18th September 1946.
In order not to be seen by people they go into the village where Solomon's house is, walking along the bank of the river. But I would say that the precaution was quite unnecessary, because it gets dark early in the November or end of October evenings and people are already at home. There is no one, absolutely no one in the street and if some bleatings were not heard, one would say that the place is deserted.
They shake the little gate. It is closed. Well closed at the entrance of the little kitchen garden, which looks very tidy in the half-light.
« Call him! He is in the kitchen. A thread of light is stealing through the shutters » says Jesus.
Thomas takes upon himself to call with his powerful voice the old man who opens the door at once and looks towards the street. He is uncertain because of the dim light outside, particularly because he comes from the kitchen where there is a fire on and a lamp is lit.
But when Jesus says: « It is us », the old man recognises the voice at once and shouts: « The Master! » and descending the rustic step he runs to open.
« My Lord! Come in, come into Your house, and may this day be blessed because it ends with Your coming! » he says bustling with the lock of the gate and he explains: « I am alone and I close the gate well. The robbers are capable of anything. There are some who cause damage now in one place now in another, and they come down from the Gilead mountains. It is not that I am afraid for my life. But I had prepared for You and... Here, Master. Come. It is a damp evening. Your hair is wet with dew... »
« And you are more diligent than the bride of the Song of Songs, father. The trouble you take to welcome the Pilgrim is no burden to you » says Jesus smiling.
« Trouble? How long this time has been! One day after the other, one after the other. I had sown your seed and I saw the vegetables grow beautifully. I used to say: “If He came, He would certainly like this.” But they ripened and You did not come... And I saw the fruit colour up on the trees and I ate of them sadly, because You did not have any. That ewe gave me a lamb, a completely white one. I kept it for such a long time to eat it with You. I was hoping to see You before the Tabernacles. Then... a lamb all for me... Too much! I changed it for a little sheep, and they were good to me, because they did not want anything to balance the deal. But I have kept as much fruit and cheese as I could for You, as well as some dried fish and legumes and I still have a few melons. And a little wine... I don't drink any, but I made some for You, for winter time. »
He is speaking while cleaning the table, he lays the kitchenware on it and pokes the fire, he adds water to the pot and he busies himself happily. He no longer looks like the poor old man of a few months previously.
He goes out and comes back with some milk and he says apologising: « It is only a little because only one ewe gives some milk. But they will be two shortly. It is enough for You, however. »
He is fatherly; devoted and fatherly at the same time. He has taken the damp mantles and the dirty sandals and has taken them elsewhere. He has come back with some apples and pomegranates and grapes and also some figs half dried and he says: « I dried them like that, just to make You taste them. I thought... I thought of my Ananias who was so fond of them when they were prepared like that!... » His voice, previously serene, lowers to a sad tone while saying these words and he concludes: « and... I thought that You would like them and while I was preparing them I felt as if I were preparing them for the son of my son. » He shakes his head, he strives to smile, with his eyes shining with tears.
Jesus, Who had sat down at the table, stands up, and laying one arm round his shoulders, He draws him to Himself saying: « I like them very much. They remind Me of My childhood... and of My father. But you should not deprive yourself of so many things because of Me. They are good for old people. You must remain healthy and strong to be able to welcome Me thus every time I come. It is so pleasant to find a home like this, with a father waiting for us. Is that right, My dear friends? »
« It is certainly right. It is so beautiful that we grow lazy instead of helping Ananias » says Peter and he stands up exclaiming: « Come on, let us go and make our beds while Jesus speaks to him. »
« Oh! It is not necessary! They are always ready. And everything is clean... The only thing is... that they are not enough. You are more than twelve. But I will go and lie on the hay and... »
« You will certainly not, father. In that case I will go » says John.
« No, I will » say Andrew and others.
« There is no need for that. I will sleep here on this table. It is certainly not harder than the bottom boards of my boat, and Marjiam... » says Peter.
« ... will sleep with Me » says Jesus interrupting him.
« Or with me, if you wish so... as little Ananias used to do » says the old man with imploring eyes.
« Yes, Master. You always have me. He... I will go with him » says Marjiam.
Jesus caresses him appreciating his gesture.
« They have come several times looking for You after Pentecost. Then they stopped coming » says the old man.
