24th September 1946.
It is a beautiful autumn morning. Apart from the yellow-red leaves covering the ground and reminding one of the season, the grass is so green with some little flowers springing from the tufts revived by the autumn rains, the air moving among the branches partly already bare is so serene, that one is inclined to think it is the beginning of springtime, all the more so as perennials mixed with annuals bring a cheerful note with their little fresh emerald green leaves sprouting at the ends of little branches, near the bare branches of other plants, which thus seem to be putting forth fresh leaves. Sheep come out of folds and they go with the lambs born in autumn towards the grazing grounds bleating. The water of a fountain at the beginning of the village is shining like liquid diamonds in the sun kissing it, and when falling into the dark basin seems to emit multicoloured gleams against the walls blackened by age of a little house.
Jesus sits on a little wall bounding the road on one side, and waits. His apostles and the villagers are around him, while the shepherds, who do not wish to spread out too far, confined as they are by their flock, instead of climbing higher up, remain on both sides of the road towards the plain.
No one is coming at present on the road which from the valley climbs to mount Nebo. « Will he be coming? » ask the apostles.
« Yes, he will. And we shall wait for him. I do not want to disappoint a dawning hope and destroy a future faith » replies Jesus.
« Are you not happy here? We have given you the best we had » says an old man who is warming himself in the sun.
« Happier than elsewhere, father. And your kindness will be rewarded by God » replies Jesus. « Then speak to us a little more. Zealous Pharisees and proud scribes come here at times. But they do not speak to us. It is fair. They are high up, separated from... everything, and sage. We... So are we to know nothing because our fate made us come into the world here? »
« In the House of My Father there are no separations or differences for those who believe in Him and practise His Law, which is the code of His will, that man may live righteously to obtain the eternal reward in His Kingdom.
Listen. A father had many children. Some had always lived close to Him, some, for various reasons, had been comparatively farther away from their father. However, as they were aware of their father's wishes, although they were far away, they were able to act as if he were present. Some more strove to serve their father with regard to the little which, more out of instinct than out of knowledge they knew pleased him, because they were farther away and from the first day of their birth had been brought up by servants who spoke different languages and had different customs. One day the father, who was aware that despite his instructions the servants had refrained from making his thoughts known to these remote children, because in their pride they considered them inferior and no longer loved, only because they did not live with their father, decided to gather all his offspring together. And he summoned them. Well, do you think that he judged them on the lines of human rights, granting the possession of his property only to those who had always been in his house, or who had not been so far as to be prevented from becoming acquainted with his orders and wishes? On the contrary, following a completely different line and taking into consideration the deeds of those who had been just for the sake of their father, whom they knew only by name, and had honoured him with all their actions, he called them near himself saying: “Your being just is doubly meritorious, because you were so only through your own will, without any help. Come and stand around me. You are quite entitled to it! The others have had me all the time and all their actions were guided by my advice and rewarded with my smiles. You had to act out of faith and love. Come, because your places are ready in my house and I do not make any difference between having always been in the house and having been away from it; but the difference is in the deeds accomplished by my children, near me or far from me.”
That is the parable. And this is its explanation: the scribes or the Pharisees, living around the Temple, may not be in the House of the Lord on the eternal Day, and many, who are so far as to have only a scanty knowledge of the things of God, may be then in His Bosom. Because what gives the Kingdom is the will of man inclined to obey God, and not a mass of practices and science.
Do, therefore, what I explained to you yesterday. Do it without excessive fear that paralyses, do it without calculating to avoid punishment. Do it therefore only for love of God Who created you to love you and to be loved by you. And you will have a place in the Father's House. »
« Oh! continue speaking to us! »
« What shall I say to you? »
« Yesterday You said that there are sacrifices more pleasing to God than those of lambs and rams, and also that there are leprosies more disgraceful than those of the body. What You said is not very clear to me » says a shepherd, who concludes: « Before a lamb is a year old and it is the most beautiful in the flock, without any stain or fault, do You realise how many sacrifices one must make and how many times one has to overcome the temptation of using it as the ram of the herd or selling it as such? Now if for a year one resists every temptation, one takes care of it and becomes fond of it, the gem of the herd, do You know how great is the sacrifice of immolating it without any profit and with deep sorrow? Is there a greater sacrifice to be offered to the Lord? »
« Man, I solemnly tell you that the sacrifice does not consist in the animal immolated, but in the effort made by you in keeping it to immolate it. I solemnly tell you that the day is about to come when, as the inspired word says, God will say: “I do not need the sacrifice of lambs and rams” and He will exact one only sacrifice and a perfect one. And from that moment every sacrifice will be spiritual. But ages ago it was said which sacrifice is preferred by the Lord. David exclaims weeping: “If You had wanted a sacrifice, I would have given it to You, but holocausts give You no pleasure. The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit (and I add: obedient and loving, because one can offer a sacrifice of praises and joy and love, not only of expiation). The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit; You, o God, will not scorn a contrite and humiliated heart.” No, neither does your Father scorn a heart that has sinned and repented. So, how will He receive the sacrifice of a pure just heart that loves Him? That is the most agreeable sacrifice. The daily sacrifice of human will to the divine will as shown to you in the Law, in inspirations and in daily events. And likewise, the leprosy of the flesh is not the most disgraceful disease that excludes people from the presence of men and from places of prayer. But it is the leprosy of sin. It is true that it often passes unnoticed by men. But do you live for men or for the Lord? Does everything come to an end here or does it continue in the next life. You know. So be holy, that you may not be lepers in the eyes of God, Who sees the hearts of men and remain pure in spirit that you may live forever. »
« And if one is a hardened sinner? »
« Let him not imitate Cain. Let him not imitate Adam and Eve. But let him run to the feet of God and ask for mercy with true repentance. A sick or wounded man goes to a doctor to be cured. Let a sinner go to God to have forgiveness. I... »
« Are You here, Master? » shouts one who is coming up the road, all enveloped in a mantle among many other people.
