20th September 1945.
Jesus is going to the Temple. The male disciples precede Him in groups, the women disciples follow Him, also in groups, that is, His Mother, Mary of Clopas, Mary Salome, Susanna, Johanna of Chuza, Eliza of Bethzur, Annaleah of Jerusalem, Martha and Marcella. The Magdalene is not there. The twelve apostles and Marjiam are around Jesus.
Jerusalem is in the pomp of its solemn festivities. There are people in every street and from every country. Singing, talking, whispering of prayers, the cursing of ass-drivers, the weeping of children can be heard everywhere. And above all the confusion there is the clear sky visible between houses and a pleasant sunshine which brightens up the colours of garments and enlivens the dying shades of pergolas and trees, glimpses of which can be caught here and there, beyond the walls of closed gardens and terraces.
Jesus at times meets acquaintances and their greetings are more or less respectful according to the mood of the person He meets. Gamaliel in fact bows deeply but superciliously and stares at Stephen, who smiles at him from the group of disciples and whom Gamaliel calls aside, after bowing to Jesus, and says a few words to him. Stephen then goes back to his group. The salutation of Cleopas of Emmaus, the old head of the synagogue, is revering; he is on his way to the Temple with his fellow citizens. As harsh as a curse is the reply of the Pharisees of Capernaum to Jesus' greeting. Johanah's peasants, led by their steward, greet Jesus by throwing themselves on the ground and kissing His feet in the dust of the road.
The crowds are amazed and stop to watch the group of men who at a cross-roads prostrate themselves with a cry at the feet of a young man, who is neither, a Pharisee nor a famous scribe, who is neither a satrap nor a powerful courtier, and some ask who he is and a whisper spreads: « He is the Rabbi of Nazareth, the one who is said to be the Messiah.» Proselytes and Gentiles then crowd inquisitively, pressing the group against the wall, causing obstruction in the little square, until a group of ass-drivers scatters them shouting imprecations.
But the crowd soon gathers again, separating women from men, in a harsh demanding manner which is also a manifestation of faith. Everybody wishes to touch Jesus' garments, say a word to Him, ask Him questions. Their efforts are quite futile, because in their haste, in their anxiety and restlessness to move forward, they push one another so that no one is successful and even questions, and answers become muddled in the babel.
The only one who disregards the scene is Marjiam's grandfather, who replied with a shout to his grandson's shout, and immediately after revering the Master has clasped the boy to his heart and remaining thus, sitting back on his heels, his knees on the ground, is holding him on his lap, admiring and caressing him with tears and joyful kisses, asking him questions and listening to him. The old man is already in Paradise, so happy as he is.
The Roman troops rush to the spot thinking there is a brawl and they push through the crowd. But when they see Jesus they smile and withdraw tranquilly and merely advise the people present to clear out of the important cross-roads. Jesus obeys at once, taking advantage of the space made by the Romans, who are walking a few steps ahead of Him, as if they were making way for Him, whereas in actual fact they are going back to their outpost; the Roman guard has in fact been reinforced, as if Pilate were aware of the ill-feeling of the crowds and were afraid of an insurrection when Jerusalem is full of Jews from all over. And it is beautiful to see Him go, preceded by the Roman squad, like a king, to whom they make way, while he goes to his possessions.
When passing by, He says to the boy and the old man: « Remain together and follow Me» and to the steward: « Please leave your men with Me. They will be My guests until this evening.»
The steward replies respectfully: « Everything will be done as You wish» and he goes away after bowing deeply.
The Temple is now close at hand and the swarming of the crowds, just like ants near the ant-nest, is even denser, when one of Johanah's peasants shouts: « There is our master!» and falls on his knees to greet him, imitated by all the others.
Jesus remains standing in the middle of a group of people prostrated, because the peasants had gathered round Him. He turns round looking towards the place pointed out by the peasant, and meets the glance of a Pharisee pompously dressed, whom I have already seen, but I do not know where.
