357. At Pella.

12th December 1945. prev home next

The road which takes one from Gadara to Pella runs through a fertile area between two rows of hills, one higher than the other. They look like two huge steps of a staircase for fabulous giants, to climb from the Jordan valley up to the Hauran mountains. Where the road runs closer to the western mountain-terrace, the view extends not only as far as the mountains on the other bank, which I think are those of southern Galilee and certainly those of Samaria, but it reaches also the beautiful green vegetation that forms a double hedge along both sides of the blue river. Where, instead, the road is closer to the eastern chain, then one loses sight of the Jordan valley, but the green mountain tops of the Samaria and Galilean chains can still be seen standing out against the grey sky on a sunny day it would be a beautiful view with charming bright hues. But today the sky is already overcast with low clouds, driven by sirocco, which is becoming stronger and stronger and blows fresh masses of clouds onto those already existing, lowering the sky with so much grey ruffled wadding, and thus the view loses its bright green shades, which look toned down as if they were seen through mist.

A village is reached now and again and left behind without anything remarkable happening. The Master is received with and followed by indifference. Only beggars show interest in the group of Galilean pilgrims and ask for alms. And there are the usual blind people whose eyes in most cases have been destroyed by trachoma, or the almost blind people, who walk with lowered heads, as they cannot bear light, along the walls, all alone or in the company of a woman or a boy. In a village, where the road to Pella crosses the Bozrah-Gerasa road to the lake of Tiberias, there is a crowd of blind people who assail the caravans with their moaning, which resembles the whining of dogs and is interrupted now and again by howling. They are standing against the walls of the first houses, listening, in a group of misery, filth and rags, nibbling bread-crusts and olives, or dozing, while flies feed at will on their ulcerated eye-lids; but at the first noise of hooves or shuffling of feet they all stand up and move like a ragged chorus of an ancient tragedy, uttering the same words and making the same gestures to the new-comers. When a coin or a crust of bread is thrown to them, the blind or half blind people grope in the dust and filth for the offering.

Jesus watches them and says to Simon Zealot and Philip: « Take some money and bread to them. Judas has the money, John the bread.»

The two go away promptly to do what they were told and they stop to speak, while Jesus comes forward slowly, as He is delayed by a line of donkeys, which bar the road.

The beggars are amazed at the greetings and kindness with which they are spoken to and assisted by the new-comers and they asks: « Who are you, who are so kind to us?»

« The disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, the Rabbi of Israel. He, Who loves the poor and the unhappy because He is the Saviour, and He passes by, announcing the Gospel and working miracles.»

« This is the miracle» says one whose eyelids are dreadfully ravaged. And he strikes his clean piece of bread, like an animal that understands and appreciates only material things.

A woman, who is passing by holding copper pitchers and has heard him, says: « Be quiet, you dirty sluggard.» She then addresses the disciples saying: « He is not of our village. He is quarrelsome and violent to his fellow-men. He should be driven away because he robs the poor of the village. But we are afraid he may take vengeance upon us», then in a very low voice, which can hardly be heard, she whispers: « They say that he is a robber and for years he has been robbing and killing, and he came down from the mountains of Caracamoab and Sela, which is now called Petra by the rulers, those who make roads in the deserts. They say that he is a deserter from the army of that Roman who came... to make Rome known... Helius, I think, and another name... If you give him a drink, he will tell you... Now he is blind and he happened to come here... Is that the Saviour?» she asks, pointing at Jesus, Who has gone straight on.

« Yes, He is. Do you want to speak to Him?»

« Oh! no!» says the woman with indifference.

The two apostles say goodbye to her and they set out to join the Master. But a riot breaks out among the blind people while a child is heard weeping. Several people turn round and the woman seen previously, who is now standing at the door of her house, says: « It must be that cruel man taking the money from the weaker ones. He always does that.»

Jesus also turns round to look...

In fact a boy, or rather a youth, comes out of the group bleeding and weeping and he complains: « He took everything from me! And my mother has no more bread!»

Some pity him, some laugh at him...

« Who is he?» Jesus asks the woman.

« A youth from Pella. He is poor and comes here begging. They are all blind in the family, as they have infected one another. The father died and the mother stays at home. The youth asks passersby and peasants for alms.»

