27th July 1946.
The little peninsula of Tarichea stretches out on the lake forming a deep creek south-westwards, so that it is correct to say that, rather than a peninsula, it is an isthmus almost completely surrounded by water, only a small strip being joined to the mainland. At least it was so in Jesus' days, in which I see it. I do not know whether later, in the course of twenty centuries, sand and pebbles carried by a little torrent which flows just into the south-western inlet may have altered the aspect of the place, silting up the little bay and widening the strip of land of the isthmus. The bay is calm, clear blue with jade streaks where it reflects the green trees leaning from the coast towards the lake. Many boats undulate gently on the almost calm water.
What surprises me is a strange dam which, with its arches based on the gravel of the shore, forms a kind of promenade, a pier, I would say, extending westwards. I do not understand whether it is an ornament or whether it was built for some useful purpose of which I am unaware. The promenade, or dam or pier, is covered with a thick layer of earth in which trees have been planted so thickly that, although they are not large ones, they form a green gallery above the road. Many people wander idly under the rustling gallery, which is pleasantly cooled by the breeze, the water and the leafy branches.
One can clearly see the mouth of the Jordan and the water of the lake flowing into the river-bed, forming whirlpools and obstructions near the piers of a bridge, which I would say is a Roman one, judging by its architecture with robust pillars, placed like breakwaters, against the corners of which the current breaks up with a pearly play of light of the spray in the sunshine, while the water forces its way into the deeply embanked gorge of the river, after having so much space in the lake. Almost at the end of the bridge, on the opposite shore, is a little white town spread out in the green fertile country. And farther up, to the north, on the eastern coast of the lake, is the village preceding Hippo and woods high above the cliff, beyond which is Gamala clearly visible on top of the hill.
Jesus, with a train of people who have followed Him from Emmaus and who have increased in numbers with those already waiting for Him at Tarichea - among whom is Johanna who came by boat - directs His steps towards the dam planted with trees. And He stops in the middle of it, with the lake on His right hand side and the shore on His left. Those who can find room on the shady road stop there, otherwise they go down to the shore, which is still somewhat damp after the high tide of the previous night or for other reasons, and is partly shaded by the leafy branches of the trees on the dam. Other people ask the boatmen to come close to the shore and they sit in the shade of the sails.
Jesus raises His hand indicating that He wants to speak and everybody becomes silent.
« It is written: “You marched to save Your people, to save them through Your Christ.” It is written: “And I will rejoice in the Lord and I will exult in God my Jesus.” The people of Israel have taken these words for themselves and have given them a national, personal selfish meaning, which does not correspond to the truth concerning the person of the Messiah. They have given those words a restricted meaning which degrades the greatness of the Messianic idea to a common display of human power and of overwhelming victory over the rulers found by the Christ in Israel.
But the truth is different. It is great, unlimited. It comes from the true God, from the Creator and Lord of Heaven and Earth, from the Creator of Mankind, from Him Who multiplied the stars in the vault of heaven and covered the Earth with all kinds of plants, and peopled it with animals and placed fish in the waters and birds in the air, and likewise He multiplied the children of Man created by Him to be the king of Creation and His favourite creature. Now, how could the Lord, the Father of all mankind, be unfair to the children of the children of the children born of the Man and the Woman, formed by Him with matter: the earth, and with soul: His divine breath? And how could He treat these differently from those, as if they did not come from one only source, as if other branches had been created by some other supernatural antagonist, not by Him, and were consequently strangers, illegitimate, contemptible?
The true God is not a poor god of this or of that people, an idol, an unreal figure. He is the supreme Reality, the universal Reality, the Only Supreme Being, the Creator of all things and of all men. He is therefore the God of all men. He knows them even if they do not know Him. He loves them: even if they, not knowing Him, do not love Him, or if they do not know Him well and they do not love Him well, or even if they know Him, they do not know how to love Him. Paternity does not cease when a son is ignorant, silly or wicked. A father strives to teach his son, because it is love to instruct him. A father works hard to make a mentally deficient son less silly. A father tries to correct a wicked son and make him good with tears, being indulgent, with beneficial punishments and forgiving him mercifully. That is what a man-father does. And will the God-Father be perhaps inferior to the man-father? So the God-Father loves all men and wants their salvation. He, the King of an infinite Kingdom, the eternal King, looks at His people, which comprises all the peoples spread all over the Earth, and He says: “This is the people of those I created, the people to be saved through My Christ. This is the people for whom the Kingdom of Heaven was created. It is now time to save them by means of the Saviour.”
