21st October 1945.
They are made welcome in a poor house where there is a little grandmother surrounded by a little group of children, from ten down to about two years old. The house is situated in the middle of fields, rather neglected, many of which are meadows with a few surviving fruit-trees.
« Peace to you, Johanna. Are things better today? Did they come and help you?»
« Yes, Master and Jesus. And they told me that they will come back to sow. It will be late, but they tell me that it will grow.»
« Of course, it will. What would be a miracle of the earth and of seed, will become a miracle of God. So a perfect miracle. Your fields will be the best in this area, and these little birds which are around you will have plenty corn for their mouths. Do not weep any more. Next year the situation will improve very much. But I will still help you. Or better: a good lady whose name is the same as yours, and who is never sated with doing good, will help you. Look: this is for you. It will enable you to make both ends meet until harvest-time.»
The old woman takes the purse and Jesus' hand at the same time and weeping kisses the latter. She then asks: « Tell me who this good lady is, that I may mention her name to the Lord.»
« A disciple of Mine and a sister of yours. Her name is known to Me and to the Father in Heaven.»
« Oh! It's You!...»
« I am poor, Johanna. I give what people give Me. Of My own I have but miracles. And I am sorry that I did not hear of your misfortune before. I came as soon as Susanna told Me. Too late now. But the work of God will shine brighter thus.»
« Late! Yes, it is late! Death was so quick in mowing here! And it took the young ones. Not me, now useless. Not these: immature ones. But those fit to work. Cursed be the moon of Elul, laden with evil influence!»
« Do not curse the planet. It has nothing to do with it... Are these little ones good? Come here. See? Also this boy has no father or mother. And he cannot even live with his grandfather. But God does not abandon him. And will not abandon him as long as he is good. Is that right, Marjiam?»
Marjiam nods assent and speaks to the little ones who have gathered round him, they are younger than he is, but some of them are a good bit taller. He says: « Oh! It is true that God does not abandon one. I can say so. My grandfather prayed for me. And Your father and mother certainly prayed for you in the next world. And God heard those prayers, because He is Very Good, and He always hears the prayers of just people, whether they are living or dead. Your deceased parents and your dear granny here have certainly prayed for you. Do you love her?»
« Yes, yes...» the peeping of the orphan swarm rises enthusiastically.
Jesus becomes silent in order to listen to the conversation of His little disciple and the orphans.
« That's right. We must not make old people weep. In actual fact we must not make anybody weep, because those who grieve their neighbour, grieve God. But old people! The Master is kind to everybody. But He is more than kind and loving with old people and children. Because children are innocent and old people suffer. They have already wept so much! We must love them twice, three times, ten times, for those who no longer love them. Jesus always says that he who does not honour an old person is doubly-wicked, like he who ill-treats a child. Because old people and children cannot defend themselves. So be good to your old mother.»
« Sometimes I do not help her...» says one of the bigger ones.
« Why? After all you eat the bread which she procures for you with her work! Does it not taste of tears when you upset her? And you, woman, (the woman is ten years old at most and she is a very thin pale girl) do you help her?»
The little brothers reply all together: « Oh! Rachel is good! She stays up until late to spin the little wool we have and she became feverish working in the field to prepare it to be sown when our father was dying.»
« God will reward you for that» says Marjiam gravely.
« He has already rewarded me by relieving my granny of her worry.»
Jesus intervenes: « Do you not want anything else?»
« No, Lord.»
« But are you cured?»
« No, Lord. But it does not matter. Even if I die now, my grandmother is assisted. Previously I was sorry to die because I helped her.»
« But death is dreadful, child...»
« As God helps me in life, He will help me in death and I will go to my mother... Oh! don't weep, grandmother! I love you, too, dear grandmother. I will not say that again if it makes you weep. Nay, if you wish so, I will ask the Lord to cure me... Don't weep, my little mother...» and she embraces the desolate old woman.
« Cure her, Lord. You made my grandfather happy because of me. Make this old woman happy now.»
« Graces are obtained through sacrifices. What sacrifice will you make to obtain it?» asks Jesus seriously.
Marjiam thinks... He seeks the most painful thing to give up... and then he smiles: « I will have no more honey for a whole month.»
« That is not much! The month of Chislev is already far gone...»
« When I say a month I mean the four phases of the moon. And just think... during these days there is the Feast of Lights and honey cakes...»
« That is true. Well, Rachel will recover, thanks to you. Now let us go. Goodbye, Johanna. I will come back before I go away. Goodbye, Rachel, goodbye, Toby. Be good. Goodbye, you little ones. May My blessing rest upon you all, and My peace be with you.»
They go out followed by the blessing of the old woman and the children. Marjiam, after being « apostle and victim» begins to jump like a little kid and runs ahead.
Simon remarks with a smile: « His first sermon and his first sacrifice. He is a promising boy, don't You think so, Master?»
« Yes, I do. But he has preached before. Also to Judas of Simon...»
« ... and the Lord seems to make children speak to him... Probably to avoid revenge by him...»
« Not revenge... I do not think he would go so far. But strong reactions, yes... He who deserves being reproached, does not love the truth... But it must be spoken...» says Jesus with a sigh.
Simon watches Him, then he asks: « Master, tell me the truth. You have sent him away, and You decided to send everybody home for the Dedication, to prevent Judas from being in Galilee just now. I will not ask You and I do not want You to tell me why it is better that the man from Kerioth should not be with us. I only wish to know whether I have guessed right. We all think so, You know? Even Thomas. He said to me: “I will go without reacting because I realise that there is a serious reason behind it.” And he added: “The Master is right in doing what He does. There are too many Nahums, Sadocs, Johanans and Eleazars among Judas' friends...” Thomas is not stupid!... And he is not bad, although he is very much a man. He is very sincere in his love for You...»
