7th September 1945.
The place is still the same. But the sun no longer shines from the east filtering through the undergrowth along the Jordan in this wild place where the water of the lake flows into the river bed. It shines, equally obliquely, from the west, while setting in a glorious red sky, streaked by its last rays. Under the thick foliage the light is quite moderate, tending to the peaceful evening hues. The birds, exhilarated by the sunshine they enjoyed all day and by the plentiful food they picked in the neighbouring country, are making an uproar of trills and songs on tree-tops. Evening is approaching with the final pomp of the day.
The apostles point it out to Jesus, Who always teaches according to the subjects presented to Him. « Master, evening is approaching. This is a desert place, far from houses and villages, it is shady and damp. In a short while it will not be possible to see or walk here. The moon rises late. Dismiss the people so that they may go to Tarichea or other villages along the Jordan to buy food and find lodgings. »
« They need not go. Give them something to eat. They can sleep here as they did when waiting for Me. »
« Master, You know that there are only five loaves left and two fish. »
« Bring them to Me. »
« Andrew, go and look for the boy. He is looking after the bag. A little while ago he was with the scribe's son and two more boys, intent on making garlands of flowers and playing at kings. »
Andrew goes away at once. John and Philip also look for Marjiam among the crowds, who continuously change place. They find him almost simultaneously, with the bag of victuals across his back, a large shoot of clematis around his head and a belt of clematis, from which an offshoot hangs, as a sword, the top being the hilt, the long stem its blade. There are seven boys with him, all wearing the same decorations, paying court to the scribe's son, a very thin child, with the grave countenance of one who has suffered very much, who is adorned with flowers more than the others and plays the king.
« Come, Marjiam. The Master wants you! »
Marjiam leaves his friends and runs away without taking off his... floral insignia. But the other boys follow him and Jesus is soon surrounded by a circle of children wreathed with flowers. He caresses them while Philip takes a parcel out of the bag containing some loaves, which are wrapped together with two big fish: two kilograms of fish, or little more. They would not suffice for the seventeen people, nay eighteen, including Manaen, of Jesus' group. They take the food to the Master.
« Very well. Now bring Me some baskets. Seventeen, as many as you are. Marjiam will hand the food to the children... » Jesus stares at the scribe who has always been near Him and asks: « Will you give food to the hungry people, too? »
« I would like to. But I have none myself. »
« Give Mine. I will let you have it. »
« But... are You going to satisfy five thousand men, besides women and children, with those two fish and the five loaves? »
« Undoubtedly. Do not be incredulous. Those who believe will see the miracle being accomplished. »
« Oh! In that case I want to hand out the food, too! »
« Then, get someone to give you a basket as well. »
The apostles come back with baskets and hand-baskets, some of which are low and wide, others are deep and narrow. The scribe comes back with a rather small one. Obviously his faith or his incredulity made him pick that one as the largest required.
« Good. Leave everything here. Now get the crowds to sit in an orderly way, in rows, as far as possible. »
And while they do that Jesus raises the loaves with the fish on top of them, offers them, prays and blesses them. The scribe does not take his eyes off Him for a moment. Jesus breaks the five loaves into eighteen parts; He makes also eighteen parts of the two fish, and puts a bit of fish: a tiny bit indeed, into each basket. He then breaks each of the eighteen bits of bread into morsels: each bit into many morsels. Relatively many; about twenty, not more. He then puts each bit which He has broken into morsels, into a basket, with the bit of fish.
« Now take them and hand the food out to satiety. Go. Marjiam, hand the food out to your companions. »
« Ah! How heavy it is! » says Marjiam lifting his basket. He goes at once towards his little friends, walking like one who carries a heavy weight.
The apostles, disciples, Manaen, the scribe watch him go incredulously... They then pick up their baskets and shaking their heads they say to one another: « The boy is joking! They are the same weight as before. » And the scribe looks inside his basket, puts his hand into it searching for the bottom, because it is getting dark in the thicket where Jesus is, whereas farther away, in the glade, it is clear. However, notwithstanding their remarks, they go towards the people and begin to hand the food out. And they distribute... Now and again they look back at Jesus thoroughly astonished, as they move farther and farther away, and the Master leaning against a tree with folded arms, smiles subtly at their astonishment.
The distribution takes a long time and is plentiful... the only one who show no surprise is Marjiam, who smiles and is happy to be able to fill the laps of so many poor children with bread and fish. He is also the first to go back to Jesus saying: « I have dealt out so much, so much!... because I know what it is to be hungry... » and he raises his little face, which is no longer emaciated, but, remembering, it blanches with wide open eyes... But Jesus caresses him and a bright smile appears on his face, while he leans trustfully against Jesus, His Master and Protector.
