24th September 1945.
« Lazarus, My dear friend, I ask you to come with Me» says Jesus appearing at the door of the hall where Lazarus is reading a roll, half reclining on a little bed.
« I will come at once, Master. Where are we going?» asks Lazarus getting up immediately.
« Into the country. I need to be all alone with you.»
Lazarus looks at Him with a worried expression and asks: « Have You sad news to give me secretly? Or... No, I do not even want to think of that...»
« No, I only wish to seek advice from you and not even the air must be aware of what we shall say. Order a wagon, because I do not want you to get tired. When we are out in the open country I will speak to you.»
« In that case I will drive it myself. So no servant will know what we say.»
« Yes, do that.»
« I am going at once, Master. I'll soon be ready» and he goes out.
Jesus also goes out after standing somewhat pensive in the middle of the magnificent hall. While engrossed in thought, He mechanically moves two or three objects and picks up a roll which had fallen on to the floor, and when putting it in its place in a cabinet, because of His inborn instinct for order, which is so deeply rooted in Jesus, He remains with His arm raised, looking at the strange art of some objects lined up in the cabinet, which are different from the current art in Palestine. By the embossed work and design imitating the ornaments of the temples of ancient Greece and of funeral urns, they appear to be very old amphoras and cups. What He sees beyond the articles themselves, I do not know... He leaves the hall and goes into the inner yard, where the apostles are.
« Where are we going, Master?» they ask when they see Jesus tidy His mantle.
« Nowhere. I am going with Lazarus. You will stay here and wait for Me. I shall soon be back.»
The Twelve look at one another. They are not very happy...
Peter says: « Are You going alone? Be careful...»
« Do not be afraid. While waiting, do not be idle. Teach Ermasteus, that he may have a better knowledge of the Law and be good company to one another, without arguments or rudeness. Bear with and love one another.»
He sets out towards the garden and they all follow Him. A closed cart soon arrives with Lazarus in it.
« Are You going in that cart?»
« Yes, so that Lazarus may not tire his legs. Goodbye, Marjiam. Be good. Peace to you all.»
He climbs into the cart, which grinding the pebbles of the avenue leaves the garden and turns into the main road.
« Are You going to the Clear Water, Master?» Thomas shouts after Him.
« No, I am not. Once again I tell you to be good.»
The horse starts at a steady trot. The road going from Bethany to Jericho runs through the country, which is becoming bare. The more they descend towards the plain, the more the fading of the greenery in the fields becomes noticeable.
Jesus is pensive. Lazarus is silent and intent only on driving the cart. When they are down in the plain, a fertile plain, which is ready to nourish the seed of future corn, and where all the vineyards seem to be asleep, like a woman who has recently given birth to her fruit and is resting after her pleasant labour, Jesus beckons Lazarus to stop. Lazarus stops at once and leads the horse into a side road, which takes to houses far away... and he explains: « We shall be safer here than on the main road. These trees will conceal us from the eyes of many people.» In fact a thicket of low trees acts as a screen against the curiosity of passers-by. Lazarus is standing before Jesus, waiting.
« Lazarus, I must send away John of Endor and Syntyche. You can see that both prudence and charity advise Me to do so. It would be a dangerous test and useless grief for both of them to be aware of the persecutions set in motion against them... and which, for at least one of them, could bring about most grievous surprises.»
« In my house...»
« No. Not even in your house. Perhaps they would not be troubled materially. But they would be humiliated morally. The world is cruel. It crushes its victims. I do not want those two beautiful and powerful souls to get lost like that. So, as one day I joined Ishmael to Sarah, I will now join My poor John to Syntyche. I want him to die in peace, I do not want him to be left alone, and he must go away feeling that he is being sent elsewhere, not because he was formerly a galley-man, but because he is the proselyte disciple who can be sent away to announce the Master. And Syntyche will help him... She is a beautiful soul and will be a great strength in the future Church and for the future Church. Can you advise Me where to send them? I do not want them to stay in Judaea or in Galilee and not even in the Decapolis, where I go with My apostles and disciples. Nor in the heathen world. So, where? Where, so that they may be safe and usefull?»
