10th August 1946.
It is pleasant to rest on the small tableland. But it is wise to descend to the valley while it is daylight, because it would be dark very early under the thick trees covering the mountain.
Jesus is the first to get up and He goes to freshen up His face, hands and feet in the tiny stream running from the little spring. He then calls His apostles, who are sleeping on the grass, and invites them to get ready to depart. And while they imitate Him, one after the other, washing themselves in the cool brook and filling their flasks at the fine stream flowing from the rock, He goes to the edge of the little meadow waiting for them near two age-old trees delimiting its eastern side, and He looks at the distant horizon.
Philip is the first to join Him, and looking in the same direction as his Master, he says to Him: « This sight is beautiful! You are admiring it... »
« Yes, but I was not looking only at its beauty. »
« At what, then? Were You perhaps thinking of the time when Israel will be great, of those places beyond Lebanon and Orontes, which in the course of centuries vexed us and are still distressing us, because the heart of the power which oppresses us through its Ambassador resides there? The prophecies concerning them made by several prophets are terrible indeed: “I will break Assyria in my country, I will crush him on my mountains... This is the hand stretched out against all the nations... And who will be able to hold it back?... Damascus is going to cease to be a city, she will become a heap of ruins... Such will be the lot of our plunderers.” Isaiah speaks thus! And Jeremiah says: “I will light a fire inside the walls of Damascus, it shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad.” And that will happen when the King of Israel, the Promised One, takes His sceptre, and God has forgiven His people by sending the King Messiah to them... Oh! Ezekiel says so: “Mountains of Israel, grow branches and bear fruit for my people Israel, who will soon return... I will lead my people back to you, and they will have you for their own domain... I shall never again let you hear the insults of the nations... And the psalms sing with Ethan the Ezrahite: “I have found my servant David and anointed him with my holy oil. My hand will assist him... His enemy will not be able to do anything against him... His fortunes shall rise in my name... He will stretch his hand over the sea and his right hand over rivers... And I will make him the first-born, the sovereign among the kings of the Earth.” And Solomon sings: “He will endure like sun and moon... His empire shall stretch from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the Earth... All the kings of the Earth will do him homage, all nations will become his servants... You, Messiah, because all the signs of the spirit and of the flesh are in You, all the signs given by the prophets. Alleluia to You, Son of David, King Messiah, holy King! »
« Alleluia! » shout in chorus the others who have joined Jesus and Philip and have heard the latter's words. And alleluia echoes through gorges and hills...
Jesus looks at them very sadly... And He replies: « But do you not remember what David says of the Christ, and what Isaiah says of Him... You are taking the sweet honey and the inebriating wine of the prophets... but you are not considering that in order to be the King of kings the Son of man will have to drink bile and vinegar and dress Himself with the purple of His own Blood... But it is not your fault if you do not understand... Your error in understanding is love. I would like a different love in you. But for the time being you cannot... Ages of sin are against men preventing them from seeing the Light. But the Light will demolish the walls and will enter you... Let us go. »
They go back to the mule-path which they had left to go up to the remote plateau and they descend quickly towards the valley. The apostles speak to one another in low voices...
Then Philip runs ahead, joining the Master and asks: « Have I displeased You, Lord. I did not want to... Are You angry with me? »
« No, Philip, I am not. But I would like you at least to understand. »
« You were looking there with such keen desire... »
« Because I was thinking of how many places have not yet had Me... And will not have Me... because My time flies... How short is the time of man! And how slow man is in acting!... How much the spirit feels such limitations of the Earth!... But... Father, may Your will be done! »
« But You have covered all the regions of the old tribes, my Master. You have sanctified them at least once, so one can say that You gathered in Your hands the twelve tribes... »
« That is true. But, afterwards, you will do what time did not let Me do. »
« Since You can stop rivers and calm seas, could You not slow down time? »
« I could. But the Father in Heaven, the Son on the Earth, the Love in Heaven and on the Earth, are eager to accomplish Forgiveness... » and Jesus becomes engrossed in deep meditation which Philip respects leaving Him alone and joining his companions to whom he relates his conversation.
... The valley is now close at hand and a road can already be seen, a real main road, which from the south proceeds westwards, bending just at the foot of the mountain and running along its base. It then runs straight towards a fine village lying in the green near a little river, the bed of which is covered with stones, with a few resisting reeds here and there, particularly in the middle, where a little stream, just a tiny stream, persists in flowing towards the sea.
They all gather together before taking the main road, and they have only walked a few metres when two men come towards them waving their hands to greet them.
« Two disciples of rabbis, and one is a Levite. What do they want? » the apostles ask one another and they are not at all happy to meet them. I do not know how they can infer that the two are disciples and that one is a Levite. I do not yet understand the meaning of tassels and fringes and other secrets of Israelite garments.
