30th November 1945.
Jesus must have left the town of Caesarea Philippi at daybreak, because the town is now far behind with its mountains, and Jesus is once again in the plain going towards lake Merom, from where He will go to the lake of Gennesaret. His apostles are with Him together with all the disciples who were at Caesarea. But no one is surprised to see such a numerous caravan on the road, because there are many more caravans of Israelites or proselytes going to Jerusalem from all parts of the Diaspora, as they wish to remain some time in the Holy City to listen to the rabbis and breathe the air of the Temple for a long time.
They proceed quickly but although the sun is already high in the sky, it is not troublesome, as springtime sunshine gently warms new leaves of trees in blossom and makes flowers open everywhere. The plain before the lake is like a flowery carpet, and the pilgrims looking at the hills surrounding it see them spotted with white, rosy, pink or almost red blossoms of the various fruit-trees, or on passing near the houses of farmers or forges on the roadside, they enjoy the sight of the first rose-bushes full of flowers in gardens, along hedges or against the walls of houses.
« Johanna's gardens must be all in flower » remarks Simon Zealot.
« Also the garden in Nazareth must look like a basket full of flowers. Mary is the sweet bee that passes from one rose-bush to another, then to the jasmines, which will soon be blooming, to the lilies, which are already in bud, and She will pick a branch of the almond-tree, as She is wont to do, nay, She may pick a branch of the pear-tree or of the pomegranate, to put it into the amphora in Her little room. When we were young boys, every year we used to ask Her: “Why do You always have a flowery branch there, and You do not put the early roses in it?.” And She replied: “Because on those petals I can see an order written, which came to Me from God and I smell the pure scent of celestial air.” Do you remember, Judas?» James of Alphaeus asks his brother.
« Yes. I do. And I remember that when I grew up, I used to wait anxiously for springtime, so that I could see Mary walking in Her garden, under Her trees, the blossoms of which were like clouds, or among the bushes of the early roses. I never saw anything more beautiful than the eternal girl passing lightly among Her flowers while doves were flying around Her...»
« Oh! Let us go to Her soon, Lord! That I may see all that as well!» implores Thomas.
« All we need do is quicken our steps and rest less, at night, to arrive in Nazareth in good time » replies Jesus.
« Will You really take me there, Lord?»
« Yes, Thomas, I will. We shall all go to Bethsaida and then to Capernaum, where we shall part. We shall proceed to Tiberias by boat and then to Nazareth. Thus, with the exception of you Judaeans, we shall all be able to get lighter garments, as winter is now over.»
« Yes. And we shall go and say to the Dove: “Rise, make haste, my beloved one, and come, for winter is past, the rains are over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth... Rise, my friend, and come, my dove hiding in the clefts of the rock, show me your face, let me hear your voice.”»
« Well done, John! You sound like a sweetheart singing a song to his girl!» says Peter.
« I am. I am full of love for Mary. I will never see other women excite my love. Except Mary, Whom I love with my whole self.»
« I said the same a month ago, didn't I, Lord?» says Thomas.
« I think that we are all full of love for Her. Such a noble celestial love!... As only that Donna can inspire. And our souls love Her soul completely, our minds love and admire Her intelligence, our eyes admire and delight in Her pure grace, which gives joy without any anxiety, as when one looks at a flower... Mary, the Beauty of the earth, and, I think, the Beauty of Heaven...» says Matthew.
« That is true! We all see in Mary what is sweetest in women: the pure girl, and the most sweet mother. And we do not know whether we love Her more for the former or the latter grace...» says Philip.
« We love Her because She is “Mary.” That's it!» remarks Peter.
Jesus has been listening to them and He says: « You have all spoken very well. Simon Peter is quite right: one loves Mary because She is “Mary”. On our way to Caesarea I told you that only those who join perfect faith to perfect love will be successful in understanding the true meaning of the words: “Jesus, the Christ, the Word, the Son of God and the Son of man.” But I can now tell you that there is another name full of meaning. And it is the name of My Mother. Only those who add perfect faith to perfect love will succeed in understanding the true meaning of the name “Mary”, of the Mother of the Son of God. And the true meaning will begin to appear clearly to the true faithful and loving ones in a dreadful hour of torture, when the Mother is to be tortured with Her Son,when She co-redeems with the Redeemer, in the eyes of the whole world and forever and ever.»
« When?» asks Bartholomew, while they stop by the side of a large stream where many disciples drink.
« Let us stop here and eat our bread. It is midday. We shall be at lake Merom by evening and we shall be able to get boats and shorten our journey » replies Jesus evasively.
They all sit down on the tender grass on the bank of the stream, in the warm sunshine, and John says: « It is a pity to spoil these little flowers, which are so gentle. They look like little bits of the sky, which have fallen here, on these meadows.» There are hundreds and hundreds of myosotis.