« Master... I... how can I give You advice!»
« No, tell Me. You love Me, you do not betray Me, you love those whom I love, you are not narrow-minded like the others.»
« I... well... I would advise You to send them where I have some friends. To Cyprus or to Syria. Make Your choice. I have trustworthy people in Cyprus. And even more in Syria!... I have also a little house, watched over by a manager, who is as faithful as a pet lamb. Our old Philip! He will do for my sake anything I tell him. And, if You do not mind, those who are persecuted by Israel and are dear to You, will be my guests as from now on, and will be safe in the house... Oh! It is not a palace! It is a house where Philip lives alone with a nephew, who looks after the gardens at Antigonium. The beloved gardens of my mother. We have kept them as a remembrance of her. She had taken there the plants of her Judaean gardens... plants of rare essences... Mother!... How much good she did to the poor with them... It was her secret domain... My mother... Master, I will soon be going to say to her: “Rejoice, my good mother. The Saviour is on the earth.” She was expecting You...» Tears stream down Lazarus' drawn face. Jesus looks at him and smiles. Lazarus recovers his strength: « But let us speak of You. Do You think it is a good place?»
« I think it is. And I thank you once again, also on their behalf. You have relieved Me of a heavy burden...»
« When will they leave? I am asking so that I may prepare a letter for Philip. I will say that they are two friends of mine, from here, in need of peace. And that will suffice.»
« Yes, that is enough. But, I beg you, not even the air is to be aware of this. You can see that yourself. They are spying upon Me...»
« I know. I will not mention it even to my sisters. But how will You take them there? You have the apostles with You...»
« I will now go up as far as Aera without Judas of Simon, Thomas, Philip and Bartholomew. In the meantime I will teach Syntyche and John thoroughly, so that they may go with large provisions of Truth. I will then go down to lake Merom and later to Capernaum. And when I am there, I will send the four apostles away once again, on some other mission, and in the meantime I will send the two off to Antioch. That is what they are compelling Me to do...»
« To be afraid of Your own people. You are right... Master, it grieves me to see You worried...»
« But your kind friendship is of great comfort to Me... Lazarus, I thank you... I am leaving the day af ter tomorrow and I will be taking your sisters away. I need many women disciples to conceal Syntyche amongst them. Johanna of Chuza also is coming. From Merom she will go to Tiberias, where she will be spending the winter months. Her husband has decided so to have her close to him, because Herod is going back to Tiberias for some time.»
« It will be done as You wish. My sisters are Yours, as I am, as my houses, servants and belongings are. Everything is Yours, Master. Make use of it to do good. I will prepare Your letter for Philip. It is better if I give it to You personally.»
« Thank you, Lazarus.»
« That is all I can do... If I were well... Cure me, Master, and I will come.»
« No, My dear friend... I need you as you are.»
« Even if I do not do anything?»
« Yes, even so. Oh! My Lazarus!» and Jesus embraces and kisses him.
They get on the cart and go back.
Lazarus is now silent and engrossed in thought, and Jesus asks him why.
« I was thinking that I am going to lose Syntyche. I was attracted by her science and goodness...»
« Jesus will gain her...»
« That is very true. When shall I see You again, Master?»
« In spring.»
« Shall I not see You again until spring? Last year You were here with me for the feast of the Dedication.»
« This year I will satisfy the apostles. But next year I will be with you quite a lot. It is a promise.»
Bethany appears in the October sunshine. They are about to arrive when Lazarus stops the horse to say: « Master, You are right in sending away the man from Kerioth. I am afraid of him. He does not love You. I do not like him. I never liked him. He is sensual and greedy. And thus he may commit any sin. Master, it was he who denounced You.»
« Have you any proof?»
« No, I have not.»
