29th June 1946.
« My Lord! » shouts the ex-leper dropping on his knees as soon as he sees Jesus appear in the unbroken ground in front of the rocky place, where he has lived for so many years. Then, standing up, he shouts again: « Why have You come back to me? »
To give you the viaticum of My word after that of your health. »
« Viaticum is given to him who is about to depart, and in fact this evening I am leaving for my purification. But I am leaving to come back and join Your disciples, if You will accept Me. Lord, I no longer have home or relatives. I am too old to resume an activity in life. They will reinstate me in my property. But what will my house be like after fifteen years of neglect? What shall I find there? Perhaps dilapidated walls... I am a bird with no nest. Let me join the group which follows You. In any case... I no longer belong to myself, I belong to You for what You have given me, I do not belong any more to the world, which cast me away for such a long time, and quite rightly as I was unclean. Now, after becoming acquainted with You, I find that the world is impure and I want to flee from it and come to You. »
« And I will not reject you. But I tell you that I would like you to stay in this area. Aera and Arbela have one of their sons who is a disciple and evangelizes there. I ask you to be such a disciple for Hippo, Gamala, Aphek and nearby villages. I will be going down to Judaea shortly and I will not come back to this area any more. But I want some evangelizers here. »
« Your will makes every renouncement dear to me. I will do what You wish. I will begin as soon as purifications are over. I had made up my mind not to take care of my house any more. Now instead I will have it repaired, so that I can live in it and receive during winter the souls which are anxious to hear of You. And I will ask one of the disciples who has been following You for years, to come with me, because if You want me to be a little master, I need to be taught by someone more learned than I am. And in spring I will go about like the others preaching Your Name. »
« That is a good plan. God will help you to fulfill it. »
« I have already begun it by burning everything I possessed: that is, my poor pallet and the utensils which I used, the clothes I wore until yesterday, everything that I had touched with my diseased body. The grotto in which I lived is black with the smoke of the fire which I lit in it to destroy and purify. Nobody will be infected going into it to take shelter in a stormy night. And then... (the man's voice becomes feeble, it almost breaks, his speech slows down...) and then... I had an old chest, by now falling to pieces... worm-eaten... it seemed that leprosy had corroded it as well... But to me... it was more valuable than the wealth of the world... It contained my dear things... mementoes of my mother... the wedding veil of my Anne... Ah! when I, so happy, took it off her the evening of our wedding and I contemplated her face, as beautiful and pure as lilies, who could have told me that a few years later I was to see it all covered with sores! And... the garments of my children... their toys... which their little hands had played with while they were able to hold... an object... and... oh! my grief is so deep... forgive my tears... It is so painful now that I have burned them for the sake of justice... without being able to kiss them any more... because they had belonged to lepers... I am unfair, Lord... I am showing You tears... But bear with me... I have destroyed the last memory of them... and now I am like a man lost in a desert... » The man collapses weeping near the heap of ashes, the remembrance of his past...
« You are not lost, John, and you are not alone. I am with you. And your dear ones will soon be with Me, in Heaven, waiting for you. Those remains reminded you of them, disfigured by disease, or lovely and healthy before the calamity. Sorrowful remembrances all of them. Leave them among the ashes of the fire. Cancel them in My assurance that you will find them, happy and beautiful in the joy of Heaven. The past is dead, John. Do not mourn any more over it. Light does not delay to look at the darkness of the night, but it is happy to part from it and to shine climbing the sky behind the sun every morning. And the sun does not delay in the east, but it rises, springs and rushes until it shines high in the vault of heaven. Your night is over. Forget it. Rise with your spirit up there, where I, the Light, will lead you. Through sweet hope and beautiful faith, you will already find joy there, because your charity will be able to communicate with God and your beloved ones awaiting you. It is but a rapid climb... and you will soon be up there, with them. Life is a puff of air... eternity is the eternal present. »
« You are right, Lord. You are comforting and teaching me how to overcome this hour with justice... But You are standing in the sun to be as close to me as You are allowed. Withdraw, Master. You have given me enough. The sun, already strong, might harm You. »
« I have come to stay with you. We have all come for that. But you can move as well towards the trees and we will be near each other without any danger. »
The man obeys departing from the rock at the foot of which is the heap of ashes, his past, and he goes towards the spot, for which Jesus is making, where the apostles, deeply moved, are with the women and the people of the village and those who have come from other towns to hear the Master.
« Light the fires to cook the fish. We will share the food in a banquet of love » orders Jesus.
And while the apostles do so, He goes about under the trees which have grown in a disorderly way in this place, which everybody has shunned because of the presence of the leper. A thick wild tangle of trees unaware of pruning-knives or axes since they began to come up. People suffering or depressed are in the propitious shadow of the brushwood and they speak to Jesus of their distresses, and Jesus cures, advises or comforts, patiently and powerfully. Farther away, in a small meadow, the boy from Capernaum is playing with the children of the village and their joyful cries compete with the singing of many birds in the thick trees, while their many-coloured garments, waving while they run on the green grass, make them look like large butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.
