The road coming from Phoenicia towards Ptolemais is a beautiful road which cuts straight across the plain between the sea and the mountains. Because it is well kept, it is very busy. There are various junctions with secondary roads running from inland towns to towns on the coast, and at the numerous crossroads there is generally a house, a well and a rudimentary forge for quadrupeds that may need shoes.
Jesus, with the six apostles left with Him, covers a good stretch of the road, about two kilometres, seeing the same things all the time. He stops at last near one of those houses with a well and a farriery, at a crossroad near a torrent crossed by a bridge, which although strongly built, is just wide enough to let one cart pass at a time and thus travellers are compelled to stop alternately, because the two opposite currents of traffic cannot pass at the same time. And as far as I can see, that gives the travellers of different races, Phoenicians and true Israelites, the opportunity to join in one only intent: that of cursing Rome, although they hate one another... And yet, without Rome, they would not have that bridge and when the torrent is in flood, I do not know how they would be able to cross it. But such is life! An oppressor is always hated, even if he does useful things!
Jesus stops near the bridge, in the sunny corner where the house is; on its side along the torrent there is an ill-smelling smithy shop, where they are forging shoes for a horse and two donkeys, which have lost theirs. The horse is harnessed to a Roman wagon in which some soldiers take delight in making faces at the cursing Jews. And they throw a handful of horse manure on an old big-nosed man, the most rancorous of all of them, with a real viperous mouth, someone who I think would willingly bite the Romans to poison them. One can imagine what happens! The old Jew runs away as if he had been infected with leprosy and other Jews join him. The Phoenicians shout ironically: « Do you like the new manna? Eat it, it will give you energy to shout against those who are too good to you, you hypocritical vipers!» The soldiers laugh scornfully... Jesus is silent.
The Roman wagon at last departs and they greet the farrier shouting: « Hail, Titus, may your stay be prosperous!» The man, who is vigorous, elderly, bull-necked, clean shaven with very dark eyes above a sturdy nose and under a wide protruding forehead, which is bald at the temples, while his hair is short and frizzly, raises a heavy hammer waving them goodbye and then goes back to the anvil, on which a young man had laid a red-hot iron, while another boy sears the hoof of a little donkey preparing it to be shod.
« Almost all the farriers along the roads are Romans. Soldiers who remained here when they finished their service. And they earn a lot of money... Nothing ever prevents them from curing animals... And a donkey may lose a shoe before sunset on a Sabbath, or at the time of the Dedication...» remarks Matthew.
« The man who shod Antonius was married to a Jewess» says John. « And foolish women are more numerous than wise ones» states James of Zebedee. « And to whom do the children belong? To God or to paganism?» asks Andrew.
« They generally belong to the stronger of the two» replies Matthew. « And, unless the woman is an apostate herself, they are Hebrews, because men, at least these men, do not interfere. They are not even very... fanatical about their Olympus. I think that now they believe in nothing but the necessity of money. They have all large families.»
« But they are mean people. They have no faith, no fatherland... they are disliked by everybody...» says Thaddeus.
« No. You are wrong. Rome does not despise them. On the contrary, Rome always helps them. They are more useful now than when they were armed. They penetrate into our country more by corruption of blood than by violence. It is the first generation, eventually, that suffers. Then they spread and... the world forgets...» says Matthew who seems to be well informed.
« Yes, it is the children that suffer. But also the Jewish women, married like that... For themselves and for their children. I feel sorry for them. Nobody speaks to them of God any longer. But that will not happen in future. Then there will be no such separations of people and countries, because souls will be united in one Fatherland only: Mine» says Jesus, Who has been silent so far.
« But they will be dead by then!...» exclaims John.
« No. They will be gathered in My Name. No longer Romans or Libyans, Greeks or people from the Black Sea area, Iberians or Gauls, Egyptians or Hebrews, but souls of Christ. And woe betide those who will distinguish souls, whom I equally loved and for whom I equally suffered, according to their nationalities. He who should do that would prove that he has not understood Charity, which is universal.»
The apostles understand the covert reproof and lower their heads without speaking...
