20th September 1946.
I do not know where I am. Certainly no longer in the Jordan valley, but in mountains bordering on it, because I can see the green valley and the lovely blue river below, whilst peaks of quite high mountains emerge from the vast plateau stretching east of the Jordan.
I see Peter, all alone on a little rising of ground, staring northeast and sighing sadly. There is some firewood at his feet and it has certainly been picked up in the woods covering this hill. A little village nestles among the greenery. Peter is really down-hearted. He ends up by sitting on his bundle of sticks holding his head in his hands, all curled up. He remains thus, forgetful of time and of everything, so absorbed that not even some children who pass by with some whimsical little goats arouse him. The boys look at him and then run away, after their goats, towards the village. The sun is setting slowly and Peter does not stir.
Jesus is proceeding along the path which climbs from the village to the hillock. He is walking slowly and avoids making any noise. He thus reaches the spot where Peter is sitting. And He calls him standing upright in front of him: « Simon! »
« Master! » Peter starts, he raises his head and looks upset while uttering that word.
« What were you doing, Simon? All your companions have come back. You were the only one missing and we were worried. So much so that your brother and the sons of Zebedee with Thomas and Judas have scattered through the mountains, while My brothers with Isaac and Marjiam have gone down towards the plain. »
« I'm sorry... I'm sorry for causing pain and trouble... »
« Your companions are fond of you... Judas was the first one to become anxious and he reproached Marjiam for letting you go by yourself. »
« H'm!... »
« Simon, what is the matter with you? »
« Nothing, Master. »
« What were you doing here, all alone on this hillock, while it is getting dark? »
« I was looking... »
« You may have been looking, Simon. But you were not looking just now... Some boys passed near you and they almost feared that you were dead because you were so bent on yourself. They ran to the fold that gave us hospitality and they told Me. I came... What were you looking at, Simon? »
« I was looking... I was looking towards Ramoth Gilead, towards Gerasa, Bozrah, Arbela... our trip of last year, so beautiful, so The Mother was with us! The women disciples... John of Endor The merchant... Even he was kind and helped to make the journey pleasant How many things have changed! How much difference and how much grief!... That is what I was looking at: the past. »
« And the future, My dear Simon. » Jesus sits on the bundle of sticks beside Peter and lays an arm on his shoulders speaking to him: « You were looking at the horizon... and sadness dimmed it. The present, like a whirl, raised frightening clouds and concealed the serene memory full of promises and hope from you, and it frightened you. Simon, you are subjected to one of those hours of sadness and boredom, which our human nature meets on its way. No one is free from them, because those hours are brought about by him who hates man. And the more a man serves God, the more Satan tries to frighten and tire him to detach him from his ministry. You also are subjected to an hour of tiredness. You are fatigued by the persistent persecutions against your Master. And finally - and you do not know that it is not you, but it is the Tempter - you listen to a voice that whispers to you: “And tomorrow? What will happen tomorrow? »
« Lord, it is true. You are reading my heart. But You also see that if I ask that question, it is not because I am afraid for myself. It's because... No. I could never bear to see You tormented... You often speak of crime, of betrayal. I... Oh! not only I! How many, particularly old people, have asked You to let them die before seeing their King offended? And I!... I, You know, You are everything for me. I am not interested in anything but You. It is not as Judas says, nostalgia for my boat and for my wife... Look: You can see whether I am telling the truth. I insisted so much to have Marjiam. My human nature wanted at least an adoptive son in place of the children that my wife did not give me mortifying my virility that wanted to be perpetuated. But now, but at present I... I do love him. But if You should take him away from me, I would not react. I would only say to You... No! I would not say anything! »
« You would only say to Me? Go on. »
« It is no use, Master. »
« Tell Me! »
« I would say: “Give him to someone who would bring him up as a just man, better than I could.” Nothing else! Or rather... and I am saying this to You, weeping, for him, for myself, for my brother, and also for John and James... and also for the others, but we... we are Your first ones... » Peter falls on his knees, leaning against Jesus' knees, with raised hands, palms upwards, imploring, while tears stream down his cheeks and disappear in his beard... « ... I am saying this for ourselves: let us die, take us away before we... Oh! I was thinking, I have always been thinking, for months - and You can see whether it is a thought that tortures me and makes me old, it is an uninterrupted fear that does not even leave me when I sleep - I think that, if it is going to be as You say, I could be the traitor, or Andrew, or John, or James, or Marjiam... And if we don't go to that extent, it might be one of those You mentioned also three evenings ago at Ananias', one of those who go to the extent of wanting to take Your Blood, one, also one of those who, out of cowardice, cannot oppose that and they consent to evil for fear of evil... I... if I should consent only by not reacting, out of fear... Master, oh! my dear Master, I would kill myself to punish myself, or... I would kill Your murderers, if I should meet them. I... if You do not want that, let me die before, at once, here... Life is nothing, but to fail to love You... To be one of those... to be... to see and not... » He is so excited that he lacks even words. He bends with his face on Jesus' knees weeping bitter tears, the tears of a coarse elderly man, not accustomed to weeping, upset by too many feelings.
