10th September 1946.
« Judas and James, come with Me. »
The two sons of Alphaeus do not need to be told twice. They get up at once and go out with Jesus from a little house in a suburb to the south of Jerusalem, where they have been given hospitality today.
« Where are we going, Jesus? » asks James.
« To greet the Galileans on the Mount of Olives. »
They walk for some time towards Jerusalem, then they pass close to some little hills with houses among the greenery, obviously manor-houses, they cross the road to Bethany and Jericho, the southern one ending at Tophet and Siloam, they go round another hill, which is a ramification of the Mount of Olives, they cross the other road which goes directly to Bethany from the Mount of Olives and along a little path among the olive-trees they climb to the camp of the Galileans. Many tents have already been dismantled, and in remembrance of the crowding, there remain withered branches thrown on the ground, the remains of fires which have scorched the grass, ashes, brands, litter, as always happens where there has been a camp. The cold and precociously wet season has speeded up the departure of pilgrims. Caravans of women and children are departing even now. Men, particularly those still strong, have stayed to terminate the feast.
The Galileans who believe in the Lord must have been warned by some disciple perhaps, because I see them all and from every village known to me. Nazareth with the two disciples, Alphaeus, whom Jesus forgave after his mother's death, and a few more. But I do not see Simon or Joseph of Alphaeus. But, as compensation there are others, among whom the head of the synagogue, who is visibly embarrassed in greeting Jesus with deference after thwarting Him so much. But he helps himself out of the difficult situation by saying that Jesus' relatives are staying with « that friend You know », because of the children who suffered from the wind at night. And Cana is present with Susanna's husband, her father and other people, and also Nain is present with the man brought back to life and others, and Bethlehem of Galilee with many citizens and the western lake-towns with their inhabitants...
« Peace to you! Peace to you! » greets Jesus passing among them, caressing the children still present, His little friends from Galilean places, listening to Jairus who tells Him that he is sorry he was absent the last time.
Jesus asks whether the widow from Aphek has settled at Capernaum and has taken in the orphan from Giscala. « I do not know, Master. Perhaps I had already left... » says Jairus.
« Yes. A woman has come and she gives lots of honey and caresses to children. And she bakes cakes for us. And the children who used to come to You, always go to her house to eat. And the last time she showed us a tiny little baby. She bought two goats to have milk. And she told us that the baby is the son of Heaven and of the Lord. And she did not come to the feast, as she would have liked to do, because she could not travel with such a little baby. And she asked us to tell You that she will love him with justice and that she blesses You. »
The children of Capernaum twitter like little sparrows around Jesus and they are proud that they know what not even the head of the synagogue knows, and that they have to act as ambassadors to the good Master, Who listens to them with the same attention as He would listen to adults, and Who replies: « And you will tell her that I bless her as well and that she is to love children for My sake. And you must love her and not take advantage of the fact that she is good, do not love her only because she gives you honey and cakes, but because she is good. She is so good and kind that she has understood that those who love children in My name make Me happy. And you are to imitate her, all of you, both you children and you adults, always bearing in mind that he who receives a child in My name, has his place allotted in Heaven. Because mercy is always rewarded, even if it is only a cup of water given in My name, but mercy on behalf of children, saving them not only from hunger, thirst and cold, but from the corruption of the world, receives an infinite reward... I have come to bless you before you depart. You will take My blessing to your women, to your homes... »
« But are You not coming back to us, Master? »
« I shall come back... But not now. After Passover... »
« Oh! If You are going to stay away for such a long time, You will forget about the promise... »
« Be not afraid. The sun may stop shining before Jesus forgets those who hope in Him. »
« It will be a long time!... »
« And sad! »
« If we are taken ill... »
« If we have trouble... »
« If death should descend upon our houses... »
« Who will help us? » say several people from different places.
« God will. He is with you if you remain in Me with your will. »
« And what about us? We have believed in You only for a short time. We admit it. So will we have no comfort? And yet now, after seeing You work miracles and hearing You speak in the Temple, oh! we believe You... »
« And it is a great joy to Me, because it is My greatest desire that My fellow citizens should be on the way of Salvation. »
« Do You love us so much? But for a long time we have offended and ridiculed You!... »
« That is in the past. It is no longer so. Be faithful in future and I solemnly tell you that your past is cancelled both on the Earth and in Heaven. »
« Are You staying with us? We shall share our bread as we did many times at Nazareth, when we were all equal and on Sabbaths we rested in the olive-groves, or when You were just Jesus and You used to come with us and like us to Jerusalem for feasts... » There is regret and desire for past times in the voices of the Nazarenes who now believe in Jesus.
