25th April 1946.
They are now on the other bank. On their right are mount Tabor and the little Hermon, on their left the mountains of Samaria, the Jordan is behind them, and in front of them, beyond the plain in which they are, the hills in front of which is Megiddo; (if my memory does not fail me, I heard this name in a remote vision, the one in which Jesus joins Judas of Kerioth and Thomas, after the separation brought about by the necessity of concealing the departure of Syntyche and John of Endor).
They must have rested all day in some hospitable house, because it is evening once again and it is evident that they have rested. It is still warm, but dew is already beginning to form, mitigating the heat. And violet shadows of twilight are falling after the last red flares of a blazing sunset.
« We can walk without difficulty here » remarks Matthew happily.
« Yes. If we proceed this fast, we shall be at Megiddo before cock-crow » the Zealot replies to him.
« And at dawn we shall be beyond the hills, in sight of the plain of Sharon » concludes John.
« And of your sea, eh? » says his brother teasing him.
« Yes. Of my sea... » replies John smiling.
« And with your spirit you will depart on one of your spiritual wanderings » says Peter pressing his arm with strong fatherly affection. And he concludes: « Teach me as well, how to draw certain... angelical thoughts from the sight of things. I have looked at water so many times... I have loved it... but... but it has never been of any avail to me other than to earn my living by fishing in it. What do you see in it?... »
« I see water, Simon. Like you and everybody else. As I now see fields and orchards... But then, beside the eyes of my body, I have other eyes in here, and I no longer see grass and water but words of wisdom come out from those material things. It is not I who think. I would not be able. It is somebody else who thinks in me. »
« Are you perhaps a prophet? » asks the Iscariot somewhat ironically.
« Oh! no! I am not a prophet... »
« What then? Do you think that you possess God? »
« Even less so... »
« You must be raving then. »
« It might well be so, I am so small and weak. But if it is so, it is pleasant raving and leads me to God. My disease then becomes a gift and I bless the Lord for it. »
« Ha! Ha! Ha! » Judas guffaws maliciously.
Jesus, Who has been listening, says: « He is not ill, he is not a prophet. But a pure soul possesses wisdom. It is wisdom that speaks in the heart of a just man. »
« In that case I will never get there, because I have not always been good... » says Peter, somewhat discouraged.
« What about me, then? » replies Matthew.
« My friends, only few people, too few could possess wisdom because they have always been pure. But repentance and good will make man, previously guilty and imperfect, just, and then the conscience is purified in the bath of humility, contrition and love, and thus purified, it can vie with those who are pure. »
« Thank You, Lord » says Matthew bending to kiss the hand of the Master.
There is silence. Then Judas exclaims: « I am tired! I don't know whether I will be able to walk all night. »
« No wonder! Today you wandered about like a blowfly, while we were sleeping! » James of Zebedee replies to him.
« I wanted to see if I met any of the disciples... »
« What did it matter to you? The Master did not tell you. So... »
« Well, I did it. And if the Master allows me, I will stop at Megiddo. I think a friend of ours is there, he goes there every year, at this time, after harvest-time. I would like to speak to him of my mother and... »
« Do as you wish. After your errand you will go to Nazareth. We will meet you there. You can thus inform My Mother and Mary of Alphaeus that we shall soon be home. »
« I also say to You, as Matthew did: “Thank You, Lord.” »
Jesus does not reply, and He receives the kiss on His hand as He received Matthew's. It is not possible to see His countenance because it is the moment in the evening when daylight has disappeared completely and there is no starlight as yet. It is so dark that they are proceeding along the road with difficulty and to avoid all possible trouble Peter and Thomas decide to light some twigs, which they have taken from hedges and which burn with a crackle. But the lack of light previously and the smoky moving light later do not enable one to see the expressions of faces.
In the meantime they are approaching the hills, the dark tops of which are visible because they are darker than the mown fields, where the stubble looks whitish against the black of the night, and they become more and more visible as they are approached and as the light of the first stars illuminates them...
« I would leave You here, as my friends lives a little outside Megiddo. I am so tired... »
« You may go. May the Lord watch over your steps. »
« Thank You, Master. Goodbye, friends. »
« Goodbye, goodbye » say the others without attaching much importance to their greetings.
