24th November 1945.
From the village of Meiron Jesus and His apostles take a mountainous road that runs north-west through woods and pastures rising all the time. They have perhaps already venerated some sepulchres, because I can hear them speak about them.
The Iscariot is now ahead with Jesus. At Meiron they must have received and given alms, and Judas is now giving an account of what he received and what he gave. He concludes saying: « And here is my offer. I swore last night I would give You it for the poor and as a penance. It is not much. I have not much money with me. But I convinced my mother to send me some frequently through many friends. In the past, when I came away from home, I had a good deal of money. But this time, as I had to travel across mountains by myself or with Thomas only, I took only what was sufficient for our journey. I prefer to do that. The only thing is... sometimes I will have to ask You for permission to leave You and go and see my friends. I have already arranged everything... Master, shall I continue to keep the money? Do You still trust me?»
« Judas, you are saying everything by yourself. And I do not know why you do that. You must know that nothing has changed as far as I am concerned... because I hope that you will change and become once again the disciple you were in the past, and that you will become a just man, for whose conversion I pray and suffer.»
« You are right, Master. But with Your help I will certainly become So. In any case... they are minor imperfections. Things of no importance. Nay, they help us to understand our fellow-men and cure them.»
« Your morals, Judas, are strange indeed! And I should say more than that. I have never heard of any doctor falling voluntarily ill in order to be able to say: “Now I know how to cure people affected by this disease.” So am I an incapable man?»
« Who says that, Master?»
« You do. As I do not commit sins, I cannot cure sinners.»
« You are You. But we are not You, and we need experience to learn...»
« That is your old idea. The very same idea of twenty months ago. The only difference is that you then thought that I should commit sin to be able to redeem. I am really surprised that you have not tried to correct this... fault of Mine, according to your way of judging, and to gift Me with this... ability to understand sinners.»
« You are joking, Master. And I am glad. I felt sorry for You. You were so sad. And it is double joy to me that I have made You joke. But I never thought of claiming to be Your master. In any case, as You can see Yourself, I have corrected my way of thinking as I now say that this experience is necessary only to us. To us, poor men. You are the Son of God, are You not? Your wisdom, therefore, needs no experience to be what it is.»
« Well, you had better know that innocence is also wisdom, a much greater wisdom than the low dangerous knowledge of sinners. When the holy ignorance of evil should limit our ability to guide ourselves and other people, then the angelical ministry, which is always present in pure hearts, makes up for that. And you may rest assured that the angels, who are most pure, can tell Good from Evil and they can lead the pure souls, whom they guard, on the just path and to just deeds. Sin does not increase wisdom. It is not light. It is not a guide. Never. It is corruption, it is derangement of mind, it is chaos. Thus, he who commits it, tastes its flavour but at the same time loses the ability to savour many other spiritual things and no longer has an angel of God, a spirit of order and love, to guide him, instead, he has an angel of Satan to lead him into greater and greater disorder, because of the unappeasable hatred that devours those diabolical spirits.»
« Listen, Master. And if one wanted to attain angelical guidance again? Is repentance sufficient, or does the poison of sin last even after one has repented and has been forgiven?... You know? For instance, one who has taken to drinking, even if he swears that he will not get drunk again, and is really determined in swearing so, always feels the stimulus to drink. And one suffers...»
« One certainly suffers. That is why one should never become the slave of evil. But to suffer is not to sin. It is expiation. And as a repentant drunkard commits no sin but gains merits if he resists the stimulus heroically and does not drink any more, so he who has sinned, and repents and resists all stimuli, gains merit and will not lack supernatural help to resist. It is not a sin to be tempted. On the contrary it is a battle that brings victory. And believe Me, in God there is only the desire to forgive and help who has done wrong but has later repented...»
Judas is silent for a little while... Then he takes Jesus' hand and kisses it, remaining bent over it: « Last night I exceeded the limit. I insulted You, Master. I told You that I would end up by hating You... How much I blasphemed! Can I ever be forgiven?»
« The greatest sin is to despair of God's mercy... Judas, I said: “Every sin against the Son of man will be forgiven.” The Son of Man has come to forgive, to save, to cure, to lead souls to Heaven. Why do you want to lose Heaven? Judas! Look at Me! Wash your soul in the love emanating from My eyes...»
« Do I not disgust You?»
« Yes, you do... But love is stronger than disgust. Judas, poor leper, the greatest leper in Israel, come and invoke health from Him Who can give it to you...»
« Give me it, Master.»
