26th February 1946.
They arrive at Judas' country house on a wonderful cool morning. The orchards are wet with dew and the grass beneath the trees is a flowery carpet over which bees are buzzing. The windows of the house are already open. The woman who manages it, a strong woman who moderates her command with great kindness, is giving orders to the servants and peasants and is herself handing out the food to each of them before sending them to their work. Through the large wide open door of the kitchen she can be seen passing backwards and forwards in her dark dress, speaking to this one and that one, and making portions according to the needs of each worker. A flock of doves are cooing before the door, waiting to have their share.
Jesus proceeds smiling and He is almost at the door, when Mary of Simon looks out, with a little bag of corn in her hand, saying: « It's your turn now, my doves. Here is your first meal, then go away happily, in the sunshine, praising the Lord. Be good, be good! There is enough for everyone and there is no need for you to peck one another...» And she scatters the corn in all directions to avoid violent brawls among the greedy doves. She does not see Jesus, because she has stooped to caress also some of the birds, which are pecking her toes out of affection. Mary takes one in her hands and caresses it. She then puts it down, and sighs.
Jesus takes a step forward saying: « Peace to you, Mary, and to your house!»
« The Master!» exclaims the woman, dropping the little bag she was holding under her arm, and she runs towards Jesus, putting the doves to flight, but they immediately alight on the ground and busy themselves pecking the string of the little bag and the bag itself to loosen and open it and thus satisfy their greed.
« Oh! Lord! What a holy and happy day!» and she is about to kneel to kiss Jesus' feet.
But He stops her saying: « The mothers of My apostles and the Holy women of Israel must not lower themselves like slaves in My presence. They have given Me their faithful souls and their sons. I give them love of predilection.»
Judas' mother deeply moved kisses His hands whispering: « Thank You, Lord!» She then raises her head and sees the group of the apostles, who have stopped at the nearest trees, and as she is surprised that her son is not coming to meet her, she looks at them more closely. She turns pale with fear. She almost shouts asking: « My son, where is he?» and she looks at Jesus trembling with fright.
« Be not afraid, Mary. I have sent him with Simon Zealot to Lazarus' house on a mission. If I could have stopped at Masada as long as I had decided, I would have found him here. But I could not stop there. The hostile town rejected Me. And I came here at once to find comfort in a mother and to give her the pleasure of learning that her son is serving the Lord» says Jesus laying stress on the last words, to make them more impressive.
Mary resembles a withered flower that revives. Colour comes back to her cheeks and light to her eyes. She asks: « Really, Lord? Is he good? Are You happy with him? You are? Oh! what joy! Joy of his mother's heart! I have prayed so much! So hard! I gave so many alms! And I did so much penance... so much... And what would I not do to make my son holy? Thanks, my Lord! Thanks for loving him so much. Because it is Your love that saves my Judas...»
« Yes. It is “our” love that... supports him...»
« Our love! How kind You are, Lord! You put my poor love close, nay united to Your divine love!... Oh! what words You have told me! How much certainty, how much comfort and peace You are giving me! If it were only my poor love, Judas would not profit much by it. But You, with Your forgiveness... because You are aware of his faults, You... with Your infinite love, which seems to grow the more he needs it after committing an offence, oh! You... my Judas will be able to control himself, at last, and forever. Is that right, Master?» The woman stares at Him with her deep serious eyes, her hands joined in prayer.
Jesus... oh! Jesus Who cannot reply « yes» but does not wish to deprive her of this hour of peace, finds words, which are neither a lie nor a promise, but which the woman can accept with relief. He says: « His good will joined to our love can work real miracles, Mary. Let peace prevail in your heart always thinking that God loves you so much. He understands you. And He will be your friend forever.»
Mary kisses His hands once again to thank Him. She then says: « Come, then, into my house, awaiting Judas. Love and peace are here, blessed Master.»
And Jesus calls His apostles and enters the house to take some refreshment and to rest.