Johanah, the Pharisee, is with other people of his caste: a heap of precious clothes of fringes, buckles, sashes, phylacteries, all larger than common ones. Johanah looks at Jesus attentively: a glance of mere curiosity, but not disrespectful. Nay, his salutation is a stiff one: just a slight inclination of the head. But it is a greeting to which Jesus replies respectfully. Two or three more Pharisees greet Him, whilst others look scornfully or pretend to be looking elsewhere, only one hurls an insult and the people near Jesus start, and even Johanah turns round immediately, fulminating with his eyes the offender, a man younger than he is, with hard conspicuous features.
Once they have gone by and the peasants dare to speak, one of them says: « That is Doras, Master”, the one who cursed You.»
« Never mind. I have you who bless Me» replies Jesus calmly.
Leaning against an archivolt there is Manaen with other people, and as soon as he sees Jesus, he raises his arms with a cry of joy: « This is surely a joyous day, as I found You!» and he moves towards Jesus, followed by those who are with him. He reveres Jesus under the shady archivolt, where voices resound like under a dome.
While Manaen is greeting Jesus, His cousins Simon and Joseph pass near the apostolic group with other Nazarenes... but they do not even say hullo... Jesus looks at them sadly but does not say anything. Judas and James speak to each other excitedly, Judas quivers with rage and runs away, resisting restraint by his brother. But Jesus calls him with such a commanding voice: « Judas, come here!» that Alphaeus' vexed son comes back... « Leave them alone. They are like seed which has not yet felt springtime. Leave them in the dark of the insensitive sod. I will penetrate it just the same, even if the sod should become jasper closed round the seed. I will do it in due time.»
But the weeping of Mary of Alphaeus, who is desolate, resounds louder than the answer of Judas of Alphaeus. The long weeping of a distressed person... But Jesus does not turn round to comfort her although her groaning is very clearly heard under the archivolt resounding with echoes.
He continues to speak to Manaen who says to Him: « These are disciples of John's and have come with me. Like me, they want to be Yours.
« Peace be with good disciples. Over there are Matthias, John and Simeon, who are now with Me for good. I welcome you as I welcomed them, because everything that comes from the holy Precursor is dear to Me.»
They have now reached the enclosure of the Temple. Jesus gives instructions to the Iscariot and Simon Zealot for the ritual purchases and offerings. He then calls John, the priest, and says to him:
« Since you come from this place, make arrangements to invite some Levites whom you know to be worthy of becoming acquainted with the Truth. Because this year I can really celebrate a joyful feast. Never again will the day be so pleasant...»
« Why, my Lord?» asks John, the scribe.
« Because I have you around Me, all of you, either with your visible presence or with your souls.»
« But we shall always be! And many more with us» states the apostle John emphatically. And everybody echoes him.
Jesus smiles, but remains silent, while John, the priest, goes away, to the Temple, together with Stephen, to carry out the order. Jesus shouts after him: « Join us at the Porch of the Pagans.»
They enter and almost immediately they meet Nicodemus, who bows deeply, but does not approach Jesus. But he exchanges with Jesus a meaningful smile full of peace.
While the women stop where they are allowed, Jesus goes with the men to the place of Jews, to pray, and after accomplishing the rite, He comes back to join those who are waiting for Him at the Porch of the Pagans.
The very large and high porches are crowded with people listening to the lessons of the rabbis. Jesus directs His steps to the spot where the two apostles and the two disciples sent ahead are standing waiting for Him. He is soon surrounded by people, as many people, spread in the crowded marble court, join the apostles and disciples. Curiosity is such that some disciples of rabbis also approach the circle round Jesus, but I do not know whether they do so spontaneously or because their masters have sent them.
Jesus asks point blank: « Why are you pressing round Me? Tell Me. You have well known rabbis, who are well liked by everybody. I am the Unknown and Disliked One. So why do you come to Me?»
