8th November 1945.
The apostles are once again in the house at Antioch with the two disciples and all the men from Antigonea, who are not wearing their clothes tucked up to work, but have on their long best garments. I thus understand that it is the Sabbath.
Philip begs the apostles to speak to everybody at least once before their departure, which is now imminent.
« On what?»
« On anything you like. You have heard our conversation during the past days. You may speak accordingly.»
The apostles look at one another. Whose duty is it? Peter's, of course. He is the head! But Peter would rather not speak but surrender the honour to James of Alphaeus or to John of Zebedee. And only when he sees that they are inflexible, he makes up his mind to speak.
« Today in the synagogue we heard the explanation of chapter 52 of Isaiah. A learned comment according to the world, a defective one according to Wisdom. But the commentator is not to be blamed, because he gave what he could within the limits of his own wisdom: without the knowledge of the Messiah and of the new Time brought by Him. But let us not find fault with him, let us instead pray that he may achieve the knowledge of these two graces and accept them without difficulty. You told me that at Passover you heard some people speak of the Master with faith, some with sneering words. And that only because of the great faith that fills the hearts of the house of Lazarus, all their hearts, you were able to bear the unease that the innuendoes of other people caused to your hearts, particularly because these other people were rabbis of Israel. But to be learned does not mean to be holy or to possess the Truth. And this is the Truth: Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, the Saviour of Whom the Prophets speak, and the last of them went to rest in Abraham's bosom only recently, after his glorious martyrdom, which he suffered for the sake of justice. John the Baptist said, and those who heard his words are here now: “There is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” His words were believed by the most humble of those present, because humility helps to reach Faith, whereas it is difficult for proud people - laden as they are with unnecessary things - to reach the mountain top where chaste bright Faith dwells. Those humble people, both because they were such and because they believed, deserved to be the first in the army of the Lord Jesus. You can thus see how necessary humility is in order to attain instant faith, and how faith is rewarded, particularly when one believes against adverse appearances. I exhort and stimulate you to possess these two qualities and you will then be in the army of the Lord and will conquer the Kingdom of Heaven... It is your turn, Simon Zealot. I have spoken. Please continue.»
The Zealot, caught so suddenly and so clearly pointed out as the second speaker, can but move forward without delay or complaint. And he says:
« I will continue the sermon of Simon Peter, the head of us all by the will of the Lord. And I will continue taking up the subject of chapter 52 of Isaiah, as seen by one who knows the Incarnate Truth, Whose servant he is for good. It says: “Awake, clothe yourself in strength, Zion, put on your richest clothes, city of the Holy One.” And that is how it should really be. Because when a promise is fulfilled, peace is made, punishment comes to an end, and the time of joy comes; hearts and towns should put on their best clothes and raise their mortified foreheads, realising that they are no longer hated, defeated, beaten, but are instead loved and freed. We are not here to institute proceedings against Jerusalem. Charity, the first of all virtues, forbids it. Let us not watch the hearts of other people, let us, instead, look at our own. Let us clothe our hearts in strength by means of that faith of which Simon has spoken and let us put on our richest clothes because our age-old faith in the Messiah is now crowned by the real fact. The Holy Messiah, the Word of God is really among us. And both souls and bodies have evidence of this: the former hear the words of Wisdom, which fortify them and infuse holiness and peace, the latter, thanks to the Holy One, to Whom everything is granted by the Father, are released from the most dreadful diseases, even from death, so that the hills and valleys of Israel, our Fatherland, may resound with hosannas to the Son of David and to the Most High Who has sent His Word, as He had promised the Patriarchs and Prophets. I, who am speaking to you, was a leper, destined to die, after years of unrelenting distress, in the brutal solitude familiar to lepers. A man said to me: “Go to Him, to the Rabbi of Nazareth, and you will be cured.” I had faith. I went. I was cured. In my body. In my heart. The former was freed from the disease that separates lepers from other men. The latter was freed from the hatred that separates from God. And with a new spirit, from a troubled, sick exile I became His servant, called to the happy mission of going among men, loving them in His Name, teaching them the one and only necessary knowledge: that Jesus of Nazareth is the Saviour and that blessed are those who believe in Him. It's your turn to speak now, o James of Alphaeus.»