Jesus repeats: « May the Lord watch over your actions. »
Judas goes away quickly.
« H'm! He doesn't look so tired » remarks Peter.
« True! He was dragging his feet here. But now he is running like a gazelle over there... » says Nathanael.
« Your farewell was a holy one, Brother. But unless the Lord overwhelms him with His will, the assistance of God will not help him to take good steps and do fair actions. »
« Judas, the fact that you are My brother does not exempt you from being reproached! I therefore reproach you for being harsh and pitiless towards your companion. He has his faults. But you also have yours. And the first is that you do not endeavour to help Me to perfect his soul. You exasperate him with your words. It is not with violence that you bend hearts. Do you think that you are entitled to censor every action of his? Do you consider yourself so perfect as to be able to do so? May I remind you that I, your Master, do not do so, because I love that imperfect soul. It moves Me to pity more than any other soul... just because it is imperfect. Do you think that he is happy with his state? And how will you be able to be a master of spirits in future, if with one of your companions you do not practise to make use of the infinite charity which redeems sinners? »
Judas of Alphaeus has bent his head as from the first words. But at the end he kneels on the ground saying: « Forgive me. I am a sinner. And reproach me when I am wrong, because reproof is love, and only a fool does not appreciate the grace of being corrected by a wise person. »
« You can see that I do it for your own good. And forgiveness is joined to My reproach because I can understand the reason for your severity and because the humility of the person corrected disarms him who corrects. Stand up, Judas, and sin no more » and He keeps him beside Himself with John.
The other apostles exchange comments with one another, whispering at first, then in louder voices out of their habit of speaking aloud. I can thus hear them make comparisons between the two Judases.
« If it had been Judas of Kerioth to get that reproach, I wonder how he would have reacted! Your brother is good » says Thomas to James.
« But... well... We cannot say that what he said was wrong. He said one thing which is true with regard to Judas of Kerioth. Do you believe the story of the friend who goes to Judaea? I don't » says Matthew frankly.
« It must be... vineyard matters as it happened at the Jericho market » says Peter referring to the scene which he cannot forget. They all laugh.
« It certainly takes the Master to pity him so much... » remarks Philip.
« So much? Always, you should say » replies James of Zebedee.
« If it were I, I would not be so patient » says Nathanael.
« Neither would I. Yesterday's scene was disgusting » confirms Matthew.
« The man cannot be completely sound of mind » says the Zealot conciliatorily.
« But he knows how to look after his business. He is even too clever. I would bet my boat, my nets, even my house, sure that I would not lose anything, that he has gone to see some Pharisee to beg for protection... » says Peter.
« That's right. Ishmael! There is Ishmael at Megiddo! How come we never thought of that?! We must tell the Master! » exclaims Thomas striking his forehead vigorously with his hand.
« It is of no use. The Master would excuse him once again and would reproach us » says the Zealot.
« Well... let us try. James, go: He loves you and you are a relative of His... »
« We are all alike, as far as He is concerned. Here, He does not see us as relatives or friends, He sees only apostles and He is impartial. But I will go, just to please you » says James of Alphaeus. And he quickens his step to depart from his companions and join Jesus.
« You think that he has gone to see a Pharisee. This one or that one... it does not matter... But I think he did it in order not to come to Caesarea. He does not come there willingly... » says Andrew.
« He seems to have been disgusted with the Roman ladies for some time » remarks Thomas.
« And yet... while you were going to Engedi and I was going with him to Lazarus, he was so happy to speak to Claudia... » says the Zealot.
« Yes... but... I think that he did something wrong just then. And I think that Johanna knows and that is why she sent for Jesus and... and I have been making many suppositions since Judas flew into a passion at Bethzur... » grumbles Peter between his teeth.
« Do you mean that?... » asks Matthew curiously.
« Well... I don't know... Ideas... We shall see... »
« Oh! Don't let us think of evil things! The Master does not approve of that. And we have no proof that he did anything wrong » says Andrew imploringly.
« You are not going to tell me that he acts rightly in grieving the Master, in lacking in respect to Him, in causing ill feelings... »
« Be good, Simon! I can assure you that he is somewhat mad... » says the Zealot.
