29th October 1945.
John, James, Matthew and Andrew have already arrived in Nazareth and while waiting for Peter, they are walking round the kitchen garden, playing with Marjiam or talking among themselves. I do not see anybody else, as if Jesus were not in the house and Mary were busy. As there is smoke coming from the stone-oven chimney, I would say that She is in there baking bread.
The four apostles are glad to be in the Master's house and they show their joy. Marjiam says to them three times: « Do not laugh like that!». His third warning draws the attention of Matthew, who asks: « Why, boy? Are we not right in being happy here? You have enjoyed this place, eh? We are enjoying it now» and fillips him fondly on the cheek. Marjiam looks at him very seriously, but he does not reply.
Jesus comes in with His cousins Judas and James, who greet their companions with much affection: they have been separated from them for many days. Mary of Alphaeus, flushed and covered with flour, looks out from the stone-oven and smiles at her big boys.
The last to arrive is the Zealot, who says: « I have done everything, Master. Simon will be here shortly.»
« Which Simon? My brother or Simon of Jonah?»
« Your brother, James. He is coming with the whole family to greet you.»
In fact a few minutes later, knocking at the door and noisy chattering announce the arrival of the family of Simon of Alphaeus, who is the first to enter holding by the hand a little boy about eight years old; behind him there is Salome, surrounded by her group of children. Mary of Alphaeus runs out of the stone-oven and kisses her grandchildren and is very happy to see them there.
« So, are You leaving again?» asks Simon while his children make friends with Marjiam who, I think, is familiar only with Alphaeus, the boy who has been cured.
« Yes. It is time.»
« You will still have wet weather.»
« It does not matter. Springtime is approaching day by day.»
« Are You going to Capernaum?»
« I will certainly go there as well. But not at once. I am now going round Galilee and beyond it.»
« I will come to see You when I hear that You are in Capernaum. And I will bring Your Mother and mine to You.»
« I will be grateful to you. For the time being, do not neglect Her. She will be all alone. Bring your children here. They will not become corrupted here, you may be sure of that...»
Simon blushes at Jesus' allusion to his past thoughts and because of an expressive look cast at him by his wife, who seems to be saying: « Do you hear that? It serves you right.» But Simon changes the subject saying: « Where is Your Mother?»
« She is baking bread. She will soon be here...»
Simon's children, however, wait no longer and they go to the stone-oven following their grandmother. And a little girl, not much taller than Alphaeus, the boy who had been cured, comes out almost immediately saying: « Mary is weeping. Why? Eh! Jesus? Why is Your Mother weeping?»
« Is She weeping? Oh! dear! Let me go to Her» says Salome solicitously.
And Jesus explains: « She is weeping because I am going away... But you will come and keep Her company, will you not? She will teach you how to embroider and you will make Her happy. Will you promise Me?»
« I will come, too, now that my father lets me come» says Alphaeus eating a hot bun which has just been given to him.
But although the bun is so hot that he can hardly hold it with his fingers, I think it is ice-cold compared to the heat suffered by Simon of Alphaeus, who blushes with shame at the words of his little boy. Although it is a rather cold winter morning, with a northern breeze blowing away the clouds in the sky and making one's skin tingle, Simon is sweating profusely, as if it were summer time...
But Jesus pretends not to notice it and the apostles pretend they are interested in what Simon's children are saying, and so the incident is over, and Simon can collect himself and ask Jesus why all the apostles are not there.
« Simon of Jonah is about to arrive. The others will join Me at the right moment. It has all been settled.»
« All of them?»
« Also Judas of Kerioth?»
« Jesus, come with me for a moment» begs His cousin Simon. And once they have moved away, towards the end of the kitchen garden, Simon asks: « But do You really know who is Judas of Simon?»
« He is an Israelite. Nothing more, nothing less.»
« Oh! You are not going to tell me...» he is on the point of getting excited and raising his voice.
But Jesus calms him, interrupting him and laying a hand on his shoulder, saying: « He is what prevailing ideas and those who approach him, have made him. Because, for instance, if he had found an upright soul and an intelligent mind in everybody here (and He lays stress on the words) he would not have been anxious to sin. But he did not find them. On the contrary, he found an entirely human element to which he adapted most comfortably his very human ego, which dreams and works for Me and sees in Me the king of Israel, in the human meaning of the word, as you dream and would like to see Me, and for Whom you would feel inclined to work, and your brother Joseph with you, as well as Levi, the head of the synagogue in Nazareth, and Mattathias and Simon and Matthias and Benjamin, and Jacob and, with the exception of three or four people, everybody in Nazareth. And not only in Nazareth... He has difficulty in perfecting himself, because you all contribute to his perversion. He is the weakest of My apostles. But for the time being, he is but a weak apostle. His impulses are good, his intentions are honest and he loves Me. He loves Me in a devious way, but it is still love. You do not help him to separate these good qualities from the bad ones that form his ego, on the contrary you aggravate them by adding to them your own incredulity and human limitations... But let us go home. The others have gone there ahead of us...»
