1st August 1946.
« Steer the boat towards Bethsaida » orders Jesus Who is with John in a little boat, a real nutshell, in the middle of the lake, which is becoming clear as day breaks.
John obeys without speaking. A rather strong breeze fills the little sail and drives the boat so fast that the latter heels. The eastern coast passes by rapidly and the curve of the northern side of the lake comes nearer and nearer.
« Land before the village. I want to go to Porphyrea without being seen by anybody. You can meet Me at the usual place and wait for Me in the boat. »
« Yes, Master. And if anybody should see me? »
« Converse with everybody without saying where I am. I will not be long. »
John finds a good landing spot on the shore as he remembers a sandy stream from which men have taken away sand for their needs, forming thus a small gulf a few meters wide where a boat can reach the shore, which is about half a meter above water level. He steers the boat there. The boat rubs lightly on the shingly shore but it can reach the dry beach where John holds it fast grasping a root sticking out of the sand. Jesus jumps on the beach. John presses an oar against it making an effort to push the boat back on the lake. He is successful. He raises his face, bright with his good smile and says: « Goodbye, Master. »
« Goodbye, John » and Jesus sets out among the trees while John steers his little boat along the coast.
Jesus turns towards the inland and passes through the vegetable gardens at the rear of Bethsaida. He is walking fast to enter the village before it rouses. He arrives at Peter's house without meeting anybody. He knocks at the kitchen door. After a moment Porphyrea's head looks out cautiously above the little wall of the terraced roof. When she sees Jesus she utters an « Oh! » of surprise. With one hand she collects her beautiful hair - her only beauty - falling loose on her shoulders and runs down the little staircase, barefooted as she is, in her hurried morning toilet.
« Lord, You! All alone? »
« Yes, Porphyrea. Where is Marjiam? »
« He is sleeping. He is still sleeping. The boy has been somewhat sad, rather languid... and I spare him a little. It is also his age... he is growing... While sleeping he does not think and does not weep. »
« Does he weep often? »
« Yes, Master. I think that it is his present weakness. And I try to strengthen him... and comfort him... But he says: “I am left alone. All those whom I love go away. When Jesus is no longer with us...” and he says so as if You were about to leave us... Of course... he has suffered much in his lifetime... But Simon and I love him... so much, Master, believe me. »
« I know. But his soul is sensitive... Porphyrea, I must speak to you just about this. That is why I came, without Simon, at this time of the day. Where can we go and speak so that Marjiam may not hear us and nobody will disturb us? »
« Lord... I have but my bedroom, or the room where the nets are stored... Marjiam is upstairs, I was up there as well, because to escape the heat, we went to sleep up there... »
« Let us go into the room where the nets are. It is farther away and Marjiam will not hear us even if he should wake. »
« Come, Lord », and Porphyrea leads Him into the large rustic room encumbered with all sorts of things: nets, oars, provisions, hay for the sheep, a loom...
Porphyrea hastens to clear a kind of table placed against the wall, dusting it with a flock of tow so that the Master may sit on it. « It does not matter, woman. I am not tired. »
Porphyrea raises her mild eyes towards Jesus' depressed tired face and she seems to be saying: « Of course You are. » But, being accustomed to be silent, she does not speak.
« Listen, Porphyrea. You are a clever woman and a good disciple. I have been very fond of you since I met you and it was with great joy that I accepted you as a disciple and I entrusted the boy to you. I am aware that only few women are as wise and prudent as you. And I know that you can keep silent: a very rare virtue in women. For all those reasons I have come to speak to you secretly and confide to you something of which no one is aware, not even the apostles, not even Simon. I am confiding it to you because I must tell you how you are to behave in future with Marjiam... and with everybody... I am sure that you will meet your Master's request and that you will be as prudent as ever... »
Porphyrea, who has really become purple on hearing the praise of her Lord, can only nod assent, as she is too moved to be able to utter any word expressing her agreement; she is in fact so timid and accustomed to being pressed by overbearing people giving her orders without knowing whether she is disposed to agree...
« Porphyrea... I will never come back again to this part of the country. Never again, until everything is accomplished... You are aware of what I must accomplish, are you not?... »
At these words Porphyrea drops her hair, which she was still holding against the nape of her neck with her left hand and emits a sound which is more like a sob than a cry and which she stifles pressing her face with both hands while she falls on her knees moaning: « I know, Lord, my God... » And weeps so silently that her weeping is revealed only by the tears falling on the floor through her fingers compressing her face.
