23rd November 1945.
A beautiful springtime dawn makes the sky rosy and the hills a pleasant sight. The disciples rejoice at the sight while gathering at the entrance of the village waiting for the late-comers.
« It is the first day that it is not cold, after the hailstorms» says Matthew, rubbing his hands. « It was time! This is the new moon of the month of Adar!» exclaims Andrew.
« Very well! If we had to go up on the mountains with the cold weather of the past days!...» comments Philip.
« But where are we going?» asks Andrew.
« I wonder... From here we can go either to Saphet or to Meiron. And then?» replies James of Zebedee and he turns round to ask the sons of Alphaeus: « Do you know where we are going?»
« Jesus told us that He wants to go to the north. That is all» says Judas of Alphaeus laconically.
« Again? At the next moon we must begin our Passover pilgrimage...» says Peter not very enthusiastically.
« We have plenty time» remarks Thaddeus.
« Yes. But no time to rest at Bethsaida...»
« We shall certainly go there to get the women and Marjiam» replies Philip to Peter.
« What I ask of you is not to look bored or indifferent or the like. Jesus is most depressed... Yesterday evening He was weeping. I found Him weeping while we were preparing supper. He was not praying out on the terrace, as we thought. He was weeping» says John.
« Why? Did you ask Him?» they all ask.
« Yes, I did. But all He said was: “Love Me, John.”»
« Perhaps... it's because of the people of Korazim.»
The Zealot, who has just arrived, says: « The Master is coming here with Bartholomew. Let us go and meet Him.»
And they set out, but they continue their conversation: « Or it is because of Judas. They remained alone last night...» says Matthew.
« That's right! And Judas had previously stated that he was upset and wanted to be alone» remarks Philip.
« He did not want to stay even with the Master! Whereas I would have been so glad to be with Him!» says John with a sigh.
« And I!» says everybody.
« I do not like that man... He is either ill, or bewitched, or mad, or possessed... There is something wrong with him» says Thaddeus resolutely.
« And yet, believe me, on our way back here he was a model disciple. He always defended the Master and the interests of the Master, as none of us ever did. I saw him and heard him myself! And I hope you do not doubt my word» states Thomas.
« Do you think that we do not believe you? No, Thomas! And we are pleased to hear that Judas is better than we are. But you can see it yourself. He is strange, is he not?» asks Andrew.
« Oh! He certainly is. Perhaps innermost problems worry him... Or probably because he did not work any miracle. He is rather proud. Oh! for a good purpose! But he is keen on doing things and he likes to be praised for them...»
« H'm! It may be! But the Master is sad. Look at Him over there: He does not look like the man we have always known. But, long live the Lord! If I find out who is making the Master suffer... Well! That's all! I know what I will do to him» says Peter.
Jesus, Who is talking intently to Nathanael, sees them and quickens His pace smiling. « Peace to you. Are you all here?»
« Judas of Simon is missing... I thought he was with You, because at the house, where he slept, they told me that they found his room empty and tidied up...» explains Andrew.
Jesus knits His brows for a moment and becomes engrossed in thought, lowering His head. He then says: « It does not matter. Let us go just the same. Tell the people in the last houses that we are going to Meiron and to Giscala. If Judas should look for us ask them to direct him there. Let us go.»
They all feel that the atmosphere is stormy and they obey without uttering a single word.
Jesus continues His conversation with Bartholomew and is a few steps ahead of the others. I can hear famous names being mentioned by them during their conversation: Hillel, Jael, Barak and glorious events of Israel, which they recollect, commenting and admiring the great doctors, while Bartholomew regrets the past...
« Oh! If wise Hillel were still alive! He was good and strong. He would not have been upset. He would have judged You by himself, independently of others!»
« Do not worry, Bartholomew! And bless the Most High Who has received him in His peace. The spirit of the Wise Man thus did not become aware of the excitement of so much hatred against Me...»
« My Lord! Not only hatred!...»
« More hatred than love, My friend. And it will always be so.»
« Do not be sad. We will defend You...»
« It is not death that grieves Me... It is the sight of men's sins...»
« Death!... No!... Don't speak of death. They will not go to that extent... because they are afraid...»
