451. At Hippo. Love for the Poor. Cure of an Old Slave.

Please excuse me if this notebook is particularly badly written. The episodes were seen when I was between life and death after the unlucky 2nd July 1946... I wrote them lying in bed with very high temperatures in addition to... very severe pains...

2nd July 1946. prev home next

Jesus enters Hippo on a clear morning. He must have spent the night in the country house of an inhabitant of the town, who had gone to listen to Him, in order to go to town early in the morning of a noisy market-day. Many people of Hippo are with Him and many more run to meet Him when they are told that the Rabbi has arrived. But not only citizens of Hippo are around Jesus. Also those of the village on the lake are present. Only a few women are absent, whether because of their physical conditions or because their children are too young to allow them to leave their homes.

The town appears to be a nice one. It is situated a little above lake-level and stretches out on the first undulations of the tableland, which lies beyond the lake and rises eastwards, extending to south-east as far as the mountains of Hauran, and to northeast as far as the mountain range dominated by the great Hermon. The town is important not only because of its flourishing trade and wealth, but also because it is a road junction linking many regions beyond the lake, as is evidenced by the road signs placed in its neighbourhood, bearing the names of Gamala, Gadara, Pella, Arbela, Bozrah, Gherghesa and others. It is densely populated and much frequented by foreigners who come from the nearby villages to purchase or to sell or on other business. I see that among the crowd there are many Romans, both civilians and soldiers and I notice that the people here, either because it is a characteristic of this town or it is typical of the whole region, do not appear to be so hostile or adverse to the Romans. Perhaps business relationships have linked them with bonds of expediency, if not of friendship, more than in any other area on the opposite shore.

The crowds increase as Jesus moves towards the town centre, where He stops in a large square planted with trees, in the shade of which the market takes place, that is, the more important business is negotiated, as retail selling and buying of foodstuffs and utensils is done beyond this square, on an embankment, on which the sun is already darting down and buyers and vendors protect themselves from it by means of sheets, which are stretched on small poles and cast small patches of shadow on the goods exposed on the ground. This place, covered as it is with sheets of all shades, set up not far from the ground and swarming with people wearing gaily-coloured garments, looks like a meadow adorned with huge flowers, partly immobile, partly moving around the tiny paths between the many-coloured sheets. The place has thus a pleasant sight, which, however, disappears when the old-fashioned booths are removed and the embankment appears in the yellowish desolation of a barren wild place. It is at present animated with people bawling. How loud these people yell and how many words they shout bargaining even for a wooden bowl, a sifter or a handful of seed! And the bawling of buyers and vendors is increased by a chorus of beggars who strain their voices to be heard above so much noise.

« You cannot speak here, Master! » exclaims Bartholomew. « Your voice is powerful but it cannot overwhelm this noise! »

« We will wait. See? The market is about to end. Some people are already taking their goods away. In the meantime go and give alms to the beggars with the offerings of the local rich people. It will be the prologue to and the blessing on the sermon, because alms given with love passes from the degree of material relief to that of love of neighbour and attracts graces » replies Jesus.

The apostles go away to carry out the order.

Jesus continues to speak among the attentive crowds. « The town is rich and flourishing. At least this part of it. I see you wear beautiful clean garments. And you look well fed. Everything tells Me that you do not suffer poverty. I would now like to ask you whether those people, who are complaining over there, are from Hippo or are occasional beggars who have come here from other villages to have relief. Be sincere... »

« Well. We will tell You, although Your words already sound like a reproach. Some are foreigners, most of them are from Hippo. »

« And is there no work for them? I see that you are building many houses here, and there should be work for everybody... »

« It is mostly the Romans who engage workers... »

« Mostly. You are right. Because I have seen also some of the local people supervise jobs. And I have noticed that many of them have engaged foreigners. Why not help your fellow citizens first? »

« Because... It is difficult to work here because, particularly some years ago, before the Romans built good roads, it was a hard task to bring big rocks here and open new roads... And many were taken ill or became crippled... and they are now beggars, because they are no longer fit to work. »

