4th October 1945.
The very first person they approach when inquiring about Philip of Jacob makes them realise how much work the young disciple has done. The person they asked is a little old wrinkled woman, who is carrying with difficulty a jug full of water. Gazing with her little deep-set eyes at the handsome face of John who asked her the question, after greeting her « Peace be with you» so gently as to enrapture her, she says: « Are you the Messiah?»
« No. But I am His disciple. He is coming, He is over there.»
The old woman puts her jug on the ground and hobbles in the direction pointed out to her and kneels down in front of Jesus.
John, who has remained with Simon near the pitcher which has turned over spilling half of its contents, says to his companion smiling: « We had better pick up this jug and join the old woman.» He does so while his companion adds: « We can use it to drink. We are all thirsty.»
When they reach the old woman - who not knowing what to say exactly continues to repeat: « Lovely, holy Son of the most holy Mother» still on her knees and drinking in with her eyes the figure of Jesus, Who smiles at her repeating in His turn: « Stand up, mother» - when they reach her, John says to her: « We have taken your jug. But it turned over and there is little water left in it. If you give it to us, we will drink this water and then we will fill the jug for you.»
« Yes, my sons, of course. And I am sorry that I have but water for you. I wish I had milk in my breast as when I fed my Judas, in order to give you the sweetest thing there is on the earth: the milk of a mother. I would like to have wine, choice wine, to strengthen you. But Marianne of Elisha is old and poor...»
« Your water is wine and milk to Me, mother, because it is given with love» replies Jesus and He is the first to drink out of the jug handed to Him by John. Then the others drink.
The old woman, who has at last stood up, looks at them as if she were looking at Paradise and when, after they have all drunk, she sees that they are about to throw away the water left in the jug, to fill it at the fountain gurgling at the end of the street, she rushes forward, defending her jug and saying: « No, don't. This water is more holy than lustral water, as He drank out of it. I will keep it carefully so that I may be cleansed with it when I die.» And she seizes her jug saying: « I will take it home. I have some more and I will fill them. But come first, o Holy One, that I may show You Philip's house» and she trots along swiftly, all bent, with a smile on her wrinkled face and her little eyes shining with joy. She trots along holding the hem of Jesus' mantle in her hand, as if she were afraid He might run away from her, and she defends her jug from the insistent apostles, who do not want her to carry that weight. She trots along blissfully, looking at the street and the houses in Arbela, the former deserted, the latter already closed as it is getting dark, and she looks like a conquerer, happy in her victory.
Finally, they pass from the side street into a more central one, where there are people hastening home - and the people watch her spellbound, pointing at her and questioning her - and, after waiting to have a circle of people around her, she shouts: « I have here Philip's Messiah. Run and tell everybody and first of all Jacob's household. So that they may be ready to honour the Saint.» She shouts at the top of her voice. She can make herself obeyed. It is the moment of authority of a poor, lonely, unknown little old woman of the people. And she sees the whole town deeply moved by her command.
Jesus, so much taller than she is, smiles at her when she looks at Him now and again and He lays His hand on her venerable head, in a filial caress which overwhelms her with happiness.
Jacob's house is in a central street. It is open and lit up and through the door one can see a long hall in which there are people holding lights, and they rush out joyfully as soon as Jesus appears in the street: the young disciple Philip, his father and mother, relatives, servants and friends.
Jesus stops and replies gravely to Jacob's deep bow, He then bends over Philip's mother who has knelt down to revere Him, and He makes her stand up blessing her and saying: « Be always happy because of your faith.» He then greets the disciple who has come with the other man who was with him, and whom Jesus greets as well.
Old Marianne, however, does not leave the hem of the mantle or her place beside Jesus until they are about to enter the entrance hall. She then whispers: « Bless me that I may be happy! You will now stay here... I am going to my poor house and... and this beautiful thing is all over!» How much regret there is in her ageing voice!
Jacob, to whom his wife has spoken in a low voice, says: « No, Marianne of Elisha. Stay in my house as if you were a disciple. Stay as long as the Master will be with us and be thus happy.»
« May God bless you, man. You know what charity is.»
« Master... she brought You to my house. You have brought me grace and love. I am only giving back, and in a poor way, what I have received from You and from her so abundantly. Come in, and let my house welcome You.»