« I wanted to go to Joseph and Simon. But I will go later. You are all My brothers in God, and spirit and faith are of greater value to Me than flesh and blood, because the latter perish whilst the former are immortal. »
And while some get busy preparing fires to roast the meat, using bits of olive branches to cook the food, the more elderly people and those of higher rank, from every place in Galilee, gather round Jesus asking Him why that morning and the previous day He was not at the Temple, and whether He would be going the following day, which was the last one of the feast.
« I was not there... But I will certainly be there tomorrow. »
« And will You speak? »
« Yes, if I can... »
Alphaeus of Sarah, looking about himself, whispers in a low voice to Jesus: « Your brothers have gone to secure assistance for You in town... That fellow is aware of many things because he is a relative of one of the Temple through the relationship of some women... Joseph is worried about You, You know? After all... he is good. »
« I know. And he will become better and better when he is spiritually good. »
More Galileans arrive from town. The number of those around Jesus increases, to the regret of the children who are pushed back by the adults and cannot make their way towards Jesus until He sees the innocent sulky group and He says smiling: « Let the little children come to Me. »
Then while the circle breaks up, once again as happy as a flight of birds, they run towards Jesus, Who caresses them and goes on speaking to the adults. And His long hand, which is still brown after so much exposure to the sun in summer, passes again and again on the little dark and brown heads, with an occasional golden one among so many dark ones, all pressing against Him as much as they can, hiding their faces among His clothes, under His mantle, embracing His knees and sides, eager for His caresses, utterly happy when they receive them.
They eat sitting in a circle after Jesus has blessed the food and handed it out, in a serene friendly union of hearts. The others, who are not Jesus' followers, look from afar, derisively and incredulously. But no one minds them...
The meal is over. Jesus is the first to get up and He calls Jairus, Alphaeus, Daniel of Nain, Elias of Korazim, Samuel (the ex-cripple, I do not know from where), then a certain Uriah, one of the many Johns, one of the many Simons, a Levi, an Isaac, Abel of Bethlehem etc., in brief, one from each village, and with the help of His cousins He divides into equal parts the money of two very full purses and He gives one part to each man He called for the poor of each village.
Then, when He is penniless, He blesses everybody and takes His leave. He would like to depart from them turning His steps towards Gethsemane, to enter the town by the Sheep Gate. But almost everyone follows Him, children in particular, who hold on to His tunic and the hem of His mantle, and certainly annoy Him, but He does not stop them...
And the little boy of Magdala, Benjamin, who one day very clearly said what he thought of Judas of Kerioth, plucks His tunic until Jesus bends to listen to him in particular.
« Have You still got that bad man with You? »
« Which bad man? There are none with Me... » says Jesus to him smiling.
« Of course there are! That tall dark man who laughed... You know, the one whom I told that he was handsome outside and ugly inside... he is bad. »
« He is talking of Judas » says Thaddeus who is behind Jesus and has heard.
« I know » replies Jesus turning round, and then He says to the child: « Of course that man is still with Me. He is one of My apostles. But now he is very good... Why are you shaking your head? You must not have a bad opinion of your neighbour, particularly of people you do not know. »
The boy lowers his head and becomes silent.
« Are you not replying to Me? »
« You do not want me to tell lies... and I promised You not to tell any and I kept my promise. But now if I say to You that I think that he is good, I would say something which is not true, because I think that he is bad. I can keep my mouth closed to please You, but I cannot close my mind not to think. »
His remark is so impetuous and logical in its simplicity, although childish, that all those who hear him cannot help laughing. Everyone, except Jesus, Who sighs and says: « Well, you must do one thing. If he really seems bad to you, you must pray that he may become good. You must be his angel. Will you do that? I will be happier if he becomes good. So if you pray for that, you will pray that I may be happy. »
« I will. But if he is bad and does not become kind to You, my prayer will be of no avail. »
Jesus puts an end to the argument by stopping and bending to kiss the children. He then orders everybody to go back...
When they are alone, Jesus and His two cousins, Judas of Alphaeus, after a short silence, as if he had been so far thinking about it, says concluding: « He is right! He is quite right! I also am of his opinion. »
« But who are you speaking of? » asks his brother James, who, engrossed in thought, was walking a little ahead of him on a narrow path which allows one person to pass at a time.
« I am speaking of Benjamin. And of what he said. And... but You will not hear of it, and I tell You that Judas is... He is not a true apostle... He is not sincere, he does not love You, he does not... »
« Judas! Judas! Why grieve Me? »
« My dear Brother, because I love You. And I am afraid of the Iscariot, I'm more afraid of him than of a snake... »
« You are unfair. If it had not been for him, perhaps I would have been captured by now. »
« Jesus is right. Judas has done very much. He has profusely drawn hatred and derision upon himself, and has worked and still works for Jesus » says James.