Jesus turns round and looks at him.
« Don't You recognise me? I am rabbi Sadoc. We meet now and again. »
« The world is always small when God wants people to meet. We shall meet again, rabbi. In the meantime, peace be with you. »
The other does not reciprocate the salutation of peace, but he asks: « What are You doing here? »
« I have done what you are about to do. Is this mountain not a holy one for you? »
« You have said it. And I come with my disciples. But I am a scribe! »
« And I am a son of the Law. So I venerate Moses as you do. »
« That is a lie. You make void his word with Yours and You exact obedience to Yours, no longer to ours. »
« To yours, no. It is yours. But it is not necessary... »
« It is not necessary? How dreadful! »
« No, not any more than the many flowing zizith adorning your garment are necessary to protect you from the autumn air. It is the garment that protects you. So, of the many words that are taught I accept the holy and necessary ones, the Mosaic ones, and I neglect the others. »
« Samaritan You do not believe the prophets! »
« You do not respect the prophets either. If you did, you would not call Me Samaritan. »
« Leave Him alone, Sadoc. Do you want to speak to a demon? » says another pilgrim who has just arrived with other people. And looking round with hard eyes at the group surrounding Jesus, he sees Judas of Kerioth and greets him scoffingly.
An incident might take place, because the local people want to defend Jesus, but the man from Petra, followed by a servant, elbows his way through the crowd. Both he and the servant are holding a child each in their arms. « Let me pass. Lord, have I kept You waiting too long? »
« No, man. Come to Me. »
The people open out to let him pass. He comes to Jesus and kneels down laying on the ground a little girl whose head is enveloped in linen bandages. The servant imitates him laying down a boy with unseeing eyes.
« My children, Master Lord! » he says, and all the hope and grief of a father quiver in the short sentence.
« You have had much faith, man. Supposing I had disappointed you? Or you had not found Me? Or I said to you that I cannot cure them? »
« I would not believe You. Neither would I believe the evidence of not seeing You. I would say that You had hidden Yourself to test my faith and I would look for You until I found You. »
« And what about the caravan and your profit? »
« Such things? What are they with respect to You Who can cure my children and give me firm faith in You? »
« Uncover the girl's face » orders Jesus.
« I keep it covered because the light hurts her very much. »
« It will only be a moment of pain » says Jesus.
But the little girl begins to weep desperately and does not want to be unbandaged.
« She is behaving like that because she thinks that You will torture her with fire as the doctors did » explains the father while struggling to remove the child's hands from the bandages.
« Oh! don't be afraid, little girl. What is your name? »
The girl is weeping and does not reply. Her father replies in her stead: « Tamar, from the place where she was born. And the boy Fara. »
« Don't weep, Tamar. I will not hurt you. Feel My hands. I am not holding anything. Come to My lap. In the meantime I will cure your brother and he will tell you what he felt. Come here, child. »
The servant pushes towards Jesus' knees the poor little blind fellow whose eyes have been ruined by trachoma. Jesus caresses his head and asks him: « Do you know who I am? »
« Jesus the Nazarene, the Rabbi of Israel, the Son of God. »
« Will you believe in Me? »
« Yes, I will. »
Jesus lays His hand on the boy's eyes covering more than half of his face. He says: « I want it! And may the light of his eyes open the way to the light of Faith. » And He removes His hand.
The boy utters a cry taking his hands to his eyes, and then says: « Father! I can see! » But he does not run to his father. In his boyish spontaneity he clings to Jesus' neck and kisses His cheeks and remains thus, embracing His neck, with his little head sheltered on Jesus' shoulder, to get his eyes accustomed again to sunshine.