Jesus lays His hands on Peter's head as if He wished to calm his grief and dispel every perturbing thought and He says: « My dear friend, and do you think that even if you were... not to be perfect at that hour, the Lord, Who is just, would not weigh your mistake with the weight of your love and your present good will? And are you afraid that this golden love and will may weigh less than your temporary imperfection, and may be insufficient to obtain for you indulgence from God, and with that indulgence all the assistance to become yourself again, My beloved Peter? »
« Let me die! Save me! I'm afraid! »
« You are My Stone, Simon. Can I crumble the Stone on which I will found Her who is to perpetuate Me on the Earth? »
« I am not worthy of that. I feel it. I am a poor ignorant man, a sinner. All evil tendencies are in me. I am not worthy, I am not worthy! I shall become perverse. A murderer. All the worst... Let me die. Do You realise that if I should find out who hates You... »
« All the world hates Me, Simon. We must forgive... »
« I am speaking of the main culprit. There must be a main one and... »
« There will be many one, and each will have his main task... »
« Which task? That of... Oh! Don't let me say it! But I... »
« But you must forgive, like Me and with Me. Why are you so upset, Simon, thinking of what you might do to punish? Leave that task to the Lord. You must love and forgive, be indulgent and forgive. They, all those who will offend against your Jesus, need so much to be helped to be forgiven! »
« There is no forgiveness for them. »
« Oh! how severe you are with your brothers, Simon! Of course there is forgiveness also for them, if they mend their ways. It would be dreadful if all My offenders were not to be forgiven! Come on, stand up, Simon. Your companions will be more worried now, seeing that I am not at the fold either. But even at the cost of letting them suffer a little further, let us pray before going to them. Let us pray together. There is nothing else to be done to regain peace, spiritual strength, love, pity... also for ourselves. Prayer dispels Satan's phantoms, and makes us feel closer to God. And with God near us, we can face and put up with everything justly and meritoriously. Let us pray thus, you and I together, here, from this mountain, from which so much of our Fatherland can be seen, as the Promised Land was seen by Moses from mount Nebo. We are luckier than he was, because we are taking the Word and Salvation to the Land which will belong to the Christ. I first, then you. Look! The Judaean mountains can still be seen in the last light. But beyond them there is the plain, the sea, then other lands, the world... They are waiting for you, Peter. They are waiting for you to learn that there is a true God. A God Who will give the true light to the souls groping in the darkness of Gentilism and idolatry. Look: the earthly light is growing dim. How could wayfarers not lose their way in a lightless night? But there is the Pole-star. It is rising already to guide wayfarers. My Religion will be the star that guides spiritual wayfarers on the way to Heaven. And you will be so united to it as to be one light only with Me and My Doctrine, My dear Peter, My blessed Stone. Let us pray for that hour when men will be saved through My Name. “Our Father Who art in Heaven”... »
He says the « Our Father » slowly, holding Peter by the hand, and He seems to be presenting him to the Father, as He raises His arms and hands, with the apostle's left hand in His right one.
« And now let us go down. And let us leave here any useless sadness and worries about tomorrow. Together with our daily bread the Father will give us His help for tomorrow and for every morrow. Are you convinced, Simon? »
« Yes, Master, I believe that » says Peter resolutely; he no longer looks upset, but austere, as he has been for some months, so that he seems to be quite different from the coarse facetious fisherman of the first two years.
They go down, Jesus ahead, followed by Peter with his bundle of sticks and almost at the first house of the village they meet the worried apostles. « But where had you gone? » they ask Peter shouting.
« We would have been here some time ago, but I stopped with him, speaking and looking towards Gerasa... » replies Jesus on his behalf.
They go to the right, to the ruins of a half-demolished sheep-fold. Inside a wooden fence, half of which has collapsed and the rest is mouldy and tottering, there is a dry-wall shed, badly covered and badly closed on three sides by walls and on the fourth by boards. There is nothing inside it, except some straw on the floor and a primitive fireplace in a corner. I think that the village did not give them hospitality and they took shelter there.