23rd May 1946.
Dawn is breaking and the eastern sky is just beginning to redden, when Judas of Kerioth knocks at the door of the little house in Nazareth.
On the road there are only peasants, or rather: small landowners of Nazareth, who are going to their vineyards or olive-groves with their working tools and are greatly surprised at seeing the man knock at Mary's door so early in the morning. They speak in low voices to one another.
« He is a disciple » says one replying to the remarks of another. « He is certainly looking for Jesus of Joseph. »
« It's no use. He went away yesterday evening. I saw Him myself. I will tell him... » says another man.
« Never mind! It's Judas of Kerioth. I don't like him. Perhaps we are guilty of much wrong doing with regard to Jesus and we are making a mistake. But he, that man over there, did much harm to us here last year... We might have been converted. But he... »
« What? How do you know? »
« I was present one evening in the house of the head of the synagogue and I foolishly believed everything at once... Now... that's enough! I think I have sinned and... »
« Perhaps he also realised that he had sinned and... »
They move away and I can hear nothing else.
Judas knocks once again at the little door, to which he has been clinging, his face pressed against the wood, as if he wished to avoid being seen and recognised. But the little door remains closed. Judas makes a gesture of disappointment and he goes away along a path skirting the kitchen garden and he goes to the rear of the house. He casts a glance over the hedge of the quiet garden. Only the doves animate it.
Judas considers what to do. He talks to himself: « Has She perhaps gone away, too? And yet... I would have seen Her. And then! No. I heard Her voice yesterday evening... Perhaps She has gone to sleep at Her sister-in-law's... Ugh! This is as annoying as a bee on one's face, because She will come back with her, and I want to speak to Her alone, without that old woman as a witness. She is gossipy and would raise objections. And I don't want any. And she is as sly as every old wife of the people. She would not accept my excuses and she would point that out to that stupid dove of her sister-in-law... I know I can make a fool of Her... in every way. She is as dull as ditch-water... And I must put right what happened at Tiberias... because if She speaks... I wonder whether She has mentioned it or has kept quiet? If She has spoken, it is more difficult to put matters right... But She will not have spoken... She confuses virtue with foolishness. Like Mother like Son... And the others are busy while they are fast asleep. In any case they are right. Why leave them aside if they seem to be wanting... But what do they want after all?...
My notions are foggy... I must stop drinking and... Of course! But money is a temptation, and I am like a colt which has been kept inside too long. Two years, I say! Even longer! Two years of all kinds of abstinence... But in the meantime... What did Helkai say the day before yesterday? Eh! He is not a bad teacher! Certainly! Everything is legal providing we succeed in putting Jesus on the throne. But if He does not want that? But He must certainly consider that if we do not triumph, we will all end up like the followers of Theudas or of Judas the Galilean...
Perhaps I ought to part company with them because... well, I do not know whether what they want is right. I don't trust them very much... They have changed too much recently... I would not like to... How dreadful! I to be the means to damage Jesus? No. I will part company. But it is sad to have dreamt of a kingdom and have to go back to what? To nothing... But better nothing than... He always says: “He who will commit the great sin.” Hey!? It won't be me, eh! Me? Me? I will sooner drown myself in the lake... I'll go away. It is better for me to go away. I will go to my mother, I will get her to give me some money, because I certainly cannot ask the members of the Sanhedrin to give me the money to go away. They help me because they hope that I will help them to get over their state of uncertainty. Once Jesus is acknowledged as king, we will be settled. The crowds will side with us... Herod... who will bother about him? Neither the Romans nor the people. They all hate him! And... and...
But Jesus is quite capable of renouncing the throne as soon as He is proclaimed king. Oh! Well! When Eleazar ben Annas assures me that his father is ready to crown Him king!... Afterwards, He cannot remove His sacred character. After all... I am doing what the unfaithful steward of His parable did... I am having resort to my friends on my behalf, that is true, but also on His. So I am making unfair means serve as... Well, no! I must try once again to persuade Him. I am not convinced that I am doing the right thing by resorting to this subterfuge... and... Oh! If I could only convince Him! Because it would be so beautiful! Yes... very! That is the best solution: to tell the Master everything frankly. To implore Him... Providing Mary has not told Him about Tiberias...