« Well, in that case, do not judge. You are not very clever at judging. Remember that you considered your Mary as inexorably lost... Do not say that it was My merit. She sought Me first.»
« That is true, too. However, beware of Judas.»
Shortly afterwards they enter the garden, where the apostles are curiously awaiting them.
The absence of four apostles, and above all of Judas, makes the remaining group more intimate and happy. The group which leaves Bethany on a clear October morning on its way to Jericho, to cross to the other side of the Jordan, is just like a family, the heads of which are Jesus and Mary. The women are gathered round Mary, only Annaleah is absent from the group of the women disciples, which comprises the three Maries, Johanna, Susanna, Eliza, Marcella, Sarah and Syntyche. Peter, Andrew, James and Judas of Alphaeus, Matthew, John and James of Zebedee, Simon Zealot, John of Endor, Ermasteus and Timoneus, are grouped round Jesus, while Marjiam jumping about like a little kid, goes to and fro from one group to the other, which are only a short distance apart. Although laden with heavy bags, they proceed joyfully in the mild sunshine, through the country so solemn in its rest.
John of Endor proceeds with some difficulty under the weight hanging from his shoulders.
Peter notices it and says: « Give your useless load to me since you have decided to carry it round. Were you missing it?»
« The Master told me to bring it.»
« Did He? How lovely! Why?»
« I don't know. Yesterday evening He said to me: “Pack your books again and follow Me with them.”»
« Lovely indeed!... But if He told you, it must be for a good reason. Perhaps it is for that woman. How accomplished she is! Are you as learned?»
« Almost as much as she is. She is very clever.»
« But you are not going to follow us with this load all the time, eh?»
« Oh! I don't think so. I don't know. But I can carry it myself.»
« No, my dear friend. I don't want you to be taken ill. You are looking very poorly, you know?»
« I know. I feel as if I were dying.»
« Don't be silly! At least wait until We arrive in Capernaum. It is so lovely now that we are by ourselves without that... Curse my tongue! I have failed once again in my promise to the Master!... Master? Master?»
« What do you want, Simon?»
« I have spoken ill of Judas, and I had promised You that I would not do it any more. Forgive me.»
« Yes, I do. But try not to do it again.»
« I still have 489 times to be forgiven by You...»
« What are you talking about, brother?» asks Andrew who is obviously utterly amazed.
And Peter, whose placid countenance is humorously bright, twisting his neck under the weight of John of Endor's bag, exclaims: « Don't you remember that He said that we have to forgive seventy times seven. So I am still to be forgiven 489 times and I must keep an accurate account of them...»
They all laugh; Jesus cannot help smiling either. But He replies: « You had better keep count of all the times you are capable of being good, you big boy.»
Peter approaches Him and embracing with his right arm Jesus' waist he says: « My dear Master! How happy I am to be with You without... Come on, admit it! You are happy, too... And You know what I mean. We are all friendly here. Your Mother is here. There is also the boy. We are going towards Capernaum. The season is beautiful... Five good reasons to be happy. Oh! And it is beautiful to travel with You! Where are we staying tonight?»
« At Jericho.»
« Last year we met the Veiled woman there. I wonder what has happened to her... I am rather curious to know... And we found also the man of the vineyards...» Peter's laughter is so loud that it is contagious. They all laugh remembering the scene of the meeting with Judas of Kerioth.
« You are really incorrigible, Simon!» remarks Jesus reproachingly.
« I did not say anything, Master. But I had to laugh remembering his countenance when he found us there... in his vineyards...» Peter laughs so wholeheartedly that he is compelled to stop, while the others proceed laughing against their will.
Peter is joined by the women. Mary asks him kindly: « What is the matter with you, Simon?»
« Ah! I cannot tell You or I will be lacking in charity once more. But, Mother, tell me, since You are so wise. If I throw out innuendos against someone, or worse still, if I utter slander about someone, I obviously commit a sin. But if I laugh at something, at an event, which is known to everybody, something which makes people laugh, for instance, if we remember the surprise, the embarrassment and excuses of a liar when he was found out and we laugh again as we did in the past, is that still wrong?»
