16th December 1945.
They are now on the other side of the Jordan and they are walking fast southwestwards, towards a second chain of hills, higher than the first one, beyond which is the Jordan plain. I gather from their conversation that they came away from the plain to avoid the mud that they left on the other side and they are thinking of going to their destination along internal routes, which are better kept and more practicable, for walking, particularly in wet weather.
« Whereabouts are we?» asks Matthew who finds his bearings with difficulty.
« We are certainly between Shiloh and Bethel. I recognise the mountains» says Thomas. « We passed here not long ago with Judas, who was the guest of a Pharisee at Bethel.»
« You could have been his guest, too, but you would not come. Neither he nor I said to you: “Do not come.”»
« I am not saying that you did say so. I am only saying that I preferred to stay with the disciples who were evangelizing here.»
And the argument is over. Andrew in fact is glad and says: « If there are friendly Pharisees in Bethel, we shall not be attacked.»
« But we are going in the other direction, not to Jerusalem» they point out to him. « We shall have to go there for Passover in any case! I don't know how we shall manage...»
« Of course! Why did He say that He is going back to Cana? The women could have come back and we could have made our pilgrimage...»
« It is my wife's destiny that she should not spend Passover in Jerusalem!» exclaims Peter.
John asks Jesus Who is talking animatedly to the Zealot: « Master, how shall we manage to go and come back in time?»
« I do not know. I trust in God. If we are late, it will not be My fault.»
« You were right in being prudent» says the Zealot.
« Oh! As far as I am concerned, I would have gone on. Because it is not yet My hour. I can feel that. But how would you all have put up with the adventure, considering that for some time you have been so... tired?»
« Master... You are right. A demon seems to have been blowing poison among us. We have changed so much!»
« Man does get tired. He wants things quickly. And he dreams of silly things. When he realises that his dreams are different from reality, he becomes upset and, if he is not of good will, he surrenders. He does not remember that the Almighty, Who could have made the Universe out of Chaos in a moment, made it in orderly separate stages in periods of time called days. From the spiritual Chaos of the whole world I have to make the Kingdom of God. And I will do so. I will build its foundations, I am now building them, and I have to split a very hard rock to lay the foundations that will not collapse. You will slowly build the walls. Your successors will continue the work, both in height and in width. As I shall die in the work, so will you and there will be many more who will die with or without bloodshed, consumed by this work for which spirit of sacrifice and generosity, tears, blood and endless patience are required...»
Peter thrusts his grey-haired head between Jesus and John: « Do you mind telling me what you are saying?»
« Oh! Simon! Come here. We were talking of the future Church. I was explaining that, contrary to your hurry, your tiredness, your discouragement and so forth, it exacts calm, perseverance, exertion and trust. I was saying that the sacrifice of each of its members is required. Starting with Me, the Founder. I am, in fact, its mystical Head, for you, for all the disciples, for all those who will be called Christians and will belong to the universal Church. And really in the great classification of the hierarchy the most humble people, who seem to be simple “numbers”, will be the ones who will make the Church truly vital. In actual fact I will often have to seek refuge in them, to continue to keep alive the faith and the strength of the continuously renewed apostolic colleges, and I will have to allow those apostles to be tortured by Satan and by envious, proud, incredulous men. And their moral martyrdom will not be less painful than a material one, as they will find themselves between the active will of God and the wicked will of man, who will act as an instrument of Satan and by every means and effort will endeavour to make them appear as mendacious, mad, possessed persons, in order to paralyze My work in them and the fruits of My work, which are as many victorious blows against the Beast.»
« And will they resist?»
« They will resist, even if I am not physically with them. They will have to believe not only what is their duty to believe, but also in their secret mission, and they will have to believe that it is holy and useful, and that it originated from Me, while Satan will hiss around them to terrorise them and the world will shout to deride them and the not always perfectly bright ministers of God to condemn them. That is the destiny of My future voices. And yet I will have no other means to rouse men and bring them back to the Gospel and to the Christ! But for everything I have asked of them and imposed on them and received from them, oh! I will grant them eternal joy, a special glory. In Heaven there is a closed book. God only can read it. All the truth is contained in it. But God at times removes the seals and revives the truth already revealed to men, selecting a man, chosen for that destiny, to know past, present and future, as contained in that mysterious book. Have you ever seen a son, the best in the family, or a schoolboy, the most clever at school, being called by his father or teacher to read a book for adults and have it explained to him? He stands beside his father or teacher, embraced by one of their arms, while the other hand of the father or teacher points at the lines which he wants to be read and understood by his dearest child. God behaves likewise with those consecrated to such destiny. He draws them to Himself and holds them with His arm and forces them to read what He wants, and to understand the meaning and to repeat it later and suffer derision and grief because of it. I, the Man, am the Founder of the family of those who speak the Truth of the heavenly book, and I therefore suffer mockery, grief and death. But the Father is already preparing My Glory. And once I have risen to it, I will prepare the glory of those whom I compelled to read in the closed book that which I wanted, and in the presence of the whole risen Mankind and of the angelical choruses I will point them out for what they were, calling them beside Me while I open the seals of the Book, which it will no longer be necessary to keep closed, and they will smile seeing and reading once again the words that were clarified to them when they suffered on the earth.»
« And what about the others?» asks John who has paid great attention to the lesson.
« Which others?»
« The others, who like me have not read that book on the earth, will they never know what it says?»
« Everything will be known to the blessed souls in Heaven. Being engrossed in the Infinite Wisdom, they will know.»
« Immediately As soon as they die?»
« As soon as they enter Life.»
« Why then on the Last Day You will let everybody see that You call them to know the Book?»
