25th November 1945.
I do not know where the pilgrims spent the night. I know that it is morning once again, that they are on their way, still across mountainous places, that Jesus' hand is bandaged, and so is the forehead of James of Alphaeus, while Andrew is limping badly and James of Zebedee is without his bag, which his brother John is carrying.
Twice Jesus has asked: « Can you manage to walk, Andrew?»
« Yes, Master. I walk badly because of the bandage. But it is not very painful.» And the second time he adds: « And what about Your hand, Master?»
« A hand is not a leg. It is resting and it is not very sore.»
« H'm! Swollen as it is and with the wound into the bone, I can hardly believe that it is not very sore... Oil is good for it. But perhaps we should have got some of that ointment of Your Mother's from...»
« From My Mother. You are right» says Jesus quickly on hearing what is about to escape the lips of Peter, who blushes with embarrassment and looks desolately at Jesus. The Master smiles at him and lays His injured hand on Peter's shoulder to draw him to Himself.
« It will hurt if You hold it thus.»
« No, Simon. You love Me and your love is a very wholesome oil.»
« Oh! In that case You should already be cured! We have all suffered seeing You ill-treated like that, and there are some of us who wept.» And Peter looks at John and Andrew...
« Oil and water are good medicines, but tears of love and pity are more powerful than anything. See? I am much more cheerful today than yesterday. Because today I know how obedient you are and how much you love Me. Everyone.» And Jesus looks at them with His habitually sad mild eyes, which this morning are shining, although faintly, with joy.
« But what hyenas they are! Never seen so much hatred!» says Judas of Alphaeus. « They must have been all Judaeans.»
« No, brother. Regions have nothing to do with it. Hatred is the same everywhere. Remember that I was driven out of Nazareth months ago and they wanted to pelt Me with stones. Do you not remember?» says Jesus calmly, which comforts the Judaean apostles for Thaddeus' words.
They are in fact so consoled that the Iscariot says: « But I will tell them that! Oh! I will indeed! We were not doing anything wrong. We did not react, and He spoke of nothing but love from the very beginning. And they threw stones at us, as if we were snakes. I will tell them.»
« And who are you going to tell, if they are all against us?»
« I know who I will tell. In the meantime, I will tell Hermas and Stephen as soon as I see them. And Gamaliel will know at once. But at Passover I know who I will tell. I will say: “It is not fair to do that. Your fury is against the law. You are guilty, not He.”»
« It would be better if you did not approach those men!... I think that you are guilty in their eyes, as well» advises Philip wisely.
« That's true. It is better if I never get in touch with them again. Yes. It is better. But I will tell Stephen. He is good and has no poison...»
« Never mind, Judas. You would not change anything for the better. I have forgiven them. Let us forget about it» says Jesus calmly and convincingly.
Twice, crossing two little streams both Andrew and the two Jameses dampen the bandages on their bruises. Jesus does not. He proceeds peacefully as if He felt no pain.
But His hand must be really sore, if He has to ask Andrew to break His bread, when they stop to eat; and if He has to beg Matthew to tie His sandal, when the sandal laces come undone... Above all, if, when going down a steep short cut, He bumps into a tree trunk, because His foot has slipped, and He cannot help moaning, while His bandage becomes stained once again with blood. In fact they stop at the first house of the village, where they arrive at sunset, to ask for some water and oil to doctor His hand, which, once the bandage has been removed, looks all swollen with a large bluish bruise on the back and the red wound in the middle. While waiting for the landlady to come with what they have asked for, they all bend to look at the wound and they make their comments. But John moves away to one side to hide his tears.
Jesus calls him: « Come here. It is nothing serious. Do not weep.»
« I know. If I had it, I would not weep. But You have it. And You are not telling us how painful is this dear hand, which has never harmed anybody» replies John, to whom Jesus has abandoned His wounded hand; and John gently caresses the finger-tips, the wrist, all around the bruise and then gently turns it over to kiss the palm and rest his cheek in the hollow of the hand saying: « It is hot!... How painful it must be!» and loving tears drop on it.
The woman brings water and oil and John with a piece of linen cleans the blood that stains the hand, gently pouring some lukewarm water on the wound, which he then dresses with oil, and binds up with clean strips of cloth and finally kisses the binding. Jesus lays His other hand on John's lowered head.
The woman asks him: « Is He your brother?»
« No. He is my Master. Our Master.»
