22nd August 1946.
The sun has just begun to shine on the country which is wet after a shower. It must have rained only recently because the dust on the road is still wet but has not turned into mud. That is why I say that it rained recently and that it was a brief fall. One of the first autumn showers foreshadowing the November rains which will turn the roads of Palestine into slimy ribbons. But this shower, favourable to wayfarers, has only moistened the dust - the other calamity for Palestine reserved for summer months, as mud is for the winter ones - and it has washed the atmosphere, leaves and herbs, which are now shining, clean as they are, in the early sunshine. A pleasant clean breeze is blowing among the olive groves covering the hills of Nazareth, and a flight of angels seems to be passing among the peaceful trees, as the rustling leafy branches resound like large wings in flight and their glossy silvery leaves gleam, when blown all to one side, as if a wake of heavenly light was left behind by the angelical flight.
The town has been left a few stadia behind when Jesus, Who has taken some short cuts along the hills, arrives at the main road which from Nazareth goes towards the plain of Esdraelon, the caravan route now becoming busier every minute with pilgrims. He walks a few more stadia on the road, when at a cross-road near a milestone on the opposite sides of which is inscribed: « Japhia Sidonia-Bethlehem Carmel » to the west, and « Xalot-Naim Scytopolis-Engannim » to the east, He sees, standing on the roadside, His cousins Joseph and Simon, who greet Him at once together with John of Zebedee.
« Peace to you! Are you already here? I was thinking of stopping here waiting for you and that I was going to be the first to arrive... and I find you already here » and He kisses them clearly happy to see them.
« It was not possible for You to be the first to arrive. As we were afraid that You might pass before we arrived, we left by starlight, which was soon dimmed by clouds. »
« I told you that you would see Me. So, John, you have had no sleep. »
« Little, Master, but certainly more than You had. But it does not matter » and a smile brightens John's serene face, a true mirror of his happy character which is always satisfied with everything.
« Well, brother. Did you want to speak to Me? » says Jesus to Joseph.
« Yes... Let us go into that vineyard. It will be more quiet there » and Joseph of Alphaeus is the first to advance between two rows of vines already stripped of their fruit. Only an odd small bunch of grapes is left on the vine-branches, among the yellowing branches about to fall, to satisfy the hunger of poor people and of pilgrims, according to Mosaic prescriptions.
Jesus follows him with Simon. John remains on the road, but Jesus calls him saying: « You may come, John. You are My witness. »
« But... » says the apostle looking perplexedly at Alphaeus' two sons.
« No. Do come. Nay, we want you to listen to our words » says Joseph and John then goes down into the vineyard where they all proceed so far, following the curve of the rows of vines, that they cannot be seen from the road.
« Jesus, I was happy to see that You love me » says Joseph.
« Could you doubt it? Have I not always loved you? »
« And I have always loved You. But... in our love, for some time, we have not been understanding each other. I... could not approve of what You were doing, because I thought that You were ruining Yourself, Your Mother and us. You know... We, the elderly Galileans, we all remember how Judas the Galilean was struck and how his relatives and followers were scattered and their property confiscated. Those who were not killed were sent to the galleys and their goods were confiscated. I did not want that to happen to us. Because... Well, I thought that it was not true that just from us, of the stock of David, of course, but so... We are not short of bread, definitely not, and may the Most High be praised for that. But where is the regal grandeur which all the prophecies ascribe to Him Who will be the Messiah? Are You the rod that strikes in order to dominate? You were not the light when You were born. You were not even born in Your house!... Oh! I know the prophecies well! We are withered trees now, but nowhere it was said that the Lord would cover them again with leaves. And what are You but a just man? Those are the thoughts which made me oppose You moaning our ruin. And while I was moaning thus, tempters came to make my ideas of grandeur, of royalty flare up even-more... Jesus, Your brother was foolish. I believed them and I displeased You. It is hard to admit it, but I must acknowledge it. And consider that all Israel was in me, as foolish as I was, as certain as I was that the figure of the Messiah is not like the one which You give us... It is unpleasant to say: “I was wrong! We were wrong and we are wrong! We have been wrong for ages.”