« Because we love You» reply some, some say: « Because Your words are different from the words of the others», some: « To see Your miracles» or: « Because we have heard people talk about You» or: « Because You alone have words of eternal life and deeds corresponding to Your words», and finally some say: « Because we want to join Your disciples.»
Jesus looks at the people while they speak, as if He wanted to pierce them with His eyes and read their most hidden thoughts and some of them, who cannot resist His glance, go away or hide behind a column or behind people taller than they are.
Jesus resumes: « But do you know what it means and what it is to follow Me? I am replying to those words only, because curiosity does not deserve a reply and because those who hunger for My words obviously love Me and wish to join Me. So, those who have spoken form two groups: curious people whom I disregard, and volunteers, whom I wish to acquaint with the severity of that vocation.
To follow Me as a disciple means renouncing all affections for one only love: Mine. The selfish love for oneself, the guilty love for riches, sensuality or power, the honest love for one's wife, the holy love for one's father and mother, the deep love for and of children and brothers, must all yield to My love, if one wishes to be Mine. I tell you solemnly that My disciples must be more free than birds flying in the sky, more free than winds blowing across the firmament without anyone or anything holding them back. They must be free, with no heavy chains, with no ties of material love, without even the thin cobwebs of the slightest barrier. The spirit is a delicate butterfly enclosed in the heavy cocoon of the flesh and even the iridescent impalpable web of a spider can slow down its flight or stop it all together: the spider of sensuality, of the lack of generosity in sacrifice. I want everything, unreservedly. The spirit needs such freedom and generosity in giving, to be sure that it is not entangled in the cobwebs of affections, habits, considerations, fears, stretched out like as many threads by the monstruous spider which is Satan, the robber of souls.
If one wants to come to Me and does not hate in a holy manner father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, and one's very life, one cannot be My disciple. I said: “hate in a holy manner.” Within your hearts you are saying: “Hatred, as He taught us, is never holy. So He is contradicting Himself.” No. I am not contradicting Myself. I say that you must hate the heaviness of love, the sensual passionateness of love for your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and for your very life, on the contrary I order you to love relatives and life with the light freedom of spirits. Love them in God and for God, never postponing God to them, endeavouring and taking care to lead them where the disciple has already arrived, that is to God, the Truth. You will thus love God and relatives in a holy manner, safeguarding each love, so that family ties will not be a burden but wings, not a fault, but justice. You must be prepared to hate even your lives in order to follow Me. He hates his life who without fear of losing it or making it sad from a human point of view, uses it to serve Me. But it is only an appearance of hatred. A feeling erroneously called “hatred” by man who cannot elevate himself, as he is entirely earthly, by little superior to brutes.
In actual fact such apparent hatred, which consists in denying sensual satisfaction to one's life in order to give a more and more intense life to the spirit, is love. It is love, of the highest degree and the most blessed. To deny oneself base satisfactions, to reject sensual affections, to risk unfair reproaches, criticism and punishment, being rejected, cursed and perhaps persecuted, all that is a sequence of grief. But it is necessary to embrace such grief and take it upon yourselves, like a cross, a scaffold on which all past faults are expiated to be justified by God, from Whom you can obtain every true, mighty, holy grace for those whom we love. He who does not carry his cross and does not follow Me, he who cannot do that cannot be My disciple.
Therefore, you who say: “We have come because we want to join Your disciples” must ponder on that very carefully. It is not a shame, but it is wisdom to weigh and judge oneself and admit both to oneself and others: “I am not the stuff of which disciples are made.” What? The heathens have as a basis of one of their doctrines the necessity of “knowing oneself”, and could you Israelites not do that to gain Heaven?
Because, remember this, blessed are those who will come to Me. But rather than come to betray Me and Him Who sent Me, it is better not to come at all, and remain children of the Law, as you have been so far. Woe betide those who, after saying: “I will come”, cause damage to the Christ by being the betrayers of the Christian idea, the scandalisers of little ones and of good people! Woe betide them! And yet there will always be some of them!