What did I say I should tell Mary?... Ah! yes! The refusal of the Roman ladies. Cursed be that woman! If I had not gone to her, I would not have met Mary that evening! But who could have imagined that Mary was in Tiberias? And yet I never went out on the day before the Sabbath, on the Sabbath or the day after it, as I did not want to see any of the apostles... What a fool! I could have gone to Hippo, to Gerghesa to find a woman! No! I had to go just there! To Tiberias through which the people of Capernaum must pass to come here... And all that because of the Roman ladies... I was hoping... No, that is what I must say to excuse myself, but it is not true. There is no sense in saying that to myself, as I know why I went: to meet some of the powerful people in Israel and to have a good time, since I had plenty money... But... how quickly money goes. I will soon have none left... Ha! Ha! I will invent some story for Helkai and his partners and they will give me some more... »
« O Judas! Have you gone mad? I have been watching you for some time from the top of this olive-tree. You are gesticulating, speaking by yourself... Has the sun of the month of Tammuz harmed you? » shouts Alphaeus of Sarah leaning out of the forked branches of a huge olive-tree, about thirty metres away from the spot where Judas is standing.
Judas starts, looks round, sees him and moans: « May death rake you! Cursed village of spies! » But smiling affably he shouts: « No. But I am worried because Mary is not opening... Is She perhaps not well? I have knocked several times!... »
« Mary? You can knock as long as you like! She is in the house of a poor old woman who is dying. They sent for Her at the third watch... »
« But I must speak to Her. »
« Wait. I will come down and I will go and tell Her. But do you really need Her? »
« Eh! I should say so! I have been here since sunrise. »
Alphaeus climbs down the tree solicitously and runs away.
« He has seen me, too! And he will certainly come back with that other woman! Everything is going awry? » and he hurls a string of insults at Nazareth, the Nazarenes, Mary of Alphaeus, and even at the Blessed Virgin's charity for the dying woman and at the dying woman herself...
He has not yet finished when the door, which from the dining-room leads into the kitchen garden, is opened and Mary appears looking very pale and sad.
« Judas! », « Mary! » they say simultaneously.
« I will now open the door to you. Alphaeus said to Me only: “Go home. There is someone wanting You” and I ran here, also because the old woman no longer needs Me. She has finished suffering because of a bad son... »
Judas, while Mary is speaking, runs along the path and goes back to the front of the house... Mary opens the door.
« Peace to you, Judas of Kerioth. Come in. »
« Peace to You, Mary. »
Judas is somewhat hesitant. Mary is kind, but serious.
« I knocked so much, at dawn. »
« Yesterday evening a son broke his mother's heart... And they came looking for Jesus. But Jesus is not here. I am saying that to you, too: Jesus is not here. You came late. »
« I know that He is not here. »
« How do you know? You have just arrived... »
« Mother, I will be frank with You, since You are good: I have been here since yesterday... »
« And why did you not come? Your companions came here every Sabbath, except one... »
« Eh! I know! I went to Capernaum but I did not find them. »
« Do not lie, Judas. You never went to Capernaum. Bartholomew remained there all the time and he never saw you. Bartholomew came here only yesterday. But you were not here yesterday... So... Why are you telling lies, Judas? Do you not know that a lie is the first step towards theft and homicide?... Poor Esther died, killed by grief because of the behaviour of her son. And Samuel, her son, became the shame of Nazareth through little lies, which became bigger and bigger... And from them he passed on to all the rest. Do you, an apostle of the Lord, wish to imitate him? Do you want your mother to die broken-hearted? »
She reproaches him slowly, in a low voice. But Her words bear heavily on him. Judas does not know what to reply. He sits down abruptly, his head in his hands.
Mary watches him. She then says: « Well? Why did you want to see Me? While assisting poor Esther I prayed for your mother... and for you... Because I feel sorry for both of you, and for two different reasons. »
« Then, if you pity me, forgive me. »
« I have never had ill-feelings. »
« What?... Not even because... of that morning at Tiberias?... You know? I was in that state because the evening before the Roman ladies had maltreated me as madman and... as the traitor of the Master. Yes, I admit it. I did the wrong thing in speaking to Claudia. I was mistaken with regard to her. But I do it for a good purpose. I grieved the Master. He has not mentioned it to me, but I am aware that He knows that I spoke. It was certainly Johanna who told Him. Johanna has never liked me and the Roman ladies grieved me... To forget, I drank... »
Mary's expression of compassion is unintentionally ironic, and She says: « Jesus, then, should get drunk every night, considering the grief He supposedly enjoys every day... »
« Did You tell Him? »
« I do not increase the bitterness of the chalice of My Son with the news of fresh defections, falls, sins, snares... I have been and will be silent. »
Judas falls on his knees trying to kiss Mary's hand, but She withdraws, without being rude, but quite decided not to be touched or kissed.