« It is an imperfection against charity. It is not a sin like backbiting, or slander or innuendo, but it is still lack of charity. It is like a thread pulled out of a piece of cloth. It does not tear or wear the cloth out, but it affects the firmness and beauty of the fabric and makes it subject to tears and holes. Do you not think so?»
Peter rubs his forehead and feeling rather humiliated he replies: « I do. I had never thought of that.»
« Think about it now and do not do it any more. Laughter may be more offensive to charity than slaps in the face. Has someone made a mistake? We have found someone guilty of lying or of other faults? So? Why remember it? Why remind other people? Let us cover with a veil the faults of our brother, saying: “If I were the culprit, would I like another person to remember my fault or remind other people of it?” There are people who blush in their inmost heart, Simon, and suffer so much because of it. Do not shake your head. I know what you want to say. But, believe Me, also guilty people may blush thus. You must always think: “Would I like that done to me?” You will then see that you will no longer sin against charity. And you will always have so much peace in your heart. Look how happily Marjiam is jumping and singing, because his heart is not worried. He does not have to think about itineraries, expenses or what to say. He knows that someone else takes care of all that on his behalf. Do the same yourself. Abandon everything to God. Also judgement on other people. As long as you can be like a child led by God, why take upon yourself the burden of deciding and judging? The day will come when you must be judge and arbitrator and then you will say: “Oh! How easier and less dangerous it was formerly” and you will say that you were foolish in burdening yourself before the time with so much responsibility. How difficult it is to judge other people! Did you hear what Syntyche said some days ago? “A research through senses is never perfect.” She is quite right. We very often judge according to the reactions of our senses. That is, with the utmost imperfection. Give up judging...»
« Yes, Mary. I sincerely promise You. But I do not know all the beautiful things which Syntyche knows!»
« And are you worried about that, man? Do you not know that I want to get rid of all that, in order to have only what you know?»
« Do you? Why?»
« Because science may support you on the earth, but through wisdom you gain Heaven. Mine is science, yours is wisdom.»
« But by means of your science, you were able to come to Jesus! So it is a good thing.»
« It is mixed with so many errors, that I would like to divest myself of it and clothe myself with wisdom only. I do not want ornate vain dresses. Let the severe inconspicuous dress of Wisdom be mine, as it clothes like an everlasting garment not what is corruptible, but what is immortal. The flame of Science flickers and quivers, The flame of Wisdom shines unvaryingly and steadily and is like the Divinity from which it originates.»
Jesus has slackened His pace in order to hear. He turns round and says to the Greek woman: « You must not yearn to divest yourself of everything you know. But you must select from your knowledge what is a particle of eternal Intelligence conquered by minds of undeniable value.»
« Have, therefore, those minds repeated within themselves the myth of the fire stolen from the gods?»
« Yes, woman. But it was not stolen in this case. They were able to pick it when the Divinity grazed them with its fire, caressing them as specimens, spread among decayed mankind, of what man is, gifted with reason.»
« Master, You should tell me what I must keep and what I must leave. I would not be a good judge. And then You ought to fill with the light of Your Wisdom, the spaces left empty.»
« That is what I intend doing. I shall point out to you to what extent is wise what you know and I will develop it from that point to the end of the true idea. So that you may know for certain. And that will be useful also to those who are destined to have many contacts with the Gentiles in future.»
« We shall not understand anything, my Lord» moans James of Zebedee.
« You will understand little, for the time being, but one day you will understand both the present lessons and their necessity. And you, Syntyche, will expound to Me those points which are most obscure to you. And I will clarify them when we stop to rest.»
« Yes, my Lord. It is the desire of my soul which merges in Your desire. I am the disciple of the Truth, You the Master. It is the dream of all my life: to possess the Truth.»