Simon follows Him and looks a little humiliated. They are almost on the threshold when he holds back Jesus and says: « Brother, are You angry with me?»
« No, I am not. But I am endeavouring to perfect you as I do with all the other disciples. Did you not say that you want to be one?»
« Yes, Jesus. But in the past You did not speak thus, not even when You were reproaching... You were kinder...»
« And of what avail was it? I was kinder once. I have been so for two years... Everybody here has become loose resting on My patience and kindness or has sharpened teeth and nails... You have all taken advantage of My love, to harm Me. Is it not so?...»
« Yes, it is. It is true. So, will You no longer be good?»
« I will be just. And even so, I shall be such as you do not deserve, you people of Israel, who will not acknowledge Me as the promised Messiah.»
They go into the little room that is so crowded with people, that the apostles had to move into the kitchen and into Joseph's workshop, with the exception of Alphaeus' two sons, who have remained with their mother and sister-in-law. The latter are joined by Mary, Who comes in holding little Alphaeus by the hand. Mary's face shows clear signs of weeping.
While She is about to reply to Simon, who assures Her that he will come to see Her every day, a cart is proceeding along the little street with such a clanging of harness bells that it draws the attention of Alphaeus' children and the door is opened at the same time as they hear knocking outside. Simon Peter's merry face appears: he is still sitting on the cart, knocking at the door with the handle of the whip... Beside him, shy but smiling, there is Porphirea, sitting on cases and boxes, as on a throne.
Marjiam runs out and climbs on the cart to greet his adoptive mother. The others also come out, including Jesus.
« Master, here I am. I brought my wife, on this cart, as she is not fit for long walks. Mary, may the Lord be with You. And with you, Mary of Alphaeus.» He looks at everybody while getting off the vehicle and helps his wife to get off, and greets them all together.
They would like to help him unload the cart. But he objects resolutely. « Later, later» he says, and without ceremony, he goes to the large door of Joseph's workshop and opens it wide, endeavouring to take the cart in, as it is. But it cannot go in, of course. However the manoeuvre helps to distract the attention of the guests and make them understand that they are not wanted... And in fact Simon of Alphaeus takes leave with all his family... “
« Oh! now that we are, by ourselves, let us attend to our business...» says Simon of Jonah, driving back the donkey, which is making a dreadful noise, covered as it is with harness-bells, so much so that James of Zebedee cannot help laughing and asks: « Where did you find it, harnessed like that?»
But Peter is busy taking the cases from the cart and handing them to John and Andrew, who expect to feel them heavy and are surprised because they are light, and they say so...
« Run into the kitchen garden and do not behave like frightened sparrows» orders Peter, getting off the cart with a little case that is really heavy, and is placed in a corner in the little room.
« And now the donkey and the cart. The donkey and the cart? Yes... That is the problem!... And yet we must put everything inside...»
« Through the kitchen garden, Simon» says Mary in a low voice. « There is an opening in the fence, at the end. You cannot see it, because it is covered by branches... But it is there. Follow the path along the house, between the house and our neighbour's kitchen garden, and I will come and show you where the passage is... Who is coming to remove the bramble covering it?»
« I am... I am...» They all run to the end of the kitchen garden while Peter goes away with his noisy equipage and Mary of Alphaeus closes the door... With a sickle they clear the rustic railing and open a passage through which the donkey and cart come in.
« Oh! Well! And now let us take all this away. They have deafened me!» and Peter hastens to cut the strings which fasten the bells to the harness.
« Why did you leave them on, then?» asks Andrew.
« So that everyone in Nazareth could hear me arrive. And it was a success... I am now taking them off, so that no one in Nazareth may hear us depart. And that is why I loaded the cart with empty cases... We will leave with full ones and no one, should anybody see us, will be surprised seeing a woman sitting beside me on the cases. Our friend, the one who is far away from us just now, boasts that he has a good practical sense. But I have it, too, when I want...»
« Excuse me, brother. Why is all this necessary?» asks Andrew who has watered the donkey and taken it to the rustic wood-store near the stone-oven.
« Why? Don't you know?... Master, do they not know yet?»
« No, Simon. I was waiting for you. Come into the workshop, all of you. The women are all right where they are. You did the right thing in doing what you did, Simon of Jonah.»
They go into the workshop, while Porphirea with the boy and the two Maries remain in the house.
« I wanted you here, because you must help Me to send John and Syntyche away, very far away. I decided so at the Feast of the Tabernacles. You have clearly seen that it was not possible to keep them with us, neither can we keep them here, without risking their peace. As usual, Lazarus of Bethany is helping Me in this plan. They have already been informed. Simon Peter was told a few days ago. You are being informed now. We are leaving Nazareth tonight, even if it should rain or be windy instead of moonlight of the first quarter. We should have already left. But I suppose that Simon of Jonah must have had difficulties in finding transport...»
« I did, indeed! I was almost giving up hope. But at long last I got it from a slimy Greek in Tiberias... And it will be useful...»
« Yes, it will be very useful, particularly for John of Endor.»
« Where is he? I have not seen him» asks Peter.