« But you enjoy the work they did? »

« Certainly, Master! See how beautiful and comfortable the town is, with plenty water in deep cisterns and beautiful roads which connect this town with other rich ones. See what solid constructions. See how many laboratories. See... »

« I see everything. And you were helped to build these things by those, who now in a mournful voice ask you to give them a piece of bread? You say that you were? Well, then, if you now enjoy what they helped you to possess, why do you not give them a tiny bit of enjoyment? Some bread, without them asking for it. A bed, so that they may not be compelled to share dens with wild animals. Some assistance for their diseases, which, if cured, would no longer prevent them from still being able to do something, instead of losing heart in forced mortifying idleness. How can you sit happily at meals sharing with joy plentiful food with your smiling children, knowing that, not far from you, some of your brothers are hungry? How can you go and rest in a well protected bed, when you are aware that outside, in the night, there are men who have no beds and can get no rest? Are your consciences not tortured by those coins which you put away in safes, when you know that many people have not even a farthing to buy some bread?

You told Me that you believe in the Most High Lord and that you comply with the Law, that you are acquainted with the prophets and the Books of Wisdom. You told Me that you believe in Me and you are anxious to know My Doctrine. You must, therefore, have kind hearts, because God is love and He prescribes love, because the Law is love, because the prophets and the Books of Wisdom advise love and My doctrine is a doctrine of love. Sacrifices and prayers are vain unless their base and altar is love for your neighbour and particularly for the poor and needy, to whom you can give all forms of love by means of bread, beds, clothes, comfort and doctrine, leading them to God. Poverty, by disheartening people, causes spirits to lose that faith in Providence, which is beneficial to resist the trials of life. How can you expect a poor man to be always good, patient, pious, when he sees that those who have received everything from life, and thus, according to common opinion, from Providence, are hard-hearted, without true religion - because their religion lacks the first and most essential part: love - they are without patience and, although they have everything, they cannot even tolerate the entreaties of a starving man? At times they curse God and you? But who induces them to such sin? Do you ever consider, o rich citizens of a rich town, that your duty is great: that is: to lead poor wretches to Wisdom through your own behaviour?

I have heard some of you say to Me: “We would all like to be Your disciples, in order to preach You.” I say to you all: you can do so. Those who come here timidly, and are shy because of their ragged clothes, with emaciated faces, are the ones who are awaiting the Gospel, which is given above all for the poor, that they may have a supernatural comfort in the hope of a glorious life after the reality of their present sad life. You can practise this doctrine of Mine with less material fatigue, but with greater spiritual difficulty, because riches are dangerous to holiness and justice. They can do so with all kinds of difficulties. The lack of bread, insufficient garments, their being homeless, urge these people to ask themselves: “How can I believe that God is my Father, when I do not have what the birds of the air possess?” How can the hardness of neighbours make them believe that they must love one another like brothers? It is your duty to assure them that God is a Father and, through your active love, that you are their brothers. Providence does exist and you, the rich people of the world, are its ministers. The fact that you are its means is to be considered by you as the greatest honour granted to you by God and as the only way to make dangerous riches holy.

And behave as if in each of them you saw Me. I am in them. I wanted to be poor and persecuted to be like them and so that the remembrance of the Christ poor and persecuted may last throughout centuries, casting a supernatural light on those who are poor and persecuted like the Christ, a light that would make you love them as if they were Myself. I am in fact in the beggar who has been given food, a drink, clothes, lodgings. I am in the orphan who has been taken in out of love, in the widow who has been assisted, in the pilgrim who has been given hospitality, in the patient who is cured. And I am in the afflicted who are comforted, in the doubtful who are assured, in the ignorant who are instructed. I am wherever love is received. And anything done to a brother, who is poor in material or spiritual means, is done to Me. Because I am the Poor One, the Afflicted One, the Man of Sorrows, and I am thus, in order to give Wealth, Joy, supernatural Life to all men who many a time - they do not know but it is so - are rich and joyful only apparently, and are all poor in true riches and joys, because they are without Grace through the Original Sin which deprives them of it. You know that without Redemption there is no Grace, without Grace there is no joy or Life. And to give you Grace and Life I did not want to be born a king or a mighty man, but I chose to be poor, a common humble man, because crown, throne, power are nothing for Him Who comes from Heaven to lead souls to Heaven, whereas the all important thing is the example which a true Master must set in order to give strength to his Doctrine. Because the majority of people are poor and unhappy, whereas the powerful and happy are few. Because Goodness is Pity.