Who is the Christ? Who is the Saviour? Who is the Messiah? There are many Greeks here, and many, even if they are not Greeks, know what the word Christ means. Christ is therefore the consecrated person, the person anointed with regal oil to fulfill His mission. Consecrated to what? Perhaps to the fleeting glory of a throne? Perhaps to the greater glory of priesthood? No. He is consecrated to gather under one only sceptre, into one only people, in one only doctrine, all men, so that they may be brothers to one another and children of one only Father, children who know their Father and comply with His Law to take part in His Kingdom.
Christ, a king in the name of the Father Who sent Him, reigns as it becomes His Nature, that is, divinely, as God. God has placed the world as the foot-stool of His Christ, not because He should oppress, but that He may save. His name is in fact Jesus, which in Hebrew means Saviour. When the Saviour saves His people from the fiercest snare and wound, a mountain will be under His feet and a multitude of people of every race will cover the mountain to symbolise that He reigns and rises above the whole Earth and above all peoples. But the King will be bare without any riches, except His Sacrifice, to symbolise that He tends only to spiritual things, and that spiritual things are conquered and redeemed with spiritual bravery and heroical sacrifice, not with violence and gold. He will be like that to reply to those who fear Him and also to those who through false love exalt and degrade Him while wishing Him to be king according to the world. He will be like that to those as well who hate Him solely for fear of being deprived of what is dear to them. For His response is that He is a spiritual King and nothing else, sent to teach spirits how to conquer the Kingdom, the only Kingdom that I have come to establish.
I will not give you new laws. I confirm the Law of Sinai for Israelites; to Gentiles I say: the law to possess the Kingdom is nothing but the law of virtue which every man of noble morals imposes on himself and which, through faith in the true God, from moral law and human virtue becomes a superhuman moral law.
O Gentiles! It is your custom to proclaim gods the great men of your countries, and you place them among the many unreal gods with whom you people Olympus, created by you to have something in which to believe, because religion is a necessity for man, exactly as faith is a necessity, because faith is the permanent state of man and incredulity is the accidental abnormality. And those men raised to the rank of gods are not always worthy even as men, as at times they are great because of their brutal strength, at times through powerful cunning, at times also because of the power which they somehow achieved. So they carry with themselves, as qualifications of supermen, certain miseries which a wise man recognises for what they are: the rottenness of unrestrained passions. That I am speaking the truth is proved by the fact that in your chimerical Olympus you have not put a single one of those great spirits who sensed by intuition the supreme Being and were the intermediate agents between man and Divinity, which was instinctively perceived by them through their contemplative virtuous spirit. Between the reasoning spirit of a philosopher, of a true great philosopher, and the spirit of a true believer who worships the true God, the gap is small, whereas between the spirit of the believer and the ego of a cunning or overwhelming man, or of a man who is a hero only in a material way, there is an abyss. And yet you have not placed in your Olympus those who had been elevated by their virtuous lives so much above the human mass that they approached the kingdoms of the spirit, whereas you have put those whom you feared as cruel masters, or whom you adulated as servile slaves, or you admired as living examples of those free animal instincts which your abnormal appetites consider as the aim and purpose of life. And you have envied those who have been numbered among the gods, neglecting those who were closer to divinity because of their honest practices and of the doctrine, which they taught and according to which they lived virtuously.
