21st September 1945.
Jesus is on His way to Bethany with the apostles and disciples and is speaking to the disciples, whom He orders to part, so that the Judaeans will go through Judaea and the Galileans up Trans-Jordan announcing the Messiah.
The instruction raises some objections. I get the impression that Trans-Jordan did not enjoy a very good reputation among Israelites. They talk of it as if it were a pagan region. And that offends the disciples from that area, among whom the most influential is the head of the synagogue of the Clear Water and then a young man, whose name I do not know, and both vigorously defend their towns and fellow citizens.
Timoneus says: « Come, my Lord, to Aera, and You will see how they respect You there. You will not find as much faith in Judaea, as there is there. Nay, I do not want to go there. Let me stay with You and send a Judaean and a Galilean to my town. They will see how they believed in You on my word only.»
And the young man says: « I believed without even seeing You. And I looked for You after my mother had forgiven me. But I am happy to go back there, although that means being mocked by wicked citizens as I was once, and being reproached by good people for my behaviour in the past. But it does not matter. I will preach You through my example.»
« You are right. You will do as you said. And then I will come. And you, Timoneus, are right, too. So Hermas will go with Abel of Bethlehem in Galilee to announce Me at Aera, while you, Timoneus, will stay with Me. But I do not want such disputes. You no longer are Judaeans or Galileans: you are disciples. That is enough. That name and your mission make you all equal with regard to birthplace, rank, everything. In one thing only you may differ: in holiness. That will be individual and in the measure which each of you will be able to attain. But I would like you all to have the same measure: the perfect one. See the apostles? They were divided like you by race and other things. Now, after a little over a year of instruction, they are simply the apostles. Do the same, and as among you, priests are together with old sinners and rich people with former beggars, and young men with old venerable people, cancel likewise divisions brought about by belonging to this or that region. By now you have one Fatherland only: Heaven. Because you have set off on the way to Heaven each of his own free will. Never give My enemies the impression that you are hostile to one another. Sin is your enemy, nothing else.»
They proceed in silence for some time. Then Stephen approaches the Master and says: « I have something to tell You. I was hoping that You would ask me, but You did not. Yesterday Gamaliel spoke to me...»
« I saw him.»
« Are You not asking me what he told me?»
« I am waiting for you to tell Me, because a good disciple has no secrets from his Master.»
« Gamaliel... Master, come a little ahead with me...»
« Well... let us go. But you could have spoken in the presence of everybody...»
They move away a few yards. Stephen blushing says:
« I must give You a piece of advice, Master. Forgive me...»
« If it is good, I will accept it. Tell Me.»
« In the Sanhedrin, they know everything sooner or later. It is an institution with a thousand eyes and one hundred ramifications. They penetrate everywhere, see everything and hear everything. It has more informers than there are bricks in the walls of the Temple. Many live thus...»
« Spying. You may say so. It is the truth and I know. So? What has been said, more or less true, at the Sanhedrin?»
« Everything... has been said. I do not know how they can find out certain things. Neither do I know whether they are true... But I will tell You literally what Gamaliel told me: “Tell the Master to have Ermasteus circumcised or to send him away for good. It is not necessary to say anything else.”»
« In fact it is not necessary to say anything else. First of all because I am going to Bethany just for that and I will remain there until Ermasteus is fit to travel again. Secondly because no justification could demolish the prejudice and... standoffishness of Gamaliel, who is scandalised because I have with Me a man who is not circumcised in a member of his body. Oh! if he looked around and within himself! How many uncircumcised people in Israel!»
« But Gamaliel...»
« He is the perfect representative of old Israel. He is not wicked, but... Look at this pebble. I could split it, but I could not make it malleable. He is like that. He will have to be crushed in order to be recomposed. And I will do that!»
« Do You want to oppose Gamaliel? Be careful! He is powerful!»
« Oppose? As if he were an enemy? No. Instead of fighting against him, I will love him, satisfying one of his desires for his mummified brains and spreading on him a balm which will dissolve him to recompose him.»
