15th July 1946.
Jesus is speaking to the people of Aphek from the doorstep of Sarah's warehouse. And He is addressing a mixed crowd, which is more curious than attentive and in which the Jews are not as numerous as the other people, mainly merchants and pilgrims who are passing through, some going towards the lake, some ready to go down to the Jericho ford, some coming from eastern towns on their way to coastal-towns.
At present it is not really a speech, but replies of Jesus to this man and that one, dialogue to which everybody listens, although with different feelings, clearly shown by their countenances and by their words, which make me understand who they are and where they are going. The dialogue at times changes in tone and interlocutors, because, while Jesus is left aside, it becomes a debate among the people present for reasons of race and difference of opinions.
Thus an old man of Joppa quarrels with a merchant from Sidon, as the latter defends the Master against the disbelief of the Jew, who will not admit that Jesus is the One Expected by nations. And there is a turmoil of quotations from the Holy Scriptures, applied rightly or wrongly, confuted by a simple statement of the Syro-Phoenician who says: « I am not interested in those words, but I say that it is He, because I have seen His miracles and heard His words. »
The dispute expands, as other people take part in it, and those against Christ shout: « Beelzebub helps Him. The Holy Man of God is not like that. He is a King. He is not a false rabbi and a beggar », whilst those who are of the same opinion as the man from Sidon reply: « Wise people are poor because they are honest. Philosophers are not clad in gold and arrogance like your false rabbis and priests. » And one gathers that they say so because they are not Jews, but Gentiles from various countries, who are by chance in Palestine or naturalised there, but still pagan-minded.
« Impious people! »
« You are impious, because you do not even perceive the divinity of His thought » reply some.
« You do not deserve to have Him. But, by Jove! We condemned Socrates and we suffered the consequences of that. I say, mind what you do. Be careful lest you should be struck by the gods, as we were several times » shouts one, certainly a Greek.
« Ah! Gentiles defending the king of Israel! »
« And some Samaritans! And we are proud of being so, because we would look after the Rabbi better than you do, if He came to Samaria. But you... You have built the Temple. It is beautiful, but it is a sepulchre full of rottenness even if you have covered it with gold and valuable marbles » shouts from the end of the crowds a tall personage dressed in linen, with flounces and embroidery work, with sashes round his waist, ribbons, bracelets...
« Ah! a Samaritan! » and they seem to be saying: « the devil » so loud the intolerant horrified Jews shout stepping aside as if the man were a leper. And running away they shout to Jesus: « Drive him away! He is impure... »
But Jesus does not drive anybody away. He tries to impose order and silence, with the help of the apostles, without much success. Thus, to put an end to disputes, He begins His sermon.
« When the people of God, after Miriam's death at Kadesh, rebelled in the desert because of lack of water and shouted against Moses, their saviour and leader from the land of sin to the promised land, as if he were their mad destroyer, and they inveighed against Aaron as a useless priest, Moses entered the Tabernacle with his brother and they spoke to the Lord requesting a miracle to stop the complaining of the people. And the Lord, although He is not obliged to yield to every request, particularly if the request is a violent one coming from spirits who have lost holy trust in the Father's Providence, spoke to Moses and Aaron. He could have spoken to Moses only, because Aaron, although High Priest, one day had forfeited God's favour by adoring the idol. But God wanted to try him again and give him the opportunity to increase in grace in His eyes. And He ordered them to take Aaron's branch, which had been deposited in the Tabernacle after it had bloomed in open flowers and leaves, which later turned into almonds, and to go with it and speak to the rock, as the rock would give water for men and animals. And Moses with Aaron did what the Lord commanded but both of them did not believe in the Lord completely. And the one who believed less was the High Priest of Israel: Aaron. The rock, struck by the branch, split and poured out so much water as to quench the thirst of people and animals. And that water was called the water of Contradiction, because the Israelites contended there with the Lord and censured His actions and orders and they were not all equally loyal, on the contrary, it was the very High Priest who gave rise to doubt about the truth of God's divine words. And Aaron was removed from the living and was not allowed to reach the Promised Land.
Also now the people rebel against the Lord saying: “You have brought us here to die, both as people and as individuals, under the rule of oppressors.” And they shout to Me: “Make Yourself our king and free us.” But of which freedom are you speaking? Of what punishment? Of material ones? Oh! in material things there is neither salvation nor punishment! A much greater punishment and a much greater salvation is within your free will's reach and You can make your choice. God allows you. I am saying this for the Israelites who are present here, for those who should be able to read the figures of the Scriptures and understand them. But as I feel pity for My people whose spiritual King I am, I want to help you to understand at least one figure, so that it may assist you to realise Who I am.