But Your Mother explained the words of the prophets to me. Oh! yes! James is right. And Judas, too. When one hears the prophecies explained by Her, as they did when they were children, one sees that You are the Messiah. That is it. My hair is growing hoary, because I am no longer a boy, neither was I when Mary came back from the Temple and was engaged to Joseph. And I remember those days. And the astonished criticism of my father when he saw that his brother was not completing the marriage in a short time. He was amazed, and Nazareth was amazed. And people spoke slightly. Because it is not customary to let so many months pass before the wedding, putting oneself in condition of sinning and of... Jesus, I think highly of Mary and I honour the memory of my relative. But the world... It was not a good moment according to the world... You... Oh! now I know. Your Mother explained the prophecies. That is why God wanted them to delay the wedding, so that Your birth might coincide with the great Edict and You should be born in Bethlehem of Judah. And... yes... Mary explained everything to me and it was like a light that made me understand also what She did not mention, out of humility. And I say: You are the Messiah. That is what I said, that is what I will say. But to say that did not imply changing my mind... because my mind considers the Messiah a King. The prophecies speak... and it is difficult to understand a different character in the Messiah than that of king... Are You following me? Are You tired? »
« No, I am listening. »
« Well... Those who were tempting my heart came back and wanted me to force You... And as I did not agree, the veil fell off their faces and they appeared as they are: false friends and true enemies... And more people came, weeping like sinners, and I heard them. They repeated the words which You spoke in Chuza's house... Now I know that You will reign over spirits, that is, You will be the One in Whom all the wisdom of Israel will assemble so that You may give new universal laws. You have the wisdom of the patriarchs, of the judges, and of the prophets, and the wisdom of our ancestors David and Solomon, and the wisdom which led the kings, Nehemiah and Ezra and supported the Maccabees. All the wisdom of a people, of our people, of the People of God. I understand that You will give the world, completely subjected to Your power, Your very wise laws. And Your people will really be a people of saints.
But, my dear Brother, You cannot do that by Yourself. Moses, for much less, chose some assistants. And it was but one people! You... All the world! All the world at Your feet!... Ah! But to do that You must make Yourself known... Why are You smiling with Your lips, and closing Your eyes? »
« Because I am listening and I am saying to Myself: “My brother is forgetting that he reproached Me because I was making Myself known, saying that I would harm the whole family!” That is why I am smiling. And I am also thinking that for two and a half years I have done nothing but make Myself known. »
« That is true. But... Who knows You? The poor. Peasants. Fishermen. Sinners. And women! You can count on the fingers of one hand those who are not valueless nonentities among those who know You. I say that You must make Yourself known to the great ones in Israel! To the Priests, to the High Priests, to the Elders, the scribes, the great Rabbis of Israel, to all those, who, although few, are worth a multitude. They must know You! They, those who do not love You, among their charges which I now realise are false, have one which is true and just: that You neglect them. Why do You not present Yourself for what You are and conquer them with Your wisdom? Go up to the Temple and install Yourself in Solomon's Porch - You are of the stock of David and a prophet, and You are entitled to that place and nobody is rightfully entitled to it as You are - and speak. »
« I did speak. That is why they hate Me. »
« Insist. And speak as a king. Do You not remember the power, the majesty of Solomon's deeds? If (what a wonderful “if”!) You are really the One predicted by the prophets, as the prophecies show if one looks at them with the eyes of the spirit, You are more than a Man. He, Solomon, was but a man. So show Yourself for what You are, and they will worship You. »
« Will the Hebrews, the princes, the heads of the families and the tribes of Israel adore Me? Not everybody, but some who do not adore Me, will adore Me in spirit and truth. But that will not happen now. First I must assume the crown, take the sceptre and put on the purple. »
« Ah! So You are king, You will soon be king! You are saying so! It is just as I thought! As many people think! »
« You really do not know how I shall reign. Only the Most High and I, and few souls to whom the Spirit of the Lord was pleased to reveal it, now and in the past, know how the King of Israel, the Anointed of God, will reign. »
« But listen also to me, Brother. Joseph is right. How can You expect them to love You or fear You if You always avoid astonishing them? Do You not want to call Israel to arms? Do You not want to utter the cry of war and victory? But at least become king by public acclamation, by being able to gain such an acclamation through Your power of Rabbi and Prophet, as it is not the first time that kings have been hailed thus in Israel » says Simon of Alphaeus.
« I already am king. I have always been king. »
« Yes. One of the Temple leaders told us. You were born king of the Hebrews. But You do not love Judaea. You are a deserter king, because You do not go there. You are not a holy king if You do not love the Temple, where the will of a people will anoint You king. Without the will of a people You cannot reign, unless You wish to impose Yourself on them through violence » replies Simon.
