14th October 1945.
Rain, rain, rain... The apostles who are not very happy to walk in the rain, suggest to Jesus that it might be better to take shelter at Nazareth, which is not far... and Peter says: « And then I could leave with the boy...»
Jesus' « no» is so resolute that no one dare insist. Jesus is walking ahead of them, all alone... The others are following Him, in two sullen groups.
But Peter cannot resist any longer and he approaches Jesus. « Master, can I stay with You?» he asks in a rather mortified tone.
« You are always dear to Me, Simon. Come.»
Peter cheers up. He trots along beside Jesus, Who goes a long way with His strides, without any effort. After a little while he says: « Master... it would have been lovely to have the boy for the feast...»
Jesus does not reply.
« Master, why do You not make me happy?»
« Simon, you are running the risk of having the boy taken away from you.»
« No! Lord! Why?» Peter is frightened by the threat and looks desolate.
« Because I do not want you to be tied to anything. I told you when I gave you Marjiam. You, instead, are getting stranded in your affection.»
« It is not a sin to love. And to love Marjiam. You love him, too...»
« But My love does not prevent Me from devoting Myself entirely to My mission. Do you not remember My words on human affections and My advice, which was as clear as an order, concerning those who want to put their hands to the plough? Are you getting tired, Simon of Jonah, of being My disciple heroically?»
Peter's voice is broken by sobs when he replies: « No, Lord. I remember everything and I am not tired. But I am under the impression that it is the other way round... You are tired of me, of poor Simon who left everything to follow You...»
« You mean: who found everything in following Me.»
« No... Yes... Master... I am a poor man...»
« I know. And that is exactly why I am working on you. To make of the poor man a man, a saint, My Apostle, My Stone. I am hard to make you hard. I do not want you to be as soft as this mud. I want you to be a perfectly squared block: the foundation Stone. Do you not understand that that is love? Do you not remember the Wise Man? He says that he who loves is severe. But understand Me! At least you! Can you not see how I am overwhelmed and desolate because of so much misunderstanding, because of too much feigning, of so much indifference, and of even more disappointments?»
« Is that... is that how You feel, Master? Oh! Divine Mercy! And I never realised it! What a blockhead I am!... But for how long?... By whom? Tell me...»
« It is of no avail. You would not be able to do anything. I can do nothing Myself...»
« Could I not do anything to relieve You?»
« I told you: you should understand that My sternness is love and see love in every act of Mine concerning you.»
« Yes, of course. I will not speak any more. My dear Master! I will say no more. Forgive this blockhead. Give me a sign that You really forgive me...»
« A sign! My “yes” should really be enough for you. But I will give you it. Listen: I cannot go to Nazareth because, besides Marjiam, John of Endor and Syntyche are there. And that is not to be known.»
« Not even to us? Why?... Ah! Master?! Are You afraid of any of us?»
« Prudence teaches that when something is to be kept secret, two people who are aware of it are too many. Even a careless word can be detrimental. And men are not all and always thoughtful.»
« Really... I am not thoughtful either. But when I want, I can be silent. And I will! I will indeed! I will no longer be Simon of Jonah, if I do not hold my tongue. Thank You, Master, for Your esteem. It is indeed a great sign of love... So we are now going to Tarichea?»
« Yes. Then we will go to Magdala by boat. I must collect the gold of the jewels...»
« You can now see that I am able to hold my tongue! I never said anything to Judas, You know?»
Jesus makes no comment on the interruption. He goes on: « Once I have received the gold, I will leave you all free until the day after the Dedication. If I should want any of you, I will call you to Nazareth. The apostles from Judaea, with the exception of Simon Zealot, will take Lazarus' sisters and their handmaids, and Eliza of Bethzur, to their house in Bethany. They will then go to their homes for the Dedication. It will be quite all right if they come back by the end of Shebat, when we shall start going round again. You are the only one to know, is that right, Simon Peter?»
« Yes, I am the only one. But... You will have to tell the others...»
« I will tell them at the right moment. Go now to your companions and be sure of My love.»
Peter obeys and is happy and Jesus becomes absorbed in thought once again.
The waves are breaking against the little beach of Magdala, when the two boats land there in a late November afternoon. They are not big waves, but they are annoying for those landing, as their clothes get wet. But the prospect of being sheltered at once in the house of Mary of Magdala makes them put up with the undesired bath without any grumbling.
« Put the boats away and then join us» says Jesus to the servants. And He sets out at once along the shore because they landed in a cove a little outside the town, where there are other boats of fishermen from Magdala.