The food is ready and they call Jesus. He kindly asks a basket of a peasant who had brought some figs and grapes, and He fills it with bread, with the nicest fish, with tasty fruit, He adds His flask of water sweetened with honey, and He turns His steps towards the ex-leper.
« You will be left without a flask, Master » says Bartholomew warning Him. He cannot give it back to You. »
And Jesus replies smiling: « There is still so much water for the thirst of the Son of man! There is the water which the Father put into deep wells. And the Son of man can drink from His cupped hands, while they are still free... The day will come when I will have neither free hands nor water... not even the water of love to give refreshment to the Thirsty One... Now I have so much love around Me... » and He goes on carrying with both hands the wide round low basket and laying it on the grass a few metres from John, to whom He says: « Take and eat. It is the banquet of God. »
He then returns to His place. He offers and blesses the food and has it handed out to the people present who add what they had of their own. They all eat with relish and in peaceful joy, and Mary takes care of little Alphaeus with motherly love.
When the meal is over, Jesus stands between the crowd and the ex-leper and He begins to speak, while mothers take in their laps the children satiated with food and tired of playing and they lull them to sleep, so that they may not disturb.
« Listen everybody. In a psalm David, the psalmist, asks: “Who will dwell in the Tabernacle of God? Who will rest on the mountain of God?” And he goes on to enumerate who will be the fortunate people and why they will be so. He says: “The man whose way of life is blameless and who does what is right. He who speaks the truth from his heart and does not plot deceit with his tongue, who does no wrong to his fellow, who does not listen to words discrediting his neighbour.” And in a few lines, after describing those who will enter the dominions of God, he says what good these blessed souls do after having done no wrong. Here: “In his eyes the reprobate is nothing. He honours those who fear God. When he swears to his neighbour he stands by his pledge. He does not ask interest on loans, he will not be bribed to victimise the innocent.” And he concludes: “The man who does all that will never waver.” I solemnly tell you that the psalmist spoke the truth and I confirm with My wisdom that he who does such things will never waver.
The first condition to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: “To live without fault”.
But can man, a weak creature, live without fault? The flesh, the world and Satan, in continuous ferment of passions, inclinations and hatred squirt out their spray to stain souls, and if Heaven were open only to those who lived without fault ever since the age of reason, very few men would enter Heaven, just as very few are the men who arrive at death without experiencing more or less grave diseases during their lifetime. So? Are the children of God barred from Heaven? And will they have to say: “I have lost it” when an attack of Satan or a storm of the flesh causes them to fall and they see their souls stained? Will there be no more forgiveness for the sinners? Will nothing delete the stain which disfigures the spirit? Do not fear your God with unjust fear. He is a Father and a father always stretches out a hand to his wavering children, he offers help so that they may rise again, he comforts them with kind means so that their dejection may not degenerate into despair, but it may flourish into humility willing to make amends and thus become again pleasing to the Father.
Now. The repentance of the sinner, the good will to make amends, both brought about by true love for the Lord, cleanse the stain of fault and make one worthy of divine forgiveness. And when He Who is speaking to you has completed His mission on the Earth, the most powerful absolution which the Christ will have achieved for you at the cost of His sacrifice, will be added to the absolutions of love, of repentance and of good will. With souls purer than those of new-born babies, much purer, because from the bosoms of those who believe in Me, rivers of living water will spring deterging also the original sin, the first cause of weakness in man, you will be able to aspire to Heaven, to the Kingdom of God, to His Tabernacles. Because the Grace which I am about to restore to you will help you to practise justice which, the more it is practised, the more it increases the right, that a faultless spirit gives you to enter the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Infants will enter Heaven and they will rejoice, because of the beatitude given to them gratuitously, as Heaven is joy. But also adults and old people will enter it, those who have lived, fought, won and who to the snow-white crown of Grace will add the many-coloured one of their holy deeds, of their victories over Satan, the world and the flesh, and great, very great will be their beatitude of winners, so great, that man cannot imagine it.
How does one practise justice? How does one gain victory? Through honesty of words and deeds, through charity for one's neighbour. Acknowledging that God is God, not placing the idols of creatures, money, power in the place of the Most Holy God. By giving everybody the place to which they are entitled, without trying to give more or to give less than what is right. He who honours one because he is a friend or a mighty relative and serves him also in evil deeds, is not just. On the contrary, he who harms his neighbour because he has no hope of receiving any kind of profit from him and bears false witness against him on oath, or is bribed to testify against the innocent or to judge partially, not according to justice but according to the profit he may gain with his unfair judgement from the more powerful of the competitors, is not just and vain are his prayers and offers, because they are stained with injustice in the eyes of God.