The apostles and disciples come back slowly, dumbfounded with amazement. Last is the scribe who says nothing. But he makes a gesture that is more than a sermon. He kneels down and kisses the hem of Jesus' tunic.
« Take your share and give Me some. Let us eat the food of God. »
They eat, in fact, bread and fish, each according to his need...
In the meantime the people, who are now sated, exchange their impressions. Also those around Jesus make their comments watching Marjiam who finishes his food and plays with other children.
« Master » asks the scribe, « why did the boy feel the weight at once, and we did not? I searched also inside. There were still the few morsels of bread and the only bit of fish. I began to feel the weight when I moved towards the crowd. But if it had weighed for what I gave out, it would have taken a pair of mules to carry it, not a basket, but a wagon packed with food. At the beginning I was dealing it out sparingly... but later I gave and gave... and as I did not want to be unfair, I went back to the first ones and gave them more, because I had given them little at first. And yet it was enough. »
« I also felt the basket was getting heavy when I set out, and I gave plenty at once because I realised that You had worked a miracle » says John.
« I, instead, stopped, I sat down and poured everything on my lap to see... And I saw loaves and loaves. I then went on » says Manaen.
« I even counted them, because I did not want to cut a bad figure. There were fifty small loaves. So I said: I will give them to fifty people and then I will go back ». And I counted. But when I got to fifty, the weight was still the same. I looked inside. They were so many. I went on and I handed out hundreds of them. They never diminished says Bartholomew.
« I, I must admit it, I did not believe, and I took the morsels of bread and the bit of fish in my hand and I looked at them saying: “What's the use of them? Jesus must have been joking!...” and I looked at them over and over again, hiding behind a tree, hoping and despairing to see them grow. But they were always the same. I was about to come back, when Matthew passed by saying: “Have you noticed how beautiful they are?” “What?” I asked him. “The loaves and fish!...” “Are you mad? I can only see morsels of bread.” “Go and hand them out with faith, and you will see.” I threw back into the basket the few morsels and I went reluctantly... And then... Forgive me, Jesus, because I am a sinner! » says Thomas.
« No. You are a worldly spirit. You reason according to the world. »
« I as well, Lord. So much so that I was thinking of giving a coin with the bread and I said to myself: “They will eat somewhere else” » says the Iscariot. « I was hoping to help You cut a finer figure. So what am I? Like Thomas or more? »
« You are much more “worldly” than Thomas. »
« And yet I was thinking of giving alms to be “heavenly”! It was my own personal money... »
« Alms to yourself, to your pride. And alms to God. But the Latter does not need them and it is a sin to give alms to your pride, not a merit. »
Judas lowers his head and becomes silent.
« I, instead, thought that I had to crumble the morsel of fish and the morsel of bread, so that they would suffice. I did not doubt they would be sufficient, both with regard to numbers and nourishment. A drop of water given by You can be more nourishing than a banquet » says Simon Zealot.
« And what did you think? » Peter asks Jesus' cousins.
« We remembered Cana... and did not doubt » replies Judas gravely.
« And you, James, My dear brother, were you only thinking of that? »
« No, I thought it was a sacrament, as You told me... Is it so or am I wrong? »
Jesus smiles: « It is and it is not. Your thought of a remote figure is to be added to the truth concerning the power of nourishment in a drop of water, mentioned by Simon. But it is not yet a sacrament. »
The scribe is holding a crumb in his hand.
« What are you going to do with it? »
« A... souvenir. »
« I will keep one too. I will put it round Marjiam's neck in a little bag » says Peter.
« And I will take it to our mother » says John.
« And what about us? We have eaten it all... » say the others sorrowfully.
« Stand up. Go round again with the baskets and collect the scraps remaining, select the poorest people and bring them here with the baskets. And then, you, My disciples, will go to the boats and set sail going to the plain of Gennesaret. I will dismiss the crowds after assisting the poorer people and I will join you later. »
The apostles obey... and they come back with twelve baskets full of remnants of food and followed by about thirty beggars or very poor people.
« Very well. You may go now. »
The apostles and John's disciples say goodbye to Manaen and go away leaving Jesus rather reluctantly. But they obey. Manaen stays with Jesus until the crowd, in the last light of the day, set out towards villages or look for a place where to sleep among the tall dry bog grass. He then takes leave of the Master. The scribe has gone before him, in fact he was one of the first, as he left with his son following the apostles.
When they have all gone or fallen asleep, Jesus stands up, blesses the sleepers, and walking with slow steps He goes towards the lake, to the little peninsula of Tarichea, a few yards above the lake, like an indented hill protruding on it. And when He reaches the foot of it, without entering the town, but going round it, He climbs the hill, and stops on a crest, praying in front of the blue lake and in the peace of the serene moonlit night.
Jesus says: « You will put here the vision dated March 4th 1944: Jesus walks on the water. »