« I am the brother of the Nazarene. My father and His were brothers, born of the same mother. And yet I cannot say that I am His brother, but His servant. Because the paternity of Joseph, my father's brother, was a spiritual paternity and I solemnly tell you; that the Most High, Whom we worship, is the true Father of our Master Jesus. God allowed the Second Person of God One and Trine to become incarnate and to come upon the earth, remaining however God and always united to the Persons Who dwell in Heaven. Because God, Who is infinitely Almighty can do that. And He does it out of Love, which is His nature. Jesus of Nazareth is our brother, men, because he was born of a woman, and is like us in His humanity. He is our Master because He is the Wise One, He is the very Word of God and has come to speak to us to take us to God. And He is our God, being One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, with Whom He is always united in love, power and nature. May this Truth, which the Just One, my relative, was granted to know through clear evidence, become also your possession. And when the world will endeavour to tear you away from the Christ, saying: “He is just an ordinary man”, reply: “No. He is the Son of God, He is the Star born of Jacob, He is the Sceptre that arises in Israel, He is the Ruler.” Let nothing deter you. That is Faith. It's your turn, Andrew.»
« That is Faith. I am a poor fisherman of the lake of Galilee, and when fishing in the silent nights, in the light of the stars, I had silent conversations with myself. I used to say: “When will He come? Will I be still alive? Many years are still missing, according to the prophecy.” For man, whose life is short, even a few dozen years are as long as centuries... I used to ask myself: “How will He come? Where? From whom?” And my dull human mind made me dream of royal splendour, of royal abodes, processions, clangour, power and unbearable majesty... And I would say: “Who will be able to look at this great King?” I thought that He would be more terrifying, in His manifestation, than Jehovah Himself on Mount Sinai. And I used to say: “The Hebrews saw the mountain lighten, but they were not burned to ashes, because the Eternal Father was beyond the clouds. But here He will look at us with mortal eyes and we shall die... I was a disciple of the Baptist. And when we were not fishing I used to go to him with other companions. It was a day of this month... The banks of the Jordan were crowded with people who shivered when hearing the words of the Baptist. I had noticed a young handsome man come calmly towards us along a path. His garments were plain, His countenance kind. He seemed to be asking for love and to be giving love. His blue eyes rested for a moment on me, and I felt something that I have never felt again. I felt as if my soul were being caressed, as if I were being lightly touched by the wings of angels. For a moment I felt that I was so far away from the earth, so different, that I said: “I shall die now! This is God calling my soul.” But I did not die. I was fascinated contemplating the young unknown man, whose blue eyes were now staring at the Baptist. And the Baptist turned round, ran to Him and bowed. They spoke to each other. And as John's voice was as loud as thunder, their mysterious words reached me, who was listening, tense as I was in the keen desire to know who the unknown young man was. My soul felt that He was different from everybody. They were saying: “I should be baptised by You...". "Never mind just now. It is necessary to fulfill all justice.”... John had already said: “Someone will come and I am not fit to undo the straps of His sandals.” He had already said: “There is among you, in Israel, One Whom you do not know. His winnowing-fan is already in His hand and He will clear His threshing-floor and He will burn the chaff in a fire that will never go out.” I had in front of me a young man of the common people, whose countenance was mild and humble, and yet I felt that He was the One, Whose sandal-straps not even the Holy One in Israel, the last Prophet, the Precursor was fit to undo. I felt that He was the One, Whom we did not know. But I was not afraid. On the contrary, when John, after the enrapturing thunder of God and after the unimaginable brightness of the Light in the shape of a dove of peace, said: “Here is the Lamb of God”, I cried: “I believe!” with the voice of my soul, rejoicing because I had foreseen the King Messiah in the young man who looked so mild and humble. Because of this faith I am His servant. Be so yourselves, and you will have peace. Matthew, it is your turn now to relate the other glories of the Lord.»