« In his room with Syntyche.»
« And... how did he take it?» asks Peter again.
« Very sorrowfully. Also the woman...»
« And You as well, Master. Your forehead is furrowed with a wrinkle, which was not there before, and Your eyes are sad and severe» remarks John.
« It is true. I am deeply grieved... But let us speak of what we have to do. Listen to Me carefully, because we shall have to part. We will leave this evening, half way through the first watch. We shall leave like people who run away... because they are guilty. But we are not going away to do anything wrong, neither are we escaping because we have done it. We are going away to prevent other people from harming those who would not be strong enough to bear it. So we are leaving... We will go via Sephoris... We will stop in a house half-way and then leave at dawn. It is a house with many porches for animals. There are shepherds there who are friends of Isaac. I know them. They will give Me hospitality without asking any questions. Then we must reach Jiphthahel by evening and rest there. Do you think the donkey will be able to do it?»
« Certainly That crafty Greek made me pay for it, but he gave me a good strong animal.»
« Very good. The following morning we will go to Ptolemais, and we will part there. Under the guidance of Peter, who is your head, and whom you must obey unconditionally, you will go to Tyre by sea. You will find a ship there sailing to Antioch. You will go on board and give this letter to the owner of the ship. The letter is from Lazarus of Theophilus. You will be believed to be his servants, sent to his land at Antioch, or rather to his garden at Antigonea. And you are to be such for everybody. Be careful, serious, wise and quiet. When you arrive at Antioch, go at once to Philip, Lazarus' steward, and give him this letter...»
« Master, he knows me» says the Zealot.
« Very well.»
« But how can he believe that I am a servant?»
« In the case of Philip it is not necessary. He knows that he has to receive and give hospitality to two friends of Lazarus' and help them in every way. That is written in the letter. You have taken them there. Nothing else. He calls you: “his dear friends from Palestine”. And that is what you are, united by faith and by the action that you are accomplishing. You will rest there until the ship sails again for Tyre after the unloading and loading operations are completed. From Tyre you will come by boat to Ptolemais and join Me at Achzib...»
« Why do You not come with us, Lord?» asks John with a sigh.
« Because I am staying to pray for you, and particularly for those two poor people. I am staying to pray. And My third year of public life begins. It begins with a very sad departure; like the first and second ones. It begins with a great prayer and penance, as the first one did... Because this year has the sorrowful hardships of the first year, and even more. I was then preparing to convert the world. I am now preparing for a wider and more powerful action. But listen to Me carefully and bear in mind that if in the first year I was the Man-Master, the Wise Man Who invites to Wisdom with perfect humanity and intellectual perfection, and in the second I was the Saviour and Friend, the Merciful Master Who passes by receiving, forgiving, pitying, bearing, in the third year I will be the Redeemer God and King, the Just Man. Do not, therefore, be surprised if you see new aspects of Me, and if in the Lamb you see flashes of Strength. What has Israel replied to My invitation of love, to My opening My arms saying: “Come: I love and forgive”? It replied with its ever growing deliberate dullness and hardheartedness, with falsehood and deceit. Let it be so. I called every class of Israel, bowing My head to the dust. They spat on Holiness that humbled itself. I invited them to become holy. They replied by becoming demons. I did My duty in everything. They called My duty “sin”. I was silent. They called My silence a proof of guilt. I spoke. They called My word blasphemy. Enough of that, now! They gave Me no peace. They granted Me no joy. And My joy consisted in bringing up in the life of the spirit the new-born to Grace. They lie in wait for them, and I have to tear them from My chest, causing them and Myself the grief of parents and children torn from one another, in order to save them from evil-minded Israel. They, the mighty ones in Israel, who call themselves “sanctifiers” and boast of being so, prevent Me, would like to prevent Me from saving souls and from taking delight in those I have saved. I have now had for many months Levi, a publican, as a friend and at My service, and the world can see whether Matthew is scandal or emulation. But the charge stands. And it will stand for Mary of Lazarus and for all the others I will save. That is enough! I will go My way, which is more and more difficult and wet with tears... I am going... Not one of My tears will fall in vain. They cry to My Father... And later... a much more powerful humour will cry. I am going... Let those who love Me follow Me and be virile, because the severe hour is coming. I Will not stop. Nothing will stop Me. Neither will they stop... But woe betide them! Woe to them! Woe to those for whom Love becomes Justice!... The sign of the new time will be of severe Justice for all those who are obstinate in their sin against the words of the Lord and the action of the Word of the Lord!...»
Jesus seems a punishing archangel. His eyes are so bright that I would say that they are like flames against the smoky wall... Even His voice seems to be bright, as it has shrill tones of bronze and silver struck violently.
The eight apostles have turned pale and have almost become smaller for fear. Jesus looks at them... full of pity and love. He says: « I am not referring to you, My friends. These threats are not for you. You are My apostles and I chose you.» His voice has become kind and deep. He concludes: « Let us go into the house. Let us make the two persecuted disciples feel that we love them more than ourselves, and I would remind you that they believe they are leaving to prepare My way in Antioch. Come...»