« I will pray also that that may happen, because I am fond of him. Am I wrong?»
« No. You must love him by praying for him. And you will do that. I am sure you will. Nay, you will help Me to prepare the balm... However, you will tell Gamaliel, to calm him, that I had already provided for Ermasteus and that I am grateful to him for his advice. Here we are at Bethany. Let us stop so that I may bless you all, because this is where we part.» And after joining the large group of apostles mingled with disciples, He blesses and dismisses them all, with the exception of Ermasteus, John of Endor and Timoneus. Then with the disciples left Jesus walks at a good pace the short distance to Lazarus' gate, which is already wide open to receive Him, He enters the garden raising His hand to bless the hospitable house, in the large park of which are the owners of the house and the pious women, who are laughing at Marjiam running along the paths adorned with the last roses. And with the owners and the women, also Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus come out of a path, when they hear the women shout; they also are guests of Lazarus, to be in peace with the Master. And they all make haste towards the Master; Mary with Her kind smile, and Mary of Magdala with her cry of love: « Rabboni!», and Lazarus limping, the two grave members of the Sanhedrin, and last, the pious women of Jerusalem and of Galilee: wrinkle-furrowed faces and smooth faces of young women and, as gentle as the face of an angel, the virginal face of Annaleah, who blushes in greeting the Master.
« Is Syntyche not here?» asks Jesus after the first greeting.
« She is with Sarah, Marcella and Naomi laying the tables. But here they are coming.»
And they come, in fact, with old Esther of Johanna, two faces marked by age and by sorrow, between two serene faces and the grave yet bright peaceful face of the Greek girl, different by race and by something which distinguishes her.
And I could not say that she is a real and true beauty. And yet her dark eyes softened by a nuance of very deep indigo, under a high and very noble forehead, are more impressive than her body, which is definitely more beautiful than her face. A slender but not meagre body, which is well proportioned and has a graceful gait and carriage. But it is her expression that strikes one. An intelligent, frank, deep look, which seems to inhale the whole world, selecting it, keeping what is useful, holy, good, and rejecting what is evil; a look which allows its very depths to be searched and from which her soul looks out to scan those approaching her. If it is true that it is possible to know an individual through his eyes, I say that Syntyche is a woman with unerring judgement and firm honest thoughts. She kneels also with the other women and waits to stand up until the Master tells her.
Jesus proceeds along the green garden as far as the porch before the house and then enters a hall where the servants are ready to serve refreshments and assist guests in the ablutions before meals. While all the women withdraw Jesus remains with the apostles in the hall, and John of Endor and Ermasteus go to the house of Simon Zealot to leave the bags they are carrying.
« Is the young fellow who has gone with John, the one-eyed man, the Philistine whom You have accepted?» asks Joseph.
« Yes, Joseph, he is. How do you know?»
« Master... Nicodemus and I have been wondering for some days how we know and how, unfortunately, the others of the Temple know about it. The fact is that we do know. Before the Tabernacles, in the meeting which is always held before such festivities, some Pharisees said that they knew for certain that among Your disciples, beside... - forgive me, Lazarus - known and unknown prostitutes and publicans - forgive me, Matthew of Alphaeus - and former galley-slaves, there were an uncircumcised Philistine and a heathen girl. With regard to the heathen girl, who is certainly Syntyche, one can understand how it became known, or at least guess so. The Roman made a great fuss about her and he became the laughing stock of his people and of the Jews, also because he searched for his runaway everywhere, complaining and threatening, and he even troubled Herod saying that she was hiding in Johanna's house and that the Tetrarch should order his steward to hand her back to her master. But it is strange, very strange that it should be known that among the many men who follow You, there is an uncircumcised Philistine, and a former galley-slave!... Do You not think so?»
« It is and it is not strange. I will provide for Syntyche and the former galley-slave.»
« Yes, do. Above all You ought to send John away. Your group of apostles is not a place for him.»
« Joseph, have you perhaps become a Pharisee?» asks Jesus severely.