« Because not only the blessed souls will be there to see that. All Mankind will be there. And on the side of the damned souls there will be many who laughed at the voices of God, as if they were the voices of mad or possessed people and tormented them because of their gift. It will be a long expected but fair revenge granted to those martyrs of the dull wickedness of the world.»
« How beautiful it will be to see all that!» exclaims John enraptured.
« Yes. And to see all the Pharisees grind their teeth, seized with anger» says Peter rubbing his hands.
« Oh! I think I will look only at Jesus and the blessed souls reading the Book with Him...» replies John, dreaming of that hour, while his light-blue eyes, lost in I wonder what vision of light, are made brighter by emotional tears, which have welled in them, and an innocent smile appears on his red lips.
The Zealot looks at him; Jesus also looks at him. But Jesus does not say anything. The Zealot instead says: « You will look at yourself, then! Because if among us there is one who will be the “voice of God” on the earth and will be elected to read the passages of the sealed Book, you are that one, John, the favourite disciple of Jesus and the friend of God.»
« Oh! Do not say that! I am the most ignorant among you. And if Jesus did not say that the Kingdom of God belongs to children, I would think that I could never enter it, as I am good for nothing. Is that right, Master, that my only merit is that I am like a child?»
« Yes, you belong to blessed childhood. And may you be blessed because of that!»
They continue to walk for some time, then Peter, who looks back along the track on which they are, exclaims: « Merciful Providence! That is the women's wagon!»
They all turn round. It is in fact Johanna's heavy wagon that is coming forward drawn by two strong horses. They stop waiting for it. As the leather tilt is completely lowered, it is not possible to see who is in the wagon. Jesus beckons to the driver to stop and the man utters an exclamation of joy when he sees Jesus standing on the edge of the road with His arm raised.
While the man stops the two panting horses, the lean face of Isaac appears through an opening in the tilt: « The Master!» he shouts. « Mother, rejoice! He is here!»
One can hear voices of women and shuffling of feet in the wagon, but before one of them gets off, Manaen, Marjiam and Isaac have jumped down and are worshipping the Master.
« Are you still here, Manaen?»
« I have remained faithful to orders, particularly now, as the women are afraid... But... We obeyed, because it is our duty to obey, but I can assure You that there was nothing to worry about. I know for certain that Pilate has called riotous fellows to order, stating that anyone giving rise to rebellions during the feast days would be severely punished. I think that Pilate's wife and above all her lady friends are connected with such protection. At the Court we know everything and nothing. But we know enough...» and Manaen moves to one side to make room for Mary, Who has got off the wagon and has walked a few steps towards them, and is clearly very anxious and deeply moved.
They kiss each other while all the women disciples worship the Master. Neither Mary nor Martha of Lazarus are there.
Mary whispers: « How much anguish since that evening! How everybody hates You, Son!» and tears stream down the red lines left on Her face by the many tears shed during the previous days.
« But You can see that the Father sees to everything. So do not weep! I defy all the hatred of the world bravely. But one tear of Yours depresses Me. Cheer up, Holy Mother!» and embracing Her with one arm, He turns round to greet the women disciples, and particularly Johanna, who came back to accompany Mary.
« Oh! Master! There is no difficulty in staying with Your Mother. Mary was held up in Bethany because her brother is suffering so much. So I came. I left the children with the wife of the guardian of the mansion, as she is kind and motherly. But there is also Chuza to look after them, so You can imagine whether Matthias, who is my husband's pet, will lack anything! But Chuza also told me that it was not necessary to leave. The Proconsul's warning has caused Herodias also to draw her claws in. The Tetrarch, too, is trembling with fear and he is worried about one thing only: that Herodias may ruin him in the eyes of Rome. The death of John has destroyed many situations that were favourable to Herodias. And Herod is fully aware that the people are against him because of John's murder. The old fox realises that the worst punishment for him would be to lose the hateful illusory protection of Rome. The people would attack him at once. So do not worry! He will do nothing on his own initiative!»
« In that case, let us go back to Jerusalem! You can proceed without any fear about your safety. Let us go. Let the women get into the wagon again, and Matthew and whoever is tired will go with them. We will rest at Bethel. Let us go.»
The women obey. Matthew and Bartholomew go with them, The others prefer to follow the wagon on foot together with Manaen, Isaac and Marjiam. And Manaen tells them how he inquired to find out how much truth there was in the boasting of the Herodian who had caused so much anxiety in the peaceful gathering at Bethany, near Lazarus « who was suffering so much» says Manaen.
« Did a woman come to Bethany?»
« No, Lord. But we have been away three days. Who is she?»
« A disciple. I will give her to Eliza because she is young, alone and without means.»
« Eliza is in Johanna's mansion. She wanted to come. But she has a bad cold. She was dying to see You. She used to say: “But do you not understand that the sight of Him gives me peace?”»
« I will give her also joy through this young woman. And what about you, Marjiam.? Are you not saying anything?»
« I am listening, Master.»
« The boy listens and writes. He makes this one and that one repeat Your words and he writes them. But have we repeated them correctly?» says Isaac.
« I will examine the work of My disciple and add anything which should be missing» says Jesus caressing the bronzed cheek of Marjiam. And He asks: « And what about your old father? Have you seen him?»
« Oh! yes! He did not recognise me. He wept for joy. But we shall see him at the Temple, because Ishmael is sending them. He has even given them more days this year. He is afraid of You.»
« I should think so! After what happened to Hananiah in the month of Shebat!» says Peter laughing.
« But the fear of God does not build, it demolishes. It is not friendship. It is only expectation that often changes into hatred. But everybody gives what one can...»
They go on their way and I lose sight of them.