The crowds shout at the miracle while the father would like to remove the boy from Jesus' neck. « Leave him. He is not disturbing Me. Only, Fara, tell your sister what I have done to you. »
« A caress, Tamar. It felt like mummy's hand. Oh! be cured as well and we shall play again! »
The girl, still somewhat reluctant, has herself placed on the knees of Jesus, Who would like to cure her without even touching her bandages. But the scribes and their companions shout: « It's a trick. The girl can see. It's a plot to take advantage of your confidence in Him, o inhabitants of this place. »
« My daughter is sick. I... »
« Never mind! Now, Tamar, be good and let Me remove your bandages. »
The girl, who is now convinced, agrees. What a sight when the last linen bandage is removed! Two red, scabby, swollen sores are in the place of her eyes, and tears and pus run down from them. The crowds yell with terror and pity while the little girl takes her hands to her face to protect herself from the light which must make her suffer terribly; two red recent burns appear on her temples.
Jesus removes her little hands and with a light touch He lays His hand on such ruin saying: « Father, Who created light for the joy of the living, and gave eyes even to midges, grant light to this creature of Yours that she may see You and believe in You and from the light of the Earth, she may enter, through Faith, the light of Your Kingdom. » He removes His hand...
« Oh! » they all shout.
There are no more sores. But the girl still keeps her eyes closed.
« Open them, Tamar. Be not afraid. The light will not hurt you. »
The girl obeys rather timorously and opens her eyelids showing two lively dark eyes.
« Father! I can see you! » and she also relaxes on Jesus' shoulder to become slowly accustomed to the light.
The crowds are rejoicing while the man from Petra throws himself at Jesus' feet weeping for joy.
« Your faith has received its reward. From now on may your gratitude lead your faith in the Man to the highest sphere: to the faith in the true God. Stand up and let us go. »
And Jesus puts down the girl who smiles happily and He becomes detached from the boy when He stands up. He caresses them once again and He would like to squeeze through the crowd thronging to see the cured eyes.
« You also ought to ask to have your veiled eyes cured » says a disciple to an old man led by the hand as his eyes are so dimmed.
« Me?! Me?! I don't want light from a demon. On the contrary! I shout to You, eternal God! Listen to me. To me! Complete darkness to me! That I may not see the face of the demon, of that demon, of that impious usurper, blasphemer, deicide! May shadows fall upon my eyes forever. Darkness, darkness, that I may never see Him! » It is he who seems to be a demon! In his paroxysm he strikes his eye-sockets as if he wanted his eyes to burst.
« Be not afraid. You will not see Me. Darkness does not want the Light and the Light does not impose itself on those who reject it. I am going, old man. You will not see Me again on the Earth. But you will see Me just the same, elsewhere. »
And Jesus is so depressed that the gait typical of very tall people - slightly inclined forward - is more outstanding as He sets out downhill. He is so dejected that He already seems the Condemned man descending the Moriah under the load of the Cross... And the shouts of His enemies, incited by the old madman, are very much like the shouts of the crowds in Jerusalem on Good Friday.
The man from Petra, mortified, with the little girl weeping out of fear in his arms, whispers: « Because of me, Lord! Because of me! You have done so much good to me! But I... to You! I have something for You in the tent on the camel. But what is it compared to the insults which I have brought about? I am ashamed that I came near You... »
« No, man. That is My bitter daily bread. And you the honey sweetening it. The bread is always more than the honey. But a drop of honey is sufficient to make much bread sweet. »
« You are good... But at least tell me: what shall I do to dress those wounds? »
« Keep faith in Me, for the time being as best you can. Before long... Yes, My disciples will come as far as Petra and farther. Then follow their doctrine because I shall speak through them. And for the time being speak to those of Petra of what I did for you, so that when those surrounding Me and others will come in My Name, this Name of Mine is not unknown to them. »
At the end of the descent, on the Roman road, there are three camels. One with just the saddle, the others with baldachins. A servant is watching them.
The man goes to the tent and takes some parcels from it: « Here » he says offering them to Jesus. « They will be useful to You. Do not thank me. It is I who have to bless You for what You have given to me. If You can do it for uncircumcised people, bless me and my children, Lord! » and he kneels down with the children. The servants imitate him.
Jesus stretches out His hands praying in a low voice looking fixedly at the sky.
« Go. Be just and you will find God on your way and you will follow Him without ever losing Him. Goodbye, Tamar! Goodbye, Fara! » He caresses them before each of them climbs on a camel with the servants.
The animals stand up at the cries of the camel-drivers and they turn trotting southwards. Two little brown hands stretch out from the tents and two shrill voices say: « Goodbye, Lord Jesus! Goodbye, father! »
The man is about to mount, too. He bends to the ground and kisses Jesus' garment, he then mounts and departs northwards.
« And now let us go » says Jesus setting out northwards as well. « What? Are You no longer going where You wanted to go? » they ask Him.
« No. We cannot go any longer! The voices of the world were right! Because the world is shrewd and is aware of the works of the demon We shall go to Jericho »
How sad is Jesus! They all follow Him, laden with the parcels given by the man, dejected and speechless.