31st March 1946.
Here also the reapers are working hard. Nay, it would be better to say: the reapers have worked hard. Sickles, in fact, are no longer needed, as not one ear has been left uncut, the fields being closer to the Mediterranean shores than Nicodemus'. Jesus in fact has not gone to Arimathea, but to Joseph's estate in the plain, towards the sea, and the fields here before harvest time must have looked like another little sea of ears, they are so large.
In the middle of the bare fields there is a low, wide white house: a country house, but well kept. Its four threshing-floors are being filled with sheaves arranged in groups, as soldiers do with baggage-trains when they stop at camps. Numerous carts carry the precious goods from the fields to the threshing-floors, where many men unload them and pile them up, while Joseph moves from one threshing-floor to another, checking that everything is done properly.
From the top of a heap on a cart a peasant announces: « Master, we have finished. All the corn is on your threshing-floors. This is the last cart of the last field.»
« Very well. Unload the cart, unyoke the oxen and take them to the watering place and then to the stables. They have worked hard and deserve a rest. And you all have done a good job and deserve a rest. But the last job will be a light one because kind hearts are relieved by the joy of other people. We shall now get the children of God to come here and we will give them the gift of the Father. Abraham, go and call them» he then says addressing a patriarchal peasant, who is perhaps the first of the peasant servants in Joseph's estate. I think he must be, because I see that the other servants have great respect for the old man, who does not work, but supervises and assists the master with his advice.
And the old man goes... I can see him direct his steps to a very low large building, which is more like a shed than a house, with two huge doors which reach up to the eaves gutter. I think that it is a kind of storehouse where carts and other agricultural implements are kept. He goes in and then comes out followed by a miserable heterogeneous crowd of people of every age... and of every degree of misery. There are emaciated people but without any physical defect, and there are cripples, blind and maimed persons, and people with diseased eyes... Many widows with little orphans around them, and wives of sick men, sad, shabby, feeble through waking and sacrificing themselves to cure their husbands.
They come forward with the typical aspect of poor people going to a place where they will be assisted: with shy countenance, the bashfulness of the honest poor, but, nevertheless, with a smile which just appears on their lips shading the sadness impressed on their wan faces by days of sorrow, but, nevertheless with a tiny spark of triumph, which is almost a reply to the ruthless obstinacy of destiny during continuous sad days, as if to say: « Today is a feast-day also for us, it is a feast, mirth, relief for us!»
The little ones open their eyes wide before the heaps of sheaves, which are higher than the house, and pointing at them they say to their mothers: « Are they for us? Oh! How lovely!» The old people whisper: « May the Blessed One bless the merciful one!» The beggars, cripples, the blind and maimed people and those with defective sight: « We also shall have bread at last, without having to stretch out our hands begging for it!» And the sick people say to their relatives: « At least we shall be able to follow treatment knowing that you are not suffering because of us. Medicines will do us good, now.» And relatives reply to the sick people: « See? Now you will no longer say that we fast to let you have a morsel of bread. So be happy now!...» And the widows to their little orphans: « Dear children, we will have to bless the Father in Heaven most sincerely, as He acts as your father, and also good Joseph who is His administrator. Now we shall not hear you cry any more because you are hungry, poor children, who have but your mothers to assist you... Poor mothers who have no riches but their hearts...» It is a joyful chorus and sight, but it also makes tears well up in one's eyes...
And when the unhappy crowd is before him, Joseph begins to walk up and down their lines, calling them one by one, asking how many they are in the family, how long have they been widows, or ill and so on... and he takes notes. And for each case he gives instructions to the peasant servants: « Give ten. Give thirty.»
« Give sixty» he says after listening to an almost blind old man who comes up to him with seventeen grandchildren, all under twelve, the children of a son and a daughter of his who died, the former at reaping time the previous year, the latter of childbirth... and the old man says: « her husband consoled himself getting married again after one year, and he sent his five children to me saying that he would see to them. Instead, never one penny!... Now my wife also died and I am left... with these...»
« Give sixty to the old father. And you, father, wait here, later I will give you some clothes for the little ones.»
The servant points out that if they continue to give sixty sheaves every time, there will not be enough corn for everybody...