The Most High said to Moses and Aaron: “Take the branch and speak to the rock and streams of water will gush out to quench the thirst of the people so that they may complain no longer.” The Most High, to put an end to the complaints of His people, has said once again to the Eternal Priest: “Take the branch which germinated from the stock of Jesse and a flower, untouched by human filth, will spring from it and it will become a fruit: a sweet almond full of unction. And with that almond of the root of Jesse, with its wonderful shoot upon which the Spirit of the Lord will descend with its seven gifts, strike the stone of Israel so that copious water may gush for its salvation.” The Priest of God is Love Himself. And Love formed a Body making its shoot germinate from the root of Jesse, which no dirt had soiled, and it was the Body of the Word Incarnate, of the expected Messiah Who had been sent to speak to the rock so that it might split. That it might split its hardcrust of pride and greed and might receive the waters sent by God, the waters gushing from His Christ, the sweet oil of His love and thus become malleable, kind and holy, receiving in its heart the gift of the Most High to His people. But Israel does not want the living Water in her bosom. She remains closed and hard, particularly in her great people, to whom the branch which bloomed and bore fruit speaks in vain and whom it strikes uselessly. And I solemnly tell you that many who belong to this people will not enter the Kingdom, whereas many who do not belong to it, will enter it, because they will believe what the priests of Israel refused to believe. That is why I am among you like a sign of contradiction and you will be judged according to the manner in which you have understood Me. To the others who do not belong to Israel I say: the house of God, lost by the children of His people, is open to those seeking Light. Come. Follow Me. If I am placed as a sign of contradiction, I am placed also as a sign for all Nations and those who love Me will be saved. »
« You love foreigners more than You love us. If You evangelized us, we would end up by loving You! But You are everywhere except in Judaea » says a Judaean moved by Jesus' words.
« I will come down to Judaea as well, and I will stop there for a long time. But that will not change the stones in the hearts of many. They will not even change when the Blood will fall upon them. You are the head of a synagogue, are you not? »
« Yes, I am, how did You know? »
« I know. Well, you can thus understand what I am saying. »
« The blood must not fall on the stone. It is a sin. »
« You will pour the Blood on the stone with joy, that it may remain there. And the stone on which the Blood of the true Lamb will be poured will seem a trophy of victory to you. Then the day will come when you will understand... You will understand the real punishment and which was the true salvation offered to you. Let us go... »
A man elbows his way forward: « I am Siro-Phoenician. Many of us believe in You, although they have never met You... and we have many sick people... Will You not come to us? »
« No, I will not come to you. I have no time. But now, after the Sabbath, I will leave this place and I will go towards your borders. Whoever is in need of graces should wait at the border passes. »
« I will tell my fellow-countrymen. God be with You, Master. »
« Peace to you, man. »
Jesus takes leave of the widow, that is, He would like to take leave of her, but she kneels down and declares her decisions: « I have decided to leave Samuel here - he is better as a servant than as a believer - and I will come to Capernaum to be near You. »
« I will be leaving Capernaum soon, and for good. »
« But You have good disciples there. »
« That is true. »
« That is my decision... I will thus prove to You that I can become detached from riches and love with justice. I will use the money which accumulates here for Your poor people and I will consider the boy as the first of the poor, if his mother wants to keep him, even if she does not love him. In the meantime, take this » and she offers a heavy purse to Jesus.
« May God bless you with His blessings and with those of the people you assist. You have made much progress in a few hours. »
The woman blushes. She looks round, then she avows: « It was not I who made so much progress. Your apostle taught me. That one over there, the one who is hiding behind the dark-haired young man. »
« Simon Peter. The Head of the apostles. So, what did he tell you? »
« Oh! he spoke to me in such a simple manner and so well! He humbled himself, he the apostle, admitting that he also was like me, unfair in his desires. Oh! I cannot believe that! But he said that he strove to become good in order to deserve what he wanted and that he strives more and more to become so, as he does not want to turn into evil the good that he has received. You know, the things said among ourselves, poor people, are understood better... Am I offending You, Lord? »
« No. You are giving glory to God through your sincerity and Your praises for My apostle. Do as he advised you and may God be always with you who are tending to justice. »
He blesses her and is the first to set out, going north-west, under green orchards rustling in the wind which has risen suddenly.