I now solemnly tell you that I will give you the means to become gods. He who does what I say and believes in what I teach, will climb the true Olympus and will be god, god son of God, in a Heaven where there is no corruption whatsoever and where Love is the only law. In a Heaven where we love one another spiritually, without the dullness and snares of senses making its inhabitants hostile to one another, as it happens in your religions. I have not come to request deeds which are noisily heroical. I have come to say to you: live as becomes creatures gifted with soul and reason, not as brutes. Live in such a way as to deserve to live, to really live, with your immortal part, in the Kingdom of Him Who created you. I am the Life. I have come to teach you the Way to go to Life. I have come to give Life to you all, and I give it to you that you may rise from death, from your sepulchres of sin and idolatry. I am Mercy. I have come to call you and gather you all together. I am the Christ Saviour. My Kingdom does not belong to this world. And yet a kingdom is established in the hearts of those who believe in Me and in My word, even from the present days, and it is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God within you.
It is written of Me that I am He Who will bring justice among nations. It is true. Because if the citizens of each nation did what I teach, hatred, wars, overbearing actions would come to an end. It is written of Me that I would not raise My voice to curse sinners or My hand to destroy those who are like cracked canes and smoky wicks because of their unbecoming way of living. It is true. I am the Saviour and I have come to strengthen those who are weak, to give humour to those whose light is smoky through lack of the necessary essence. It is written of Me that I am He Who opens the eyes of blind people, and frees prisoners from jail and takes light to those who were in the darkness of prison. It is true. The blindest of blind people are those who cannot see the Light, that is, the true God, even with the sight of their souls. I, the Light of the world, have come that they may see. The most imprisoned prisoners are those whose chains are their wicked passions. Every other chain vanishes with the death of the prisoner. But the chains of vice last and enchain even after the death of the body. I have come to loosen them. I have come to relieve from the darkness of the dungeons of ignorance of God all those whom paganism smothers under the mass of its idolatries.
Come to Light and to Salvation. Come to Me because My Kingdom is the true one and My Law is good. All I ask of you is to love the Only God and your neighbour, and consequently to repudiate the idols and passions which harden your hearts and make you arid, sensual, thieves, homicides. The world says: “Let us oppress the poor, the weak, the lonely. Let force be our right, harshness our habit, intolerance, hatred, ferocity, our weapons. Let us crush the just man, since he does not react, let us oppress the widow and the orphan whose voices are weak.” I say: be kind and meek, forgive your enemies, assist the weak, be honest in selling and purchasing, be generous also when asserting your rights, without taking advantage of your possibility to crush those who are oppressed. Do not avenge yourselves. Leave to God the care of protecting you. Be sober in all your dispositions, because moderation is proof of moral strength, whilst lust is proof of weakness. Be men and not brutes, and never fear of having fallen so low that you cannot rise again.
I solemnly tell you that as muddy water can become pure again evaporating in the sun, which purifies it by heating it, so that it may rise to the sky and fall as beneficial rain or dew, free from defilement, providing it is exposed to the sun, so the spirits which approach the great Light which is God and shout to Him: “I have sinned, I am filth, but I yearn for You, o Light” will become purified spirits which ascend to their Creator. Remove horror from death converting your lives into money to purchase the Life. Divest yourselves of your past as if it were a dirty garment and clothe yourselves with virtue. I am the Word of God and in His Name I tell you that those who have faith in Him and good will, those who repent of their past and make righteous resolutions for the future, whether they are Hebrews or Gentiles, will become the children of God and will possess the Kingdom of Heaven.
At the beginning of My speech I asked you: “Who is the Messiah?” I now say to you: It is I Who am speaking to you and My Kingdom is Your hearts if you are willing to receive it, and then it will be in Heaven, which I will open to you, if you persevere in My Doctrine. That is the Messiah and nothing else. He is the King of a spiritual kingdom, the gates of which He will open to all men of good will through His Sacrifice. »
Jesus has finished speaking and is about to go towards a short flight of stairs which takes one from the dam to the shore. Perhaps He wants to go to Peter's boat which is pitching near a rough landing-place. But he suddenly turns round, looks at the crowds and shouts: Who has invoked Me for the spirit and body? »
Nobody replies. He repeats the question and casts His beautiful eyes round at the crowds who have crowded round His back, not only on the road, but also down on the shore. Still no reply.
Matthew remarks: « Master, who knows how many have sighed for You under the emotion of Your words... »
« No. A soul has cried: “Mercy” and I heard it. And to tell you that it is true I reply: “Let it be done to you as you have asked because the motion of your heart is fair.” » And tall as He is, He looks wonderful as He stretches His hand imperiously towards the shore.