« And where is your faith? Am I perhaps storing up the sheaves for myself and sharing them out? No. No they are for the children dearest to the Lord. The Lord Himself will see that there is enough for everybody» replies Joseph to the servant.
« Yes, master. But numbers are numbers...»
« And faith is faith. And to show you that faith can do everything, I order you to double the quantities given to the first ones. Let him who had ten have ten more, and who had twenty, twenty more and give the old man one hundred and twenty. Go! Do that!»
The servants shrug their shoulders and carry out the order. And the distribution continues while the amazed beneficiaries rejoice seeing that they are receiving a quantity that exceeds the most optimistic hopes. And Joseph smiles, caressing the little ones who are busy helping their mothers, or he helps the cripples who are arranging their little piles, he helps those who are too old to do so, or the women who are too emaciated, and he has two sick people put to one side to let them have further assistance, as he did the old man with seventeen grandchildren.
The piles which were higher than the house, are now very low, almost on ground level. But everybody has had his share, and an abundant one. Joseph asks: « How many sheaves are there still left?»
« One hundred and twelve, master» reply the servants after counting the remainder.
« Well. You will take...» Joseph glances over the list of names which he had written, and then he says: « You will take fifty and put them aside for seed, because it is holy seed. And the rest will be given one each to every head of the family who is present here. They are exactly sixty-two.»
The servants obey. They take fifty sheaves under a porch and hand out the rest. Now there are no more huge golden piles on the threshing-floors. But on the ground there are sixty-two little heaps, of different sizes, and their owners are busy tying them and loading them on to rudimentary wheelbarrows, or on stunted little donkeys that they untied from a fence at the rear of the house.
Old Abraham, who has been chatting with the main peasant servants, approaches his master along with them and the master asks him: « Well? Have you seen? There was enough for everybody! And with surplus!»
« Master! There is a mystery here! Our fields cannot have yielded all the sheaves that you have distributed. I was born here and I am seventy-eight years old. I have been reaping for sixty-six. And I know. My son is right. Without a mystery we could not have given so much!...»
« But it is a matter of fact that we have given them, Abraham. You were beside me. The sheaves were handed out by the servants. There is no sorcery. It is not a dream. You can still count the sheaves. They are still there, although divided into many lots.»
« Yes, master. But... It is not possible that the fields have yielded so many!»
« And what about faith, my children? What about faith? What shall we do with our faith? Could the Lord belie His servant who made a promise in His Name and for a holy purpose?»
« Then, you have worked a miracle?!» exclaim the servants, ready to sing hosannas.
« I am not the type of man who works miracles. I am a poor man. The Lord worked it. He read my heart and saw two wishes in it: the first one was to lead you to my faith. The second was to give much, so much to these unhappy brothers of mine. God consented to my desires... and He worked. May He be blessed for that!» says Joseph bowing reverently as if he were before an altar...
« And His servant with Him» says Jesus Who has been in hiding hitherto behind the corner of a little house surrounded by a hedge; I do not know whether it is the bakehouse or the oil-mill. And He now appears openly on the threshing-floor, where Joseph is standing.
« My Master and my Lord!!» exclaims Joseph falling on his knees to venerate Jesus.
« Peace to you. I have come to bless you in the name of the Father, and to reward your charity and your faith. I shall be your guest this evening. Do you want Me?»
« Oh! Master! Are You asking me? Only... Only I will not be able to honour You here... I am with servants and peasants... in my country house... I have no fine table-cloths, no butler, no experienced servants... I have no refined food... no choice wines... I have no friends here... It will be a very poor hospitality indeed... But You will understand... Why, my Lord, did You not inform me beforehand? I would have provided... Hermas was here the day before yesterday with his friends... In fact I made use of them to inform these people, to whom I wanted to give what belongs to God... But Hermas did not say anything to me! If I had known!... Allow me, Master, to give instructions, so that I may try to find a remedy... Why are You smiling thus?» at last asks Joseph, who is in utter confusion with the sudden joy and because of the situation that he considers... a disaster.
« I am smiling at your unnecessary pains. Joseph, what are you looking for? For what you have?»
« What I have? I have nothing.»