« Hatred will be stronger than fear. Bartholomew, when I am dead, and when I am far away, in Holy Heaven, say to men: “He suffered more because of your hatred, than because of His death”...»
« Master! Don't say that! No one will hate You so much as to cause You to die. You can always prevent it. You are powerful...»
Jesus smiles sadly, I would say wearily, while with measured steps He climbs the mountainous road leading to Meiron, and the more the road climbs, the wider becomes the beautiful view of the lake of Tiberias, visible through an opening in a gorge, on nearby arch-shaped hills, which, however, obstruct the sight of lake Merom, while the view extends beyond the lake of Tiberias, on the tableland beyond the Jordan, as far as the remote indented mountains of Hauran, Trachonitis and Perea.
But Jesus points to north-northeast saying: « After Passover we will have to go there, to Philip's tetrarchy. And we shall just have enough time to do so, as we shall have to be in Jerusalem once again for Pentecost.»
« Would it not be more convenient to go there now? We could go beyond the Jordan, towards its sources... and then come back through the Decapolis...»
Jesus passes His hand across His brow, with the tired gesture of one whose mind is clouded, and He whispers: « I do not know, I do not know yet!... Bartholomew!...» How much depression, sorrow, entreaty there is in His voice!...
Bartholomew bends a little, as if he were hurt by Jesus' strange unusual tone, and he says with loving anxiety: « Master, what is the matter with You? What do You want from old Nathanael?»
« Nothing, Bartholomai... Your prayer... That I may see clearly what is to be done... But they are calling us, Bartholomai... Let us stop here...» And they stop near a group of trees.
The others appear round a bend of the path; they are in a group: « Master, Judas is running after us at breakneck speed...»
« Let us wait for him.» And in fact Judas soon appears, running... « Master... I am late... I overslept and...»
« Where, if I did not find you in the house?» asks Andrew who is amazed.
Judas remains dumbfounded for a moment, but he is quick in collecting himself and he says: « Oh! I am sorry that my penance has become known to everybody! I was in the wood, all night, praying and doing penance... At dawn I was overcome by sleep. I am weak... But the Most High Lord will pity His poor servant. Is that right, Master? I woke up late and I was aching all over.»
« In fact you look rather worn out» remarks James of Zebedee.
Judas laughs: « Of course! But my soul is delighted. Prayer does one good. Penance makes one's heart joyful. And it grants humility and generosity. Master, forgive Your foolish Judas...» and he kneels at Jesus' feet.
« Yes. Stand up and let us go.»
« Give me peace with a kiss of Yours. It will be a sign that You have forgiven the bad mood I was in yesterday. I did not want You, that is true. But it was because I wanted to pray...»
« We could have prayed together...»
Judas laughs and says: « No, You could not have prayed with me last night, or be where I was...»
« Oh! That's nice! Why not? He has always been with us and He taught us to pray!» exclaims Peter who is utterly amazed.
They all laugh. But Jesus does not laugh. He stares at Judas who has kissed Him and is now looking at Him with eyes glaring with biting malice, as if he wanted to defy Him. He dares to repeat: « Is it not true that You could not have been with me last night?»
« No, I could not. Neither will I ever be able to share the embraces of My soul with the Father, with a third party, nothing but blood and flesh, like you, and in the places where you go. I love solitude peopled with angels, to forget that man is the stench of flesh corrupted by sensuality, by gold, by the world and by Satan.»
Judas no longer laughs, not even with his eyes. He replies gravely: « You are right. Your spirit has seen the truth. So where are we going?»
« To venerate the tombs of the great rabbis and heroes of Israel.»
« What? Gamaliel does not love You. And the others hate You» many of the apostles say.
« It does not matter. I bow to the tombs of the just awaiting Redemption. I am going to say to their bones: “He Who inspired your souls will soon be in the Kingdom of Heaven, ready to descend from there on the last Day, to make you live again and forever in Paradise.”»
They proceed until they find the village of Meiron. A lovely village, well kept, full of light and sunshine, situated among fertile hills and mountains.
« Let us stop. In the afternoon we will leave for Giscala. The great sepulchres are scattered along these slopes, awaiting the glorious resurrection.»