« You mean without the will of God, Simon. What is the will of the people? What is the people? For whom is the people? Who supports it as such? God. Do not forget that, Simon. And I shall be what God wants Me to be. By His will I shall be what I must be. And nothing can prevent Me from being so. It will not be My concern to utter the cry to gather the people. The whole of Israel will be present at My proclamation. Neither shall I have to go up to the Temple to be proclaimed. They will carry Me there. All the people will carry Me there that I may ascend My throne. You accuse Me of not loving Judaea... In its heart, in Jerusalem, I shall become the “King of the Jews”. Saul was not proclaimed king in Jerusalem, neither was David nor Solomon. But I shall be anointed King in Jerusalem. But I will not go to the Temple in public now and I will not install Myself there, because it is not yet My hour. »
Joseph resumes speaking. « You are letting Your hour pass by. I am telling You. People are tired of foreign oppressors and of our leaders. This is the hour. I am telling You. The whole of Palestine, with the exception of Judaea, but not all of it, is following You as a Rabbi, and even more than that. You are like a flag hoisted on a mountain top. Everybody is looking at You. You are like an eagle and everybody follows Your flight. You are like a revenger. And everybody is waiting for You to shoot the arrow. Go. Leave Galilee, the Decapolis, Perea, the other regions, and go to the heart of Israel, to the citadel in which all evil is enclosed and from which all good is to come, and conquer it. You have disciples there as well. But they are tepid because they do not know You well. They are few, because You do not stay there. And they are somewhat doubtful because You did not work there the deeds which You worked elsewhere. Go to Judaea so that they also may see who You are through Your deeds. You reproach the Hebrews for not loving You. But how can You expect to be loved by them if You hide Yourself from them? No man seeking or wishing to be acclaimed in public performs his works secretly, but he does them in such a way that people may see them. So if You can work wonders in hearts, bodies and elements, go there and make Yourself known to the world. »
« I told you: it is not My hour. My time has not yet come. You think that it is the right moment, but it is not so. I must act in My time. Not before. Not after. It would be useless before. I would make the world and hearts obliterate Me before I accomplish My work. And the work already done would bear no fruit because it is not completed and helped by God, Who wants Me to fulfill it without omitting one word or one deed. I must obey My Father. And I will never do what you hope for because it would prejudice the design of My Father. I understand you and I pity you. I bear you no grudge. I am not even tired of or annoyed at your blindness... You do not know. But I know. You do not know. You see the surface of the face of the world. I see its depth. The world shows you a face which is still kind. It does not hate you, not because it loves you, but because you do not deserve its hatred. You are a mere trifle. But it hates Me because I am a danger to the world. A danger to the falseness, the greed, the violence which is the world.
I am the Light and light enlightens. The world does not love light because it reveals the actions of the world. The world does not love Me, it cannot love Me because it knows that I have come to defeat it in the hearts of men and in the gloomy king who dominates it and leads it astray. The world does not want to convince itself that I am its Doctor and Medicine and like a madman it would like to destroy Me in order not to be cured. The world does not want to persuade itself yet that I am the Master because what I say is the opposite of what it says. And so it tries to stifle the Voice which speaks to the world in order to lead it to God and show it the true nature of its wicked actions. There is an abyss between Me and the world. And it is no fault of Mine. I have come to give the world the Light, the Way, the Truth, the Life. But the world will not receive Me and My light becomes darkness for it because it will bring about the condemnation of those who rejected Me. In the Christ is all the Light for those men willing to receive it, but in the Christ is also all the darkness for those who hate Me and reject Me. That is why, at the beginning of My human life I was prophetically pointed out as a “sign of contradiction”. Because according to how I am received, there will be salvation or condemnation, death or life, light or darkness.
But I solemnly tell you that those who receive Me will become the children of the Light, that is, of God, born to God, because they received God. So if I came to make men the children of God, how can I make Myself king, as many in Israel wish, out of love or hatred, out of simplicity or wickedness? Do you not realise that I would destroy Myself, the real Myself, that is, the Messiah, not the Jesus of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, that I would destroy the King of kings, the Redeemer, the One born of a Virgin and called Immanuel, Admirable, Counsellor, Strong, the Father of the future century, the Prince of Peace, God, Whose empire and peace will have no end, sitting on the throne of David with regard to His human descent, but having as His footstool the world and all His enemies, and the Father at His side, as it is written in the book of Psalms, by the superhuman right of His divine origin? Do you not understand that God cannot be Man but through perfection of goodness, in order to save man, but He cannot and must not lower Himself to poor human things? Do you not understand that if I should accept the crown and the kingdom as you conceive it, I would admit that I am a false Christ, I would lie to God, I would disown Myself and the Father and I would be worse than Lucifer, because I would deprive God of the joy of having you, I would be worse than Cain for you, because I would condemn you to perpetual exile from God in a Limbo without hope of Paradise?