« Oh! What a material man you are now! Why are you no longer the spiritual Joseph of a little while ago, when you spoke as a wise man? When you were promising, full of confidence, for your faith and to give faith?»
« Oh! did You hear me?»
« I heard and saw you, Joseph. That laurel hedge is very useful, as from it I could see that what I have sown in you is not dead. That is why I say that you are worrying about trifles. You have no butlers or experienced servants? But where charity is practised, there is God, and where God is, there are His angels. So which house-stewards more experienced than they are do you want? You have no delicious food or choice wines? Which food do you want to give Me, which drink more delicious than the love you had for these people and you have for Me? You have no friends to honour Me? And what about these? Which friends are dearer to the Master, Whose name is Jesus, than the poor and the unhappy? Come on, Joseph! Even if Herod should be converted and he should open his halls to give Me honour and hospitality, in a purified palace and the heads of all the castes were there, I would not have a more select court than this one, to which I also wish to say a word and give a gift. Will you allow Me?»
« Oh! Master! I want everything You want! Tell me.»
« Tell them to gather together, and get the servants also to assemble here. There will always be some bread for us... It is better for them to listen to My word now, rather than run here and there busying themselves with trifles.»
The astonished people crowd around quickly...
Jesus says: « You have realised here that faith can multiply corn when such desire is based on a desire of love. But do not confine your faith to material necessities. God created the first grain of wheat and since then wheat ears for the bread of men. But God created also Paradise and it awaits its citizens. It was created for those who live according to the Law and remain faithful notwithstanding the sorrowful trials of life. Have faith and you will be able to remain holy with the help of the Lord, just as Joseph was able to allot a double quantity of corn to make you happy twice and confirm his servants in the faith. I solemnly tell you that if man had faith in the Lord, and if it were for a just reason, not even mountains, the rocky bowels of which are rooted in the earth, could resist, and they would shift from one place to another at the order of anyone who has faith in the Lord. Have you faith in God?» He asks addressing everybody.
« Yes, Lord!»
« Who is God according to you?»
« The Most Holy Father, as the disciples of the Christ teach us.»
« And what is Christ to you?»
« The Saviour. The Master. The Holy One!»
« Only that?»
« The Son of God. But we must not say that, because if we do, the Pharisees will persecute us.»
« But do you believe that He is the Son of God?»
« Yes, Lord.»
« Well, increase your faith. Even if you are silent, stones, plants, stars, the ground, everything will proclaim that Christ is the true Redeemer and King. They will proclaim it in the hour of His accession, when He will be in the most holy purple with the wreath of Redemption. Blessed are those who will believe that as from now and will believe even more then, and will have faith in the Christ and consequently eternal life. Have you such unshakeable faith in Christ?»
« Yes, Lord. Tell us where He is, and we will beg Him to increase our faith in order to be blessed as You say.» Not only the poor, but also the servants, the apostles and Joseph take part in the last prayer.
« If you have as much faith as the size of a mustard seed, and you keep the precious pearl of your faith in your hearts, without allowing any human, or superhuman or wicked thing to take it away from you, each of you will be able to say to that mighty mulberry tree which shades Joseph's well: “Uproot yourself and be transplanted in the waves of the sea.”»
« But where is Christ? We are expecting Him to be cured. His disciples did not cure us, but they said: “He can do it.” We would like to be cured to be able to work» say the sick and unfit men.
« And do you think that Christ can do it?» asks Jesus making signs to Joseph not to say that He is the Christ.
« We do believe it. He is the Son of God. He can do everything.»
« Yes. He can do everything... and He wants everything!» shouts Jesus stretching out His right arm imperiously and then lowering it as if to swear. And He concludes with a powerful cry: « And let that be done, to the glory of God!»
And He is about to turn round towards the house. But those who have been cured, about twenty people, shout, rush, surround Him in a confusion of hands stretched out to touch, bless, find His hands, garments, to kiss and caress Him. They isolate Him from Joseph, from everybody...
And Jesus smiles, caresses, blesses... He slowly frees Himself, and still followed by the people, He disappears into the house while hosannas rise in the sky, which is becoming violet in the incipient twilight.