« Thank You, Mother! You are saving me. That is why I came here... and that You might make it easier for me to approach the Master without being reproached or ashamed. »
« To avoid that, all you had to do was to go to Capernaum and then come here with the others. It was very simple. »
« That is true... But the others are not kind, and they had me spied upon in order to reproach and accuse me. »
« Do not give offence to your brothers, Judas. Stop committing sins! You have been spying here, in Nazareth, the fatherland of the Christ, you... »
Judas interrupts Her: « When? Last year? They have distorted my words! But believe me, I... »
« I do not know what you did or said last year. I am referring to yesterday. You have been here since yesterday. You know that Jesus went away. So you have been investigating. But not in the friendly houses of Aser, Ishmael, Alphaeus, or of the brother of Judas and James, or of Mary of Alphaeus, or of any of the few people here who love Jesus. Because if you had done so, they would have come and told Me. Esther's house became crowded with women at dawn, when she died, but none of them had heard of you. They are the best among the women of Nazareth, those who love Me and love Jesus, and they strive to practise His Doctrine notwithstanding the hostility of their husbands, fathers and children. So you made inquiries among those who are enemies of My Jesus. What do you call that? I do not want to know.
I tell you this only. Many swords will be plunged into My heart, which will be pierced over and over again, mercilessly, by the men who grieve My Jesus and hate Him. And one of the swords will be yours, and it will never be withdrawn. Because the memory of you, Judas, who do not want to be saved, who are ruining yourself, who are frightening Me, not because I am afraid for Myself, but for your soul, the memory of you will never be forgotten by My heart. Just Simeon pierced my soul with one sword, while I was carrying My Baby, My holy little Lamb, against My heart... You... you are the other sword. The point of your sword is already torturing My heart. But you are not yet satisfied with distressing a poor woman thus... and you are waiting to thrust your sword, like an executioner, right through the heart which has given you nothing but love... But it is foolish of Me to expect pity from you, who have none for your own mother!... On the contrary, now, I tell you! With one blow you will transfix Me and her, o wretched son, whom the prayers of two mothers cannot save!... »
Mary weeps while speaking, but her tears do not fall on Judas' dark-haired head, because he has remained where he fell on his knees, apart from Mary... The holy tears are absorbed by the brick floor. And the scene reminds me of Aglae, on whom, instead, Mary's tears fell, because she was pressing against Mary in sincere desire of redemption. « Can you not find one word, Judas? Can you not find within yourself the strength for a good purpose? Oh! Judas! Judas! Tell Me: are you satisfied with your way of living? Examine yourself, Judas. First of all, be humble and sincere with yourself, and then with God, so that you may go to Him, after removing your burden of stones from your heart, and say to Him: “Here I am. For Your sake I got rid of these stones.” »
« I haven't... the courage to confess to Jesus. »
« You have not the humility to do it. »
« That is true. Help me... »
« Go to Capernaum and wait for Him, humbly. »
« But You could... »
« I can but tell you to do what My Son always does: to have mercy. I do not teach Jesus, but it is Jesus Who teaches Me, His disciple. »
« You are His Mother. »
« And that concerns My heart. But, by right, He is My Master. Exactly the same as He is for all the other women disciples. »
« You are perfect. »
« He is the Most Perfect One. »
Judas is silent and pensive. He then asks: « Where has the Master gone? »
« To Bethlehem in Galilee. »
« And then? »
« I do not know. »
« Is He coming back here? »
« Yes, He is. »
« When? »
« I do not know. »
« You do not want to tell me! »
« I cannot tell you what I do not know. You have followed Him for two years. Can you say that His itinerary was always certain? How many times did the will of men compel Him to change it? »
« True. I will go away... To Capernaum. »
« The sun is too strong to travel. Stay here. You are a pilgrim like all the others. And He said that the women disciples are to take care of them. »
« My presence is unpleasant to You... »
« The fact that you do not want to be cured is grievous to Me! Only that... Take off your mantle... Where did you sleep? »
« I did not sleep. I waited until dawn as I wanted to see You all alone. »
« Then you must be tired. In the large room there are the little beds which Simon and Thomas used. It is still quiet and cool in there. Go and sleep while I prepare some food for you. »
Judas goes away without discussion. And Mary, without a rest after sitting up the whole night, goes into the kitchen to light the fire and then into the kitchen garden to get some vegetables. And tears and tears fall silently while She bends over the fireplace arranging the firewood, or when She stoops to pick the vegetables, and while She washes them in the basin and prepares them... And tears fall with the golden grains of corn when She feeds the doves, and they fall on the clothes which She takes out of the wash-tub and hangs out in the sun... The tears of the Mother of God... of the Faultless Mother, Who was not exempt from sorrow and suffered more than any other woman, in order to be the Co-Redeemer..