11th April 1946.
Sunset reddens the sky when Jesus arrives at Bethany. His hot dusty apostles follow Him. And Jesus and the apostles are the only ones to brave the burning road - as hot as a furnace - which receives little shade from the trees extending from the Mount of Olives to the slopes of Bethany. Summer burns, but hatred rages even more. The fields are bare and scorched they are like furnaces reverberating blasts of heat. But the souls of Jesus' enemies are even more devoid - I do not mean of love - but of honesty, of human morals, raging with hatred... And there is but one home, one shelter for Jesus: Bethany. There is love, relief, protection and loyalty there... The persecuted Pilgrim directs His steps there, in His white garment, sad of countenance, with the tired step of one who cannot stop, being urged on by enemies close behind, with the resigned look of one who already contemplates death approaching every hour, at every step, and which one accepts, out of obedience to God...
The house, in the middle of its large garden, is closed and silent, awaiting cooler hours. The garden is empty and deserted, and the sun only reigns despotically there. Thomas calls in his loud baritone voice.
A curtain is drawn, a face looks out... Then a cry: « The Master!» and the servants rush out, followed by the surprised mistresses, who were certainly not expecting Jesus at that hot hour of the day.
« Rabboni!», « My Lord!» Martha and Mary greet from afar, already stooping, ready to prostrate themselves, as they do, as soon as the gate is opened and Jesus is no longer separated from them.
« Martha, Mary: peace to you and to your house.»
« Peace to You, Master and Lord... But why at this hour?» ask the sisters, dismissing the servants so that Jesus may speak freely.
« To rest My body and soul where I am not hated...» sadly says Jesus, stretching out His hands, as if to say: « Do you want Me?» and He strives to smile, but His very sad smile is belied by His sorrowful eyes.
« Have they hurt You?» asks Mary flushing.
« What happened to You?» asks Martha and she adds maternally: « Come, I will give You some refreshment. How long have You been walking, since You are so tired?»
« Since dawn... and I can say without stopping, because the short rest in the house of Helkai, the member of the Sanhedrin, was worse than a long journey...»
« Was it there that they grieved You?»
« Yes... and previously at the Temple...»
« But why did You go to that snake?» asks Mary.
« Because if I had refused to go, it would have served to justify his hatred, which would have accused Me of despising the members of the Sanhedrin. But now... whether I go or not, the measure of Pharisaic hatred is full... and there will be no truce...»
« Have we got to that? Stay with us, Master. They will not hurt You here...»
« I would fail in My mission... Many souls are waiting for their Saviour. I must go...»
« But they will prevent You from going!»
« No. They will persecute Me by letting Me go, so that they may watch every step of Mine, allowing Me to speak to study every word, watching over Me as bloodhounds track a quarry, so that they may have... something, which may look like a fault... and everything will serve...»
Martha, who is always so respectful, is so moved to pity, that she lifts her hand to caress His emaciated cheek, but she stops blushing and says: « Forgive me! I felt sorry for You as I do for our Lazarus! Forgive me, Lord, for loving You as a suffering brother!»
« I am the suffering brother... Love Me with pure sisterly love... But what is Lazarus doing?»
« He is languishing, Lord...» replies Mary and this avowal together with the grief of seeing her Master so distressed makes her shed the tears already welling in her eyes.
« Do not weep, Mary, neither for him nor for Me. We are doing the divine will. One should weep over those who do not know how to do that will...»
Mary bends to take Jesus' hand and kisses the tips of His fingers.
They have meanwhile arrived at the house and as they enter they go to Lazarus at once, while the apostles rest refreshing themselves with what the servants offer them.
Jesus bends over Lazarus, who is becoming more and more emaciated, and kisses him to relieve the sadness of His dear friend.
« Master, how much You love me! You did not even wait until evening to come to me. In this heat...»
« My dear friend, I enjoy your company and you enjoy Mine. The rest does not matter.»
« That is true. It is nothing. Even my suffering no longer matters to me... Now I know why I suffer and what I can achieve by suffering» and Lazarus smiles an intimate spiritual smile.
« Yes, it is so, Master. One could almost say that our Lazarus rejoices at being ill and...» a sob breaks Martha's voice and she becomes silent.
« Come on, you may as well say it: at death. Master, tell them that they must help me, as the Levites help the priests.»
« To do what, My friend?»
« To consume the sacrifice...»
« And yet, up till recently, you trembled at the idea of death! So you no longer love us? You no longer love the Master? Do you not want to serve Him?...» asks Mary, who is stronger but pale with grief, and she caresses the yellowish hand of her brother.
« And you are asking me, just you, ardent and generous soul? Am I not your brother? Have I not the same blood as you have, and the same holy loves: Jesus, souls, and you, my beloved sisters?... But since Passover my soul has received a great word. And I love death. My Lord, I offer it to You, for Your own intentions.»