« I cannot use the same serene words of Andrew. He was a just man, I was a sinner. Therefore my word has not the joyful note of happiness, but it has the confident peace of a psalm. I was a sinner. A great sinner. I was living in utter error. I had hardened in it and I felt no discomfort. If at times the Pharisees or the head of the synagogue lashed me with their insults and reproaches, reminding me of God, the inexorable Judge, I was terrified for a moment... then I would relax thinking foolishly: “In any case I am as good as damned. Let me have a good time, therefore, as long as I can.” And I sank deeper and deeper into sin. Two years ago an Unknown man, came to Capernaum in springtime. He was unknown also to me. He was in fact unknown to everybody, because He was at the beginning of His mission. Only a few men knew who He really was: those whom you see here, and few more. I was greatly surprised at His demeanour, which was more chaste than a virgin's. That was the first thing that amazed me. I saw that He was austere and yet He was always willing to listen to the children who went to Him as bees fly to flowers. Their innocent games and ingenious words were His only relaxation. Then His power amazed me. He worked miracles. I said: “He is an exorciser, a holy man.” I felt that I was so disgraceful as compared to Him, that I shunned Him. He was looking for me. Or that was my impression. Every time He passed near my bench He would look at me with His kind rather sad eyes. And every time I felt my torpid conscience start and it never fell back to the same level of stupor. One day, as people exalted His words, I felt like listening to Him. And hiding behind the corner of a house I heard Him speak to a little group of men. He spoke informally, on charity, which is like an indulgence with regard to our sins... As from that evening, I, the greedy hardhearted man, wanted my many sins to be forgiven by God. I did things secretly... But He knew that it was I, because He knows everything. Once I heard Him explain just chapter 52 of Isaiah: He said that the lewd and those whose hearts are not circumcised will not enter His Kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem, and He promised that that Celestial City, the beauty of which He described so convincingly that I felt nostalgia for it, would belong to those who went to Him. And then... Oh! On that day His look was not a sad one, but a commanding one. He broke my heart, He stripped my soul, He cauterised this poor soul of mine, He took it in His hands and tortured it with His exacting love... and I had a new soul. Repentance and desire led me towards Him. He did not wait for me to say: “Have mercy, my Lord!” He said to me: “Follow Me!” The Mild One had defeated Satan in the sinner's heart. May this tell you, if anyone among you is worried because of his sins, that He is the good Saviour and that you must not shun Him, on the contrary, the more one is a sinner, the more one must go to Him with humility and repentance, in order to be forgiven. James of Zebedee, will you speak now?»
« I do not really know what to say. You have spoken and said what I would have said. Because that is the truth and it cannot be changed. I was with Andrew at the Jordan as well, but I only noticed Him when He was pointed out by the Baptist. But I believed at once, and when He left, after His bright manifestation, I was like one who after being on a sunny mountain top, is imprisoned in a dark jail. I was longing to find the Sun again. The world was dark, after the Light of God had appeared to me, and then had disappeared. I was alone among men. I had satisfied my appetite, but I was hungry. While sleeping I was awake with my better part, and money, business, affections, everything had been left far behind my great desire for Him and nothing allured me. Like a child who has lost his mother I moaned: “Come back, Lamb of the Lord! Most High Lord, as You sent Raphael to guide Tobias, send Your angel to lead me to the way of the Lord, that I may find Him... !” And yet, when He appeared on the path coming from the desert, after we had been waiting for Him in vain for weeks, and we had been looking for Him anxiously, which vain efforts made us feel more sorely the loss of our John who had been arrested for the first time, I did not recognise Him at once. And now, my brothers in the Lord, I want to teach you another way to go to Him and recognise Him.
Simon of Jonah said that faith and humility are required to know Him. Simon Zealot has confirmed the absolute necessity of Faith to acknowledge in Jesus of Nazareth what He is in Heaven and on the earth, according to what has been said. And Simon Zealot needed a truly great faith, also on behalf of his incurable body. That is why Simon Zealot says that Faith and Hope are the means to attain the Son of God. James, the brother of the Lord, has mentioned the power of Strength to keep what has been found. The Strength that prevents the snares of the world and of Satan from undermining our Faith. Andrew has shown the necessity of joining a holy thirst for Justice to Faith, endeavouring to know and maintain the Truth, whatever be the holy mouth announcing it, not out of human pride to be learned, but out of desire to know God. The man who improves his mind in the Truth will find God. Matthew, once a sinner, has pointed out to you another way to attain God: to divest oneself of sensuality out of spirit of imitation, I would say by reflection of God, Who is infinite Purity. The first thing that impressed him, a sinner, was the “chaste demeanour” of the Unknown man who had come to Capernaum, and as if it had the power to revive his dead continence, he refrains first of all from sensual carnality, clearing the way for the coming of God and for the resurrection of the other dead virtues. From continence he passes on to mercy, from mercy to contrition, he then surpasses himself and arrives at union with God. “Follow Me.” “I am coming.” But his soul had already said: “I am coming”, and the Saviour had already said: “Follow Me”, when for the first time the Virtue of the Master had drawn the attention of the sinner. Imitate him. Because the experience of other people, even if painful, is a guide to avoid evil and find good for those who are of good will. As far as I am concerned, I say that the more man strives to live for the spirit, the more fit he is to recognise the Lord, and an angelic life favours that in the highest degree. Of us disciples of John, he who recognised him, after His absence, was the virgin soul. Better than Andrew, he recognised Him, notwithstanding penance had altered the visage of the Lamb of God. So I say: “Be chaste to be able to recognise Him.” Judas, will you speak now?»