« Who was looking for Him? »
« Pharisees, hey! And others like them. They wanted to question You. But I said: “He has gone to His village. He is not here, and I don't know when He will be coming here... That was the truth. And they got tired of coming. And they were looking for another man, a certain John, and they said that he was with You and they perhaps thought that he was hiding here. I said to them: “But that's His apostle and he is with Him.” They replied: “Was His apostle blind in one eye? Was he old, sick, dying?” I realised that it was not you and I replied: “I know only John, the apostle, a young man who is kinder than a child and has a wholesome heart and body.” They threatened me. But what else could I say? That is the truth... »
« Yes. That is the truth. And be always truthful; even if you should harm Me, father, never tell a lie. »
« Lord, my hair has grown grey and I have always striven to obey the Lord. And among the commandments to be obeyed, there is also not to tell lies. But... why are they looking for You, Lord? I was blind. So I did not go to Jerusalem any more. I went back now... Only for the rite. Because I wanted to be here waiting for You... And I perceived hatred and love around You... and I thought there was more hatred than love among the chiefs of the people. I was in the Temple that morning when they wanted to offend You... and I ran away as I was distressed and I came here to wait for You and weep. Why is man so wicked? »
« Because he has killed his spirit. And with his spirit his capability to feel remorse for being unjust. »
« That is true!... And are they looking for You to hurt You? »
« Yes, they are. »
« Yes!! Israel wants to injure her King? How horrible' Israel is condemning herself to the prophesied punishments!... Oh! I am glad, now, that my son is dead... and I would like to die myself not to see the sin of Israel... »
There is dead silence. Only the crackle of the wood burning in the fireplace can be heard.
« Let us speak of something else! We speak of nothing but death, hatred, betrayal! Enough of that! I cannot stand that! » says the Iscariot, who is upset, surly, agitated and is moving about the kitchen gesticulating excitedly with his legs, his arms, his whole body.
« Judas is right » many say.
« The fact that one does not want to hear, is of no avail. What helps is not to consent » says Jesus, opening His hands on the rustic table, with His palms upwards, in a gesture of resignation.
« What do You mean? To consent! Who consents to that? » Judas, bending over the table, almost lying across it to approach the Master, shakes his fists almost in His face.
« Who? All those who already dream of seeing Me perish in My blood. Blood! The blood of your Messiah! Blood on you, o Earth, who do not want your Lord! A blood brighter than those flames! Blood, a fire in the ice and darkness of a criminal world! They hope to kill the Light by depriving it of its blood. But Light is spirit; blood is still matter. Matter weighs down the spirit. The blood spread on a sheet of mica dims the light, does it not? Well, I solemnly tell you that as that wood did not shine until it became fire and its resins catching fire turned into brightness, and it is now an incandescent glare, so when everything is completed and the blood and flesh are consumed by the sacrifice, then, like that fire over there, which has changed everything into light, My spirit will shine more brightly than ever on the world and I shall be more than ever the Light. Such a Light that it will dazzle forever those who hate the Light and kill it. Such a Light that the golden gates of Heaven will melt after being closed to Mankind for ages and Heaven will be open to the just. Such a Light that it will pierce the stones forming the vault of the Abyss and the fierce fire of Hell will become extremely fierce under the thunderbolts of My rays. And woe to those who will have laid snares to the Light! Blood and Light! Those two things will be in front of them until they are driven mad and to despair. Demons! »
Jesus, Who had stood up when saying « I solemnly tell you » and was frightening, so imposing He looked in the low dark-walled kitchen, as the brightness of the flames of the fireplace formed a halo round His head, sits down and becomes silent.
They all look at one another, with the exception of Judas, who seems to be hypnotised looking at the firewood ablaze... Hypnotised and frightened. A fright that depicts a dreadful mask on his face, of a ghastly greenish paleness, which the burning wood tinges with red. It reminds me of his terrible face on Good Friday. He then turns suddenly round and shouts: « Be quiet! Be quiet! Why are You tormenting us?! » and he goes out slamming the door...
« His way, that is true. But he loves You very much... and he suffers hearing certain words » says Thomas. And he concludes: « They hurt us so much as well! But we are not so strange, let us say... strange... »
No one speaks. Jesus also is silent...
« The vegetables are cooked, the milk is warm... » says the old man in a low voice, as he is intimidated and he almost does not dare say such common words after the incident...
« Call Judas and let us have supper » orders Jesus.
John goes out and calls his companion. They come back in... Judas looks tortured. But a torture without peace... But he sits at the table and he stands up with the others when Jesus offers and blesses and he looks stealthily at Him when He hands out the portions keeping the last one for Himself.
Everyone would like to dispel the sadness reigning in the room, but no one succeeds until Jesus addresses the old man asking him whether the little village and nearby places have received the word of the Lord.
« Yes, Master. And they received it very well. I would say better here than on the other side of the river. You know the Baptist still lives in everybody's memory here, and his disciples, who are now Yours, keep it green and through his words they make You known. And then... here... there are not many Pharisees in Perea and in the Decapolis, so... »