When Jesus is about two metres away from the two men, and when no misunderstanding is possible as the road is now clear of wayfarers hurrying towards the village on foot or on horseback, He returns their repeated greetings and stops waiting.
« Peace to You, Rabbi » says the Levite who previously had just made low bows.
« Peace to you. And to you » says Jesus, addressing the other one.
« Are You the Rabbi named Jesus? »
« I am. »
« A woman came into town before the sixth hour and she said that she had spoken on the road to a rabbi greater than Gamaliel, because besides being wise He is good. The news reached us and our masters put off our departure for Jerusalem and sent us all out to look for You: two of us on each road going down from Giscala to the roads in the plain. In their names and through us they say to You: “Come into town, because we want to consult You.” »
« Why? »
« That You may declare Your opinion on an event which took place in Giscala and of which the consequences are still lasting. »
« And have you not got the great doctors in Israel to give you their opinions? Why apply to the unknown Rabbi? »
« If You are He, Whom the rabbis say, You are not unknown. Are You not Jesus of Nazareth? »
« I am. »
« Your wisdom is known to the rabbis. »
« And their bitter hatred for Me is known to Me. »
« Not in all of them, Master. The greatest and just one does not hate You. »
« I know. But he does not love Me either. He studies Me. But is rabbi Gamaliel in Giscala? »
« No. He already left to be at Sephoris before the Sabbath. He left immediately after the sentence. »
« So why are you looking for Me? I have to keep the Sabbath as well and I can just reach that place in time. Do not keep Me any longer. »
« Are You afraid, Master? »
« I am not afraid because I know that so far no power has been given to My enemies. But I leave the joy of judging to wise people. »
« What do You mean? »
« That I do not judge. I forgive. »
« You can judge better than anybody else. Gamaliel said so. He said: “Only Jesus of Nazareth would judge with justice in this case.” »
« All right. But you have already judged. And the matter can no longer be mended. My opinion would have been to calm passions before striking. If there was a fault the guilty man might have repented and redeemed himself. If there was no fault, there would have been no punishment, which according to some people is, in the eyes of God, the same as willful murder. »
« Master! But how do You know? The woman swore that You spoke with her only of her matters... and... You know... So are You really a prophet? »
« I am Who I am. Goodbye. Peace to you. The sun is descending to the west » and He turns round and goes towards the village.
« You have done the right thing, Master! They were certainly lying in wait for You! » The apostles are solid for the Master.
But their praises and reasons are cut short by the two previous men who reach them entreating Jesus to go up to Giscala.
« No. Sunset would overtake Me on the way. Tell those who sent you that I comply with the Law, I always do, when its observance is not prejudicial to the Commandment which is greater than the Sabbatic one - that of love. »
« Master, Master, we implore You. This is just a case of love and justice. Come with us, Master. »
« I cannot. Neither can you go back up in time. »
« We have permission to do it in this case. »
« What? They reproached Me if I cured a sick man and absolved him on a Sabbath, and you are allowed to infringe the Sabbath for an idle discussion? Are there perhaps two measures in Israel? Go! Go and let Me go. »
« Master, You are a prophet and so You know. I believe it and this man believes it. Why are You rejecting us? »
« Because!... » Jesus stares at them and stops. His severe eyes, which pierce and penetrate beyond the veils of the body to read their hearts, scrutinise domineeringly the two men in front of Him. And then His eyes, so unsustainable in severity, so mild in love, change assuming such a loving and merciful expression that if previously a heart trembled with fear because of their powerful look, now it trembles with emotion in the presence of the bright love of the Christ. « Because! » He repeats... « Not I, but men reject the Son of man, and He must distrust His brothers. But to those whose hearts are without malice I say: “Come” and I also say: “Love Me” to those who hate Me... »
« So, Master... »
« So I am going to the village for the Sabbath. »
« At least wait for us. »
« I am leaving at sunset of the Sabbath. I cannot wait. »
The two men look at each other, they consult each other remaining behind; then the one whose face is more open and who has spoken almost all the time, runs back. « Master, I am staying with You until after the Sabbath. »
Peter, who is beside Jesus, plucks His tunic compelling Him to turn to his side and whispers: « No. A spy. » Judas Thaddeus who is behind his Cousin, says in a soft voice: « Don't trust him. » Nathanael, who had gone ahead with Simon and Philip, turns round and looks sternly meaning: « No. » Even the two most trustful ones, Andrew and John, shake their heads from behind the pestering fellow.
But Jesus does not pay attention to their suspicious fears and He replies briefly: « Stay » and the others must resign themselves.