« Where have you come from?» she asks the others.
« From the Sea of Galilee.»
« So far! Why?»
« To preach Salvation.»
« It is almost evening. Stop in my house. It's a poor house. But we are honest. I can give you some milk as soon as my sons come back with the sheep. My husband will be pleased to welcome you.»
« Thank you, woman. We will stay here if the Master wishes so.»
The woman goes away to do her housework while the apostles ask Jesus what to do.
« Yes. It is a good idea. Tomorrow we will go to Kedesh and then towards Paneas. I have been thinking, Bartholomew. It is better to do as you suggested. You gave Me a good piece of advice. I hope I will thus be able to find other disciples and send them ahead of Me to Capernaum. I know that some must have already been to Kedesh, and the three shepherds from Lebanon are among them.»
The woman comes back and asks: « Well?»
« Yes, good woman. We are staying here for the night.»
« And for supper. Oh! accept my invitation. It is no burden to me. And after all we have been taught to be merciful by some men who are the disciples of that Jesus of Galilee, who is called the Messiah and works so many miracles and preaches the Kingdom of God. But He has never been here. Perhaps because we are at the SyroPhoenician border. But His disciples came. And that is already a lot! Here in the village, we all want to go to Judaea at Passover, to see if we can find this Jesus. Because we have some sick people and His disciples cured some of them but not everyone. Among the latter there is the young son of a brother of my brother-in-law's wife.»
« What is the matter with him?» asks Jesus smiling.
« He is... He does not speak and he does not hear. Perhaps a demon entered the womb of his mother to make her suffer and drive her to despair. But he is good, not like a possessed. The disciples said that Jesus of Nazareth is needed for him, because there must be something missing, and only that Jesus... Oh! here are my sons and my husband! Melkiah, I have welcomed these pilgrims in the name of the Lord and I was telling them about Levi... Sarah, go and milk the sheep and you, Samuel, go down into the grotto and bring some oil and wine and get also some apples in the attic. Hurry up, Sarah, we will prepare the beds upstairs.»
« Do not tire yourself, woman. Any place will suit us. Could I see the man of whom you were speaking?»
« Yes... But... Oh! Lord! Are You perhaps the Nazarene?»
« I am.»
The woman drops on her knees shouting: « Melkiah, Sarah, Samuel! Come and worship the Messiah! What a day! And I have Him in my house! And I have been speaking to Him! And I brought Him water to cleanse His wound... Oh!...» she is choking with emotion. She then runs to the basin and sees that it is empty: « Why have you thrown that water out? It was holy water! Oh! Melkiah! The Messiah is here with us.»
« Yes, but be good, woman and do not tell anybody. Go and get the deaf-mute and bring him here...» says Jesus smiling...
... And Melkiah is soon back with the deaf-mute, his relatives and at least half of the people in the village... The mother of the poor fellow worships Jesus and implores Him.
« Yes, it will be done as you wish» and He takes the deaf-mute by the hand and draws him away from the crowd, who are pressing together and whom the apostles are busy pushing back, to protect Jesus' wounded hand. Jesus draws the deaf-mute close to Himself, puts His forefingers into his ears, touches his lips with His tongue, then raising His eyes to the sky, which is growing dark, He breathes on the face of the man and shouts in a loud voice: « Be opened!» and lets him go.
The young man looks at Him for a moment while the crowds whisper. The change in the countenance of the deaf-mute is surprising: from listless and sad it becomes amazed and smiling. He touches his ears with his hands, presses them, takes his hands away... He persuades himself that he can really hear, he opens his mouth saying: « Mother! I can hear! Oh! Lord, I adore You!»
The crowd is seized by the usual enthusiasm, also because they ask one another: « How can he be able to speak if he never heard a word since he was born? A miracle in the miracle! He loosened his tongue and opened his ears and at the same time He taught him to speak. Long live Jesus of Nazareth! Hosanna to the Holy Messiah!»
And they press against Jesus Who raises His wounded hand to bless them, while some, urged by the woman of the house, wet their faces and limbs with the remaining drops of water left in the basin.
Jesus sees them and shouts: « Because of your faith you are all cured. Go home. Be good and honest. Believe in the word of the Gospel. And keep to yourselves what you know, until it is time to announce it in the squares and throughout the whole world. May My peace be with you.»
And He goes into the large kitchen where the fire is blazing and the light of two lamps flickers.