31st August 1946.
And Jesus in fact thinks that He will be able to get past Ephraim at the first light of dawn, while the town is silent and its streets deserted, without being seen by anybody. He prudently goes round the town, without entering it, despite the very early hour.
But when, coming from the little lane at the rear of the village, they arrive at the main road, they find the whole village, I would say, waiting for them, together with other people from other towns, through which they passed previously, and the latter crowd point out Jesus to the people of Ephraim as soon as they see Him. Fortunately there are no Pharisees, scribes or the like.
The people of Ephraim send on the notables of the town, and one of them, after a solemn greeting, says on behalf of everybody: « We heard that You were here and that You did not disdain to have mercy on anybody. We already knew that You had been merciful to the people of Shechem and so we wished to have You. Now, He Who knows the thoughts of men has led You among us. Stay and speak to us, because we also are children of Abraham. »
« I am not allowed to stop... »
« Oh! we are aware that they are looking for You. But not here. This town is at the border of the desert and of the Mountains of blood. They do not come here willingly. And in this occasion, after the first ones, we have not seen any more. »
« I cannot stop... »
« The Temple is waiting for You. We know. But believe us. We are considered by you as outlaws because we do not bend our heads to the Pontiffs of Israel. But is the Pontiff perhaps God? We are far from you. But not so far as not to know that your priests are as worthless as ours. And we think that God can no longer be with them. No. The Most High no longer conceals Himself in the cloud of incense. They could stop burning it, and they could enter the Holy of Holies without any fear of being reduced to ashes by the splendour of God standing in His glory. And we worship God feeling that He is outside the deserted stones of the empty temples. And we do not say that our temple is more empty than yours, if you wish to accuse us of having a temple of idols. You can see that we are impartial. So listen to us. »
And he continues in a solemn tone: « It would be better if You stopped here to worship the Father among those who at least admit that they have a spirit of religion devoid of truth like the others who will not admit it and they offend us. Although alone, avoided like lepers, without prophets and doctors, we have at least been able to be united, feeling that we were brothers. And it is our law not to betray, because it is written: “You must not take the side of the greater number in wrong doing, nor side with the majority and give evidence in a lawsuit in defiance of justice.” It is written: “See that the man who is innocent and just is not done to death, for I cannot bear impious people. You must not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds clear-sighted men and is the ruin of a just man's cause. Do not oppress the stranger because you know what it means to be strangers in a foreign country.” And in the blessings pronounced on Gerizim, a mountain dear to the Lord if He chose it as a mountain of blessings, all sorts of good things are promised to those who conform to the true Law which is in the Pentateuch. Now if we reject the words of men as if they were idols, but we keep those of God, can people say that we are idolaters? The curse of God is upon him who secretly strikes his neighbour and accepts a reward to sentence an innocent to death. We do not want to be cursed by God because of our actions. Because we shall not be cursed for being Samaritans, as God is Just and He rewards righteousness wherever it is. That is our reliance in the Lord. »
He reflects for a moment, and then he resumes: « That is why we say to You: it would be better for You to stay with us. The Temple hates You and tries to grieve You. And not only the Temple: You will always be too long among those who reject You as a disgrace. No love will come to You from the Jews. »
« I cannot stay here. But I will remember your words. In the meantime I tell you to persevere in the observance of the laws of justice which you have recalled, and which ensue from the precept of love of our neighbour. The precept, which with that of the love of God, forms the main commandment of the old Religion and of Mine. The path to Heaven is not far from those who live righteously. One step only will take onto the way to the Kingdom of God those who are on the nearby path and who are separated only by obstinacy, by now, rather than by conviction. »
« To Your Kingdom! »
« To Mine. But not the Kingdom as men imagine, the kingdom of fair temporal power, which may be even violent to be mighty. But the Kingdom which begins in the hearts of men, to whom the spiritual King gives a spiritual code and will give a spiritual reward. He will give the Kingdom, in which there will not be exclusively Judaeans or Galileans or Samaritans, but all those who on the Earth had one faith only: Mine, and in Heaven will have one name only: saints. Races, and divisions among races remain on the Earth and are confined to it. In My Kingdom there will not be different races, but only the race of the children of God. The children of One Only Father can but be of one descent. Now let Me go. I still have a long way to go before night. »
« Are You going to Jerusalem? »
« To En-shemesh. »
« We will then show you a road, which only we know, to go to the ford without having to stop and without risks. You can take it as you have no heavy loads or carts. You will be at Your destination at the ninth hour. And it will be a good thing for You to know that path. But rest here with us for an hour and accept our bread and salt and give us Your word in exchange. »
« Let it be done as you wish. But let us stay where we are. It is such a pleasant day and this place is beautiful. »
They are in fact in a little valley overspread with orchards and in the middle of it there is a little stream, which has been nourished by the first rains and flows babbling and shining in the sun towards the Jordan amid large stones, which break its water into pearly foam. The shrubs which have survived the summer heat seem to enjoy the pulverised foam on the two banks and they shine quivering in a mild breeze which brings the smell of ripe apples and fermenting musts.
Jesus goes near the stream, He sits on a huge stone with His head in the light shade of a willow-tree while the stream flows merrily down the valley. The people sit down on the grass which is beginning to grow again on the two banks.