He tries once again to set out towards the short flight of steps, but Chuza, who has obviously come off a boat, stands in front of Him and greets Him bowing low. « I have been looking for You for many days. I have made the tour of the lake following You all the time, Master. I must speak to You urgently. Be my guest. I have many friends with me. »
« I was at Tiberias yesterday. »
They told me. But I am not alone. See those boats sailing towards the other shore? There are many in them who want You, including some of Your disciples. Please, come to my house, beyond the Jordan. »
« It is useless, Chuza. I know what you want to tell Me. »
« Come, Lord. »
« Sick people and sinners are waiting for Me; leave Me... »
« We also are waiting for You and we are sick with anxiety for Your welfare. And there are some people who are physically sick, also... »
Have you heard My words? So why do you insist? »
« Lord, do not reject us, we... »
A woman has elbowed her way through the crowd. I am by now sufficiently familiar with Jewish garments to realise that she is not a Jewess, and I know enough of... decent dresses to understand that she is indecent. But to cover her features and her charms, perhaps too immodest, she has enveloped herself in a veil, which is sky-blue like her wide dress, but still provoking because of its shape which leaves her beautiful arms uncovered. She throws herself on the ground, creeping on the dust until she reaches Jesus' mantle, which she clasps with her fingers, kissing its hem and weeps, sobbing convulsively.
Jesus, Who was about to reply to Chuza saying: « You are wrong and... » casts down His eyes and says: « Was it you who invoked Me? »
« Yes... but I am not worthy of the grace which You granted me. I should not have called You even with my soul. But Your word... Lord... I am a sinner. If I uncovered my face, many people would tell You my name. I am... a courtesan... an infanticide... and because of my vice I became diseased... I was at Emmaus, I gave You a jewel... You gave it back to me... and Your glance... pierced my heart... I have followed You... You have spoken. I repeated to myself Your words: “I am filth, but I yearn after You, the Light.” I said: “Cure my soul, and then, if You wish so, my body.” Lord, my body has been cured... and what about my soul?... »
« Your soul has been cured by your repentance. Go and sin no more. Your sins have been remitted. »
The woman kisses the hem of Jesus' mantle once again and stands up. In doing so her veil slips off her face.
« Galatia! Galatia! » shout many and cast contumelies on her, they pick up pebbles and sand and throw them at the woman who stoops frightened.
Jesus raises a hand severely and imposes silence. « Why are you insulting her? You did not do so when she was a sinner. Why do it now when she is redeeming herself? »
« She is doing that because she is old and ill » shout many sneeringly.
Actually, although the woman is no longer very young, she is far from being old and ugly, as they say. But crowds are like that.
« Go ahead of Me and get into that boat. I will take you home along a different way » orders Jesus and He says to His apostles: « Keep her in the middle of you and accompany her. »
The anger of the crowd, instigated by some intolerant Israelites, explodes against Jesus and amidst shouts of: « Anathema! False Christ! Protector of prostitutes! Who protects them, approves of them! Worse! He approves of them because He enjoys them » and similar phrases shouted or rather howled particularly by a small group of Hebrew madmen, I do not know of which caste, amidst such howling, they throw handfuls of damp sand which strikes Jesus on the face soiling it.
He lifts His arms and cleans His cheek without any protest. Not only, but with a gesture He stops Chuza and some other people who would like to react defending Him and He says: « Leave them. I would stand much more for the salvation of a soul! I forgive them! »
Zeno, the man from Antioch, who had never moved away from the Master, exclaims: « Now I really know who You are! A true god and not a false rhetor! The Greek woman told me the truth! Your words at the thermal baths had disappointed Me, but the present ones have conquered me. The miracle amazed me, Your forgiving the offenders has conquered me. Goodbye, Lord. I will think of You and of Your words. »
« Goodbye, man. May the Light enlighten your heart. »
Chuza insists once again while they are going towards the landing-place, and while there is a violent quarrel on the dam between Romans and Greeks on one side and Israelites on the other.