« Do not weep, Porphyrea. I came just for that. I am ready... and ready are those who, by serving Evil, will serve Good, in actual fact, because they will cause the hour of Redemption to begin. It could be fulfilled even now because both they and I are ready... and every further hour that passes or event which takes place will do nothing but... perfect their crime... and My Sacrifice. But also these hours, and they will be numerous, which are to pass before that hour, will serve... There is still something to be done and said, so that all the things which were to be accomplished to make Me known, may be done... But I will not come back here again... I am looking at this place for the last time... and I have come into this honest house for the last time... Do not weep... I did not, want to go away without saying goodbye to you and giving you the blessing of your Master. I will take Marjiam with Me. I will take him with Me now while going towards the Phoenician borders and also later when I go down to Judaea for the feast of the Tabernacles. There will be no problem in sending him back here before the depth of winter. Poor boy! He will enjoy My company for some time. And then... Porphyrea, it is not right that Marjiam should be present. at My hour. So you shall not let him depart for Passover... »
« The precept, Lord... »
« I absolve him from the precept. I am the Master, Porphyrea, and I am God, as you know. As God, I can absolve, in advance, from an omission which is not even such, because I am commanding it out of justice. Obedience to My command is by itself absolution from the omission of the precept, because obedience to God - which is also a sacrifice for Marjiam - is always superior to everything else. And I am a Master. He who cannot measure the capability and reactions of a disciple and does not consider the consequences which an effort greater than that which the disciple can stand may cause him, is not a good Master. Also when imposing virtuous deeds one must be prudent and not exact a maximum which the spiritual perfection or the general strength of the person involved cannot give. By exacting too great a virtue or spiritual control as compared with the degree of spiritual, moral and also physical strength attained by a person, one can cause a loss of the strength already stored up as well as the shattering of the human being in its three degrees: the spiritual, moral and physical ones. Marjiam, poor boy, has already suffered too much and is too familiar with the brutality of his fellow-creatures, to the extent of almost hating them. He would not be able to bear what My Passion will be: a sea of grievous love in which I will wash the sins of the world, and a sea of satanic hatred which will try to overwhelm all those whom I loved and to destroy all My work as a Master. I solemnly tell you that also the strongest ones will bend under the pressure of Satan, at least for a short time... But I do not want Marjiam to bend or to drink of that distressing water... He is innocent... and is dear to Me... I feel pity, much pity, for those who have already suffered more than their strength would permit... I have called back to the hereafter the soul of John of Endor... »
« Is John dead? Oh! Marjiam had written many rolls for him... Another sorrow for the child... »
« I will inform him of John's death... I was saying that I took him away from this world to preserve him as well from the impact of that hour. John also had suffered too much from men. Why awake appeased feelings? God is good. He tries His children, but He is not a rash experimenter... Oh! if men were able to do as much! How fewer hearts would be ruined, or simply, how many fewer dangerous storms in hearts!... But reverting to Marjiam, he must not come to the next Passover. Say nothing for the time being. When the time comes, say to him: “The Master ordered me not to send you to Jerusalem. And He promises you a special reward if you will obey Him.” Marjiam is good and will obey... Porphyrea, that is what I want from you. Your silence, your loyalty, your love. »
« Anything You want, my Lord. You honour Your poor servant too much... I do not deserve so much... Go in peace, Master and God. I will do what You want... » but sorrow overwhelms her and she collapses with her face on the floor - she had been kneeling all the time, relaxing on her heels, staring at Jesus' face - she collapses on the floor completely covered by the mantle of her raven hair sobbing in a loud voice: « How grievous, Master! Oh! How grievous! What is coming to an end! What is coming to an end for the world! Particularly for us who love You! And for Your servant! The Only One! The Only One Who really loved me! Who never despised me! Who has never been overbearing with me! Who treated me like the others, although I am so ignorant, poor and stupid! Oh! Marjiam and I - because Marjiam was the first to tell me - had set our minds at rest... Everybody said that it could not be true... Everybody: Simon, Nathanael, Philip... and their wives... and they know, they are learned... and Simon... yes! my Simon, if You chose him, he must be worth something!... and they all said that it is not possible... But now You are saying it is... and we cannot doubt Your word... » She is really desolate and moving in her grief.