The young fellow comes forward with his little stick, wiping his tears and the blood streaming down his forehead with the edge of his worn-out mantle.

The woman calls him: « Stop, Jaia. I will wash your forehead and give you some bread!»

« I had money and bread for several days! I have nothing now! Mother is waiting for me to have something to eat...» complains the unhappy youth while wiping his forehead with the water of the woman.

Jesus moves forward and says: « I will give you what I have. Do not weep.»

« But, Lord! Why? How will we pay for our lodgings? What shall we do?» asks Judas anxiously.

« We will praise the Lord for keeping us healthy. It is a great grace.»

The youth says: « Oh! It is indeed. If I could see! I would work for my mother.»

« Would you like to be cured?»

« Yes, I would.»

« Why do you not go to a doctor?»

« None of them has ever cured us. We have been told that there is One in Galilee, Who is not a doctor, but can cure. But how can one go to Him?»

« Go to Jerusalem. To Gethsemane. It is an olive grove on the side of the mount of Olives near the road to Bethany. Ask for Mark and Jonah. Everyone in the district of Ophel will tell you. You can join a caravan. There are so many going by. Ask Jonah where Jesus of Nazareth is...»

« That's it! That is the name! Will He cure me?»

« He will, if you have faith.»

« I have faith. Where are You going, Who are so good?»

« To Jerusalem, for Passover.»

« Oh! Take me with You. I will not cause You any trouble. I will sleep in the open air and a piece of bread will be quite enough for me! Let us go to Pella... You are going there, are You not? And we will tell my mother, and then we will go... Oh! If I could see! Be good, Lord!...» And the youth kneels down searching for Jesus' feet to kiss them.

« Come. I will take you to the light.»

« May You be blessed!»

They resume walking and Jesus' tapering fingers hold the youth by the arm to guide him with dispatch. And the youth asks: « Who are You? A disciple of the Saviour?»

« No.»

« But do You know Him, at least?»

« Yes, I do.»

« And do You think that He will cure me?»

« I do.»

« But... will He want money? I have none. Doctors ask for so much! We have gone to ruin to be cured...»

« Jesus of Nazareth wants but faith and love.»

« He is very good, then. But You are good, too» says the youth and to take the hand leading him and caress it, he feels the sleeve of the tunic. « What a fine garment You have! You are a gentleman! Are You not ashamed of me, as I am in rags?»

« I am ashamed only of sins, which disgrace man.»

« My fault is that at times I complain of my situation and I want warm clothes, bread, and above all sight.»

Jesus caresses him: « Those are not disgracing faults. But try to avoid even those imperfections and you will be holy.»

« If I get cured, I will no longer have them... Or... I do not get cured, and You will know, and will You prepare me for my destiny, and teach me to become holy like Job?»

« You will be cured. But afterwards, above all afterwards, you must always be happy with your condition even if it is not one of the most pleasant ones.»

They arrive at Pella. The kitchen gardens, which are always met outside towns, show the fertility of the soil through their luxuriant vegetation. Some women working in the fields or busy with their laundry greet Jaia and say to him: « You are back early today. Had you a good day?» Or: « Have you found a protector, poor son?» An elderly woman shouts from the far end of her kitchen garden: « Jaia! If you are hungry there is a plate of soup for you. Or for your mother. Are you going home? Take it.»

« I am going to tell my mother that I am going with this kind gentleman to Jerusalem to be cured. He knows Jesus of Nazareth and will take me there.»

The road, near the gate of Pella, is crowded with people. There are some merchants and also some pilgrims.

A fine looking woman, travelling on a donkey's back, in the company of a maidservant and a servant, turns round on hearing Jesus being mentioned, then draws rein, stops the donkey, dismounts and goes towards Jesus. « Do You know Jesus of Nazareth? Are You going to Him? I am going too... To have a son cured. I would like to speak to the Master because...» she bursts into tears under her thick veil.

« What is the matter with your son? Where is he?»

« He is from Gerasa. But now he is going towards Judaea. He wanders about like one possessed... Oh! What have I said!»

« Is he possessed?»