« I cannot believe that you are a fool or a liar... And I wonder why you support Judas. I am not speaking out of jealousy or out of hatred. I am speaking because I feel that he is bad, that he is not sincere... All I can admit, for Your sake, is that he is mad. A poor madman raving one way today, and a different way tomorrow. But he is definitely not good. Don't trust him, Jesus! Don't!... None of us is good. But look at us carefully. Our eyes are limpid. Watch us diligently. Our behaviour is constant. Does it not mean anything to You that the Pharisees do not make him pay for mocking them? That those of the Temple do not react to his words? That he always has friends among those whom he apparently offends? That he always has plenty money? I am not speaking about us two, but even Nathanael, who is rich, even Thomas, who does not lack means, have only what is necessary. He... Oh!... »
Jesus is silent.
James says: « My brother is partly right. It is a fact that Judas always finds the way to be alone, to go by himself... to... But I do not want to grumble or judge. You know... »
« Yes. I know. And that is why I say that I do not want you to pass judgement. When you are in the world replacing Me, you will find people who are stranger than Judas. What kind of apostles would you be, if you should eliminate them because they are strange? Nay, just because they are strange, you will have to love them patiently to make them lambs of the Lord. Let us go to Joseph and Simon now. You heard the news, did you not? They are working secretly on My behalf. Family love, you may say. True. But still love. You did not part friends the last time. Make it up now. Both you and they are right and wrong. Let everyone acknowledge his fault, let no one raise his voice to assert his rights. »
« He offended me seriously by offending You very seriously » says James.
« You are very much like My father Joseph. And your brother Joseph is like your father Alphaeus. Well: Joseph was often criticised by his elder brother, but he bore with him and always forgave him. Because My father was a great just man! Be the same yourself. »
« And if he should reproach me as if I were still a little child? You know that when he is upset he will not listen to reason... »
« In that case be silent. It is the only remedy to appease one's anger. Be humbly and patiently silent, and if you feel that you can no longer be silent without being rude, go away. To be able to be quiet! To be able to run away! Not out of cowardice, or lack of words, but out of virtue, out of prudence, charity, humility. It is so difficult to keep justice in debates! And the peace of the spirit. Something always descends into the depth of one's heart distorting, confounding, making an uproar. And the image of God reflected in every good spirit is obscured, it vanishes and its words can no longer be heard. Peace! Peace among brothers. Peace also with enemies. If they are our enemies, they are Satan's friends. But shall we also become Satan's friends by hating those who hate us? How can we lead them to love if we are out of love ourselves? You may say to Me: “Jesus, You have already said so many a time and that is what You do, but they always hate You.” I will always say so. When I am no longer with you, I will inspire it into you from Heaven. And I also tell you not to count defeats, but victories. Let us praise the Lord for them! No month goes by without some conquest being made. That is what the workman of the Lord must take notice of, rejoicing in the Lord, without the anger of worldly people when they lose one of their poor victories. If you do so... »
« Peace to You, Master. Do You not recognise Me? » says a young man who from town was going up towards Gethsemane.
« You?... You are the levite who was with us last year together with the priest. »
« It is I. How did You recognise me, since You see a whole world around You? »
« I do not forget the distinctive features of faces and spirits. »
« Which is the feature of my spirit? »
« A good one. But unsatisfied. You are tired of what surrounds you. Your spirit tends to better things. You feel that they exist. You realise that it is time to make up your mind for an eternal Good. You are aware that beyond darkness there is a Sun, the Light. You want the Light. »
The young man throws himself on his knees: « Master, You have said it! It is true. That is what I have in my heart. And I could not make up my mind. Jonathan, the old priest, believed, then he died. He was old. But I am young. I heard You speak in the Temple... Do not reject me, Lord, because not everybody there hates You and I am one of those who love You. Tell me what I must do, considering that I am levite... »
« Do your duty until the new times. Meditate, because by coming to Me you will not be going towards earthly glory, but towards sorrow. If you persevere, you will receive glory in Heaven. Study My doctrine. Be firm in it... »
« How? »
« Heaven itself will confirm you with its signs. My disciples will help you to be confirmed again and to have a deeper and deeper knowledge of what I taught and to practise it. Do that and you will achieve eternal life. »
« I will, Lord. But... can I still serve in the Temple? »
« I told you: until the new times. »
« Bless me, Master. It will be my new consecration. » Jesus blesses and kisses him. They part.
« See? Such is the life of the workers of the Lord. A year ago the seed fell into that heart. But it did not appear to be a victory, because he did not come to us at once. But here he comes now, after a year, to corroborate the words I spoke a little while ago. A victory. And does that not make the day a beautiful one for us? »
« You are always right, Jesus... But beware of Judas! It is silly of me to tell You. I know. You are aware... But I have this torment in my heart... I am not telling the others, but it's there... and I am sure that the others have it as well. »
Jesus does not reply. He says: « I am glad that Joseph and Nicodemus gave Me that money. I can now send some assistance to My poor people in Galilee... »
They have arrived at the Gate and they go in mingling with the crowd.