The man is now happy and feels more at home. He also feels that he must tell his name, who he is, why he is in Palestine although he was born in the Diaspora, that he was consecrated to God from his birth, because he was « the consolation of his parents » who, grateful to the Lord for having him, entrusted him to relatives in Jerusalem, that he might be of the Temple. It was there, while serving the House of God, that he met Gamaliel and became his diligent and loved disciple. « They named me Joseph because like the ancient one, I relieved my mother of the grief of being barren. But my mother always said “my consolation” when she fed me, so I became Barnabas for everybody. Also the great Rabbi calls me thus because he finds solace in his best disciples. »
« Ensure that God also may say that of you, and above all that He may call you so » says Jesus.
They enter the village.
« Are you familiar with this place? » asks Jesus.
« No, I have never been here. It is the first time that I come here, to Naphtali. The rabbi brought me here with other people, because I am all alone, I have no relatives... »
« Is God your Friend? »
« I hope so. I try to serve Him as best I can. »
« Then you are not alone. A sinner is alone. »
« I may sin, too. »
« As you are the disciple of a great rabbi, you are certainly aware of the conditions whereby an action becomes a sin. »
« Everything, Lord is sin. Man sins continuously, because the precepts are more numerous than the moments in a day. And consideration and circumstances do not always help us to avoid sin. »
« It is true that circumstances above all often lead us to sin. But have you a clear conception of the main attribute of God? »
« Justice. »
« No. »
« Power. »
« Neither. »
« ... Severity. »
« Less than ever. »
« And yet it was so on Sinai and even later... »
« The Most High was then seen amidst lightning which encircled the face of the Father and Creator with awful haloes. You really do not know the true face of God. If you knew Him and His spirit, you would know that the main attribute of God is Love, and merciful Love. »
« I know that the Most High has loved us. We are the chosen people. But it is tremendous to serve Him! »
« If you know that God is Love, how can you say that He is tremendous? »
« Because by sinning we lose His love. »
« I have already asked you whether you know the conditions whereby an action becomes a sin. »
« When it is not an action of the six hundred and thirteen precepts, or of the traditions, decisions, customs, blessings and prayers, besides the ten commandments of the Law, or it does not comply with the teaching of the scribes, then it is a sin. »
« Even if man does not do it with full knowledge and perfect consent of will? »
« Yes, even so. Because who can say: “I do not sin.”? Who can hope to have peace in Abraham after death? »
« Are the spirits of men perfect? »
« No, because Adam sinned and we have that fault in us. It makes us weak. Man has lost the Grace of the Lord, the only strength to support us... »
« And does the Lord know that? »
« He knows everything. »
« So, do you think that He has no mercy taking into account what makes man weak? Do you think that He exacts from the smitten descendants what He could exact from the first Adam? That is where lies the difference which you do not take into consideration. God is justice, I agree. He is Power, I agree. He may also be Severity with the unrepentant sinner who perseveres in his sin. But when He sees that one of His children - all men are children on the Earth which is one hour of eternity for the spirit, that becomes adult at its spiritual examination of eternal majority at the moment of the particular judgement - when He sees that one of His children errs because he is absent-minded, or slow in distinguishing, or not very well educated, or because he is very weak in one or more things, do you think that the Most Holy Father may judge him with inflexible severity? You said it yourself, that man lost Grace, the strength to react against Temptation and incentives. And God knows that. And one must not be afraid of God and shun Him as Adam did after his sin. But man ought to remember that He is Love. His face shines upon men, not to reduce them to ashes, but to comfort them as the sun comforts with its beams. Love, not severity radiates from God: sunbeams, not flashes of lightning. In any case... What did Love impose of His own will? A burden which cannot be carried? A code of numberless chapters easy to be forgotten? No. Just ten commandments, to bridle like a colt the animal man, who without bridle goes to rack and ruin. But when man is saved, when Grace is given back to him, when the Kingdom of God is established, that is, the Kingdom of love, the children of God and subjects of the King will be given one only commandment which will comprise everything: “Love your God with your whole self and your neighbour like yourself.” Because, believe, o man, that God-Love can but alleviate the yoke and make it pleasant and love will make it pleasing to serve God, when He is no longer feared but loved. Only loved, loved for Himself and loved in our brothers. How simple the last Law will be! As God is, Who is perfect in His simplicity. Listen: love God with your whole self, love your neighbour as yourself. Meditate. Are the burdensome six hundred and thirteen precepts and all the prayers and blessings not already included in these two sentences, divested of useless cavils, which are not religion but slavery towards God? If you love God you will certainly honour Him every hour of the day. If you love your neighbour, you will not do anything which may grieve him. You will not lie, steal, kill or injure, you will not commit adultery. Is it not so? »
« It is... Just Master, I would like to stay with You. But Gamaliel has already lost to You his best disciples... I... »
« It is not yet the hour for you to come to Me. When it comes, your very master will tell you, because he is a just man. »
« He is, is he not? Do You say so? »
« I say so because it is the truth. I am not one who knocks people down to rise above those who have been knocked down. I recognise everybody's rights... But they are calling us... They must have found lodgings for us. Let us go... »