« Judas of Simon and Thomas, come here with Me» says Jesus calling them. They run up to Him. « I have decided to entrust you with a confidential task, and a pleasant one at the same time. This is the task: you will take Lazarus' sisters to Bethany. And Eliza will go with them. I think highly enough of you to entrust the women disciples to you. And you will take a letter of Mine to Lazarus. Then, when you have fulfilled your task, you will go home for the Dedication... Do not interrupt Me, Judas. We shall all celebrate the Dedication at home this year. It is too rainy a winter to travel about. You can see that also sick people are thinning out. So we will take advantage of the situation and make our families happy. I will wait for you at Capernaum by the end of Shebat.»
« But are You staying at Capernaum?» asks Thomas.
« I am not yet sure where I will be staying. Here or there it is the same to Me, providing My Mother is with Me.»
« I would have preferred to celebrate the Dedication with You» says the Iscariot.
« I believe you. But if you love Me, please obey. All the more because your obedience will give you the possibility of helping the disciples, who are once again spread out everywhere. You must help Me with them. In a family it is the elder sons who help the parents to bring up the younger ones. You are the elder brothers of the disciples, and they the younger ones, and you ought to be happy that I rely on you. It proves that I am satisfied with your recent work.»
Thomas simply says: « It's too kind of You, Master. But, as far as I am concerned, I will endeavour to do even better, now. But I am sorry to leave You... But time flies... And my old father will be happy to have me for the feast... and my sisters too... My twin sister above all!... She must have had, or is about to have a baby... The first nephew... If it is a boy, and is born when I am there, what name shall I give him?»
« And if it is a girl?»
« Mary. There are no sweeter names.»
But Judas, proud of the appointment, is already strutting about and making plans... He has completely forgotten that he will be leaving Jesus and that shortly before, about the time of the Tabernacles, if I remember rightly, he had protested, like an unbroken horse, against Jesus' order to part from Him for a little while. He forgets also how at the time he suspected that it was Jesus' desire to send him away. He has forgotten everything and he is happy to be considered one who may be entrusted with delicate tasks. He promises: « I will bring You much money for the poor» and he takes out his purse and says: « Here, take this. It is all we have. I have nothing else. Give me provisions for our journey from Bethany home.»
« But we are not leaving this evening» objects Thomas.
« It does not matter. No money is required in Mary's house, so... I am happy that I do not have to handle any more... When I come back I will bring Your Mother some flower seeds. I will get them from my mother. And I want to bring a present for Marjiam...» He is elated. Jesus looks at him...
They are now in the house of Mary of Magdala. They make themselves known and go in. The women run joyfully to meet the Master, Who has come to take shelter in their home...
And after supper, when the tired apostles have withdrawn, Jesus, sitting in the centre of a hall, in the circle of the women disciples, informs them of His desire that they should leave as soon as possible. Unlike the apostles, not one of them protests. They bow their heads in assent and then go out to pack their luggage. But Jesus calls back the Magdalene, who is already on the threshold.
« Well, Mary? Why did you whisper to Me, when I arrived: “I must speak to You privately”?»
« Master, I sold the precious stones. At Tiberias. Marcella sold them with the assistance of Isaac. I have the money in my room. I did not want Judas to see...» and she blushes deeply.
Jesus stares at her but does not say anything.
The Magdalene goes out and comes back with a heavy purse which she hands to Jesus: « Here it is» she says. « They paid a very good price for them.»
« Thank you, Mary.»
« Thank You, Rabboni, for asking this favour of me. Have You anything else to ask me?...»
« No, Mary. And have you anything else to tell Me?»
« No, my Lord. Bless me, Master.»
« Yes, I bless you... Mary... are you happy to go back to Lazarus? Supposing I were no longer in Palestine, would you go back home willingly?»
« Yes, my Lord. But...»
« Go on, Mary. Do not be afraid to tell me what you think.»
« I would have gone back more willingly, if Simon the Zealot had been in the place of Judas of Kerioth, because he is a great friend of our family.»
« I need him for an important mission.»
« Your brothers, then or John, whose heart is as innocent as a dove. Anyone of them, except him. My Lord, do not look at me so severely... Who has fed on lust, perceives it when it is near... I am not afraid of it. I can hold at bay someone who is much more than Judas. And I am terrified at not being forgiven, and it is my ego, and it is Satan who wanders round me, and it is the world... But if Mary of Theophilus is not afraid of anybody, Mary of Jesus is disgusted at the vice which had subdued her, and she... Lord... The man who craves for sensuality disgusts me...»
« You are not alone on the journey, Mary. And I am sure that while he is with you he will not come back... Remember that I must send Syntyche and John to Antioch and who is not prudent must not know anything about it...»
« That is true. So I will go... Master, when shall we meet again?»
« I do not know, Mary. Perhaps only at Passover. Go in peace, now. I will bless you this evening and every evening, together with your sister and good Lazarus.»
Mary bends to kiss Jesus' feet leaving Him alone in the silent room.