« No. Not that way. There is no true repentance or firm will in you. There is only a faint effort of surviving love for Me and for your past vocation. There is a hint of repentance, but it is entirely human. That is not entirely bad. Nay, it is the first step towards Good. Cultivate it, increase it, graft it into the supernatural, change it into real love for Me, make it a real return to what you were when you came to Me, at least that! Make it not a temporary, emotional inactive throb of sentimentalism, but a true active feeling attracting you to Good. Judas, I will wait. I can wait. I will pray. I will take the place of your disgusted angel, while waiting. My pity, patience and love are perfect and therefore greater than the pity, patience and love of angels, and I can remain beside you, in the disgusting stench of what is fermenting in your heart, in order to help you...»
Judas is moved, he is really moved, he is not simulating. With trembling lips and voice made shaky by his emotion, looking pale, he asks: « Do You really know what I have done?»
« I know everything, Judas. Do you want Me to tell you or shall I spare you this humiliation?»
« I... cannot believe it...»
« Well let us go over the past few days and tell the incredulous apostle the truth. This morning you lied several times. With regard to the money and to where you spent the night. Last night you tried to suffocate in lust your feelings, your hatred, your remorse. You...»
« That's enough! That's enough! For pity's sake, say no more! Or I will run away from Your presence.»
« On the contrary, you ought to cling to My knees and ask to be forgiven.»
« Yes, forgive me, Master! Forgive me! Help me! It's stronger than I am. Everything is stronger than I am.»
« Except the love you ought to have for Jesus... But come here, that I may help you to resist temptation and relieve you of it.» And He takes Judas in His arms shedding silent tears on his dark, haired head.
The others, who are a few yards behind, have wisely stopped and comment:
« See?! Perhaps Judas is really in trouble.»
« And this morning he has spoken to the Master about it.»
« What a fool! I would have done so straight away.»
« It is probably something painful.»
« Oh! It is certainly not bad behaviour of his mother! She is a holy woman! What can be so painful?»
« Perhaps business not doing well...»
« No! He spends and helps people generously.»
« Well! It's his business! The important thing is that he is in agreement with the Master, and that seems to be the case. They have been talking for some time and peacefully. They are now embracing each other... Very well.»
« Yes, because he is very capable and has many acquaintances it is a good thing that he is of good will and in agreement with us and above all with the Master.»
« Jesus at Hebron said that the tombs of the just are places where miracles are worked, or something like that... There are many of them here. Perhaps those of Meiron worked a miracle for Judas' perturbation.»
« Oh! if so, he will become entirely holy now at Hillel's sepulchre. Is it not at Giscala?»
« Yes, Bartholomew.»
« And yet last year we did not come this way...»
« No wonder! We came from the other side!»
Jesus turns round and calls them. They run towards Him joyfully.
« Come. The town is close at hand. We must cross it to arrive at Hillel's tomb. Let us proceed in one group» says Jesus without any further information, while the eleven apostles cast inquisitive side glances at Him and Judas. The latter's face looks pacified and humble, and Jesus' is certainly not radiant. He is solemn but grave.
They enter Giscala, a beautiful large well-kept town. There must be a flourishing rabbinical centre because I see many groups of doctors with disciples listening to their lessons. The apostles passing through and the Master especially draw the attention of many people and a great deal of them follow the group. Some sneer, some call Judas of Kerioth. But he is walking beside the Master and does not even turn round.
They go out of town towards the house in the neighbourhood of which is Hillel's sepulchre.
« How impudent of You!»
« He is imprudent and impudent!»
« He is provoking us.»
« Tell Him, Uzziel.»
« I will not be contaminated. Saul, you are only a pupil, you can tell Him.»
« No. Let us tell Judas. Call him.»
The young man, whose name is Saul, a thin pale fellow with very large eyes and mouth, approaches Judas and says to him: « Come. The rabbis want you.»
« I will not come. I am staying where I am. Leave me alone.» The young man goes back to his masters and tells them.
In the meantime Jesus, in the middle of His apostles, is praying reverently near Hillel's whitewashed sepulchre.
The rabbis approach the group slowly, like silent snakes, and watch, and two elderly bearded ones pull the tunic of Judas, who, since they gathered to pray, is no longer protected by his companions.
« Well, what do you want?» he asks in a low but resentful voice. « Is one not even allowed to pray?»
« Just one word. Then we will leave you in peace.»
Simon Zealot and Thaddeus turn round and tell the noisy disturbers to be quiet.