The crowds outside in the street see them go in and shout: « And what about us? We want to hear His word.»
Jesus turns round: « It is night and you are tired. Prepare your souls through a holy rest and tomorrow you will hear the Voice of God. For the time being, peace and blessings be with you.» And the front door closes on the happiness of this house.
James of Zebedee watches the Lord during the purification after the journey: « Perhaps it was better to speak at once and depart at dawn. There are some Pharisees in town. Philip told me. They will vex You.»
« Those who might have been vexed by them are far away. The trouble they may cause Me is of no importance. There is love that will cancel it...»
The following morning... Jesus goes out among the joyful relatives of Philip and the apostles. The old woman follows them. He meets the people of Arbela who are patiently waiting for Him. He goes to the main square where He begins to speak.
« We read in the eighth chapter of the second book of Ezra, what I will now repeat to you: “When the seventh month came...” (Jesus says to me: “Do not write anything else. I will repeat the words of the book in full”).
When does a people return to its country? When it goes back to the land of its ancestors. I have come to take you back to the land of your Father, to the Kingdom of the Father. And I can do that because I was sent for that. So I have come to take You to the Kingdom of God and it is therefore fair to compare you to those who repatriated with Zorobabel to Jerusalem, the city of the Lord, and it is fair to do with you what Ezra the scribe did with the people gathered once again within the sacred walls. Because it is incomparable foolishness to rebuild a town dedicating it to the Lord, without restoring souls, which are like as many little towns of God.
How can these little spiritual towns, dilapidated by so many events, be restored? Which materials should be used to make them solid, beautiful, lasting? The materials are in the precepts of the Lord: the ten commandments, of which you are aware, because Philip, a son of your town and My disciple, has reminded you of them. The two most holy of the holy precepts are: “Love God with your whole being. Love your neighbour as yourself.” They sum up the Law. And I preach them because through them you are certain to conquer the Kingdom of God. In love you find the strength of persevering in holiness or becoming holy, the strength of forgiveness, the strength of heroism in virtue. Everything can be found in love. Fear does not save: the fear of the judgement of God, the fear of human sanctions, the fear of diseases. Fear is never constructive. It shakes, shatters, throws into disorder, it crushes. Fear leads to despair, it leads only to crafty concealment of evil-doing, it makes one fear when fear is useless, because evil is already within us.
Who thinks of behaving wisely, for the sake of his body, when one is healthy? No one. But as soon as the first shiver of fever runs through our veins or a stain makes us think of unclean diseases, then fear becomes an added torture to the disease and it becomes a disintegrating strength in a body already broken down by illness. Love instead is constructive. It builds, solidifies, unites and preserves. Love brings hope in God. Love removes from evil-doing. Love makes man deal wisely with his own person, which is not the centre of the universe, as egotists believe and make it, the false lovers of themselves, because they love one part only: the less noble one, to the detriment of the immortal and holy part; but which it is our duty to preserve healthy, as long as God so wishes, in order to be useful to ourselves, to our relatives, to our town and to the whole country.
Diseases inevitably come. It is not true that every disease is the consequence of vice or punishment. There are holy diseases sent by the Lord to His just people, so that in the world, which considers itself the end and the means of pleasure, there may be holy people who are like war-hostages for the safety of others, and they pay personally expiating through their suffering, the portion of guilt which the world daily accumulates and which would end by crashing on Mankind, burying it under its malediction.
Do you remember old Moses praying while Joshua was fighting in the name of the Lord? You must consider that those who suffer holily, give the greatest battle to the fiercest warrior there is in the world, concealed under the appearances of men and peoples, to Satan, the Torturer, the Origin of all evils, and they fight on behalf of all men. But how much difference there is between such holy diseases sent by God, and those caused by vice through a sinful love of senses! The former are a proof of God's merciful will; the latter are a proof of diabolical corruption. It is therefore necessary to love, in order to be holy, because love creates, preserves and sanctifies.
Like Nehemiah and Ezra, I also, announcing this truth, say to you: “This day is sacred to the Lord our God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.” Because all mourning ends, when one lives the day of the Lord. The harshness of death comes to an end, because the loss of a son, of a husband, a father, mother or brother becomes a temporary and limited separation. Temporary because it ends with our death. Limited because it is confined to the body and sense. Our soul does not lose anything when a relative of ours dies. Its freedom is limited in one party only, in us, as survivors with our souls still enclosed in the flesh, while the other party, the one who has passed to second life, enjoys the liberty and power to watch over us and obtain for us much more than when it loved us from the prison of its body.
