24th August 1946.
« You are very tired, John. And yet we should arrive at Engannim tomorrow before sunset. »
« We shall arrive, Lord » says John and he smiles although he is pale with fatigue, having walked more than everybody else. And he tries to walk faster to convince the Master that he is not very tired. But he soon falls back to the pace of one who is exhausted, with stooped shoulders, his head bent forward as if he were oppressed by a yoke, dragging his feet and stumbling along.
« At least give Me the bags. Mine is heavy. »
« No, Master. You are more tired than I am. »
« You must be more tired because from Nazareth you came to Mattathias' wood and then you went back to Nazareth. »
« And I slept in a bed. You did not. You were awake in the wood and You left early. »
« And you, too. Joseph said so. You left by starlight. »
« Oh! but the stars last until dawn!... » remarks John smiling. He then becomes serious and adds: « And it is not the lack of sleep that grieves one... »
« What else, John? What has grieved you? Perhaps My brothers... »
« Oh! no, Lord! They as well... But what makes me feel heavy... no, not heavy... What makes me old is that I saw Your Mother weep... She did not tell me why She was weeping and I did not ask Her, although I felt inclined to do so. But I looked at Her so much that She said: “I shall speak to you at home. Not now, because I would weep more copiously.” And in the house She spoke to me so kindly and so sadly that I wept as well. »
« What did She tell you? »
« She told me to love You very much, that I must never be the cause of the least sorrow to You, because later I would regret it bitterly. She said to me: “Let us do all our duty in the remaining months, even more than our duty.” Because duty alone is too little for You Who are God. And She also said to me - and it made me suffer so much and if She had not said it I could not believe it and She said to me: “And it is also too little to do only our duty towards one who is about to go away, and whom we shall no longer be able to serve... In order to be resigned later, when he is no longer among us, we must have done more than our duty. We must have given everything, all our love, attention, obedience, everything. Then in the torture of separation one can say: 'Oh! I can say that, while it was God's will that I should have him, I did not neglect to love and serve Him even for one moment.' ” And I said: “But is the Master really going away? He has still so much to do! There will be time... And She shook Her head saying, and two large tears streamed down from Her eyes: “The true Manna, the living Bread will go back to the Father when man rejoices savouring again bread made with new wheat... And we shall be alone, then, John.” In order to comfort Her I said: “A great sorrow. But we must rejoice if He goes back to the Father, because no one will be able to hurt Him any more.” And she said moaning: “Oh! but before!”, and I thought I understood. But will it be really like that, Lord? Really? See, it is not a question of not believing Your words. The fact is that we love You and... I shall not say to you as Simon did one day: that cannot happen to You. I believe, we all believe... But we love You and... Oh! my Lord! Are the sins of love really sins? »
« Love never sins, John. »
« Then we, who love You, are ready to fight and kill in order to defend You. Galileans are not loved by other peoples because they say that we are quarrelsome. Well, we shall justify that reputation by defending You. We are in the places where in the days of Deborah, Barak destroyed Sisera's army with his ten thousand men. And those ten thousand came from Naphtali and Zebulun. And we come from there as well. The name is different but the hearts are the same. »
« They were ten thousand... But even if you were ten times ten thousand now, what would you be able to do? »
« What? Are You afraid of the cohorts? They are not so many, and then... They do not hate You. You do not cause them any trouble. You are not thinking of a kingdom which may tear away a prey from the Roman eagles. They will not interfere with us and Your enemies who will soon be destroyed. »
« Even if you were one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, of what avail would that be against the will of the Father? I must fulfill it... »
John, depressed, speaks no more. How odd is the stubbornness and mental inability even of the best followers of Jesus to understand His greatest mission! They accept Him as Master and as Messiah. They believe in His power to save and redeem. But when they face His way of redeeming, their intellects become blind. The very prophecies seem to lose their value with regard to them. And no more can be said with regard to Israelites, who, we can say, breathe and walk and are nourished and live by means of the prophecies! Everything written in the holy Books is true except this: that the Messiah must suffer and die and be defeated by men. They cannot accept that. To me they look like blind and deaf people to whom Jesus is anxious to show the pictures of His future Passion, that they may read in them what it will be. But they close their eyes. Thus they neither see nor understand.
