27th April 1946.
From the tops of the last risings of the ground, which cannot be called hills, as their height is so minimal, a large stretch of the Mediterranean coast appears; it is limited to the north by the Carmel promontory, while to the south it stretches freely as far as human eyes can see. A placid almost straight coast with behind it a fertile plain interrupted by slight undulations of the ground. Coast-towns are visible with their white houses situated between the green of the country and the blue of the sea, which is placid and serene, a bright blue reflecting the pure azure of the sky.
Caesarea is a little to the north of the place where the apostles are with Jesus and with some disciples, whom they probably met in the villages they passed through in the evening or at dawn. It is now later than daybreak and dawn, although it is very early in the morning. In those beautiful hours of summer mornings, when the sky, after rosy dawn becomes again blue, the air is fresh and clear and fresh is the country. No sail appears on the sea. They are the pure hours of the day, when fresh flowers begin to open and the dew, drying in the early sun, exhales the sweet smells of herbs, bestowing freshness and perfume on the light breath of the morning breeze, which moves the leaves on stems just lightly and barely ripples the smooth expanse of the sea.
The town appears stretched along the shore, as beautiful as every place where Roman refinement has settled. Thermal baths and marble buildings exhibit their whiteness like solid blocks of snow in the districts closer to the sea, overlooked by a tall white square tower near the harbour: perhaps a Castrum or a look-out post. Then there are the more modest little suburban houses, in Jewish style, and everywhere there are green pergole, roofgardens built more or less splendidly on the flat roofs of houses, and tall trees growing everywhere.
The apostles admire the view resting in the shade of a group of plane-trees almost on the top of the hill.
« The sight of this immensity lightens one's heart! » exclaims Philip.
« And you seem to be already feeling all the coolness of those beautiful blue waters » says Peter.
« True! After so much dust, stones, thorns... look what a marvel! How fresh and peaceful! The sea always brings peace... » remarks James of Alphaeus.
« H'm! Except when... it slaps your face and whirls you and the boat round like tops in the hands of boys... » replies Matthew who probably remembers being seasick.
« Master... I think... I think of all the words of our psalmists, of the book of Job, of the words of the wisdom books, where the power of God is celebrated. And, I do not know why, the thoughts coming from what I see make me feel that we shall be elevated to perfect beauty on a blue bright purity thus, if we are just until the end in the great gathering, in Your eternal Triumph, the one which You described to us and which will be the end of Evil... And I seem to be seeing this azure immensity peopled with bright risen bodies and You, shining more than a thousand suns, in the middle of the blessed souls... and no more sorrow, tears, insults, disparagement like yesterday evening's... and peace, peace, peace... But when will Evil stop being harmful? Will it perhaps blunt its arrows against Your Sacrifice? Will it be convinced that it has been beaten? » asks John, who at first was smiling and now is depressed.
« Never. It will always think that it is triumphant, notwithstanding all the contradictions of the just. And My Sacrifice will not blunt its arrows. But the hour will come, the final hour, when Evil will be defeated, and in a beauty even more infinite than that foreseen by your spirit, the chosen ones will be the only People, the eternal, holy true People of the true God. »
« And shall we all be there? » ask the apostles.
« Yes, all. »
« And what about us? » ask the already large group of the disciples.
« You will all be there, too. »
« All the ones present or all those who are Your disciples? We are many now, notwithstanding those who parted from us. »
« And you will be more and more. But not everyone will be faithful until the end. But many will be with Me in Paradise. Some will have their reward after expiation, some immediately after their death, but the reward will be such that, as you forget the Earth and its sorrows, so you will forget Purgatory with its penitential longing for love. »
« Master, You told us that we will suffer persecutions and martyrdom. They may capture and kill us before we have time to repent, or our weakness will prevent us from being resigned to violent death... So? » asks Nicolaus of Antioch, who is among the disciples.
« Do not believe that. Owing to your human weakness you could not suffer martyrdom with resignation. But supernatural assistance will be instilled by the Lord into the great spirits who must bear witness to the Lord... »
« Which? Insensibility, perhaps? »
« No, Nicolaus. Perfect love. They will achieve such complete love that torture, accusations, separations from relatives, from life, from everything, will no longer be depressing matters, on the contrary they will become the base to rise to Heaven, to receive it, to see it and therefore to stretch arms and hearts towards tortures, in order to go where their hearts already are: to Heaven. »
« One who dies thus will be much forgiven » says an old disciple whose name I do not know.
« Not much, but completely forgiven, Papias. Because love is absolution, and sacrifice is absolution, and heroic confession of faith is absolution. You can thus see that martyrs will have treble purification. »
« Oh! then... I have sinned much, Master, and I have followed these disciples to be forgiven, and yesterday You forgave me and because of that You were insulted by those who do not forgive and are guilty. I think that Your forgiveness is valid. But for my long years of sin give me the absolution of martyrdom. »
« You are asking for a great deal, man! »
« Not as much as I have to give to have the beatitude which John of Zebedee has described and You have confirmed. I implore You, Lord. Let me die for You, for Your doctrine... »
« You are asking for very much, man! The life of man is in the hands of My Father... »
« But every prayer of Yours is heard, as every judgement of Yours is heard. Ask the Eternal Father that forgiveness for me... »
The man is on his knees at the feet of Jesus, Who looks him in the eye and then says: « And do you not think that it is martyrdom to live when the world has lost all attraction and the heart yearns for Heaven, and to live to teach other people to love and to become acquainted with the disappointments of the Master and to persevere tirelessly to give souls to the Master? Always do the will of God, even if your own should appear to you to be more heroic, and you will be holy... But here are your companions coming with supplies. Let us set out to arrive in town before the torrid hours. »
And He sets out first down the light descent that soon arrives at the plain marked by the white ribbon of the road leading to Caesarea on the Sea.