That is why I came and the Lord anointed His Christ: that I may announce the Gospel to meek people and cure those who are broken-hearted, that I may preach freedom to slaves, release to prisoners, that I may console those who weep and put on the children of God - the children who know how to remain such both in joy and in sorrow - their diadem, the robe of justice, and transform them from wild plants into trees of the Lord, into His champions and His glory. I am completely devoted to everybody and I want everybody with Me in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is open to everybody providing one lives in justice. Justice is in the practice of the Law and in the exercise of love. One does not enter that Kingdom by right of wealth, but by heroism in holiness. He who wants to enter it should follow Me and do what I do: he should love God above everything and his neighbour as I love him, he should not curse the Lord, he should observe holy days and honour his parents, he should not raise a violent hand on his fellow-man, he should not commit adultery, or rob his neighbour in any way, or give false testimony, or wish what he does not have and other people possess, but he should be satisfied with his destiny, always considering it a fleeting state, a way and means to conquer a better and eternal fate, he should love the poor, the afflicted, the least on the Earth, orphans, widows, and he should not practise usury. He who does that, whatever his nationality and language, his condition and wealth, will be able to enter the Kingdom of God: the gates of which I will open to you.

Come to Me, all you of good will. Be not afraid of what you are or you were. I am Water that cleanses the past and fortifies for the future. Come to Me, you who are poor in wisdom. Wisdom is in My word. Come to Me, start a new life on new ideas. Be not afraid of not knowing, of not being able to do it. My Doctrine is easy, My yoke is light. I am the Rabbi Who gives without asking for recompense, without asking for any recompense but your love. If you love Me, you will love My Doctrine and consequently your neighbour and you will have Life and the Kingdom. Rich people, divest yourselves of your attachment to riches, and buy with them the Kingdom by means of all the words of merciful love for your neighbour. Poor people, divest yourselves of your dejection and come onto the way of your King. With Isaiah I say: “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty, and you as well who have no money come and buy.” With love you will buy what is love, what is unperishable food, the food which satisfies and fortifies.

I am going away, o rich, poor men and women of Hippo. I am going away to obey the Will of God. But I want to depart less afflicted than I was when I arrived. It is your promise which will relieve My affliction. For the welfare of you rich people, for the welfare of this town of yours, be and promise to be merciful towards the least among you in future. Everything is beautiful here. But as a dark stormy cloud frightens even the most beautiful town, so the hardness of your hearts is an impending danger here, like a shadow which causes beauty to fade away. Remove your hardness and you will be blessed. Remember: God promised not to destroy Sodom, if ten just people were found in it. You do not know the future. I do. And I solemnly tell you that it is more laden with punishments than a summer cloud is with hail. Save your town with your justice and your mercy. Will you do that? »

« We will, Lord, in Your name. Speak, please, go on speaking to us! We have been hard-hearted and sinners. But You are saving us. You are the Saviour. Speak to us... »

« I will be with you until evening. But I will speak through My deeds. Now, while the sun is flaming, go to your houses and meditate on My words. »

« And where are You going, Lord? Come to my house! To mine! » All the rich people in Hippo want Him and they almost contend with one another to justify the reason why Jesus should go with this man or that one.