« They will grow more beautifully tomorrow. They have bloomed to turn the earth into a dining room for their Lord » says his brother James to comfort him.
Jesus offers and blesses the food and they all eat happily. All the disciples, like sunflowers, are looking at Jesus, Who sat in the center of the row of His apostles.
The meal is soon over, it was made tasty by serenity and pure water. As Jesus remains sitting, no one moves. The disciples move a little to come closer and hear what Jesus is saying to the apostles who have asked Him questions on what He said before about His Mother.
« Yes. Because it would be a great thing indeed to be My Mother according to the flesh. You must consider that Anne of Elkanah is remembered as Samuel's mother. And he was only a prophet. And yet his mother is mentioned because she bore him. Thus, Mary would be remembered with the greatest praise, for giving Jesus, the Savior, to the world. But it would be too little, as compared with what God exacts from Her to fill the measure required for the redemption of the world. Mary will not disappoint God's desire. She has never disappointed Him. She has given and will give Herself completely both with regard to requests of total love and to those of total sacrifice. And when She has accomplished the supreme sacrifice, with Me and for Me, and for the world, then the true faithful and loving believers will understand the real meaning of Her Name. And forever in the future, each true faithful and Loving believer will be granted to know it. The Name of the Great Mother, of the Holy Nurse, Who will nourish all the children of Christ with Her tears, to bring them up for the Life in Heaven.»
« Tears, Lord? Must Your Mother weep?» asks the Iscariot.
« Every mother weeps. And Mine will weep more than any other.»
« Why? I made mine weep sometimes, because I have not always been a good son. But You! You never grieve Your Mother.»
« No. I do not grieve Her as Her Son. But I will deeply distress Her as Redeemer. There are two who will make My Mother weep endless tears: I, to save Mankind, Mankind by its continuous sinning. Every man who has lived, is living or will live, costs Mary tears.»
« Why?» asks James of Zebedee, who is obviously astonished.
« Because every man costs Me suffering to redeem him.»
« But how can You say that with regard to those who are already dead or not yet born? The living, the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees may make You suffer through their charges against You, their jealousy, their wickedness. But nothing more than that» states Bartholomew confidently.
« John the Baptist was also killed... and he is not the only prophet killed by Israel, or the only priest of the eternal Will, killed because he was disliked by those who disobeyed God.»
« But You are greater than a prophet than the Baptist himself, Your Precursor. You are the Word of God. The hand of Israel will not rise against You» says Judas Thaddeus.
« Do you think so, brother? You are wrong» replies Jesus.
« No. It cannot be! That cannot happen! God will not allow it! It would be a perpetual humiliation of His Christ!» Judas Thaddeus is so excited that he stands up.
Jesus also stands up and stares at his pale face and sincere eyes. He says slowly: « And yet, it will happen » and He lowers His right arm, which He had raised, as if He were swearing an oath.
They all stand up and press closer round Him: a circle of sad incredulous faces; voices can be heard whispering: « Of course... if it were really so... Thaddeus would be right.»
« What happened to the Baptist was wrong. But it extolled the man, a hero till the very last. If instead it should happen to the Christ, it would diminish His fame.»
« Christ can be persecuted, but not humiliated.»
« The unction of God is upon Him.»
« Who would continue to believe in You, if they saw You at the mercy of men?»
« We will not allow that.»
James of Alphaeus is the only one who makes no comment. His brother chides him: « Are you not saying anything? Are you not reacting? Have you not heard? Defend the Christ against Himself!»
James does not reply, but he covers his face with his hands and moves aside weeping.
« He is a fool!» utters his brother.
« Perhaps not such a fool as you think» replies Ermasteus. And he goes on: « Yesterday, when explaining the prophecy, the Master spoke of a decomposed body that is recomposed and of a body that will rise from death by itself. I think that one cannot rise again, unless one dies first.»
« But one may die a natural death, or die of old age. And even that would be too much for the Christ!» retorts Thaddeus, and many say that he is right.
« Yes, but in that case, it would not be a sign given to this generation, which is much older than He is » remarks Simon Zealot.
« Of course not. But He did not necessarily speak of Himself » retorts Thaddeus, who is obstinate in his love and respect.
« No one, but the Son of God can rise by oneself from the dead, as no one but the Son of God can be born as He was born. I maintain that, as I saw the glory of His birth » says Isaac as a fully confident witness.