You ought therefore to imitate him who wants to build a tower. First he carefully works out the necessary expenses and counts his money to ensure that he has enough to complete the work, lest, after laying the foundation, he may have to stop building through lack of money. In which case he would lose what he had previously and would be left without tower and without talents and over and above he would be scoffed at by people saying: “He began to build but was not able to finish the job. He can now stuff his stomach with the ruins of his unfinished building.”
Imitate the kings of the earth also, by letting the poor events of the world be useful for supernatural teaching. When they want to go to war with another king, they calmly and carefully examine everything, the pros and cons, they consider whether the benefit of the conquest is worth the lives of the subjects, they study whether it is possible to conquer the place, whether their forces, which are half those of their enemy, but more pugnacious, can win; and as they rightly think that it is unlikely that ten thousand can beat twenty thousand soldiers, before clashing with the enemy, they send ambassadors with rich gifts for the other king, and thus soothe him, as his suspicions had already been aroused by the military movements of the other, they disarm him with some proof of friendship, they dispel his doubts and fears and make a treaty of peace with him, which is always more advantageous than a war, both from the human and spiritual point of view.
That is what you must do before beginning a new life and fighting the world. Because to be My disciples implies going against the stormy and violent trend of the world, of flesh and of Satan. And if you feel that you do not have the courage to renounce everything for My sake, do not come to Me, because you cannot be My disciples.»
« All right. What You say is true» agrees a scribe who has mingled with the crowd. « But if we divest ourselves of everything, with what shall we serve You? The Law contains commandments which are like money which God has given man so that by making use of it he may buy eternal life. You say: “Renounce everything” and You mention father, mother, riches, honours. God has given us those things also, and through Moses He has told us to use them in a holy way in order to appear just in the eyes of God. If You take everything away from us, what will You give us?»
« True love, as I said, rabbi. I give you My doctrine which does not take one iota away from the old Law, but perfects it.»
« So we are all disciples alike, because we all have the same things.»
« We all have them according to the Mosaic Law. But not everybody has them according to the Law perfected by Me according to Love. Not everyone achieves in it the same amount of merits. Even among My disciples not everybody will have the same amount of merits and some not only will not have an amount, but will lose also the only coin they have: their souls.»
« What? Who was given more will be left with more. Your disciples, or rather Your apostles, are following You in Your mission and are aware of Your ways of behaving, and have had very much, Your real disciples have received much, those who are disciples only by name have received less, and those who like me listen to You only by accident receive nothing. It is obvious that Your apostles will have very much in Heaven, Your real disciples much, Your disciples by name less, those like me nothing.»
« It is obvious from a human point of view, but even from a human point of view it is wrong. Because not everybody is capable of making the goods received yield a profit. Listen to this parable and forgive Me if My lesson is too long. But I am a swallow of passage, and I stop in the House of the Father only for a little while, as I came for the whole world, and also because this little world, which is the Temple of Jerusalem, will not allow Me to interrupt My flight and remain where the glory of the Lord calls Me.»
« Why do You say that?»
« Because it is the truth.»
The scribe looks round and lowers his head. He can see that it is the truth as it is written on the faces of many members of the Sanhedrin, of rabbis and Pharisees who have been enlarging the crowd around Jesus. Faces green with bile, or purple with wrath, looks equivalent to words of curse and spittle of poison, ill-feeling fomenting everywhere, desire to ill-treat the Christ, which remains a mere desire only because of fear of the many people surrounding the Master with affection and who are ready for anything in order to defend Him, and perhaps because of fear of punishment by Rome, benign towards the meek Galilean Master.
Jesus calmly resumes clarifying His thought by means of a parable: « A man, who was about to set out on a long journey, and thus be away for a long time, called all his servants and committed all his wealth to them. He gave some of them five silver talents, some two silver talents, some only one gold talent: each according to his position and capability. And then he left. Now the servant who had received five silver talents, negotiated them diligently and after some time they brought him five more. The servant who had received two silver talents, did the same and doubled the amount received. But the servant to whom the master had given most, one talent of pure gold, was seized with fear that he might not be successful, with the fear of thieves and of many fanciful conceptions and above all with laziness, and he dug a deep hole in the ground and hid his master's money in it.