« So you are not going to ask Me to cure you any longer?»
« No, Rabboni. I ask You to bless me that I may be able to suffer... and die... and if I am not asking for too much... to redeem... You said so...»
« I did. And I bless you to give you all the necessary strength.» And Jesus imposes His hands on him and then kisses him.
« We will be together and You will teach me...»
« Not just now, Lazarus. I am not staying. I have come only for a few hours. I am leaving tonight.»
« But why?» ask the three disappointed relatives.
« Because I cannot stay... I will come back in autumn. And then I will stay here for a long time and I will do much here... and in the surroundings...»
There is sad silence. Then Martha begs Him: « At least take some rest, some refreshment...»
« Nothing will refresh Me more than your love. Let My apostles rest and let Me stay here, with you, thus, in peace...»
Martha goes out weeping, she then comes back with some cups of cold milk and some early fruit...
« The apostles have had something to eat, and tired as they were, they are now sleeping. My Master, do You really not want to rest?»
« Do not insist, Martha. Before dawn they will be looking for Me here, at Gethsemane, at Johanna's, in every hospitable house. But at dawn I will be far away.»
« Where are You going, Master?» asks Lazarus.
« Towards Jericho, but not along the usual road... I am going towards Tekoa and then I will come back towards Jericho.»
« A hard journey in this season!...» whispers Martha.
« That is why the road is solitary. We will walk at night. The nights are clear even before the moon rises. And it is soon dawn...»
« And then?» asks Mary.
« And later beyond the Jordan. And at the height of northern Samaria, I will cross the river and come to this area.»
« Go to Nazareth soon. You are tired...» says Lazarus.
« I must go to the coast area first... Then... I will go to Galilee. But they will persecute Me even there...»
« You will always have Your Mother to comfort You...» says Mary.
« Yes, poor Mother!»
« Master, Magdala is Yours. You know» Mary reminds Him.
« I know, Mary. I am aware of all the good and of all the evil...»
« Separated thus!... for such a long time! Shall I still be alive, when You come back, Master?»
« Do not doubt it. Do not weep... We must get accustomed also to parting. Separations serve to test the strength of affections. The hearts we love are better understood when we see them with spiritual eyes, from afar. When we are not enticed by the human pleasure of being physically close to the person we love, we can meditate on the spirit and love of that person... and have a better understanding of the ego of our far away beloved... I am sure that, thinking of your Master, you will understand Him better, when you see and contemplate My deeds and love peacefully.»
« Oh! Master! But we are not dubious of You!»
« Neither I am of you. I know. But you will know Me better. And I am not telling you to love Me, because I know your hearts. I say only: pray for Me.»
Lazarus and his sisters weep... Jesus is so sad!... How can one not weep?
« What do you want? God had put love amongst men. But men have substituted hatred... And hatred not only separates enemies from one another, but it insinuates itself to separate friends.»
There is a long silence.
Then Lazarus says: « Master, go away from Palestine for some time...»
« No. My place is here: to live, to evangelize, to die.»
« But You have seen to John and the Greek woman. Go and stay with them.»
« No. They were to be saved. I must save. And that is the difference that clarifies everything. The altar is here, and the chair is here. I cannot go elsewhere. In any case... do you think that would change what has been decided? No. Neither on the Earth nor in Heaven. It would only blemish the spiritual purity of the Messianic figure. I would be “the coward” who saves himself fleeing. I must set an example for the present and future generations that in the matters concerning God, in holy things, one must not be a coward...»
« You are right, Master» says Lazarus with a sigh...
And Martha, pushing the curtain aside, says: « You are right... It is getting dark... The sun has set...»
Mary weeps distressingly, as if that word had the power to crush her moral courage, which had so far confined her grief to silent tears. She is weeping more heartbrokenly than she did in the house of the Pharisee, when she implored the Saviour with her tears to forgive her...
« Why are you weeping thus?» asks Martha.
« Because you have spoken the truth, sister! There is no more sunshine... The Master is going away... There is no more sunshine for me... for us...» (1)
(1) Maria Valtorta, the author of this Work, in the last years of her life, when her mind seemed to be vacant and she spoke only a few words, now and again used to exclaim at any time of the day, and sometimes repeatedly: « Oh! How much sunshine there is here!» No one ever understood what she meant. Perhaps it is possible to conjecture the meaning in the light of the above exclamation of Mary Magdalene, for whom Jesus was the Sun.
« Be good. I bless you and may My blessing remain with you. And now leave Me with Lazarus who is tired and needs calmness. Watching My friend I will rest. Provide for the apostles and ensure that they are ready for the hour of shadows...»
The women disciples withdraw and Jesus remains silent, engrossed in thought, sitting near His languishing friend, who happy for such closeness, falls asleep with a light smile on his face.