Jesus has been listening to them, looking at each while he was speaking, with His arms folded on His chest. He now makes a gesture that He wants to speak and He says: « The Son of man will be handed over into the power of men because He is the Son of God, but He is also the Redeemer of man. And there is no redemption without suffering. My body, flesh and blood will suffer, to make amends for the sins of the flesh and of the blood. I will suffer morally to make amends for the sins of intentions and passions. And I will suffer spiritually for the sins of souls. My suffering will be complete. Therefore at the appointed time I will be captured in Jerusalem and after suffering grievously at the hands of the Elders and High Pontiffs, of the scribes and Pharisees, I will be sentenced to disgraceful death. And God will let them do so, because it must be so, as I am the Lamb Who is to expiate the sins of the whole world. And in deepest anguish, which My Mother and few more people will share with Me, I will die on the scaffold, and three days later, exclusively through My own divine will, I will rise again to eternal glorious life as Man and once again I will be God in Heaven with the Father and the Spirit. But I must first suffer all infamy and My heart is to be pierced by Falsehood and Hatred.»
A chorus of scandalized shouts spreads through the warm scented springtime air.
Peter, who is also daunted and scandalized, takes Jesus by the arm and pulls Him aside and whispers in His ear: « Oh! Lord! Don't say that. It's not right. See? They are scandalized. You lose their esteem. On no account You must allow that; in any case such a thing will never happen. So why speak of it as something real? You must rise higher and higher in the eyes of men, if You want to assert Your authority, and eventually end by working a last miracle, such as crushing Your enemies. But You must never lower Yourself to the level of a punished criminal.» And Peter looks like a master or a sorrowful father kindly reproaching a son who has said something silly.
Jesus, Who was lightly bent to hear Peter's whispering, straightens Himself up and with a severe countenance and eyes blazing with anger, He shouts so that everybody may hear Him and learn the lesson: « Go away from Me, as you are now Satan advising Me to disobey My Father! But that is why I came! Not to be honored! By advising Me to be proud, disobedient and uncharitably severe, you are spurring Me to evil things. Go away! You are scandalising Me! Do you not understand that greatness does not lie in honors, but in sacrifice and that it is of no importance to be considered worms by men, if God considers us angels? You, foolish man, understand neither God's greatness nor His reasons, and you see, judge, feel and speak according to what is purely human.»
Poor Peter is crushed by the severe reproach and feeling humiliated he moves aside and weeps... But his tears are not the tears of joy of a few days ago. He weeps his heart out because he realizes that he has sinned and has grieved the person whom he loves. And Jesus lets him weep. He takes off His sandals, pulls His clothes up and wades the stream.
The others follow Him silently. No one dare say a word. Poor Peter is the last in the group and in vain Isaac and the Zealot endeavor to console him.
Andrew turns round several times to look at him and then whispers something to John, who is utterly depressed. But John shakes his head in denial. Andrew then makes up his mind. He runs forward and reaches Jesus. He calls Him in a low trembling voice: « Master! Master!...»
Jesus lets him call several times. At last He turns round and with a severe countenance He asks: « What do you want?»
« Master, my brother is distressed... he is weeping...»
« He deserved it.»
« That is true, Master. But he is a man... One can make mistakes when speaking.»
« In fact what he said today was quite wrong » replies Jesus. But He is not quite so severe now and the sparkle of a smile mitigates His divine eyes.
Andrew takes heart again and redoubles his efforts in favor of his brother. « But You are just and You know that he erred through his love for You...»
« Love must be light, not darkness. He turned it into darkness and bandaged his soul with it.»
« That is true, Lord. But bandages can be removed if one wants. It is not as if the spirit itself were in darkness. Bandages are the outside. The spirit is the inside, the living nucleus... The inside of my brother is good.»
« Well, let him remove the bandages that he put on it.»
« He will certainly do so, Lord! He is already doing it. If You turn round You will see how disfigured his face is by tears, which You are not comforting. Why are You so severe with him?»
« Because it is his duty to be the “first”, as I gave him the honor to be so. He who received much, must give much...»
« Oh! Lord! Yes, that is true. But do You not remember Mary of Lazarus? Or John of Endor? Or Aglae? Or the Beautiful woman of Korazim? Or Levi? You gave them everything… and they had only shown You their intention of being redeemed… Lord!... You heard my entreaties on behalf of the Beautiful woman of Korazim and of Aglae... Would You not listen to my entreaties on behalf of Your Simon and mine, who erred through his love for You?»
Jesus looks at His mild apostle who has become bold and insistent in favor of his brother, as he was silently insistent for the beautiful woman of Korazim and Aglae, and His face shines brightly: « Go and call your brother » He says « and bring him here.»
« Oh! Thank You, my Lord! I will go at once...» and he runs away as swiftly as a swallow.
« Come, Simon. The Master is no longer angry with you. Come, because He wants to tell you.»
« No. I am ashamed... He rebuked me only a little while ago... He wants me to reproach me again...»
« How little you know Him! Come on! Do you think that I would take you to Him to make you suffer again? I would not insist if I were not sure that a great joy is expecting you there. Come.»