« Yes, be chaste to be able to recognise Him. But be chaste also to be able to keep Him within you with His Wisdom and His Love, with His whole Self. It is still Isaiah who in chapter 52 says: “Touch nothing unclean... purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” Really, every soul that becomes His disciple is like a vase full of the Lord, and the body containing the soul is like one who carries the sacred vase to the Lord. God cannot be where there is impurity. Matthew told you how the Lord explained that nothing unclean or separated from God will be in the celestial Jerusalem. Yes. But it is necessary not to be unclean or separated from God, to be able to enter it. Wretched are those people who wait until the last hour to repent. They will not always have time to do so. Likewise those who now slander Him will have no time to make amends at the moment of His triumph, and therefore will not enjoy its fruit. Those who in the holy humble King hope to see an earthly monarch, and even more those who are afraid to see in Him an earthly monarch, will not be prepared for that hour; deceived and disappointed in their thoughts, which are not the thoughts of God, but poor human thoughts, they will sin even more. The humiliation of being the Man is upon Him. We must remember that. Isaiah says that all our sins mortify the Divine Person under common appearance. When I consider that the Word of God has around Himself, like a filthy crust, all the misery of mankind since it began to exist, I think with deep compassion and understanding of the suffering that His faultless soul must endure. The horror of a healthy man who was covered with the rags and filth of a leper. He is really pierced by our sins, and covered with sores by man's lust. His soul, living among us, must shudder with horror at such contact, as a body trembles with a high temperature. And yet He does not speak. He does not open His mouth to say: “You horrify Me.” But He opens it only to say: “Come to Me, that I may take away your sins.” He is the Saviour. In His infinite bounty He veiled His unbearable beauty. If He had appeared in all His beauty, as He is in Heaven, He would have reduced us to ashes, as Andrew said. But His beauty has become engaging, like a mild Lamb, in order to approach us and save us. His oppression, His condemnation will last until, consumed by the effort of being the perfect Man among imperfect men, He is raised above the multitude of those He has redeemed, in the triumph of His holy regality. God Who submits to death, to take us to Life! May these thoughts make you love Him above all things. He is the Holy One. I can say so, as I was brought up with Him, together with James. And I say and will say so, ready to give my life to confirm this profession, so that men may believe in Him and have eternal Life. John of Zebedee, it is your turn to speak.»
« How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger! Of the Messenger of peace, Who announces happiness and preaches salvation, Who says to Zion: “Your God is King!” And those feet have been walking untiringly for two years across the mountains in Israel, gathering the sheep of the herd of God, consoling, curing, forgiving, giving peace. His peace. I am really surprised at seeing that the hills and rivers of our Fatherland do not exult and rejoice at the caress of His feet. But what amazes me most is to see that the hearts of men do not exult or rejoice saying: “Praised be the Lord! The Expected One has come! Blessed be He Who comes in the name of the Lord!” He Who bestows graces and blessings, peace and health, and calls us to His Kingdom opening the way for us, above all He, Who pours forth love with every action of His, with every word, glance, breath... What is therefore this world as to be blind to the Light that is living among us? Which slabs, thicker than the stone closing the entrance of a sepulchre, has it placed on the sight of its soul not to see this Light? What mountain of sins has it on itself to be so oppressed, separated, blinded, deafened, chained, paralyzed as to stand inert before the Saviour? What is the Saviour? He is Light blended with Love. The mouths of my brothers have praised the Lord, they have recalled His works, and have pointed out the virtues to be put into practice in order to reach His way. I say to you: love. There is no other virtue that is greater or more like His Nature. If you love, you will practise every virtue without difficulty, beginning from chastity. It will be no burden to you to be chaste, because by loving Jesus you will love no one immoderately. You will be humble, because with the eyes of lovers you will see infinite perfections in Him, and thus you will not pride yourselves on your scanty ones. And you will believe. Who does not believe in him whom one loves? You will be contrite with sorrow that saves, because your sorrow will be honest, that is, you will be sorry for the pain you have caused Him, not for the pain deserved by you. And you will be strong. Oh! yes'. When one is united to Jesus, one is strong! Strong against everything. You will be full of hope, because you will not doubt the Heart that loves you with His whole Self. And you will be wise. You will be everything. Love Him Who announces true happiness, Who preaches salvation, Who goes across mountains and valleys tirelessly, gathering the herd, on Whose way there is Peace, as there is peace in His Kingdom, which is not of this world, but it is true as God is true. Flee from any direction that is not His. Get rid of every fog. Go to the Light. Do not be like the world which does not want to see the Light, which does not want to know it. But go to our Father, Who is the Father of lights, Who is infinite Light, go to Him through His Son, Who is the Light of the world, to enjoy God in the embrace of the Paraclete, Who is the brightness of the Lights in one only beatitude of love that concentrates the Three into. One. Infinite ocean of Love, without storms, without darkness, do receive us! All of us! Both those who are innocent and those who have repented. All of us! In Your Peace, forever! All of us! Everybody on the earth, that we may love You, God, and our neighbour, as You want. Everybody, in Heaven, that we may still and always love but You and the celestial inhabitants, that we may love also our brothers militant on the earth in expectation of peace, and like angels of love, we may defend them and support them in their struggles and temptations, so that they may be with You in Your Peace, for the eternal glory of our Lord Jesus the Saviour, the Lover of man, until the limitless limit of sublime annihilation.»