He raises His hand imposing silence. He achieves it with difficulty. He says: « I am staying with these. » And He points at the poor people who, gathered in a group at the end of the crowd are looking at Him with the attitude of people who, although derided, feel that they are loved. And He repeats: « I am staying with them to comfort them and share our bread with them. I want to give them an advance of the happiness of the Kingdom where the King will be sitting among His subjects at the same banquet of love. And in the meantime, as their faith is written on their faces and in their hearts, I say to them: “Let be done to you what your hearts desire, and may your bodies and souls rejoice in the first cure of your health which the Saviour grants you.” »

The poor people must number fully one hundred. At least two thirds of them are suffering from physical disability, or are blind, or clearly ill; the other third are children begging on behalf of their widow mothers or of their grandparents... Well: it is wonderful to see deformed arms, dislocated hips, misshapen backs, lifeless eyes, exhausted people dragging themselves along, all kinds of painful diseases and misfortunes, contracted through labour accidents or excess of fatigue and privations, be restored to normal healthy state, thus allowing the poor wretches to begin to live once again and feel that they are in a position to look after themselves. Their cries fill the large square and resound in it.

A Roman elbows his way through the delirious crowd and reaches Jesus while He, with as much difficulty, is going towards the poor people who have just been cured and are blessing Him from where they are standing, as it is impossible for them to squeeze through the compact mass of people.

« Hail, Rabbi of Israel. What You have done, is it only for the members of Your people? »

« No, man. Neither what I have done, nor what I have said. My power is universal, because My love is universal. And My doctrine is universal because there are no limitations of castes, religions or nations for it. The Kingdom of Heaven is for all Mankind who can believe in the true God. And I am here for those who can believe in the power of the true God. »

« I am a pagan. But I believe that You are a god. I have a slave, who is dear to me. An old slave who has followed me since I was a little boy. Paralysis is now killing him slowly and with great pain. But he is a slave and perhaps You... »

« I solemnly tell you that I know only one slavery which disgusts Me: the slavery of sin, and of obstinate sin. Because he who sins and repents meets with My pity. Your slave shall be cured. Go and get rid of your error by entering the true faith. »

« Are You not coming to my house? »

« No, man. »

« Actually... I have asked for too much. A god does not go to the houses of mortals. We read about that only in fables... But no man ever gave hospitality to Jupiter or Apollo. »

« Because they do not exist. But God, the true God enters the homes of those who believe in Him and bestows health and peace to them. »

« Who is the true God? »

« He Who is. »

« Not You? Do not lie! I feel You are god... »

« I am not lying. What you said is true: I am God. I am the Son of God Who has come to save also your soul as I saved your beloved slave. Is that not him coming shouting at the top of his voice? »

The Roman turns round, he sees an old man, who is followed by other people and is running, enveloped in a blanket, shouting: « Marius! Marius! My master! »

« By Jove! It's my slave! How!... I... said: Jove... No: I say: by the Rabbi of Israel! I... I... » the man does not know what to say...

The crowds open out willingly to let the old man, who has just been cured, pass through.

« I am well, master. I felt something like a fire in my limbs and I heard an order: “Get up!” I thought it was your voice. I got up... I could stand... I tried to walk... and I was able... I tried to touch my bedsores... they had disappeared. I shouted. Nereus and Quintus came. They told me where you were. I did not wait to get some clothes. Now I can still serve you... » the old man, on his knees, is weeping kissing the tunic of the Roman.

« Not me. This Rabbi cured you. We will have to believe, Aquila. He is the true God. He cured those people just with His voice and you... I do not know how... We must believe... Lord... I am a heathen, but... here... No. It's too little. Tell me where You are going and I will honour You. » He offers a purse, then puts it away.

« I am going with them under that dark porch. »

« I will send You an offering for them. Hail, Rabbi. I will tell those who do not believe... »

« Goodbye. I will wait for you on the ways of God. »

The Roman goes away with his slaves. Jesus goes away with His poor people, with His apostles and the women disciples.

The porch – it is more like a sheltered road than a porch – is shady and cool, and the joy is so great that even the place looks beautiful, although it is a very common one. Now and again a citizen comes and gives offerings. The slave of the Roman comes back with a heavy purse. And Jesus gives words of light and support in money, and when the apostles come back with a variety of foodstuffs, He breaks the bread and blesses the food, which He then hands out to the poor people, to His poor people...

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