« No... but...»
« And should I humiliate a soul which has been regenerated, because of the silly scruple of the worst Pharisaism? No, I will not! I will provide for his tranquillity. His, not Mine, I will watch over his perfecting as I watch over innocent Marjiam's. Really there is no difference in their spiritual ignorance! One speaks for the first time words of wisdom, because God has forgiven him, because he is re-born in God, because God has embraced the sinner. The other speaks the same words, passing from a forlorn childhood to a boyhood, watched over by the love of man beside the love of God, and opens his soul to the sun like a corolla and the Sun enlightens him with Himself. His Sun: God. And one is about to speak his last words... Can your eyes not see that he is wearing himself out with penance and love? Oh! I would really like to have many Johns of Endor in Israel and among My servants. I would like you, too, Joseph and you, Nicodemus, to have hearts like his and above all I wish his informer had it, the vile snake that hides under the appearance of a friend and is acting as a spy before becoming an assassin. The snake that envies the bird its wings, and lays snares for it to tear them off and enthrall it. No! The bird is about to change into an angel. And even if it could tear them off, which it will never be able to do, once they were put on to its slimy body, they would change into wings of a devil. Every spy is already a devil.»
« But where can such a rogue be? Tell me so that I may go at once and tear his tongue out» exclaims Peter.
« You had better pull his poisonous teeth out» says Judas of Alphaeus.
« No! It's better to strangle him! So he will not be able to hurt in any way. Such people can always be harmful» remarks the Iscariot firmly.
Jesus stares at him and concludes: « ... and can always lie. But no one must do anything against him. It is not worth while letting the bird perish, to deal with the snake. With regard to Ermasteus, I am staying here, in Lazarus' house, just for the circumcision of Ermasteus himself, who is embracing the holy religion of our people for My sake and to avoid the persecution of narrow-minded Jews. It is the passage from dark to Light. But it is not necessary to make Light come to a heart. But I have agreed to calm down the susceptibility of Israel and to show the true will of the Philistine to come to God. But I tell you, in the times of Christ, that is not necessary to belong to God. Will, love, and a righteous conscience are sufficient. And how can we circumcise the Greek woman? In which part of her spirit, if she was able to perceive God better than many people in Israel? It is true that among the people present many are in darkness as compared to those who are despised by you for being in darkness. In any case, both the informer and you, members of the Sanhedrin, can tell the people concerned that the scandal has been removed as from today.»
« With regard to whom? To all three?»
« No, Judas of Simon. With regard to Ermasteus. I will see to the other two. Have you anything else to ask Me?»
« No, Master.»
« Neither have I anything else to tell you. But I ask you to tell Me, if you know, what has happened to Syntyche's master.»
« Pilate shipped him back to Italy by the first boat available, to avoid having trouble with Herod and the Jews in general. Pilate is in a tight corner at present... and has enough worries» says Nicodemus.
« Is the news certain?»
« I can check on it, if You wish so, Master» says Lazarus.
« Yes. Do so. And then let Me know the true situation.»
« But in my house Syntyche is safe just the same.»
« I know. Israel also protects a slave who has run away from a foreign cruel master. But I want to know.»
« And I would like to know who is the spy, the informer, the pretty spy of the Pharisees... and I want to know, and this can be found out, who are the denouncing Pharisees. Let us have the names of the Pharisees and of their towns. I mean of the Pharisees who have done the lovely work of informing, following the betrayal of one of us, because we, old and new disciples, are the only ones to know things; a fine piece of work indeed it was to inform the Sanhedrin of the deeds of the Master, which are thoroughly honest, and who says or thinks the contrary is a devil and...»
« And that is enough, Simon of Jonah. It is an order.»
« And I obey, even if the veins of my heart should burst because of the effort. In the meantime the beauty of the day has gone...»
« No. Why? Has anything changed among us? So? O My Simon! Come here beside Me and let us talk of what is good...»
« They have come to tell us that dinner is ready, Master» says Lazarus.
« Let us go, then...»