The clangor of iron beaten on the anvil has ceased and the hammer blows on the last hoof of a donkey are deadening. And Jesus takes advantage of the situation to speak loud so that the crowds may hear Him. He seems to be continuing His conversation with the apostles, in actual fact He is speaking to the passers-by and perhaps also to those in the houses, certainly to some women, as women's voices calling one another can be heard in the mild air.
« There is always a relationship among men, even if it does not appear to exist: that is, the origin from One only Creator. If later the children of the Only Father have become separated, the tie of their origin has not changed, as the blood of a son who disowns his father's house does not change. In Cain's veins there was Adam's blood also after the crime which compelled him to roam in the wide world. And in the veins of the children born after Eve's grief, weeping over her murdered son, there was the same blood that boiled in the veins of far away Cain. The same, and for a purer reason, applies to the equality of the children of the Creator. Are they lost, exiled, apostates, guilty, speaking languages different from ours, do they believe in faiths which we loathe, are they corrupted by marrying heathens? Yes? But their souls came from One God, and they are always the same, even if they are torn, lost, exiled, corrupt... Even if they are the cause of grief to the God Father, they are still souls created by Him. The good children of a very good Father must have good feelings. Good towards the Father, good towards brothers, whatever they may have become, because they are children of the same Father. Good towards the Father by endeavouring to console Him for His grief, taking His children back to Him, as they are the cause of His grief, either because they are sinners or because they are apostates or pagans. Good towards them because they have souls created by the Father, enclosed in guilty, sullied bodies and have become dull through wrong religions, but are always souls of God equal to our own.
Remember, you people of Israel, that there is no one, not even the idolater most remote from God because of his idolatrous religion, not even the most pagan of pagans or the most atheistic man, who is completely devoid of some trace of his origin. Remember, you who have gone wrong, in getting detached from our just Religion by descending to mixing sexes, which is condemned by our Religion, that even if you think that everything that was Israel is now dead in you, suffocated by the love for a man of different faith and race, it is not dead. There is something still alive, and that is Israel. And it is your duty to blow the dying fire, to foster the spark still existing by the will of God, so that it may overwhelm carnal love. That love ends with death, but your souls do not. Remember that. And you, whoever you may be, who see, and at times are horrified at seeing the hybrid marriage of a daughter of Israel with a man of different race and faith, remember that it is your duty and obligation to assist the mislaid sister charitably, so that she may find her way back to the Father. This is the new holy Law, agreeable to the Lord: that the followers of the Redeemer may redeem whoever is to be redeemed, so that God may smile because of the souls that go back to the Father's House and the sacrifice of the Redeemer may not be made unfruitful and mean.
To leaven dough the housewife takes a little of the dough of the previous week. Oh! only a tiny bit of the whole mass! And she buries it in the dough, and protects it from harmful draughts in the favourable warmth of the house. Do likewise yourselves, you followers of Good, and you, too, who have gone away from the Father and from His Kingdom. Let the former give a tiny part of their yeast to support and reinforce the latter, who will add it to the particle of justice still existing in them. And both of you, protect the new yeast from the hostile draughts of Evil in the warmth of Charity, according to what it is in you: your mistress, or a persistent, although now languishing survivor. Support with the warmth of your homes, with the faith of the same religion what is fermenting in the heart of a mislaid co-religionist, so that she may feel that she is still loved, she is still a daughter of Zion and a sister of yours, and her good will may materialise and the Kingdom of Heaven may come to all souls.»
« But who is He?» people ask, and they no longer seem in a hurry to cross the bridge although it is now clear, or to go on their way, if they have already crossed it.
« A rabbi.»
« A rabbi of Israel.»
« Here? At the Phoenician borders? It is the first time that that happens!»
« And yet it is so. Aser told me that He is the Holy One, as people call Him.»
« Perhaps He is seeking refuge here because they persecute Him on the other side.»
« They are reptiles indeed!»
« It is a good thing if He stays with us! He will work miracles...»
In the meantime Jesus has gone away along a path in the fields..