« Lord, he was and he was cured. Now... he is worse than before because... Oh! I can only tell Jesus of Nazareth!»

« James, take the boy between you and Simon and go on with the others. Wait for Me on the other side of the gate. Woman, you can send your servants on. We will be able to speak to each other, just the two of us.»

The woman says: « But You are not the Nazarene! To Him only I will speak. Because He only can understand and have mercy.»

They are now alone. The others have all gone ahead on their own. Jesus waits until the road is clear and then says: « You may speak. I am Jesus of Nazareth.»

The woman utters a deep groan and is about to fall on her knees.

« No. People must not know for the time being. Let us go. There is a house that is open over there. We will ask them to let us rest and we will be able to speak. Come.»

Along a lane between two kitchen gardens they go to a house of common people where children are romping on the threshing floor.

« Peace be with you. Will you allow Me to let this woman rest here for a few minutes? I must speak to her. We have come from far away to speak to each other and God has made us meet before the appointed place.»

« Come in. A guest is a blessing. We will give you milk and bread and some water for your tired feet» says an old woman.

« It is not necessary. All we need is a quiet place where we can talk.»

« Come» and she takes them to a terrace decked with a vine blossoming with emerald-green leaves.

They are left alone. « Speak, woman. I have already said that God made us meet before the end of our journey, for your relief.»

« There is no more relief for me! I had a son. He became possessed. He behaved like a wild beast among sepulchres. Nothing stopped him. Nothing cured him. He saw You. He adored You with the demon's lips and You cured him. He wanted to come with You. But You thought of his mother and you sent him to me, to restore my life and mind, which the grief of a possessed son made vacillate. And You sent him also to preach You, since he wanted to love You. Oh!... to be a mother once again... and of a holy son! Of a servant of Yours! But tell me! When You sent him back to me, did You know that he was... that he would become a demon again? Because he is a demon, who has left You after receiving so much good, after knowing You, after being chosen for Heaven... Tell me! Did You know? But I am raving! I am speaking but I have not told You why he is a demon... For some time he has become like a madman again, oh! only a few days! but much more grievous to me than the long years when he was possessed... And then I thought I could never be more grieved than then... He came... he destroyed the faith that Gerasa had for You through Your merit and his, and he spoke infamously of You. And he is preceding You towards the ford of Jericho, doing harm to You!»

The woman, who has never removed the veil behind which she is sobbing desolately, throws herself at Jesus' feet imploring: « Go away! go away! Don't let them insult You! I came away in full agreement with my sick husband, praying God that I would find You. He heard my prayer! Oh! May He be blessed for that! I do not want You, the Saviour, to be ill-treated because of my son! I will not allow that! Oh! why did I bring him into the world? He betrayed You, Lord! He misreports Your words. The demon has taken him once again. And... oh! Most High and Holy Lord! Have mercy on a mother! And he will be damned. My son! Previously it was not his fault if he was possessed by demons. It was a misfortune, which befell him. But now that You had cured him, now that he had known God and had been taught by You! Now he wanted to be a demon and no power will free him again! Oh!» The woman is lying on the ground, a heap of clothes and flesh shaken by sobs. And she moans: « Tell me, tell me, what must I do for You, for my son? To make amends! To save him! No. To make amends! You can see that my grief is atonement. But to save him! I cannot save the disowner of God. He is damned... And what is that to me, an Israelite? It's torture.»

Jesus bends. He lays a hand on her shoulder. « Stand up, calm down! You are dear to Me. Listen, poor mother.»

« Are You not cursing me because I gave birth to him?!»

« Oh! no! You are not responsible for his error, and for your own relief you must know that you can bring about his salvation. The ruin of sons can be repaired by mothers. And that is what you will do. Your grief, since it is sincere, is not sterile, it is prolific. The soul you love will be saved through your suffering. You are expiating for him, and with such righteous intention that you are the indulgence of your son. He will go back to God. Do not weep.»

« But when? When?»

« When your tears will dissolve in My Blood.»

« Your Blood? So it is true what he says? That You will be killed because You deserve death?... Horrible blasphemy!»