Jesus stoops to lay a hand on her head: « Do not weep thus... Marjiam will hear you... I know... No one believes it, no one wants to believe it... and their very learning and love are the reason of their not believing... But it is so... Porphyrea, I am going away. Before leaving you I bless you now and forever. Always remember that I loved you and that I am pleased with your love for Me. I will not say: persevere in it. I know that you will, because the remembrance of your Master will always be your solace and you will take shelter in it. Your solace and peace, also at the hour of death. Consider then that your Master died to open Paradise to you and that He is waiting for you there... Now, stand up. I will go and wake Marjiam and speak to him. Remove the traces of your tears and join us. John is waiting for Me to take Me to Capernaum. If you have something to send to Simon, prepare it. Remember that he will need his heavy clothes... »
Porphyrea, a true submissive and obedient person, kisses Jesus' feet, and is on the point of standing up when a wave of love makes her lose her head and, blushing deeply, takes Jesus' hands and kisses them once, twice, ten times. She then stands up and lets Him go...
Jesus goes out and up to the terrace, He passes under a kind of canopy formed by sails stretched on ropes, under which are two little beds. Marjiam is still sleeping with his face downwards, pressed against the little pillow. Only one cheek-bone of his little dark face and a long lean arm can be seen outside the sheet which covers him.
Jesus sits on the floor near the little bed and gently caresses the ruffled locks which fall on the pale cheek of the sleeping boy, who stirs but does not wake up as yet. Jesus repeats His gesture and bends to kiss on the forehead the face which is now uncovered.
Marjiam opens his eyes and sees Jesus beside him, bending over him. He can hardly believe it, perhaps he thinks that he is dreaming, but Jesus calls him and the youth then sits up and throws himself into Jesus' arms and takes refuge there... « You are here, Master? »
« I have come to take you away with Me for some months. Are you glad? »
« Oh! And Simon? »
« He is at Capernaum. I came with John... »
« Has he come back as well? He will be happy! I will give him what I wrote. »
« I am not speaking of John of Endor, but of John of Zebedee. Are you not glad? »
« Yes. I am fond of him. But I am fond also of the other one... almost more... »
« Why, Marjiam? John of Zebedee is so good. »
« Yes, but the other one is so unhappy and I was unhappy, too, and I still am a little... People who suffer understand and love one another... »
« Would you be happy to learn that he no longer suffers and that he is very happy? »
« Of course I would. But he cannot be happy unless he is with You. Or... Is he perhaps dead, Lord? »
« He is in peace and we must be pleased with that, without being selfish, because he died as a just man and because his spirit is no longer separated from ours. We have another friend praying for us. »
Two large tears stream down Marjiam's very thin pale face and he whispers: « It is true. »
Jesus says nothing further, neither does He make any remark concerning the physical and moral state of Marjiam, who has clearly grown weaker. On the contrary He says: « Let us go. I have already spoken to Porphyrea. She has certainly prepared your clothes. Tidy yourself up, because John is waiting for us. We will give Simon a surprise. Is that not his boat coming back to Capernaum? Perhaps he has been fishing on his way back... »
« Yes, it is that one. Where are we going, Lord? »
« To the north and then to Judaea. »
« For a long time? »
« Yes, for a long time. »
Marjiam, excited by the idea of being with Jesus, gets up quickly and runs down to wash himself in the lake, and he goes back with his hair still wet, shouting: « I have seen John. He waved to me. He is at the mouth of the stream, among the reeds... »
« Let us go. »
They go downstairs. Porphyrea is closing two bags and she says: « I have decided to send the heavy garments later, by my brother who will be coming to Gethsemane for the feast of the Tabernacles. Both you and your father will be able to walk more quickly » and while she finishes tying the straps, she mentions what she has prepared: milk, bread, fruit...
« We will take everything and eat in the boat. I want to go before the shore becomes crowded. Goodbye, Porphyrea. May God bless you always and may the peace of the just be always with you. Come, Marjiam. »...
They cover the short stretch of the road quickly and while Marjiam goes to John, Jesus goes to the boat, where He is soon joined by the two who run through the reed-thicket and jump into the boat and at once press an oar against the shore to push the boat out into deep water.
The short voyage is soon over and they stop at the little beach of Capernaum awaiting Peter's boat, which is just arriving. The early hour saves them from being assailed by the crowds and they can eat their bread and fruit in peace, lying on the sand in the shade of the boat.