It is a rather dull evening and it is getting dark when they arrive in sight of Jezreel.
Jesus comforts John, who has not spoken any more and is proceeding like a sleep-walker so tired he is, saying: « We shall soon be there. You will go in and look for a shelter for yourself. »
« And for You. »
« No, John. I shall remain near the road coming from the plain. I think that they will come during the night and I want to comfort them and send them away before dawn. »
« You are so tired... and it may rain as it did last night. At least come until half the watch of the cock's crow. »
« No, John. »
« In that case I will stay with You. We are near the estates of the Pharisees and... And I promised Your Mother and myself. I do not want to have to repent... »
Some towers are at the four corners of Jezreel, but I do not know which purpose they serve. They were already old when I saw them. They look like four gruff giants placed as jailors to the town which is built on an elevation overlooking the plain now slowly disappearing in the early shadows of a cloudy evening.
« Let us climb that slope near the tower. We shall be able to see all the road without being seen. There is grass on which to lie down and the step before the door will protect us if it should rain » says Jesus.
They go up. They sit down on a very low wall, which is half ruined and is about ten metres away from the tower. It looks like a protection built in olden time around the tower. It is almost completely crumbled and thick grass covers the ruins with huge cascades of wild convolvuli and other herbs which grow among ruins, with large downy leaves, the name of which I do not know.
They nibble at some bread in the last light of the day. They have nothing else. John, although exhausted, eyes the branches of a fig tree, which has come up, twisted and dishevelled, among the stones and among the yellowing leaves he discovers some small figs spared by birds and children. They eat them completing their meal. They have water in their little flasks. The meal is soon over.
« Does anybody live in the tower? » asks John who is sleepy.
« I do not think so. No light or sound leaks out of it. Did you want to ask for shelter? You are dead beat... »
« Oh! no. I was just wondering... But it is pleasant here... »
« At least lie down, John. The grass is thick and it has not rained here yet. The ground is dry. »
« ... No... No... Lord. I am not sleepy... Let us speak. Tell me something... A parable... I will sit here at Your feet. I am quite happy if I rest my head on Your knees... » and he sits down leaning his head, with his face looking at the sky, on Jesus' knees. He makes desperate efforts not to fall asleep... He tries to speak to keep awake... He tries to take an interest in what he sees... stars in the sky, lights on the road. The former are becoming more and more numerous, because the wind has blown the clouds away; whilst the latter are rarer and rarer because pilgrims have stopped travelling at night. Only a few obstinate people persist in proceeding with their carts equipped with a lantern dangling from mats or blankets stretched across the arches of the cart.
But silence itself, now deeper and deeper, makes one sleepy... John, in a voice which sounds more and more remote, says: « How many lights in the sky! And look: some seem to have descended upon the Earth and tremble and quiver as they did up there... But they are smaller and not so beautiful... We cannot make stars... There is smoke in ours and they smell of wick... and anything can put them out... You once said that a butterfly is enough to put out a light in us and You compared butterflies with the allurements of the world... And then You said that... while butterflies can put out a light, the wings of angels, and You called angels spiritual things, make the light within us brighter... I... the angel... the light... » John falls asleep slowly and he lies down unintentionally, exhausted by fatigue.
Jesus waits until he is comfortably settled and then He puts his bag under his head and covers him with a mantle with paternal gestures. In a final flash of lucidity John whispers: « I am not sleeping, Master, You know?... Only... thus I can see more stars and I see You better... » and he passes on to see Jesus and the starry sky better, dreaming of them in a sound sleep.
Jesus goes back to sit on His green seat. He rests His right elbow on His knee and His cheek on the palm of His hand and thinks, prays, looking at the road now deserted, while His Beloved apostle, with one arm folded under his head, sleeps as placidly as a child.