« Come! Only for a few hours. It is necessary. I will bring You back myself. You are kind to prostitutes and do You want to be inflexible with us? »
« All right. I will come. It is in fact necessary... » He addresses the apostles who are already in the boats: You can go now. I will join you... »
Are You going alone? » asks Peter who is not very happy.
« I am with Chuza... »
« H'm! And can we not come? Why does he want You with his friends? Why did he not come to Capernaum? »
« We did come. You were not there. »
« You could have waited for us. That's all! »
« Instead we decided to follow your tracks. »
« Come to Capernaum now. Why must the Master come to you? »
« Simon is right » say the other apostles.
« But why do you not want Him to come with me? Is it perhaps the first time that He comes to my house? Do you perhaps not know me? »
« Yes, we know you. But we do not know the others. »
« And of what are you afraid? That I am a friend of the Master's enemies? »
« I know nothing! But I remember the end of John, the prophet! »
« Simon! You are offending me. I am a man of honour. I swear to you that I would let them pierce me through before they dare touch a hair of the Master's head. You must believe me! My sword is at His service... »
« Eh!... If they pierced you... What purpose would it serve? Afterwards... Yes, I believe that, I believe you... But once you are dead, it would be His turn. I prefer my oar, my poor boat to your sword, and above all our simple hearts at His service. »
But there is Manaen with me. Do you trust Manaen? And there is also Eleazar, the Pharisee, the one you know, and Timoneus, the head of the synagogue, and Nathanael ben Fada. You do not know him, but he is an important leader and he wants to speak to the Master. And there is John, named Antipas from Antipatris, a favourite of Herod the Great, now old and powerful, the owner of the whole valley of Gaash, and... »
« That's enough! You are mentioning great names, but they mean nothing to me, with the exception of two... and I will come as well... »
« No. They want to speak to the Master... »
« They want! And who are they? They want?! And I don't want. Get in the boat, Master, and let us go. I will not hear of anybody, I won't, I trust no one but myself. Come on, Master. And you can go in peace and tell those people that we are not vagabonds. They know where they can find us » and he pushes Jesus rather coarsely while Chuza protests in a loud voice.
Jesus settles the matter definitely saying: « Be not afraid, Simon. No harm will happen to Me. I know. And it is better that I should go. For My own sake. Try to understand Me... » and He stares at him as if He wanted to say: « Do not insist. Understand Me. There are reasons which advise Me to go. »
Simon yields unwillingly. But he gives in, as if he were subdued... Nevertheless he grumbles between his teeth with a dissatisfied expression.
« Go without worrying, Simon. I will personally bring you back your Lord and mine » promises Chuza.
« When? »
« Tomorrow. »
« Tomorrow?! Does it take so long to exchange a few words? We are now between the third and the sixth hour... If He is not with us before evening, we will come to you, bear that in mind. And we will not be alone... » and he says so in a tone of voice which leaves no doubt about his intentions.
Jesus lays a hand on Peter's shoulder. « I am telling you, Simon, that they will do Me no harm. Bear evidence that you believe in My true nature. I am telling you. I know. They will do Me no harm. They only want to explain things to Me... Go... Take the woman to Tiberias, you may stop at Johanna's, you will thus be able to see that they are not abducting Me with boats and armed men... »
« Right, but I know his house (and he points at Chuza). I know that there is land behind it, it is not an island, there is Galgala and Gamala, Aera, Arbela, Gerasa, Bozrah, Pella and Ramoth and many more towns!... »
« But do not be afraid, I tell you! Be obedient. Give Me a kiss, Simon. Go! And you, too » and He kisses and blesses them. When He sees the boat depart He shouts to them: « It is not My hour. And until that moment, nothing and no one will be able to raise a hand against Me. Goodbye, friends. »
He turns towards Johanna who clearly looks upset and worried and He says to her: « Be not afraid. It is a good thing that this should happen. Go in peace. » And He says to Chuza: « Let us go. To show you that I am not afraid. And to cure you... »
« I am not ill, Lord... »
« You are. I tell you. And many with you. Let us go. »
He gets into the fast rich boat and sits down. The oarsmen begin to row on the calm waters making a detour to avoid the strong current at the end of the lake, where the water flows into the riverbed.