Do you not understand all that? Do you not see the snares of men to make Me fall? The trap of Satan to hit the Eternal Father in His Beloved Son and in His creatures: men? Do you not see that this is the sign that I am more than a man, that I am the Man-God? This craving of Mine only for spiritual matters in order to give you the spiritual Kingdom of God?... Do you not understand that the sign that I... »
« Gamaliel's words! » exclaims Simon.
« ... that I am not a king, but the King, is all this hatred from hell and of all the world towards Me? I must teach, suffer and save you. That is what I must do. But Satan and his like do not want that. »
One of you said: “Gamaliel's words”. Now. He is not My disciple and will never be while I am in this world. But he is a just man. Well: is Gamaliel perhaps among those who tempt you and Me with regard to the poor human kingdom? »
« Oh! no! Stephen said that the rabbi, when he heard what happened at Chuza's house, exclaimed: “My spirit startles as I ask myself whether He can really be what He says. But no such question would ever cross my mind, if He had agreed to that proposal. The Child Whom I heard said that slavery and royalty will not be as we believed them, misunderstanding the prophets, that is, material, but spiritual, thanks to the Christ, the Redeemer from Sin and founder of the Kingdom of God in souls. I remember those words. And I judge the Rabbi by them. If in judging Him I should find out that He is inferior to that height, I would reject Him as a sinner and a liar. And I trembled seeing the hope, which the Child had put into them, dissolve into nothing” » says Simon.
« Yes, but in the meantime he does not say that He is the Messiah » remarks Joseph.
« He is waiting for a sign, so he says » replies Simon.
« Give him it, then! And make it a powerful one. »
« I will give him what I promised him. But not now. In the meantime you may go to the feast. I am not coming publicly, as a rabbi, as a prophet, to impose Myself, because it is not yet My hour. »
« But at least You will go to Judaea? You will give the Hebrews proofs that will convince them? So that they may not say... »
« Yes. But do you think that they will be of any avail to My peace? Brother, the more I do that, the more I shall be hated. But I will satisfy you. I will give them such proofs that more incontrovertible ones cannot be produced... and I will speak to them words capable of changing wolves into lambs and hard stones into soft wax. But they will be of no avail... » Jesus is sad.
« Have I grieved You? I was speaking for Your own good. »
« You are not grieving Me... But I would like you to understand Me, My dear brother, and to see Me for what I am... I would like to go away with the happy certainty that you are My friend. A friend understands and protects the interests of his friend... »
« And I tell You that I will do that. I know that they hate You. I am certain by now. That is why I came. But You know. I will watch over You. I am the oldest. I will rebuff slander and I will see to Your Mother » promises Joseph.
« Thank you, Joseph. My burden is heavy and you are relieving it. Sorrow, like a sea, is advancing with its waves to submerge Me and hatred is with it... But it is nothing if I have your love. Because the Son of man has a heart... and this heart needs love... »
« And I will give You it. Yes. In the eyes of God Who sees me I tell You that I will give You it. Go in peace, Jesus, to Your work. I will help You. We were fond of each other. Then... But let us go back to those days. One for the other. You: the Saint, I: the man, but united for the glory of God. Goodbye, Brother. »
« Goodbye, Joseph. »
They kiss each other and then Simon asks: « Bless us that our hearts may open to all the Light. »
Jesus blesses them and before leaving them He says once again: « I entrust My Mother to you... »
« Go in peace. We shall be like two sons to Her. »
Jesus goes back to the road and begins to walk fast with John beside Him.
After quite a long time John breaks the silence asking: « But is Joseph of Alphaeus convinced by now or is he not? »
« Not yet. »
« Then, what are You as far as he is concerned? Messiah? Man? King? God? The situation is not clear to me. I think that he... »
« Joseph is like one of those morning dreams when the mind draws near reality relieving itself of the heavy slumber which caused unreal dreams and at times nightmares. Night phantoms recede, but the mind fluctuates in the dream which one would like never to come to an end, because it is beautiful... He is like that. He is approaching the moment when one awakes. But for the time being he is still caressing the dream. He is almost holding it back, because, for him, it is beautiful... But one must learn to take what man can give. And we must praise the Most High for the transformation which has taken place so far. Blessed be children! It is so easy for them to believe! » and Jesus passes an arm round the waist of John, who knows how to be a child and to believe, to make him feel His love.