21st September 1946.
« Do You really want to go along this road? For a number of reasons I don't think it is wise... » objects the Iscariot.
« Which? Did men from these villages not come to Me, as far as Capernaum, seeking health and wisdom? Are they not creatures of God, too? »
« Yes... But... It is not wise for You to go too close to Machaerus... It's an inauspicious place for Herod's enemies. »
« Machaerus is far away. And I have no time to go so far. I would like to go to Petra and beyond... But I shall be able to go half that distance, perhaps less. In any case, let us go... »
« Joseph advised You... »
« To remain on guarded roads. This is the road that takes one beyond the Jordan and is strictly watched over by the Romans. I am not cowardly, Judas, or imprudent. »
« I would not trust it. I would not go away from Jerusalem. I... »
« Leave the Master alone. He is the Master and we are His disciples. When have you heard of a disciple giving advice to his master? » says James of Zebedee.
« When? It is not years ago that your brother told the Master not to go to Achor and He listened to him. Let Him listen to me now. »
« You are jealous and overbearing. If my brother spoke and was listened to, it means that what he said was right and was to be heeded. It was enough to look at John that day, to understand that it was justice to agree with him! »
« Oh! with all his wisdom he was never able to defend Him, and he never will. Instead what I did coming to Jerusalem is a recent event. »
« You did your duty. My brother also would have done it, if he had had the opportunity, and in a different way, because he is not capable of telling lies, not even for a good purpose, and I am glad of that... »
« You are offending me. You are calling me a liar... »
« Hey! Do you want me to say that you are sincere, if you lied so skillfully, without changing colour? »
« I was doing it... »
« I know. I know! To save the Master. But I don't like it, and none of us does. We prefer the simple reply of the old man. We prefer to be silent and to be considered stupid, and even maltreated, rather than lie. One begins for a good purpose and ends up with a bad one. »
« When one is wicked. But I am not. When one is a fool. But I am not. »
« That is enough! Even if you are right, you end up by being wrong, not with regard to what you were throwing at each other's face, but because of your lack of charity. You all know what My opinion is on sincerity. I insist on that also in respect of charity. Let us go. Your disputes grieve Me more than the insults of My enemies. »
Jesus is obviously upset and He begins to walk with a rapid step, all alone, along a road which, without being an archaeologist, one understands was built by the Romans. It runs southwards, almost straight as far as the eye can see, between two ranges of high mountains. A monotonous road, dark because of the woody slopes enclosing it and preventing one's eyes from roving over the horizon, but well kept. Now and again there is a Roman bridge across torrents or little rivers, which flow towards the Jordan or the Dead Sea. I am not sure which, because the mountains obstruct the view on the western side where the river and the sea must be. There are some caravans on the road, coming up perhaps from the Red Sea and going goodness knows where, with many camels, camel-drivers and merchants of a race clearly different from the Jewish one.
Jesus is always ahead, lonely. Behind, in two groups, the apostles are talking to one another in low voices. The Galileans are in front, the Judaeans behind, with Andrew and John and the two disciples who have joined them. One group is trying to comfort James, who is dejected after the Master's reproach, the other is endeavouring to persuade Judas not to be always so obstinate and aggressive. And both groups agree in advising the two reproached apostles to go to the Master and make peace with Him.
« Me? I will go at once. I know I am right. I know what my actions are. It was not I who insinuated evil. And I am going » says the Iscariot. He is bold, I would say: shameless. He quickens his step to catch up with Jesus. I wonder once again whether in those days he was already prepared to betray the Christ and was conspiring with His enemies..
James, instead, who after all is less guilty, is so depressed for grieving the Master that he has not got the courage to approach Him. He looks at his Master, Who is now speaking to Judas... He looks at Him and his desire for His forgiving word is clearly visible on his face. But his very love, so sincere, firm and deep, makes him feel that his misdeed is unpardonable.
The two groups are now together and also Simon Zealot, Andrew, Thomas and James say: « Cheer up! I know Him so well! He has already forgiven you! » and with keen perspicacity, the elderly and wise Bartholomew, laying his hand on James' shoulder says: « I am telling you: to avoid further storms He impartially reproached both of you. But in His heart He meant Judas only. »
« It is so, Bartholomew! My Brother is worrying Himself putting up with that man, whom He insists in wanting to reform and He tires trying to make him appear... as we are. He is the Master, and I... am I... But if I were Him, oh! the man of Kerioth would not be with us! » says Thaddeus while his beautiful eyes, which recall those of Jesus, flash with anger.
« Do you think so? Are you suspicious? Of what? » ask many.
« Nothing. Nothing definite. But I don't like that man. »
« You never liked him, brother. An absurd repugnance that arose at your first meeting. You admitted it to me. It is against charity. You ought to overcome it, even if it were only to give joy to Jesus » says James of Alphaeus calmly and persuasively.
« You are right, but... I am not able. Come, James, let us go to my Brother together » and Judas of Alphaeus takes the arm of James of Zebedee resolutely and drags him away.