Like Nehemiah and Ezra I say to you: “Go, eat the fat meat, drink the sweet wine and send a portion to the man who has none, for this day is sacred to the Lord, and therefore nobody must suffer during it. Do not be sad, because the joy of the Lord Who is among you, is the stronghold of those who receive the grace of the Most High Lord within their walls and in their hearts.”
You can no longer erect Tabernacles. Their time is over. But erect spiritual ones in your hearts. Climb the mountain, that is, rise towards Perfection. Gather branches of olive, myrtle, palm, oak, hyssop and of every beautiful tree. Branches of the virtues of peace, purity, heroism, mortification, strength, hope, justice, of all virtues. Adorn your souls celebrating the feast of the Lord. His Tabernacles are awaiting you. His. And they are beautiful, holy, eternal, open to all those who live in the Lord. And together with Me, decide today to do penance for the past and to begin a new life.
Do not be afraid of the Lord. He calls you because He loves you. Be not afraid. You are His children like everybody in Israel. Also for you He created the Universe and Heaven, He sent Abraham and Moses, He opened the sea, He created the guiding cloud, He descended from Heaven to give the Law, and He opened the clouds that they might rain manna, and He made the rocks fruitful that they might give water. And now for you also He is sending the living Bread of Heaven to satisfy your hunger and the true Vine and the Fountain of eternal Life to quench your thirst. And through My lips He says to you: “Enter and possess the Land over which I have raised My hand to give it to you.” My spiritual Land: the Kingdom of Heaven.»
The crowds exchange enthusiastic words... Then it is the turn of sick people. There are so many. Jesus has them lined up in two rows, and while this is being done, He asks Philip of Arbela: « Why did you not cure them?»
« That they might have what I had: to be cured by You.»
Jesus passes blessing the sick people one by one and the usual prodigy is repeated: the blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, cripples stand straight, fever and weakness cease.
The healing is over. At the end, after the last sick person, there are the two Pharisees who went to Bozrah together with two more. « Peace to You, Master. Are You not saying anything to us?»
« I spoke to everybody.»
« But we do not need those words. We are the saints of Israel.»
« To you, who are masters, I say: comment upon the subsequent chapter, the ninth of the second book of Ezra, remembering how many times so far God has had mercy on you, and repeat the end of the chapter, as if it were a prayer, beating your chests.»
« Quite right, Master, quite right. And do Your disciples do it?»
« They do. It is the first thing I exact of them.»
« All of them? Also the murderers who are in Your group?»
« Does blood smell bad to you?»
« It is a voice crying to Heaven.»
« Then do not imitate those who shed it.»
« We are not assassins!»
Jesus gazes at them piercing them with His eyes. They dare not add one word for some time. But they follow the group which goes back to the house of Philip, who feels bound to invite them to enter and join in the banquet.
« With great pleasure! We will stay longer with the Master» they say bowing very low.
But once in the house they behave like bloodhounds... They watch, they peek, they ask the servants astute questions, and they approach even the old woman, who seems to be attracted by Jesus as iron is by a magnet. But she replies promptly: « Yesterday I saw these only. You must be dreaming. I brought them here, and there was only one John: that fair-haired boy who is as good as an angel.»
They fulminate against the old woman and turn elsewhere. But a servant, without replying to them directly, bends over Jesus, Who is sitting speaking to the landlord, and asks Him: « Where is John of Endor? This gentleman is looking for him.»
The Pharisee casts a withering glance at the servant and stigmatises him as a « fool». But Jesus is now aware of their intentions and it is necessary to remedy in the best possible manner. The Pharisee says: « It was to congratulate You, Master, on this wonder of Your doctrine and honour You through the convert.»
« John is far away for good and he will be farther and farther away.»
« Has he relapsed into sin?»
« No. He is ascending towards Heaven. Imitate him, and you will find him in the next life.»
The four do not know what to say and they wisely change the subject. The servants announce that the meal is ready and they all go into the dining-room.