Simon does not know to whom the little boat belongs and thus only when he sets foot on the shore and sees Jesus stand up from behind it, he notices Him. « Master! and you, Marjiam! How long have you been here? »
« Just now. I called at Bethsaida. Be quick. We must leave at once... »
Peter looks at Him but does not say anything. With his companions he unloads the catch, the bags of garments, including John's, who at last can get dressed. And Simon asks something of his companion, who makes a gesture meaning: « Wait... »
They go to the house and enter. The remaining apostles gather there.
« Make haste. We are going away at once. Take everything because we are not coming back here » orders Jesus.
The apostles cast sidelong glances at one another and one group gesticulates to the other. But they obey. Actually I think that they act quickly to be able to speak among themselves in the other rooms...
Jesus remains in the kitchen with Marjiam and He takes leave of the landlords. But He does not say to them: « I will not come back again » neither does He say so to the people of Capernaum who meet Him in the streets and greet Him. He greets them in a simple manner, as He always does when departing. He stops only at Jairus' house. But Jairus is not back yet...
At the fountain He meets the little old woman who lives near the house of little Alphaeus' mother and He says to her: « A widow will be coming here shortly. She will look for you. She is going to settle here. Be friendly to her and be very good to the boy and to his brothers... Do it in a holy way, in My name... »
He proceeds saying: « I would have liked to say goodbye to all the children... »
« You can do so, Master. Why did You not take a rest? You are very tired. You look pale and Your eyes are tired. It is not good for You... It is still warm and You certainly did not sleep either at Tiberias or at Chuza's... »
« I cannot, Simon. I have to go to certain places and time is short... »
They are near the shore. Jesus calls Peter's workmen and says goodbye to them instructing them to take the little boat to the village before Hippo and give it to Saul of Zacharias.
He takes the shady road along the river. He continues on it as far as a cross-road and proceeds along the latter.
« Where are we going, Lord? » asks Simon who had spoken so far to his companions in a low voice.
« To Judas and Anne and then to Korazim. I want to say goodbye to My good friends... »
The apostles cast more sidelong glances at one another and talk in low voices.
Finally James of Alphaeus moves forward and joins Jesus Who is ahead of them all with Marjiam. « Brother, are we not coming back any more to these parts, since You say that You wish to say goodbye to Your friends? We wish to know. »
« Of course, you will come back. But after many months. »
« And what about You? »
Jesus makes an evasive gesture... Marjiam withdraws discreetly and joins the others, that is, everybody, with the exception of James of Alphaeus, who is with Jesus, and of the Iscariot who is alone, behind them all, somewhat gloomy, as if he were listless.
« Brother, what has happened to You? » asks James laying one hand on Jesus' shoulder.
« Why are you asking Me? »
« Because... I do not know. We are all wondering. You seem to be changed... You came with John only... Simon said that You had been Chuza's guest... You are not resting... You greet only few people... It would appear that You do not want to come back here... And Your face... Do we no longer deserve to be informed? Not even I... You were very fond of me... You told me things of which I only am aware... »
« I still love you. But I have nothing to say. I lost one day more than I expected. I must make up for it. »
« Was it necessary to go to the north? »
« Yes, brother, it was. »
« Then... Oh! You have suffered. I can see it... »
Jesus embraces him, passing His arm round His cousin's shoulder: « John of Endor is dead. Did you know? »
« Simon told me when I was preparing my clothes. What else?... »
« I parted from My Mother. »
« What else? » James, who is smaller than Jesus, looks up at Him, insistingly, inquiringly.
« And I am happy to be with you, with all of you, with Marjiam. I am going to keep him with Me for a few months. He needs it. He is sad and is suffering. Have you seen him? »
« Yes. But that has nothing to do with the matter... You do not want to tell me. It does not matter. I love You even if You do not treat me as a friend. »
« James, you are more than a friend to Me. But My heart is in need of rest... »
« And therefore it is also in need of not speaking of what is grieving You. I see. Is it Judas who is grieving You? »
« Judas? Your brother? »
« No. The other one. »
« Why do you ask Me that question? »
« I do not know. While You were away, a messenger, we do not know whose, looked for Judas several times. He rejected him every time, but... »
« As far as you all are concerned, every action of Judas is always a crime. Why do you all lack charity?... »
« Because he is so grim, upset. He avoids his companions. He is unwilling... »
« Leave him alone. He has been with us for over two years and has always been like this... Consider how happy the two old people will be. And do you know why I am going there? I want to recommend the little carpenter of Korazim to them... »
They move away speaking. Behind them, in a group, come the apostles who have waited for Judas, in order not to leave him behind all alone, although he is so obviously unwilling as not to encourage anybody to share his company.