« But what shall I tell Him?» Peter asks, setting out somewhat reluctantly: he is restrained by his human nature, but at the same time he is urged by his soul that cannot bear to be without Jesus' condescension and love. « What shall I say to Him?» he continues to ask.
« Nothing! Show Him your face and that will be sufficient » his brother says encouraging him.
All the disciples, as the two brothers overtake them, look at them smiling, as they understand what is happening.
They arrive where Jesus is. But at the last moment Peter stops. Andrew wastes no time. With a strong push, as he is wont to do when driving his boat into the lake, he hurls him forward. Jesus stops… Peter raises his face... Jesus lowers His... They look at each other… Two large tears stream down Peter's flushed cheeks...
« Come here, My big rash boy, that I may act as a father and wipe your tears » says Jesus, and He raises the hand on which the scar made by the stone at Giscala is still visible and with His fingers He wipes the two tears.
« Oh! Lord! Have You forgiven me?» asks Peter: in a trembling voice, taking Jesus' hand in his own and looking at Him with loving imploring eyes, as a faithful dog that wants to be forgiven by its angry master.
« I never condemned you...»
« But before...»
« I loved you. It is love not to allow deviations of sentiments and wisdom to strike root in you. You must be the first in everything, Simon Peter.»
« So... so, You still love me? You still want me with You? Not because I want to be the first, You know. I am happy to be even the last one, providing I am with You, at Your service... and I die at your service, Lord, my God!»
Jesus puts His hand round Peter's shoulders and draws him close to Himself.
And Peter, who has been holding the other hand of Jesus all the time, smothers it with kisses... He is happy and whispers: « How much I suffered!... Thank You, Jesus.»
« You had better thank your brother. And in the future make sure you carry your burden with justice and heroism. Let us wait for the others. Where are they?»
They are standing where they were when Peter reached Jesus, to leave the Master free to speak to His mortified apostle. Jesus beckons them to come forward. With them there is a little group of peasants, who had left the work in the fields to come and speak to the disciples.
Jesus, still resting His hand on Peter's shoulder, says: « After what has happened, you have understood that it is a grave matter to be at My service. I reproached him. But My reproach applies to all of you. Because the same thoughts were in most of your hearts, either fully developed or in germ. I have thus demolished them for you, and he who still cherishes them proves that he does not understand My Doctrine, My Mission or My Person.
I have come to be Way, Truth and Life. I give you the Truth through My teaching. I mark out the road, I point it out and level it for you through My sacrifice. But I give Life to you through My Death. And remember that whoever answers My call and follows Me to cooperate in the redemption of the world must be prepared to die to give Life to other people. Thus, whoever wants to follow me must be prepared to deny himself, his old self with its passions, inclinations, customs, traditions and thoughts, and follow Me with his new self.
Let every man take his cross, as I will take Mine. He must take it even if it looks too defamatory to him. He must let the weight of his cross crush his human self to free his spiritual self, which the cross does not fill with horror. On the contrary it is a support and an object of veneration because the spirit knows and remembers. And let him follow Me with his cross. And at the end of his life will an ignominious death be waiting for him, as it is waiting for Me?
It does not matter. He must not grieve over that, on the contrary let him rejoice, because the ignominy of the earth will change into a great glory in Heaven, whereas it will be dishonorable to act in a cowardly way in front of spiritual heroism.
You always state that you are prepared to follow Me and face death with Me. Follow Me, then, and I will lead you to the Kingdom along a hard but holy glorious road, at the end of which you will attain the immutable Life forever. That is “to live”. To follow instead, the ways of the world and of the flesh is “to die”. So he who wants to save his life on the earth will lose it, whereas he who loses his life on the earth for My sake and for the sake of My Gospel, will save it. But remember: of what avail will it be to man to conquer the whole world, if he loses his soul?
And be very careful, both now and in future, not to be ashamed of My words and My deeds. To do so, would be “to die” as well. Because he who is ashamed of Me and of My words among this stupid, adulterous, sinful generation, of which I spoke to you, and in the hope of gaining protection and profit flatters it denying Me and My Doctrine and throwing My words to the foul mouths of pigs and dogs – the recompense of which will be excrement and not money – will be judged by the Son of Man, when He comes in the glory of His Father with angels and saints to judge the world. I will then be ashamed of those adulterers and fornicators, of those cowards and usurers and will expel them from His Kingdom, because in the celestial Jerusalem there is no room for adulterers, cowards, fornicators, blasphemers and thieves. And I solemnly tell you that some of those who are now present among my disciples and women disciples will not savor death before seeing the Kingdom of God being established and its King crowned and anointed.»
They take to the road again talking animatedly while the sun is slowly setting in the sky...