You can see that what I am telling you is the Decalogue. The word of the Rabbi is always the Decalogue. Because good, justice, glory consist in doing what the Decalogue teaches and orders us to do. There is no other doctrine. In days gone by it was given amid the flashes of lightning on Mount Sinai, now it is given in the refulgence of Mercy, but the Doctrine is the same. It does not change. It cannot change. Many in Israel will say, as an excuse, to justify their lack in holiness, even after the passage of the Saviour on the Earth: “I did not have the possibility to follow and listen to Him.” But their excuse is of no value. Because the Saviour did not come to impose a new Law, but to confirm the first, the only Law, nay, to reconfirm it in its holy plainness, in its perfect simplicity. To reconfirm with love and the promises of the assured love of God what previously was said with severity on one side and listened to with fear on the other.
To make you understand properly what are the ten Commandments and how important it is to abide by them, I will now tell you a parable.
The father of a family had two sons. He loved them both equally and wanted to be their benefactor impartially. This father, in addition to the house in which his sons lived, owned some property in which great treasures were hidden. The sons were aware of such treasures, but did not know the way to go there because the father, for reasons of his own, had not revealed the road which led there, and that had been the situation for many many years. But one day he called his sons and said: “The time has now come when you ought to know where the treasures are, which I laid aside for you, so that you may go there when I tell you. You had better know the road and the signals which I put on it, so that you may not go astray. So listen to me. The treasures are not in a plain where waters stagnate, where dog days scorch, where dust spoils everything, thorns and bramble suffocate, and where robbers can easily go and rob you. The treasures are on the top of that high rugged mountain. I put them on the top there and they are waiting for you up there. There is more than one path on the mountain, in actual fact there are many. But one only is the right one. Of the others some end up in precipices, some in caves with no exit, some in ditches full of muddy water, some in nests of vipers, some in craters of burning sulphur, some against insurmountable walls. The right road, instead is a difficult one, but it arrives at the top without any interruption of precipices or other obstacles. In order to enable you to recognise it, I placed along it, at regular intervals, ten stone monuments, on each of which is carved these three identification words: 'Love, obedience, victory'. Follow that path and you will reach the place of the treasure. I will come along another road, which is known to me alone and I will open the doors to you, so that you may be happy.”
The two sons said goodbye to the father who, as long as they could hear him, repeated: “Follow the path I told you. It's for your own good. Do not yield to the temptation to follow the others, even if they seem better to you. You would lose both the treasure and me...”
They arrive at the foot of the mountain. The first monument was there, at the beginning of the path, which was in the middle of several paths radiating in different directions towards the mountain top. The two brothers began to climb the good path. At first it was very good, although there was not the least shade. From the sky the sun darted down on it, flooding it with light and heat. The white rock in which the path had been dug, the clear sky above them, the warm sun embracing their bodies: that is what the brothers saw and felt. But still animated by good will, by the remembrance of their father and by his advice, they climbed joyfully toward the top. Then the second monument... and later the third one. The path had become more and more difficult, solitary, warm. They could not even see the other paths with grass, trees or clear waters, and above all, where the slope was more gentle, because it was not so steep and the tracks were laid on ground and not on rocks.
“Our father wants us dead when we get there” said one of the sons on arriving at the fourth monument. And he began to slacken his pace. The other encouraged him to go on saying: “He loves us as his very own and even more because he saved the treasure for us in such a wonderful way. He dug this path in the rock and it takes one from the foot of the mountain to its top without any risk of getting lost. And he put these monuments to guide us. Just consider that, my brother! He did all that by himself, for our sake! To give it to us! To ensure that we arrive there without the possibility of mistakes and without any danger.”
They continued to walk. But the paths they had left down in the valley reappeared now and again close to the track in the rock and they did so more and more frequently as the cone of the mountain became narrower near the top. And how beautiful, shady and attractive they were!...
“I think I will take one of those” said the discontented brother, when he arrived at the sixth monument. “It goes to the top as well.”
“You cannot be sure of that... You cannot see whether it goes up or down...”
“There it is, up there!”
“You do not know whether it is this one. In any case our father told us not to leave this good path...”
The listless brother continued to climb against his will. At the seventh monument he said: “Oh! I am definitely going away.”
They went on their way up the path, which was now very difficult, but the top was now close at hand...
They arrived at the eighth monument and very close to it was the flowery path. “Oh! you can see that this one goes up as well, although not in a straight line!”
“You don't know if it is the same one.”
“I do. I recognise it.”
“You are mistaken.”
“No. I'm going.”
“Don't. Think of father, of the dangers, of the treasure.”
“They can all go to the dogs! What am I going to do with the treasure if I will be as good as dead when I get up there? Which danger is greater than this path? And which hatred is stronger than our father's, who fooled us with this track to let us die? Goodbye. I will arrive before you, and alive...” and he jumped on to the adjacent path, and disappeared with a joyful exclamation behind the tree trunks shading it.
