23rd October 1945.
I do not know whether it is the same day, but I suppose it is, because Peter is sitting at the family table in Nazareth. The meal is almost over and Syntyche gets up to put on the table some apples, nuts, grapes and almonds which end the supper, because it is evening and lamps have already been lit.
They are talking about lamps when Syntyche brings the fruit. Peter says: « This year we will light an extra lamp, and then more and more, for you, son. Because we want to light it for you, even if you are here. It is the first time we light one for a boy...» and Simon is moved when he ends: « It would certainly be lovelier, if you were there...»
« Last year, Simon, it was I who sighed for My Son far away, and with Me, Mary of Alphaeus, Salome and also Mary of Simon in her house at Kerioth, and Thomas' mother...»
« Oh! Judas' mother! Her son will be with her this year... but I do not think she will be happier... Never mind... We were at Lazarus'. How many lights!... It looked like a sky of gold and fire. Lazarus has his sister this year... But I am sure of speaking the truth when I say that they will be sighing because You are not there. And where will we be next year?»
« I will be very far away...» whispers John.
Peter turns round to look at him, as he is sitting beside John, and he is on the point of asking something, but fortunately he controls himself, because of a meaningful look of Jesus.
Marjiam asks: « Where will you be?»
« By the mercy of the Lord I hope to be in Abraham's bosom...»
« Oh! do you want to die? Do you not want to evangelize? Are you not sorry to die before evangelizing?»
« The word of the Lord is to be announced by holy lips. It is a great favour if He allowed me to hear it and redeem myself through it. I would have liked... But it is late...»
« And yet you will evangelize. You have already done so. So much so that you have attracted people's attention. You will therefore be called just the same an evangelizing disciple, even if you do not travel about preaching the Gospel; and in the next life you will receive the prize reserved for My evangelizers.»
« Your promise makes me desire death... Every minute in life may conceal a snare, and weak as I am, I may not be able to overcome it. If God receives me, being satisfied with what I have done, is that not great bounty, which I must bless?»
« I solemnly tell you that death will be supreme bounty for many, who will thus know to what extent man raves, from a place where peace will comfort them for such knowledge, and will change it into hosanna because it will be linked to the unutterable joy of liberation from Limbo.»
« And where shall we be in future years, Lord?» asks Simon Zealot who has been listening diligently.
« Where it will please the Eternal Father. Do you want to engage the remote future, when we are not certain of the moment in which we live and whether we will be granted to end it? In any case, whatever the place where the future Dedications will be celebrated, it will always be a holy one provided you are there to fulfill the will of God.»
« Provided we are? And what about You?» asks Peter.
« I will always be where My beloved ones are.»
Mary has never spoken, but Her eyes have not ceased for one moment to scan the face of Her Son...
She is roused by Marjiam's remark who says: « Mother, why have You not put the honey cakes on the table? Jesus likes them and they are good for John's throat. And my father likes them, too...»
« And you, too» concludes Peter.
« As far as I am concerned... they do not exist. I promised...»
« That is why I did not put them on the table, My dear...» says Mary caressing him, because Marjiam is between Her and Syntyche, on one side of the table, while the four men are on the opposite side.
« No, no. You can bring them. Nay: You must bring them. And I will hand them out to everybody.»
Syntyche takes a lamp, goes out and comes back with the cakes. Marjiam takes the tray and begins to hand them out. He gives Jesus the most beautiful one, golden and raised like one made by a master confectioner. The next one in perfection is for Mary. Then it is the turn of Peter, Simon and Syntyche. But in order to serve John, the boy gets up and goes beside the old sick teacher and says to him: « I am giving you yours and mine, with a kiss, to thank you for what you teach me.» He then goes back to his place, lays the tray in the middle of the table resolutely and folds his arms.
« You make this delicious cake go the wrong way» says Peter, when he sees that Marjiam does not take any. And he adds: « At least a little bit. Here, take some of mine, so that you will not die to have some. You are suffering too much... Jesus will let you have it.»
« But if I did not suffer, I would have no merit, father. I offered this sacrifice exactly because I knew that it would make me suffer. After all... I have been so happy since I made it, that I seem to be full of honey. I taste it in everything, and I even seem to breathe it in the air...»
« That's because you are dying to have some...»
« No. It's because I know that God says to me: “You are doing the right thing, My son.”»
« The Master would have satisfied you, even without this sacrifice. He loves you so much!»
« Yes. But it is not fair that I should take advantage of it, just because He loves me. In any case, He says that great is the reward in Heaven even for a cup of water offered in His name. I think that if it is great for a cup of water given to other people in His name, it must be great also for a cake or a little honey which one gives up out of love for a brother. Am I wrong, Master?»
« No, you have spoken wisely. In fact, I could have granted you what you asked for in favour of little Rachel, also without your sacrifice, because it was a good thing to do and My Heart desired it. But I did it with greater joy because I was helped by you. The love for our brothers is not confined to human means and limits, but it rises to much higher levels. When it is perfect, it really touches the throne of God and blends with His infinite Charity and Bounty. The communion of saints is just this continuous activity, as God works continuously and in every way, to assist our brothers both in their material and spiritual needs, or in both, as it is in the case of Marjiam, who relieves Rachel of her illness, by obtaining her cure, and at the same time he relieves the dejected spirit of old Johanna and kindles greater and greater trust in the Lord in all the hearts in the family. Even a spoonful of honey, offered as a sacrifice, can help to bring peace and hope to an afflicted soul; as a cake or any other food given up out of love, may obtain some bread, offered miraculously, for some starving person, who is remote from us and will never be known to us; and an angry word not uttered, out of spirit of sacrifice, although justified, may prevent a remote crime; as to resist the desire to pick a fruit, out of love, may bring about a thought of resipiscence in a thief and thwart a theft. Nothing is lost in the holy economy of universal love: neither the heroic sacrifice of a boy before a dish of honey cakes, nor the holocaust of a martyr. Nay, I tell you that the holocaust of a martyr often originates from the heroic upbreeding imparted to him since his childhood for the love of God and his neighbour.»
« So it is really a good thing that I should always make sacrifices. For the time when we will be persecuted» says Marjiam earnestly.
« Persecuted?» asks Peter.
« Yes. Don't you remember that He said so? “You will be persecuted in My name.” You told me, the first time you came all alone to Bethsaida, in summer, to evangelize.»
« This boy remembers everything» comments Peter admiring him.
The supper is over. Jesus stands up. He prays for everybody and blesses them. And while the women go to tidy up the kitchen, Jesus and the men take seats in a corner of the room, where He begins to carve a piece of wood, which under the amazed eyes of Marjiam, takes the shape of a little sheep.