As usual, John soaring in his flights of love, draws with him souls where there is refined love and mystic silence.
Only after some time the listeners begin to speak. And Philip is the first, addressing Peter: « Is John, the teacher, not speaking?»
« He will always be speaking to you. Leave him now in his peace and let us be alone with him for a little while. Saba, do what I told you, and you as well, o good Berenice...»
They all go out and only the eight apostles and two disciples are left in the large room. There is grave silence. They all look rather pale, the apostles because they know what is about to happen, and the two disciples because they foresee it.
Peter opens his mouth to speak, but finds only these words: « Let us pray», and he intones the « Our Father». Then, and he is really so pale that he will probably not look like this when he dies, he says, going between the two and laying his hands on their shoulders: « We have now to part, my children. What shall I say to the Lord on your behalf? He will certainly be anxious to hear about your spiritual state.»
Syntyche falls on her knees covering her face with her hands and John imitates her. Peter has them at his feet and he instinctively caresses them biting his lips not to yield to emotion.
John looks up, his face is heart-rending, and says: « You will tell the Master that we are doing His Will...» And Syntyche: « And ask Him to help us to fulfill it until the end...» Tears prevent longer sentences.
« All right. Let us kiss one another goodbye. This hour was to come...» also Peter stops speaking, choked by a lump in his throat.
« Bless us first» begs Syntyche. « No. Not I. Better one of Jesus' brothers...»
« No. You are the head. We shall bless with our kisses. Bless us all, both us who are leaving, and them, who are staying» says Thaddeus, and he is the first to kneel down.
And Peter, poor Peter, who is flushed both because of the effort to steady his voice, and by the excitement of stretching out his hands to bless the little group prostrated at his feet, repeats the Mosaic blessing, in a voice made harsher by weeping, almost the voice of an old man...
He then bends forward, kisses the forehead of the woman, as if she were his sister, lifts up and embraces John, kissing his cheek... and runs bravely out of the room, while the others imitate his gesture with the two who are staying...
The cart is ready outside. Only Philip and Berenice are present, and the servant who is holding the horse. Peter is already in the cart...
« You will tell the Master not to worry about those He recommended» says Philip to Peter.
« Tell Mary that I feel the peace of Eucheria since she has become a disciple» says Berenice to the Zealot in a low voice.
« Tell the Master, Mary, everybody, that we love them, and that... Goodbye! Goodbye! Oh! We will never see them again! Goodbye, brothers! Goodbye...»
The two disciples run out into the street... But the cart which left at a trot, has already gone round the corner... Disappeared...
« We are alone!»
« God is with us!... Come, poor John. The sun is setting, it will do you no good to stay here...»
« The sun has set forever, as far as I am concerned... Only in Heaven it will rise again.» And they go back to the room where they were before with the others. They lean on a table, weeping without restraint...
« And the torture brought about by a man, wanted only by a wicked man, was accomplished, stopping as a river stops in a lake after completing its course. I wish to point out to you how also Judas of Alphaeus, although more nourished with wisdom than the others, explains the passage of Isaiah, dealing with My sufferings as Redeemer, in a human way. And everybody in Israel did the same, as they refused to accept the prophetic reality and they contemplated the prophecies on My sorrows as allegories and symbols. The grave error whereby in the hour of Redemption only very few people were able to still see the Messiah in the Convict. Faith is not only a wreath of flowers. It contains also thorns. And he is holy who believes both in the hours of glory and in those of tragedy, and loves God whether He covers him with flowers or lays him on thorns.»