It is evening. Night falls slowly in the country. Noises cease one after the other and only a light breeze can be heard among the leaves: there is deep silence. Then there is the first cricket in the field full of ripe crops. Then another one... and another... And the whole country chirrs in the monotonous sound... until a nightingale utters its first canorous question to the stars... it becomes silent, then resumes singing. It is silent once again... What is it awaiting? Perhaps the first ray of the moon?... It is now whispering in a low voice, it must have flown to the thick walnut-tree near the house, where perhaps is its nest. It seems to be chattering to its mate that is perhaps brooding... Insistent bleating in the distance. The sound of harness-bells on the Kerioth road. Then silence.
Jesus is sat near Mary on the benches in front of the house. He is resting peacefully among His disciples and the servants of the house. The atmosphere is pleasant and peaceful, relieving both bodies and spirits. Jesus is not talkative, He speaks now and again. He lets the apostles speak of Engedi, of the old head of the synagogue, of the miracle. Mary and the servants are listening diligently.
Something moves near the apple-trees. But whilst here, in the open space before the house, one can see faintly, because it is a clear starry evening, there is no light under the thick trees and one can hear only the noise of something moving.
« A night animal? A lost sheep?» asks several of the apostles. And the mention of a sheep reminds many of the sheep lamenting because they had taken her lamb to kill it.
« That poor sheep cannot resign herself!» says the farmer. « I am afraid her udders will harden. She has not eaten anything all day and she does nothing but bleat... Listen to her!...»
« She'll get over it... They lamb so that we can eat their lambs» says a servant philosophically.
« But they are not all alike. This one is not so stupid and suffers more. Listen! Doesn't it sound like weeping? Don't say that I am silly, Master... It affects me like the weeping of a woman for her lost child...»
« Instead, mother, you have found your child!» says Judas of Kerioth appearing behind them with Simon and making everybody start with surprise. « Master! Bless our return as You blessed our departure.»
« Yes, Judas» and Jesus embraces them both. « And you, too, mother...» Mary also kisses and embraces her son.
« We were not expecting to find you here, Master. We walked untiringly, taking short cuts most of the time to avoid being held back. But we met some disciples and we informed Johanna and Eliza that we shall soon be calling on them» explains Simon.
« Yes. And Simon walked as fast as a young man. Master, we gave the message. Lazarus is very ill. And the heat increases his suffering. He implores You to go to him soon... Master, with the exception of the Antonia, where I went to please Eglah who wanted to thank Claudia before leaving for Jericho, I did not go anywhere else. Is that right, Simon?»
« Yes, that is true. And we went to the Antonia at the sixth hour, on a sultry day, when it was wise to stay at home. While Judas was speaking to Claudia, whom Albula Domitilla had called into the garden, I was asked questions by the other women. I do not think I did the wrong thing in explaining, as best I could, what they wanted to know.»
« You did the right thing. They are really anxious to know the truth.»
« And Claudia is really willing to help You. She dismissed Eglah, who went to greet Plautina and the other women, and she asked me many questions. If I understood her properly she wants to persuade Pontius not to believe the slander of Pharisees, Sadducees and so on. Pontius trusts his centurions only to a certain extent, as they are good warriors but not such good messengers. And he often makes use of his wife, who must be very intelligent and shrewd, to have precise information. Claudia is really the true Proconsul. He must be a nonentity and keeps his position only because she is so powerful and advises him. They gave us some money for Your poor. Here it is.»
« When did you arrive? Are you not tired and dusty?» asks James of Zebedee.
« Between the third and the sixth hour. We went to Kerioth to see whether my mother was there and inform her of your arrival. But I behaved as You wish, Master. I did not give in to human desires. Is that true, Simon?»
« Yes, it is true.»
« Very well. Be always obedient and you will be saved.»
« Yes, Master. Oh! now that I know that Claudia is with us, I will no longer be led by my foolish haste. But it was all for the sake of love. You must agree. Disorderly love... because it felt as if it were not protected, as if it had no help to reach its purpose, which is to have You loved, respected as You deserve, and as it must be. Now I am calmer. I am no longer afraid. And it is pleasant also to wait...» says Judas day-dreaming.
« Do not give free course to dreams, Judas. Follow the truth. I am the Light of the world and light will always be disliked by darkness...» warns Jesus.
The moon has risen. In its white light the country shines, faces look pale, houses and trees are like silver. The eastern side of the walnut tree is fully lit. The nightingale accepts the lunar invitation and begins its long melodious song, which it had kept in reserve, to greet the moon and night.