From the village they bring bread, new milk, cheese, fruit and honey, and they offer everything to Jesus for Himself and for His disciples. And they look at Him, while He eats, after offering and blessing the food, so simple as a human being, so supremely handsome and spiritually imposing as a god. He is wearing a white tunic shading into ivory like the hue of homespun wool and a dark blue mantle which is thrown over His shoulder. The sun, filtering through the willow, lights His hair with golden shafts which shift continuously as the light leaves of the willow move. And a sunbeam caresses His left cheek turning the soft curl at the end of the tuft falling along His cheek into a skein of spun gold and the same hue, somewhat paler, can be seen on His soft not excessively thick beard covering His chin and the lower part of His face. His skin, of an ancient ivory hue, shows in the sunshine the delicate embroidery of the veins on His cheeks and temples and one that runs across His smooth high forehead, from His nose up to His hair...
I think that it was just from that vein that I saw so much blood stream, because a thorn had pierced it during His Passion...
Every time I see Jesus so handsome and tidy in His virile composure, I remember the state to which He was reduced by His suffering and the insults of men...
While eating Jesus smiles at some children who have pressed round Him, resting their heads on His knees, or looking at Him eating, as if they saw I do not know what. And when Jesus arrives at the fruit and honey, He gives them some, putting grapes and soft crumbs dipped into liquid honey into the mouths of the younger ones, as if they were nestlings.
A little boy runs away through the crowds towards an orchard and comes back holding his arms tightly folded against his chest forming thus a live little basket, in which there are three wonderful big beautiful pomegranates - he certainly likes them and hopes to have some - and he offers them insistently to Jesus.
Jesus takes the fruit, He opens two making one part for each of His little friends, to whom He hands them out. Then, He takes the third one in His hand, stands up and begins to speak holding the beautiful pomegranate in the palm of His left hand, so that everybody may see it.
« To what shall I compare the world in general, and Palestine in particular, once united as one Nation, also in accordance with God's thought, and subsequently divided by an error and by the obstinate hatred of brothers? To what shall I compare Israel as she is now reduced through her own will? I will compare her to this pomegranate. And I solemnly tell you that the variances existing between Judaeans and Samaritans, are found, in different form and measure but with the same substantial hatred, among all the nations in the world, and at times among the provinces of the same nation. And they are said to be insuperable, as if they were things created by God. No. The Creator did not make as many Adams and Eves as there are races, adverse to one another, or as many as the tribes and families which are hostile to one another. He made one only Adam and one only Eve, from whom all men descended, and they spread to fill the Earth with people, as if it were one only house which becomes richer and richer in rooms as the children grow up and get married procreating grandchildren for their parents. So, why so much hatred among men, why so many barriers and incomprehensions? You said: “We know how to be united, feeling like brothers.” But it is not enough. You must love also those who are not Samaritans.
Look at this fruit. You know its flavour besides its beauty. Closed as it is, it already promises you the sweet juice inside it. If you open it, it is also a pleasant sight with its serried rows of acini similar to rubies enclosed in a coffer. But woe to the imprudent person who should bite it without removing the very bitter partitions between the families of acini. He would poison his lips and bowels and would throw it away saying: “It is poison.” Likewise the separations and the hatred existing between one people and another, between one tribe and another, turn into “poison” what was created to be sweetness. Such separations are of no use, and as in this fruit, they do nothing but create limitations which take away space and cause anxiety and sorrow. They are bitter and they give bitterness which poisons the spirits of those who feed on them, that is those who bite their neighbours whom they do not love but they offend and grieve. Are they indelible? No. Good will cancels them as the hand of a child can remove these partitions of bitterness in the sweet fruit, which the Creator made for the delight of His children.
And the first to have good will is the same Sole Lord, Who is God of Judaeans as well as Galileans, Samaritans and Idumaeans. And He proves that by sending the Unique Saviour Who will save them all without asking them anything but faith in His Nature and Doctrine. The Saviour Who is speaking to you will pass by knocking down the useless barriers, cancelling the past which has divided you, to replace it with a present time which makes you all brothers in His Name. All you and those beyond the border have to do is to follow Him, and hatred will vanish and the dejection which gives rise to rancour will also vanish, as well as the pride which brings about injustice.
This is My commandment: that all men love one another as brothers, which they are. That they love one another as the Father in Heaven loves them and as the Son of man loves them, as He through the human nature which He took upon Himself feels He is the brother of men, and through His Paternity He knows He has the power to defeat Evil with all its consequences. You said: “It is our law not to betray.” In that case, as first thing, do not betray your souls depriving them of Heaven. Love one another, love one another in Me, and peace will come to the spirits of men, as was promised. And the Kingdom of God will come, which is Kingdom of peace and love for all those who want to serve the Lord their God with upright will.
I leave you. May the Light of God enlighten your hearts... Let us go... »
He envelops Himself in His mantle, He throws His bag across His shoulder and is the first to set out, with Peter on one side and the notable, who spoke at the beginning, on the other. The apostles are behind Him and farther back, as it is not possible to proceed in a group on the narrow road along the stream, are some young men from Ephraim.