Many months went by and the master came back. He immediately called his servants to give back the money committed to them. The one who had received five silver talents came and said: “Here, my Lord. You gave me five. As I thought it was wrong not to make what you had given me yield some profit, I did my best and I gained five more talents. I was not able to do more….” “Well, very well, my good faithful servant. You have been faithful, willing and honest in little. I will give you authority over much. Come and join in your master's happiness.” Next came the man of two talents and said: “I have taken the liberty of making use of your money to your own profit. Here is the account of how I used your money. See? There were two talents, now there are four. Are you glad, my lord?.” And the master gave the good servant the same reply given to the first one.
Last came the one who enjoyed the greatest confidence of the master and had received a gold talent from him. He took it out of the casket and said: “You gave me the greatest value because you know that I am wise and loyal, as I know that you are uncompromising and exacting and will not tolerate loss of your money, but if misfortune befalls you, you make it up with those who are close to you. In actual fact you reap where you have not sown and you harvest where you have not scattered seed and you do not remit a penny to your banker or to your steward for any reason whatever. Your money must be as much as you say. Now, as I was afraid of reducing the value of this treasure, I took it and hid it. I trusted nobody, not even myself. I have now dug it up and I give it back to you. Here is your talent.”
“O unjust lazy servant! Really, you have not loved me, because you have not known me and you have not loved my welfare, because you left it inactive. You have betrayed the confidence I had in you and you belie, accuse and condemn yourself by yourself. You knew that I reap where I have not sown and I harvest where I have scattered no seed. Why, then, did you not ensure that I could reap and harvest? Is that how you come up to my confidence? Is that how you know me? Why did you not take the money to a banker, so that I might draw it on my return with its interest? I diligently instructed you how to do that and you, silly lazy servant, took no heed of what I told you. Your talent and everything else will be taken off you and given to the man of the ten talents.”
“But he already has ten, while this man is deprived of it...” they objected.
“And that is right. He who has and works with what he has, will be given more and even in excess. But he who has nothing, because he did not want anything, will be deprived also of what was given to him. With regard to the useless servant who betrayed my confidence and left inactive the gifts I had given him, throw him out of my property and let him go and weep and eat his heart out.”
That is the parable. As you see, rabbi, he who had most was left with less, because he did not deserve to keep the gift of God. And it is not necessarily true that one of those whom you call a disciple only by name, having thus little to negotiate, or even one of those who listen to me only by accident, as you say, and have only their souls as money, cannot be successful in getting the gold talent and the interest of it, which will be taken from one who had been given most. The surprises of the Lord are endless because the reactions of man are endless. You will see Gentiles reaching eternal life and Samaritans possessing Heaven, and you will see pure Israelites and followers of Mine losing Heaven and eternal Life.»
Jesus becomes silent as if He wished to put an end to the debate and He turns towards the enclosure of the Temple.
But a doctor of the Law, who had sat down listening gravely under the porch, gets up and standing in His way, asks Him: « Master, what must I do to gain eternal life? You have replied to others, please reply to me as well.»
« Why do you want to tempt Me? Why do you want to lie? Are you hoping that I may say something different from the Law because I add brighter and more perfect ideas to it? What is written in the Law? Tell Me! What is the first commandment of the Law?»
« “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your intelligence. You shall love your neighbour as yourself “.»
« Your reply is correct. Do that and you will have eternal life.»
« And who is my neighbour? The world is full of good and of wicked people, known and unknown, friendly and hostile to Israel. Which is my neighbour?»
« A man going from Jerusalem down to Jericho through the mountain gorges, ran into highwaymen, who after wounding him severely, despoiled him of all his belongings and his very clothes and left him more dead than alive on the edge of the road.