His brother went his way sadly... Oh! the last part of the track was really dreadful! The man was exhausted. He felt worn out with fatigue and heat! At the ninth monument he stopped panting, leaning against the carved stone and reading the engraved words mechanically. Nearby there was a shady path with water and flowers... “I almost... No! It is written there, and it was my father who wrote it: 'Love, obedience, victory'. I must believe in his love, in his truthfulness, and I must obey to show my love... Let us go... May love support me...” He is now at the tenth monument... Exhausted, burnt by the sun, he walked stooping, as if he were under a yoke... It was the loving holy yoke of faithfulness, which is love, obedience, strength, hope, justice, prudence, everything... Instead of leaning on the monument he sat down in the narrow shade which it cast on the ground. He felt that he was dying... From the nearby path came the gurgle of streams and the smell of forests... “Father, help me with your spirit, in this temptation... help me to be faithful until the end!”
From afar the joyful voice of his brother shouted: “Come, I will wait for you. Eden is here... Come...”
“And if I went?...” and shouting loud: “Does it really go to the top?”
“Yes, come. There is a cool tunnel which takes one up. Come! I can already see the top beyond the tunnel, in the rock...”
“Shall I go? Shall I not?... Who will help me?... I will go...” He pushed his hands on the ground to help himself get up and while doing so he noticed that the engraved words were not as clear as those on the first monument. “At each monument the words were less distinct... as if my father, being exhausted, had found it difficult to engrave them. And... look!... Here also is the dark red mark, which has been visible as from the fifth monument... The only difference is that here it fills the hollow of each letter and it has overflowed, furrowing the rock as if it were dark tears, tears... of blood...” With a finger he scratched a blotch as large as two hands. And the blotch crumbled into dust leaving uncovered and clear these words: “Thus I loved you. To the extent of shedding my blood to lead you to the Treasure.”
“Oh! oh! Father! And I was thinking of not obeying your order?! Forgive me, father. Forgive me.” The son wept leaning on the rock, and the blood filling the words became fresh and as bright as a ruby, and the tears became food and drink and strength for the good son... He stood up... out of love he called his brother aloud... He wanted to tell him of his discovery... of their father's love, and say to him: “Come back”. But no one replied...
The young man resumed his way, almost on his knees on the hot rock, because his body was exhausted with fatigue, but his spirit was serene. There was the top... and his father.
“My beloved son!”
The young man threw himself on his father's breast, his father embraced him and kissed him fondly.
“Are you alone?”
“Yes... But my brother will soon be here...”
“No. He will never arrive. He left the way of the ten commandments. He did not come back to it after the first warning disappointments. Do you want to see him? There he is. In the abyss of fire... He persisted in his error. I would have forgiven and awaited him if, after realising his mistake, he had retraced his steps and, although late, he had passed where love had passed first, suffering to the extent of shedding the best part of his blood, the dearest part of himself for you.”
“He did not know...”
“If he had looked with love at the words engraved in the ten monuments, he would have understood their true meaning. You read it as from the fifth monument and you called his attention to it when you said: 'Our father must have injured himself here!' and you read it in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth... clearer and clearer, until by instinct you discovered what was under my blood. Do you know the name of that instinct? 'Your true union with me'. The fibres of your heart, blended with my fibres, startled and they said to you: 'You will have here the measure of how much your father loves you'. Now, since you are affectionate, obedient, forever victorious, take possession of the Treasure and of me.” That is the parable.
The ten monuments are the ten commandments. Your God engraved them and placed them on the path that takes to the eternal Treasure, and He suffered to lead you to that path. Do you suffer? God does, too. Do you have to force yourselves? God has, too. Do you know to what extent? Suffering to separate Himself from Himself and striving to know what it means to be a human being with all the miseries of mankind: to be born, to suffer from cold, starvation, fatigue, to suffer sarcasm, affronts, hatred, snares, and at the end to die, shedding all His Blood to give you the Treasure. God, Who descended to save you, suffers all that. God suffers that in Heaven, allowing Himself to suffer it.
I solemnly tell you that no man, however laborious his path may be to reach Heaven, will ever follow a more laborious and sorrowful way than the one along which the Son of man has to go to come from Heaven to the Earth and from the Earth to the Sacrifice, to open the doors of the Treasure to you. On the tablets of the Law there is already My Blood. On the Way which I am tracing out for you there is My Blood. It is the gush of My Blood that opens the door of the Treasure. Your souls become pure and strong through the purification and nourishment of My Blood. But to prevent it from being shed in vain, you must follow the immutable way of the ten commandments.
Let us rest now. At sunset I will go towards Hippo, John will go to be purified, and you will go home. May the peace of the Lord be with you. »