« Well. He may be. But he sins against the kindness of our Lord. If he spat in my face, if he boxed my ears, I would put up with that and offer it to God for his redemption. I have taken it into my head to make every sacrifice for that and I bite my tongue and I run my nails into the palms of my hands when he plays the fool, in order to control myself. But I cannot forgive him for being bad to our Master. The sin he commits against Him, it's the same as if he committed it against me, and I cannot forgive him. Then... if it were only now and again! But he is always at it! I cannot get over the anger boiling within me about one of his quarrels, and he makes a fresh scene! Once, twice, three times... There is a limit! » Peter is almost shouting his words and is gesticulating impetuously.
Jesus, Who is about ten metres ahead of them, turns round, a white shadow in the night, and He says:
« There is no limit to love and forgiveness. There is none. Neither in God nor in the true children of God. As long as there is life, there is no limit. The only obstacle to the descent of forgiveness and love is the impenitent resistance of the sinner. But if he repents, he is always to be forgiven, even if he sinned not once, twice or three times a day, but much more frequently. You also sin and you want to be forgiven by God and you go to Him saying: “I have sinned! Forgive me.” And forgiveness is pleasant to you and it is pleasant to God to forgive. And you are not gods. Consequently the offence given to you by people like yourselves is less grave than that given to God, Who is not like anybody else. Do you not think so? And yet God forgives. Do likewise yourselves. Be careful! Watch that your intolerance does not become detrimental to you by causing God to be intolerant towards you. I have already told you, but I will repeat it once again. Be merciful in order to have mercy. No one is so sinless as to be inexorable towards a sinner. Look at your own burdens before considering those weighing on the hearts of other people. Remove yours from your souls and then turn to those of other people to show them not the severity that condemns, but the love that teaches and helps to be freed from evil. In order to be able to say - and not be silenced by a sinner - in order to be able to say: “You have sinned against God and against your neighbour” it is necessary not to have sinned or at least to have made amends for the sin. In order to be able to say to those who are dejected because they have sinned: “Have faith that God forgives those who repent” as servants of God Who forgives repentant souls - you must show so much mercy in forgiving. Then you will be able to say: “See, repentant sinner? I forgive your sins seven and seven times, because I am a servant of Him Who forgives countless times those who repent of their sins as many times. Consider then how the Perfect One forgives, if I know how to forgive, simply because I serve Him. Have faith!” You must be able to say so, and say so with your deeds, not just with words. You must say so forgiving. So if your brother sins, admonish him kindly, and if he repents, forgive him. And if at the end of the day he has sinned seven times and says to you seven times: “I repent”, forgive him seven times. Have you understood? Will you promise Me that you will do that? While he is away, do you promise Me to be indulgent to him and to help Me to cure him making the sacrifice of controlling yourselves when he does anything wrong? Do you not want to help Me to save him? He is your brother in spirit as he comes from one sole Father, by race as he comes from one sole people, by mission as he is an apostle like you. So you ought to love him three times. If in your family you had a brother who grieved your father and exposed himself to censure, would you not try to correct him so that your father suffered no longer and no one spoke ill of your family? So? Is your family not a greater and holier one as its Father is God and I am the First-born? Why, then, do you not want to console the Father and Me and help us to improve the poor brother who, believe Me, is not happy to be so?... »
Jesus is anxiously imploring on behalf of the apostle who is so full of faults... And He concludes: « I am the Great Beggar and I ask you for the most valuable alms: I ask you to give Me souls. I go about looking for them, but you must help Me... Satisfy the hunger of My Heart, which seeks love and finds it only in too few people. Because those who do not aim at perfection are like as many loaves of bread of which My spiritual hunger is deprived. Give souls to your Master Who is distressed at not being loved and understood... »
The apostles are moved... They would like to say so many things, but every word seems too mean... They press round the Master, each one wishing to caress Him, to make Him feel that they all love Him.
At last it is meek Andrew who says: « Yes, Lord. With patience, silence and sacrifice, the powerful means of conversion, we will give You souls. Also that one... if God helps us... »
« Yes, Lord. And You help us with Your prayer. »
« Yes, friends. And in the meantime let us pray together for your companion who has gone away. “Our Father Who art in Heaven...” »
Jesus' perfect voice repeats the words of the Our Father pronouncing them distinctly and slowly. The others chorus in a subdued tone. And while praying they move away in the night.