A priest, who had finished his turn at the Temple, travelled down the same road. Oh! He was still smelling of the incense of the Holy! And his soul should have been scented with supernatural kindness and love, after being in the House of God, almost in touch with the Most High. The priest was in a hurry to get back home. So he looked at the wounded man but did not stop. He passed by hurriedly leaving the poor man on the edge of the road.
A Levite passed by. Should he become contaminated who must serve in the Temple? Never! He gathered his tunic so that it might not get stained with blood, he cast a glance over the man moaning in his blood and quickened his pace towards Jerusalem, towards the Temple.
Third came a Samaritan, who was travelling from Samaria towards the ford. He noticed the blood, he stopped, saw the wounded man in the deepening twilight, he dismounted and approached the wounded man, whom he gave a sip of strong and generous wine, he then tore his mantle to make bandages, and gently dressed the man's wounds after bathing them with vinegar and applying oil to them. He mounted the man on his horse and carefully led the animal, supporting the man at the same time, comforting him with kind words, without worrying about all the trouble or being annoyed because the man was of Jewish nationality. When he arrived in town, he took him to an inn, watched over him during the night and at dawn, seeing that he was better, he entrusted him to the innkeeper, paying him in advance with some denarii and saying: “Look after him as you would look after me. On my way back I will make good any extra expense you have, with a good measure, if you do everything well.” And he went away.
Tell Me now, doctor of the Law. Which of these three was a “neighbour” for the man who had run into highwaymen? The priest perhaps? Or the Levite perhaps? Or was it not the Samaritan who did not ask who the wounded man was, why he was wounded, whether he was doing the wrong thing by assisting him, wasting time and money and running the risk of being taken for his wounder?»
The doctor of the Law replies: « The last one, who took pity on him, was his “neighbour.”»
« Do the same yourself and you will love your neighbour and God in your neighbour and you will deserve eternal life.»
Nobody dare speak and Jesus takes advantage of the situation to join the women waiting for Him near the enclosure and return to town with them. A couple of priests have now joined the disciples, or rather: a priest and a Levite, a venerable old man the former, a very young one the latter.
Jesus is now speaking to His Mother, having Marjiam in the middle, between Himself and Her. And He asks Her: « Did You hear Me, Mother?»
« Yes, Son, and My sadness has been added to Mary of Clopas'. She wept a little before entering the Temple...»
« I know, Mother. And I know why. But she must not weep, but pray.»
« Oh! She prays so much! In the past nights, in her tent, while her sons were sleeping, she prayed and wept. I could hear her through the thin partition of the branches. To see Joseph and Simon only a few steps away, so close, and yet so divided...! And she is not the only one to weep. Johanna, who seems so tranquil, has been weeping with Me...»
« Why, Mother?»
« Because Chuza... is behaving... very oddly. At times he seconds her in everything. At times he opposes her in everything. If they are alone where no one can see them, he is the usual exemplary husband. But if there are other people, of the Court naturally, with him, then he becomes dictatorial and disdainful of his meek wife. She does not understand why...»
« I can tell You. Chuza is Herod's servant. Understand Me, Mother. “Servant.” I will not tell Johanna, not to hurt her. But that is what he is. When he is not afraid of being blamed or jeered at by his sovereign, he is good Chuza. But when he fears that, he is no longer so.»
« It is because Herod is very angry because of Manaen and...»
« It is because Herod is mad with tardy remorse for yielding to Herodias. But Johanna already has so much happiness in life. Under her coronet, she must wear her cilice.»
« Annaleah also weeps...»
« Because her fiancé is going astray... against You.»
« Tell her not to weep. It is a solution. A grace of God. Her sacrifice will bring Samuel back to Good. For the time being she will be left free from any pressure for marriage. I promised her to take her with Me. She will precede Me in death...»
« Son!...» Mary presses Jesus' hand, while Her face becomes deadly pale.