Judas moves a few steps aside and asks: « What do you want?»
I do not hear what the older man whispers in Judas' ear. But I distinctly see the gesture of Judas who steps aside resolutely saying: « No. Leave me in peace, poisoned souls. I don't know you, I don't want to have anything more to do with you.»
The rabbinical group burst into a scornful laugh and threaten: « Watch what you do, you silly boy!»
« You had better watch. Go away! You can go and tell the others. All the others. Have you understood? You can apply to anybody You like, but not to me, you devils» and he leaves them. He has spoken so loudly that the apostles turn round dumbfounded. Jesus does not. Not even after the scornful laugh and threat: « We will see you again, Judas of Simon! We will meet again!» that resounds in the silence of the place.
Judas goes back to his place, he moves aside Andrew who had gone close to Jesus, and as if he wished to be defended and protected, he takes the hem of Jesus' mantle in his hands.
The angry men then rage against Jesus. They come forth threatening and shouting: « What are You doing here, You, anathema of Israel? Go away? Don't make the bones of the Just man, whom You are not worthy to approach, stir in the grave. We will tell Gamaliel and will have You punished.»
Jesus turns round and looks at them, one at a time.
« Why are You looking at us like that, You demoniac?»
« To become better acquainted with your faces and your hearts. Because not only My apostle will see you again. I will, as well. And I want to know you well so that I can recognise you at once.»
« Well have You seen us? Go away. If Gamaliel were here, he would not allow You to be here.»
« I was here last year with him...»
« That is not true, You liar!»
« Ask him, and since he is an honest man, he will tell that I was here with him. I love and venerate Hillel, I respect and honour Gamaliel. They are two men through whose justice and wisdom the origin of man is revealed, as they remind us that man was made in the likeness of God.»
« We don't, do we?» interrupt the energumens.
« It is dimmed in you by interests and hatred.»
« Listen to Him! That is how He speaks and offends in the house of other people. Go away from here, corrupter of the best people in Israel! Or we will have to pick up stones. Rome is not here to protect You, You intriguer with the heathen enemy...»
« Why do you hate Me? Why do you persecute Me? What wrong have I done you? Some of you have benefited from Me; everybody has been respected by Me. So why are you so cruel against Me?» Jesus is humble, meek, afflicted and loving. He implores them to love Him.
They take it as a sign of weakness and fear and they become more furious. The first stone flies skimming James of Zebedee, who quickly makes the gesture of reacting by throwing it against the assailers, while all the others gather round Jesus. But they are twelve against about one hundred. Another stone strikes Jesus' hand while He is telling His disciples not to react. The back of His hand is injured and bleeds. It seems to be already wounded by the nail...
Jesus then stops praying. He straightens up imposingly, looks at them and crushes them with a glare. But another stone strikes the temple of James of Alphaeus and it begins to bleed.
Jesus is now compelled to paralyse their action by means of His power, to defend His apostles, who obeying Him, receive the volley of stones without reacting. And when the cowards are overwhelmed by Jesus' will and by His frightful imposing attitude, He says: « I am going. But you must know that Hillel would have cursed you for what you are doing. I am going away. But remember that not even the Red Sea prevented the Israelites from going on the way pointed out to them by God. Everything flattened out and became a level road for the passing God. The same applies to Me. As Egyptians, Philistines, Amorites, Canaanites and other peoples could not stop the triumphal march of Israel, so you, who are worse than they were, will not be able to stop My march and mission: Israel. Remember what they sang at the well of the water given by God: “Rise, o well, that was sunk by the princes and dug by the leaders of the people, with the giver of the Law, with their staves.” I am that Well! It was dug by Heaven in response to the prayers and the justice of the true princes and leaders of the holy People, which you are not. No. You are not. The Messiah would never have come for you, because you do not deserve Him. In fact His coming is your ruin. Because the Most High is aware of all the thoughts of men and has always been aware of them, even before Cain, from whom you descend, existed, and before Abel, whom I resemble, before Noah, My symbol, and before Moses who first used My symbol, before Balaam who prophesied the Star, before Isaiah and all the prophets. And God knows your hearts and is struck with horror at them. He has always been horrified at them as He has always rejoiced at the just for whose sake it was just to send Me and who really drew Me from the depths of Heaven, that I might bring Living Water for the thirst of men. I am the Source of eternal Life. But you do not wish to drink at it. And you will die.» And He walks slowly through the paralysed rabbis and their pupils and goes on His way, slowly, solemnly, in the amazed silence of men and things.