25th May 1946.
Jesus must have left the women because He is with the apostles, Isaac and Marjiam. They are going down the last slopes towards the Esdraelon plain while it is slowly getting darker.
Marjiam is very glad that the Lord is taking him to his dear grandfather. The apostles are not so happy, as they remember the recent incident with Ishmael. But they are gravely silent, in order not to grieve the boy, who rejoices that he has not touched the honey which Porphirea gave him, « because » he says « I was hoping that the Lord would satisfy the desire of my heart by letting me see my grandfather. I do not know why... but for some time he has always been present to my spirit, as if he were calling me. I told Porphirea and she said to me: “It happens to me as well, when Simon is away.” But I don't think it is as she says, because it never happened to me before. »
« Because you were a little boy previously. Now you are a man and you ponder more over things » Peter says to him.
« I have also two small round pieces of cheese and some olives. Just what I could bring of my own to my beloved grandfather. Then I have a hemp tunic and another hemp garment. Porphirea wanted to make them for me. But I said to her: “If you love me, make them for the old man.” He is always so tattered and torn, so hot wearing clothes of coarse wool!... He will have some relief. »
« And so you are left without any cool clothes, and you are sweating like a sponge wearing woollen ones » Peter says to him.
« Oh! It does not matter! My grandfather went very often without food to give it to me, when I lived in the wood... At last I also can give him something. I wish I could save enough to give him what he needs to redeem himself! »
« How much have you got so far? » asks Andrew.
« Little. I earned one hundred and ten didrachmas with the fish. But I will soon be selling the lambs and then... If I could do it before it gets very cold!... »
« Will you be keeping him? » Nathanael asks Peter.
« Yes. We shall not be ruined if the poor old man has a morsel of our food... »
« And then... He will be able to do little jobs... He can come to Bethsaida, where we are, is that right, Philip? »
« Of course... We will help you, Simon, and thus make our good Marjiam and the old man happy... »
« Let us hope that Johanan is not there... » says Judas Thaddeus.
« I will go ahead and warn them » says Isaac.
They walk fast in the moonlight... At a certain point Isaac parts from them quickening his step, while the group follows him more slowly. There is dead silence in the plain. Even nightingales are quiet.
They walk on, until they see two shadows running towards them. « One is certainly Isaac... The other... may be Micah or the steward. One is as tall as the other... » says John.
They are now close... very close... It is the steward followed by Isaac who looks dismayed.
« Master... Marjiam... poor son! Come quickly... Your grandfather, Marjiam, is ill... very ill... »
« Ah! Lord!... » shouts the boy sorrowfully.
« Let us go, let us go... Be strong, Marjiam » and Jesus takes his hand and starts almost to run while He says to the apostles: « You can follow us. »
« Yes... But don't make too much noise... Johanan is there » shouts the steward who is already far away.
The poor old man is in Micah's house. Even a fool can understand that he is really dying. He is lying languidly, his eyes closed, his features relaxed, as is typical of a dying person. He is waxen, with the exception of his cheek-bones, where a cyanotic red persists.
Marjiam bends over the little bed calling: « Grandpa! My grandpa! I am Marjiam! Do you understand? Marjiam! Jabez! Your Jabez!... O Lord! He no longer hears me... Come here, Lord... Come here. Will You try... Cure him... Let him see me, let him speak to me... Must I see all my relatives die thus, without a parting word to me?... »
Jesus approaches him, He bends over the dying man, He lays a hand on his head saying: « Son of My Father, listen to Me. »
Like one who awakes from a deep sleep, the old man takes a deep breath, he opens his already glassy eyes looking vaguely at the two faces bent over his. He tries to speak, but his tongue is powerless. But now he must have been able to recognise, because he smiles and tries to take the hands of the two to lift them to his lips.
« Grandpa... I had come... I prayed so hard that I might come!... I wanted to tell you... that I will soon have enough money... that I will be able to give you what you need to redeem yourself... and you will come with me, to Simon and Porphirea, who are so good, so kind to your Jabez... and to everybody... »
The old man succeeds in moving his tongue and he says with difficulty: « May God reward them... and reward you... But it is late... I am going to Abraham... to suffer no more... » He turns towards Jesus and eagerly asks: « It is so, is it not? »
« It is. Be in peace! » and Jesus straightens Himself imposingly saying: « With My power of Judge and Saviour, I absolve you of all faults and omissions you may have committed during your lifetime, and of any feeling of your heart against charity and against those who hated you. I forgive you everything, son. Go in peace! » Jesus has held His hands stretched out high above the little bed as if He were before an altar and He, the Priest, were consecrating a victim.
