Him? You were once...»
« Son, My pity is even greater than My fear. And I would like to help You and him to save his soul. You can do everything, and You do not need Me. But You say that everybody must cooperate with Christ in redeeming... and that son needs to be redeemed so badly! »
« What else can I do for him in addition to what I already do? »
« You cannot do any more. But You could let Me do. He asked Me to let him stay in our house because he thinks that he will be able to get rid of his monster there... You are shaking Your head? You do not want? I will tell him...»
« No, Mother. It is not that I do not want. I am shaking My head because I know that it is useless. Judas is like one who is drowning and although he realises that he is drowning, he rejects out of pride the rope that has been thrown to him to draw him to the shore. He has no will to come to the shore. Now and again, he is in terror of drowning and he seeks and invokes help, he clings to the rope... and then, seized once again by pride, he refuses help, rejects it, he wants to be independent... and he becomes heavier and heavier because of the muddy water that swallows him down. But as I wish to leave no stone unturned, let that be done as well, poor Mother... Yes, poor Mother, as You are subjecting Yourself, for the love of a soul, to the pain of having near You... one who frightens You. »
« No, Jesus. Do not say that. I am a poor woman because I am still subject to antipathies. Reproach Me. I deserve it. I should not be disgusted at anybody, for Your sake. That is why I am a poor woman. Oh! I wish I could give You back Judas spiritually cured! To give You a soul is to give You a treasure. And the person who gives a treasure is not poor. Son!... Shall I go and tell Judas that it is all right, that You agree? You said once: “The day will come when You will say: `How difficult it is to be the Mother of the Redemptor' “ I have already said it once... for Aglae... But what is once only? Mankind is so numerous! And You are the Redeemer of all men. Son!... Son!... As I held the little baby in My arms to bring her to You to be blessed, let Me hold Judas in My arms, that I may bring him to Your blessing...»
« Mother... Mother... He does not deserve You...»
« Jesus, when You hesitated to give Marjiam to Peter, I told You that it would be beneficial to him. You cannot deny that Peter has become a new man since that moment... Let Me try with Judas. »
« Let it be done as You wish! And may You be blessed for Your loving intention towards Me and Judas! Now let us pray together, Mother. It is so pleasant to pray with You!...»...
... The sun is just beginning to set when I see them depart front the house that gave them hospitality.
John of Endor and Ermasteus take leave of Jesus as soon as they reach the road. Mary with the women instead proceeds with Her Son along a road through the olive-groves on the hills. They are talking of the events of the day.
Peter says: « Philip must be really crazy! He was almost going to disown his wife and daughter, if You had not been there to make him listen to reason. »
« Let us hope that he will persevere in his repentance and he does not have another fit of bad temper against females. After all... it is due to women that the world goes on » says Thomas and many laugh at his witty remark.
« It is certainly true. But they are more unclean than we are and...» replies Bartholomew.
« Never! With regard to uncleanliness... we are not angels either! Now, I would like to know whether after Redemption it will always be the same for women. They teach us to honour mothers, and hold in great respect sisters, daughters, aunts, daughters and sisters-in-law and then... Anathema here, anathema there! The Temple is out of question. Many times we are not allowed to approach them... Eve sinned? Agreed. But also Adam sinned. God punished Eve... and very severely. Is that not enough? »
« Thomas! Moses also considers women unclean. »
« And Moses, without women, would have been drowned... But, mind you, Bartholomew, although I am not so learned as you are, as I am only a gold-beater, I would remind you that Moses mentions the bodily uncleanliness of women so that we may respect them, not to anathematise them. »
The debate is becoming livelier. Jesus, Who was ahead of them with the women and John and Judas Iscariot, stops and turning around He comes in to the discussion: « God had in front of Him a people which was morally and spiritually amorphous and contaminated by connections with idolaters. He wanted to make the people physically and spiritually strong. Thus the precepts He gave were instructions beneficial to both physical strength and moral honesty. He could not do otherwise to check the lust of men and thus prevent repetition of the sins which caused the earth to be submerged and Sodom and Gomorrah to be burned down. But in future the redeemed woman will not be oppressed as she is now. Prohibitions concerning physical prudence will remain, but obstacles to her coming to the Lord will be removed. I am already removing them to prepare the first priestesses of the future era. »
« Oh! Will there be priestesses?! » asks Philip who is almost dumbfounded.
« Do not misunderstand Me. They will not be priestesses like men, they will not consecrate and will not administer the gifts of God, which you are not yet capable of understanding. But they will belong to the sacerdotal class, cooperating in many ways with priests to the benefit of souls. »
« Will they preach? » asks Bartholomew incredulously.
« As My Mother already preaches. »
« Will they make apostolic pilgrimages? » asks Matthew.
« Yes, they will. They will take faith very far, and I must admit it, with greater heroism than men. »
« Will they work miracles? » asks the Iscariot laughing.
« Some will work also miracles. But do not consider miracles the essential thing. They, being holy women, will work many miracles of conversions through their prayers. »
« Bah! Will women pray to the extent of working miracles! » grumbles Nathanael.
« Do not be narrow-minded like a scribe, Bartholomew. What is prayer, according to you? »
« To address God by means of the formulae known to us. »
« That and much more. Prayer is the conversation of the heart with God and it ought to be the habitual state of man. Women, because of their more retired lives than ours and because of their affective faculties that are stronger than ours, are inclined to such conversation with God more than we are. They find comfort to their sorrows in it, relief in their work, which is not only the work in the house and in procreating, but also in tolerating us men, they find what wipes their tears and brings peace and joy to their hearts. Because they know how to speak to God and they will know even better in future. Men will be giants in doctrine, women will be those who support men and the world with their prayers, because many misfortunes will be avoided through their prayers and many punishments will be withheld. They will thus work miracles, invisible in most cases and known to God only, but not less real. »
« You also worked an invisible but real miracle today. Is that right, Master? » asks Thaddeus.
« Yes, brother. »
« It would have been better to work a visible one » remarks Philip.
« Did you want Me to change the little girl into a boy? A miracle really is the alteration of what has been destined, a beneficial disorder, thus, which God grants to hear the prayer of man and thus prove to him that He loves him, or that He is He Who is. But since God is order He never violates order immoderately. The child was born a female, and a female she will stay. »
« I was so distressed this morning! » says the Blessed Virgin with a sigh.
« Why? The loveless baby was not Yours » says Susanna. And she adds: « When I see an unfortunate child I say: “Luckily for me I have none!” »
« Do not say so, Susanna! It is not charitable. I also could say so because My only Maternity is beyond natural laws. But I do not say that, because I always think: “If God had not wanted Me to be a virgin, that seed might have fallen on Me, and I would be the mother of the unhappy child”, and thus I pity them all... Because I say: “He might have been My son” and as a mother I would like all children to be good, healthy, loved and loving, because every mother wishes that for her own children » replies Mary kindly. And Jesus seems to envelop Her in light, so radiantly He looks at Her.
« That is why You pity me...» says the Iscariot in a low voice.
« I pity everybody. Even if one were the murderer of My Son. Because I think that he would be the most in need of help... and love. Because the whole world would certainly hate him. »
« Donna, You would have to work hard defending him to give him time to repent... I would get rid of him immediately...» says Peter.
« This is where we part, Mother, God be with You. And with you, Mary. And with you, too, Judas. » They kiss one another and Jesus adds: « Remember that I have granted you a great thing, Judas. Make it beneficial and not detrimental to you. Goodbye. »
And Jesus with the eleven apostles left and Susanna goes eastwards at a quick pace, while Mary, Her sister-in-law and the Iscariot go straight ahead.