Judas hears them coming, turns round, then says something to Jesus, Who stops waiting for them. Judas looks at the mortified apostle with mischievous eyes.
« Excuse me, move over a little. I must speak to my Brother » says Thaddeus. The words are polite, but the tone is very cold.
The Iscariot giggles, then shrugging his shoulders he retraces his steps joining the others. « Jesus, we are sinners... » says Judas Thaddeus.
« I am a sinner, not you » whispers James with lowered head.
« We are sinners, James, because I thought of what you did, I approved of it, I have it in my heart. So I am a sinner as well. Because my judgement against Judas comes from my heart and contaminates my charity... Jesus, are You not saying anything to Your disciples who acknowledge their sins? »
« What shall I say that you do not already know? Will you change your attitude towards your companion because of My words? »
« No. Not more than he changes because of the words You speak to him » His cousin replies with sincerity for himself and for the others.
« Never mind, Judas, never mind! I made the mistake. I am involved and I have to look after myself, not after the others. Master, don't be annoyed with me... »
« James, I would like one thing from you, from all of you. I am so grieved, because of the many incomprehensions I meet... because of so much stubborn resistance. You are aware of it... For every place that gives Me joy, there are three that refuse Me and they drive Me away like an evil-doer. But I would like to receive at least from you that comprehension and adherence which other people deny Me. That the world should not love Me, that I should feel suffocated by all this hatred, this aversion, enmity, suspicion around Me, by all kinds of base actions, by selfishness, by everything that only My infinite love for man makes Me put up with, is painful. But I endure it with patience. I have come to suffer that from those who hate Salvation. But you! No, I cannot stand that! That you are not able to love one another and thus understand Me. That you do not adhere to My spirit, striving to do what I do.
Do you all think I do not see Judas' errors, and I am unacquainted with his deeds? Oh! be convinced that it is not so. If I had wanted beings that were perfect in their spirits, I would have got angels to become incarnate and I would have surrounded Myself with them. I could have done that. Would it really have been a good thing? No. On My side it would have been selfishness and contempt. I would have avoided the grief caused by your imperfections and I would have despised men created by My Father and so much loved by Him as to send Me to save them. And on man's side it would have been detrimental to his future. When My mission is completed and I ascend once again to Heaven with My angels, what and who would actually be left to continue My mission? Which man would have been able to try and do what I say, if only a God and angels had set the example for a new life guided by the spirit? It was necessary for Me to take a human body to persuade man that if he wishes so, he can be chaste and holy in every way. And it was also necessary for Me to take men, as they are, whose spirits replied to My spirit, without taking into account whether they were rich or poor, learned or ignorant, citizens or countrymen. It was necessary for Me to take them as I found them, and for My will and theirs to transform them slowly into masters of other men.
Man can believe man, the man he sees. But it is difficult for man, who has fallen so low, to believe in God, Whom he does not see. Sinai was still blazing with fire and idolatry had already begun at the foot of the mountain... Moses was not yet dead, and they were already committing sins against the Law, although they could not look at his face. But when you are transformed into masters and you are like an example, a witness, like yeast among men, they will no longer be able to say: “They are gods who have descended among men and we cannot imitate them.” They will have to say: “They are men like us. They have the same instincts, incentives and reactions as we have, and yet they are able to resist their incentives and instincts, and their reactions are completely different from our brutal ones.” And they will be convinced that man can be divinised, if he only wishes to follow the ways of God. Look at the Gentiles and idolaters. Are they made any better by all their Olympus and all their gods? No. Because if they are incredulous, they say that their gods are a fable; if they are believers they say: “They are gods and I am a man” and they do not strive to imitate them. You therefore must strive to be like Me. And do not be in a hurry. Man evolves slowly from a reasonable animal into a spiritual being. And bear with one another! No one, except God, is perfect.
And it is all over now, is it not? Improve yourselves with firm will, imitating Simon of Jonas, who in less than one year has made rapid progress. And yet... Who among you was more materially human than Simon with all the defects of a very material humanity? »
« That is true, Jesus. I never stop studying him. And he surprises me » confesses Thaddeus.
« Yes. I have been with him since my childhood. I know him as if he had been my brother. But now I have a different Simon in front of me. I must admit that when You said that he was our chief, I, and I was not the only one, was perplexed. He seemed to be the least suitable of all of us. Simon as compared to the other Simon and Nathanael! Simon in comparison with my brother and with Your brothers! Above all with regard to those five! I really thought it was a mistake... I now say that You were right. »
« And you only see the surface of Simon! But I see his depth. He has still much to do and to suffer to be perfect. But I would like to see his good will, his simplicity, humility and love in everyone... »
Jesus is looking in front of Himself and seems to be seeing I do not know what. He is absorbed in thought and smiles at what He sees. He then lowers His eyes and looks at James smiling.
« So... am I forgiven?! »
« I would like to forgive everybody as I forgive you... There, that town must be Heshbon. The man said so: the town is after the bridge with three arches. Let us wait for the others and go into town all together. »