Marjiam is weeping, while the old man smiles gently whispering: One falls asleep peacefully with Your help... Thank You, Lord... » and he collapses...
« Grandpa! Grandpa! Oh! he is dying! he is dying! Let us give him some honey... his tongue is dry... He is cold... honey warms one... » shouts Marjiam and he tries to search in the sack with one hand while he supports with the other his grandfather's head, which is becoming heavier.
The apostles have appeared on the threshold... and are watching in silence...
« All right, Marjiam. I will hold your grandfather » says Jesus... and then, addressing Peter: « Simon, come here... »
And Simon comes forward, deeply moved.
Marjiam tries to give a little honey to the old man. He puts a finger into the little vase and takes it out covered with liquid honey, which he places on the lips of his grandfather, who opens his eyes again, looks at him, smiles and says: « It's good. »
« I made it for you... And also the tunic of fresh hemp... »
The old man lifts his trembling hand and endeavours to lay it on the brown-haired head saying: « You are good... better than honey... And that... the fact that you are good, does me good... But your honey... does not serve any more... Neither does your cool tunic... Keep them... keep them with my blessing... »
Marjiam falls on his knees and weeps with his head resting on the edge of the little bed moaning: All alone! I am remaining all alone! »
Simon goes to the other side of the bed and in a voice made more hoarse than ever by emotion, he caresses Marjiam's hair saying: « No... Not alone... I love you. Porphirea also loves you... The disciples... as many brothers... And then... Jesus... Jesus Who loves you... Don't weep, my son! »
« Your... son... yes... I... happy... Lord!... Lord.... » the old man whispers confusedly... he feels the end is approaching.
Jesus embraces him with one arm, lifts him up, and intones slowly: « I lift my eyes to the mountains, whence help will come to me » and He continues till the end of psalm 120. He then stops watching the man who is dying in His arms placated by those words... He intones psalm 121. But He says little of it, because as soon as He starts the fourth verse He stops, saying: « Go in peace, just soul! » and He lays him down again slowly and closes his eyelids with His hand.
Such a placid death that no one, except Jesus, noticed it. But they realise seeing the gesture of the Master and they begin to whisper.
Jesus makes a gesture requesting silence. He goes beside Marjiam, who has not noticed anything, as he is weeping with his head on the bed, He bends and embraces the boy and tries to lift him up saying: « He is in peace, Marjiam! He does not suffer any more. This is the greatest grace of God for him: death, and in the arms of the Lord! Do not weep, dear son. Look how peaceful he is... In peace... Few people in Israel had the reward which this just man had, to die on the breast of the Saviour. Come here, in My arms... You are not alone. And there is God, and that is everything, and He loves you for the whole world. »
Poor Marjiam is really in a pitiful state, but he still finds the strength to say: « Thank You, Lord, for coming... and you, Simon, for bringing me here... And to you all, thanks... for what you gave me for him... But it is of no further use... But... the garment is... We are poor... We cannot have him embalmed... Oh! grandfather! I cannot even give you a sepulchre!... But if you trust me, if you can... meet the expenses and in October I will give you the money of the lambs and of the fish... »
« Hey! I say: you still have a father! I will see to it, at the cost of selling a boat. The old man will receive full honours. The important thing is to have a loan... and someone who can give a sepulchre... »
The steward says: « In Jezreel there are some disciples among the people. They will not deny anything. I will go at once and I will be back by the third hour... »
« Good, but... the Pharisee? »
« Don't worry. I will let him know that there is a dead man and in order not to be contaminated, he will not come out of the house. I am going... »
And while Marjiam, bent over his grandfather, weeps and caresses him, and Jesus speaks in a low voice to the apostles and to Isaac, Micah and the others are busy preparing the last honours to their dead companion.
And I make here a personal comment. I happened to be in similar situations several times, and I often noticed that the people present, with good intentions or with blameworthy intolerance, contradict those who grieve over the loss of a relative. I point out the kindness of Jesus, Who bears with the suffering of the orphan and does not exact an unnatural heroism from him... How much there is to be learned from each least act of Jesus!...