« Dear Mother! It is for the sake of men. You know. It is for the love of men. Let us drink our chalice with good will. Is that right?»
Mary stifles Her tears and replies: « Yes». A tortured heartrending « yes».
Marjiam looks up and says to Jesus: « Why do You say these dreadful things which grieve Mother? I will not let You die. I will defend You as I defended the lambs.»
Jesus caresses him and to raise the spirits of the two distressed ones, He asks the boy: « What will your little sheep be doing now? Do you not miss them?»
« Oh! I am with You! But I always think of them and I wonder: “Will Porphirea have led them to pasture? and will she watch that Foam does not go to the lake?” Foam is so lively, you know? Her mother calls her repeatedly... without avail! She does what she likes. And Snow, she is so greedy that she eats until she is sick. Do You know, Master? I know what it is to be a priest in Your Name. I understand better than the others. They (and he points at the apostles who are coming behind) they say so many big words, they make so many plans... for the future. I say: “I will be a shepherd for men, as I am for sheep. And that will be enough.” My Mummy and Yours told me yesterday such a lovely passage of the prophets... and She said to me: “Our Jesus is just like that.” And in my heart I said: “I will be like that, too.” Then I said to our Mother: “For the time being I am a lamb, later I will be a shepherd. Jesus instead is at present the Shepherd and He is also the Lamb. But You are always a ewe-Lamb, our dear, white, beautiful ewe-Lamb, Whose words are sweeter than milk. That is why Jesus is such a lamb: because He was born of You, the Little Lamb of the Lord.”»
Jesus stoops and kisses him fondly. He then asks him: « So you really want to be a priest?»
« Of course, my Lord! That is why I try to become good and learn so much. I always go to John of Endor. He treats me as a man and so kindly. I want to be the shepherd of the sheep both misled and not misled, and the doctor-shepherd of those which are wounded or suffer from fractures, as the Prophet says. Oh! How lovely!» and the boy takes a jump clapping his hands.
« What has this blackcap got that he is so happy?» asks Peter coming forward.
« He sees his way. Very clearly. Until the end. And I consecrate his vision with My approval.»
They stop before a high building, which, if I am not mistaken, is near the Ophel district, but in a more refined spot.
« Are we stopping here?»
« This is the house which Lazarus offered Me for our joyful banquet. Mary is already here.»
« Why did she not come with us? For fear of being jeered at?»
« Oh! No! I told her.»
« Why, Lord?»
« Because the Temple is more sensitive than a pregnant wife. As long as I can, and not out of cowardice, I do not want to collide with it.»
« It will be of no use to You, Master. If I were You, I would not only collide with it, but I would hurl it down from Moriah with all those who are in it.»
« You are a sinner, Simon. One must pray for one's fellow creatures, not kill them.»
« I am a sinner. But You are not... and... You ought to do it.»
« There is who will do it. After the measure of sin has been filled.»
« Which measure?»
« A measure that will fill the whole temple, overflowing in Jerusalem. You cannot understand... Oh! Martha! Open your house to the Pilgrim!»
Martha makes herself known and opens the door. They all go into a long hall ending in a paved yard with a single tree in each of the four corners. There is a large hall above the ground floor and from its open windows it is possible to see the whole town with its hills and slopes. I thus realise that the house is in the south or south-east side of the town.
The table has been laid for many guests. Many tables are set in parallel rows. About one hundred people can comfortably have a meal. Mary Magdalene, who was busy in the store room, arrives and prostrates herself before Jesus. Then Lazarus comes in with a happy smile on his drawn face. The guests enter little by little, some seem rather embarrassed, some are more sure of themselves. But the kindness of the women soon makes them all feel at home.
John, the priest, introduces to Jesus the two he has brought from the Temple. « Master, my good friend Jonathan and my young friend Zacharias. They are true Israelites without malice or ill-will.