« The first part is really true. I shall be killed to make you worthy of Life. I am the Saviour, woman. And salvation is granted through word, through mercy and through holocaust. That is what is required for your son and that is what I will give. But... help Me. Give Me your grief. Go with My blessing. Keep it in your heart, so that you may be merciful and patient with your son, and remind him thus, that Another One was merciful to him. Go, go in peace.»

« But You must not speak at Pella. Don't speak in Perea. He has set them against You. And he is not alone. But I see and speak only of him...»

« I will speak by means of a deed. And it will suffice to demolish the work of the others. Go home in peace.»

« Lord, now that You have absolved me for giving birth to him, look at my face, that You may know what the face of a mother is like when her heart is torn to pieces» and she uncovers her face saying: « Here is the face of the mother of Mark of Josiah, the denier of the Messiah and the torturer of his mother» and then she lowers the thick veil over her face disfigured by weeping and moans: « No other mother in Israel will be as deep in grief as I am!»

They leave the hospitable house and take to the road again. They enter Pella and the woman joins her servants and Jesus His disciples. But the woman follows Him, as if she were fascinated, while Jesus follows the youth who is going towards his hovel, situated in a basement of a building leaning against the side of the mountain, which is typical of this town built on mountain terraces, so that the ground on the western side is the first floor of the eastern side, but in actual fact, it is ground even there, because one can reach it from the overhanging road, which is on the same level as the top floor. I do not know whether I have made myself understood.

The boy shouts in a loud voice: « Mother! Mother!»

A blind woman, who is still young and moves about freely and easily, as she is familiar with the surroundings, comes out of the dark miserable cave. « Are you already back, my son? Have the alms been so bountiful as to allow you to come back while the sun is still high?»

« Mother, I found one who knows Jesus of Nazareth, and who says he will take me to Him to be cured. He is very kind. Will you let me go, mother?»

« Of course, Jaia! Even if I have to remain alone, you may go, and may you be blessed and look at the Saviour also on my behalf!» The consent and the faith of the woman are total.

Jesus smiles. He says: « Woman, do you not doubt Me or the Saviour?»

« No, I don't. If You know Him and are His friend, You must be good, too. And with regard to Him!... Go, son. Don't wait a moment. Give me a kiss and go with God.»

They kiss each other, groping...

Jesus leaves on the coarse table a loaf of bread and some coins. « Goodbye, woman. You can buy food for yourself with what I left here. Peace be with you.»

They come out. The group resumes walking while the first drops of rain fall. « Are we not stopping? It is raining...» say the apostles.

« We will stop at Jabesh-Gilead. Walk on now.»

They pull their mantles over their heads and Jesus covers the head of the boy with His own. The mother of Mark of Josiah follows Him with her servants, on her little donkey. She seems to be unable to part from Him.

They leave Pella. They advance into the green country, which looks sad in the rainy day.

After about a kilometre Jesus stops. He takes the head of the blind boy in His hands and kisses his blind eyes saying: « And now go back. Go and tell your mother that the Lord rewards those who have faith and tell the people in Pella that I am the Lord.» He lets the boy go and moves away quickly.

But within less than three minutes the boy shouts: « But I can see! Oh! Don't run away! You are Jesus! Let me see You as the first thing!» and he falls on his knees on the wet road.

The Gerasene woman and her servants on one side, the apostles on the other run to see the miracle.

Jesus also comes back, slowly, smiling. He bends to caress the boy. « Go, go to your mother and believe in Me... always.»

« Yes, my Lord... But nothing for my mother?! Is she to remain in the dark, although she believes as I do?»

Jesus smiles more broadly. He looks around and on the roadside He sees a bunch of daisies wet with rain. He bends and picks them, He blesses them and hands them to the boy. « Pass them on Your mother's eyes, and she will see. I am not coming back. I must go on. Let those who are good follow Me with their souls and speak of Me to those who are doubtful. Speak of Me to the people of Pella, whose faith is wavering. Go. God is with you.»

He then turns to the woman of Gerasa: « And you follow him. This is the reply of God to all those who are trying to weaken the faith of men in the Christ. And let that strengthen your faith and Josiah's. Go in peace.»

They part. Jesus resumes His march southwards. The boy, the Gerasene woman and the servants go northwards. The heavy rain separates them like a veil of smoke...

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