« I know. And what you all suspected is true. You will soon learn the reason...»
« We are not asking You to tell us.»
« But I will have to ask you to help Me and I must tell you.»
Marjiam runs back and says: « Master over there, at the junction of the path with the main road, there is Your cousin Simon; he is all of a sweat like one who has been running. He asked me: “Where is Jesus?” I replied: “He is here, behind me, with Simon Zealot.” He said to me: “Will He be passing here?” “Of course” I replied. “He will pass here to go back home, unless He does what birds do: they fly from all directions to go back to their nests. Do you want Him?” I asked him. He remained uncertain. And yet I am sure that he wants You.»
« Master, he has already seen his wife... Let us do this. Marjiam and I will leave You free. We will go round the back of Nazareth. In any case... we are not in a hurry. And You will go along the main road.»
« Yes, thank you, Simon. I will see you later.»
They part and Jesus quickens His step towards the main road. There is Simon, leaning against a trunk, panting and drying his perspiration. As soon as he sees Jesus, he raises his arms... he then drops them and lowers his head dejectedly.
When Jesus arrives near him, He lays a hand on his shoulder asking: « What do you want, Simon? To make Me happy with a word of love, which I have been awaiting for many days?»
Simon lowers his head even more and is silent...
« Speak, then. Am I perhaps a stranger to you? No, you really are always My good brother Simon, and I am your little Jesus, Whom you used to carry in your arms, with some difficulty, but with so much love, when we came back to Nazareth.»
The man covers his face with both hands and falls on his knees: « Oh! My Jesus! I am the guilty one, but I have been punished enough...»
« Come on, stand up! We are relatives. What is it that you want?»
« My boy! He is...» a lump in his throat prevents him from speaking.
« Your boy? What about him?»
« He is dying. And Salome's love is dying with him... and I am left with double remorse: I am losing son and wife at the same time... Last night I thought that he was really dead and she looked like a hyena. She shouted at me: “Murderer of your son!” I prayed that that might not happen, and I swore to myself that I would come to You, if the boy recovered a little, also at the cost of being driven away - as I actually deserve - to tell You that You are the only one who can avert my calamity. At dawn the boy recovered a little... I ran from my house to Yours, round the back of the town, to avoid any possible hindrance... I knocked at the door. Mary opened and was amazed. She could have ill-treated me. But she only said: “What is the matter with you, poor Simon?” And She caressed me as if I were a child... And that made me weep. And my pride and hesitancy ceased thus. What Judas told us cannot be true, I mean Judas Your apostle, not my brother. I did not say that to Mary, but I say it to myself, beating my chest, and casting contumelies on myself ever since. I asked Her: “Is Jesus in? It's for Alphaeus. He is dying... Mary replied: “Run! He has gone towards Cana with the boy and an apostle. He is on the Cana road. But you must be quick. He went out at dawn. He is about to come back. I will pray that you may find Him.” Not one word of reproach, not even one, although I deserve so many!»
« Neither will I reproach you. But I open My arms to you to...»
« Alas! To tell me that Alphaeus is dead!...»
« No. To tell you that I love you.»
« Come, then! Quick!»
« No. It is not necessary.»
« Are You not coming? Ah! Are You not forgiving me? Or is Alphaeus dead? But even if he is, Jesus, since You raise the dead, give me back my son! Oh! Good Jesus!... Holy Jesus! Whom I abandoned!... Jesus... Jesus...» The solitary road is filled with the tears of the man, who, kneeling down, fingers Jesus' mantle convulsively, or kisses His feet, tortured by sorrow, remorse and paternal love...
« Did you not go home before coming here?»
« No. I ran here like a madman... Why? Is there more trouble? Has Salome already run away? Has she become mad? She seemed mad last night...»
« Salome has spoken to Me. She wept, she believed. Go home, Simon. Your son is cured.»
« You!... You!... You have done that, for me who offended You by believing that snake? Oh! Lord! I do not deserve so much! Forgive me! Tell me what You want me to do to make amends, to let You know that I love You, to convince You that I suffered in being stand-offish, to tell You that I wanted to speak to You, since You have been here, even before Alphaeus was so ill!... But... but...»
« Never mind. It is all over. I have forgotten about it. Do the same yourself. And forget also the words of Judas of Kerioth. He is a boy. All I want from you is this: that you will never repeat those words to My disciples, to My apostles, and least of all, to My Mother. That is all. Now go home, Simon. Go and be in peace... Do not delay in taking part in the joy which has filled your house. Go.» He kisses him and gently pushes him towards Nazareth.
« Are You not coming with me?»
« I will wait for you with Salome and Alphaeus in My house. Go. And remember that the present joy comes to you, thanks to your wife, who believed the truth.»
« Do You mean that I...»
« No. I mean that I have understood that you have repented. And you repented because of her cry accusing you... God really shouts through the mouths of good people, reproaching and advising!... And I saw the firm humble faith of Salome. Go, I tell you. Do not wait any longer to thank her.»
And Jesus almost pushes him roughly to persuade him to go. And when Simon finally goes away, He blesses him... and then shakes His head in mute soliloquy and tears slowly run down His pale cheeks... One word only hints at the trend of His thought: « Judas!»...
He sets out along the same road taken by the Zealot, behind the boundary of the village, towards His house.