« Peace be with you. I am happy to have you. The rite must be kept also in these pleasant customs. And it is lovely that the ancient Faith gives a friendly hand to the new Faith which has come from the same origin. Sit beside Me while we wait for dinner time.»
The patriarchal Jonathan speaks, while the young Levite looks around curiously, and seems amazed and somewhat shy. I think he wants to give himself easy manners, but in actual fact he is like a fish out of water. Fortunately Stephen comes to his aid and brings him, one after the other, the apostles and the main disciples.
The old priest says caressing his white beard: « When John came to me, his master, to show me that he had been cured, I wanted to meet You. But, Master, I hardly ever leave my enclosure. I am old... But I was hoping to see You before dying. And Jehovah has heard me. May He be praised! Today I heard You in the Temple. You excel the old wise Hillel. I do not want to doubt, nay, I cannot doubt that You are what my heart is expecting. But do You know what it is to have imbibed for almost eighty years the faith of Israel as it has become through centuries of... human handling? It has become our blood. And I am so old! To hear You is like hearing the water that gushes out of a cool spring. Oh! yes! A virgin water! But I... I am full of the tired water which comes from so far away... and has been made heavy by so many things. How can I get rid of that saturation and enjoy You?»
« By believing and loving Me. Nothing else is required for just Jonathan.»
« But I will die soon! Shall I have time to believe everything You say? I shall not even be able to follow all Your words or learn them from other people. Then?»
« You will learn them in Heaven. Only a damned soul dies to Wisdom. But he who dies in the grace of God draws life and lives in Wisdom. Whom do you think I am?»
« You can but be the Expected One, Whom the son of my friend Zacharias foreran. Did You meet him?»
« He was a relative of Mine.»
« Oh! So You are a relative of the Baptist?»
« Yes, priest.»
« He is dead... and I cannot say: “Poor man!.” Because he died faithful to justice, after accomplishing his mission and because... Oh! The dreadful times we live in! Is it not better to go back to Abraham?»
« Yes. But more dreadful times will come, priest.»
« Do You think so? Rome, eh?»
« Not only Rome. Guilty Israel will be the first cause.»
« It is true. God is striking us. We deserve it. But also Rome... Have You heard of the Galileans killed by Pilate while they were offering a sacrifice? Their blood mingled with the victim's. Close to the very altar!»
« Yes, I heard about it.»
All the Galileans begin to riot because of that act of tyranny. They shout: « It is true that he was a false Messiah. But why kill his followers after striking him? And why at that moment? Were they bigger sinners perhaps?»
Jesus brings about peace and then says: « You are asking whether they were bigger sinners than many other Galileans and whether that is why they were killed? No, they were not. I tell you solemnly that they paid and many more will pay if you do not turn to the Lord. If you do not do penance, you will all perish alike, both in Galilee and elsewhere. God is indignant with His people. I tell you. You must not think that those who have been struck are the worst. Each of you should examine and judge himself, and no one else. Also the eighteen people on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, were not the most guilty in Jerusalem. I tell you. Do penance if you do not want to be crushed as they were, also in your souls. Come, priest of Israel. The meal is ready. It is your duty to offer and bless the food, because a priest is always to be honoured for the Idea which he represents and calls to our minds, and it is your duty because you are a patriarch among us, and we are all younger than you are.»
« No, Master! No! I cannot do that in Your presence! You are the Son of God!»
« You do offer incense before the altar! And do you perhaps not believe that God is there?»
« Yes, I do believe that! With all my strength!»
« Well, then? If you are not afraid of offering in the presence of the Most Holy Glory of the Most High, why should you be afraid in the presence of the Merciful One, Who took upon Himself human flesh to bring to you also the blessing of God before night comes to you? Oh! You people of Israel do not know that I covered with the veil of flesh My unendurable Divinity, so that man might approach God and not die thereof. Come, believe and be happy. I revere in you all the holy priests, from Aaron down to him who will be the last priest of Israel with Justice, you, perhaps, because priestly holiness really is languishing among us, like a forsaken plant.»