27th September 1946.
Jesus is once again in Jerusalem. A windy dull Jerusalem in winter. Marjiam is still with Jesus and Isaac also is there. They are speaking while going to the Temple.
Joseph and Nicodemus are with the Twelve speaking to the Zealot and Thomas more than to the others. They then part and when passing before Jesus they greet Him without stopping.
« They do not want to enhance their friendship with the Master. It is dangerous! » hisses the Iscariot in Andrew's ear.
« I think they do that with an honest thought, not out of cowardice » replies Andrew defending them.
« After all they are not disciples. So they can do that. They have never been disciples » says the Zealot.
« No?! I thought... »
« Not even Lazarus is a disciple, neither is... »
« But if you go on excluding, who will be left? »
« Who? Those who have the mission of disciples. »
« And the others, then, what are they? »
« Friends. Nothing but friends. Do they perhaps leave their homes, their interests, to follow Jesus? »
« No. But they listen to Him with pleasure and they give Him assistance and... »
« Well, if that's the case, also the Gentiles do it. You know that near Nike's house we met people who had provided for Him. And those women are certainly not disciples. »
« Don't get excited! I was saying so just for the sake of speaking. Are you so anxious that your friends should not appear to be disciples? I think that you should want the opposite. »
« I am not getting excited and I do not want anything. Neither do I want you to harm them saying that they are His disciples. »
« How can I say that to anybody? I am always with you... »
Simon Zealot casts such a severe glance at him that Judas' giggle dies on his lips, and he deems it wise to change subject by asking: « What were they wanting, today, to speak to you thus? »
« They found a house for Nike. Near the market-gardens. Near the Gate. Joseph knew the owner and he was aware that he would sell if he got a good price. We will let Nike know. »
« How anxious she is to throw away money! »
« It is her money and she can do what she likes with it. She wants to be near the Master. She thus complies with the will of her husband and with her own heart. »
« Only my mother is far away... » exclaims James of Alphaeus with a sigh.
« And mine » says the other James.
« But not for long. Did you hear what Jesus said to Isaac, John and Matthias? “When you come back at the new moon of Shebat, come with the women disciples, in addition to My Mother.” »
« I do not know why He does not want Marjiam to come back with them. He said to him: “You will come when I send for you.” »
« Perhaps because He does not want Porphirea to be left without help... If no one goes out fishing, they have no food up there. Since we do not go, Marjiam has to go. A fig-tree, a beehive, a few olivetrees and two sheep are not enough to keep a woman, to dress her and feed her... » remarks Andrew.
Jesus, leaning against the enclosure wall of the Temple, watches them coming. Peter, Marjiam and Judas of Alphaeus are with Him. Some poor people get up from the slabs placed on the road going towards the Temple - the one coming from Zion towards Moriah, not that coming from Ophel to the Temple - and they go moaning towards Jesus begging for alms. None of them ask to be cured. Jesus tells Judas to give them some coins. He then goes into the Temple.
There are not many people. After the large multitudes at festivals, there are no more pilgrims. Only those who are compelled to come to Jerusalem on matters of grave interest, or those who live in the town, go up to the Temple. Thus the courts and porches, although not deserted, are much less crowded, and they look larger and more sacred, as they are not so noisy. Also money-changers and vendors of doves and other animals are less numerous, and are leaning against the walls on the sunny side, although the sun is so faint that it pierces its way through the grey clouds with difficulty.
After praying in the Court of Israel, Jesus retraces His steps and leans against a column watching... and being watched.
He sees a man and a woman, who must be coming back from the Court of Israel, and although they are not weeping, their countenances are more dejected than if they were shedding tears. The man is trying to console the woman, but one can see that he is deeply grieved, too.
Jesus moves away from the column and goes towards them. « What is ailing you? » He asks them compassionately.
The man looks at Him, quite amazed at His concern. Perhaps he also thinks that He is indelicate. But Jesus looks at him so kindly, that he is disarmed. But before expressing the reason for his grief, he asks: « How come a rabbi takes an interest in the sorrow of a simple believer? »
« Because the rabbi is your brother, man. Your brother in the Lord, and he loves you as is prescribed by the commandment. »
« Your brother! I am a poor tiller of the Sharon plain, near Dora. You are a rabbi. »
« Rabbis have sorrows like everybody else. I know what sorrow is like and I would like to comfort you. »
The woman lifts her veil a little to look at Jesus and she whispers to her husband: « Tell Him. He may be able to help us... »
« Rabbi, we had a daughter, we have a daughter. We still have her... We married her with decorum to a young man, recommended to us as a good husband by a common friend. They have been married six years and have had two children. Two only... because later their love passed off... so much so, that her husband now wants to divorce her. Our daughter weeps and is wasting away with grief, that is why we said that we still have her: she will die brokenhearted before long. We have tried everything to persuade her husband. And we have prayed the Most High so much... But neither of them has listened to us... We came here on pilgrimage just for that and we have been here for a full month. We have come to the Temple every day: I to my place, my wife to hers... This morning a servant of my daughter brought us the news that her husband has gone to Caesarea to send her a writ of divorce from there. And that is the answer that our prayers have received... »
« Don't say that, James » implores the wife in a whisper. And she adds with a sigh: « The Rabbi will curse us as if we were blasphemers... and God will punish us. It is our sorrow. It comes from God... and if He has struck us, it means that we deserved it. »
« No, woman. I will not curse you. And God will not punish you. I tell you. As I tell you that it is not God Who gives you this sorrow, but man. And God allows it to test you and your daughter's husband. Do not lose your faith and the Lord will hear you. »
« It is late. Our daughter has been repudiated and dishonoured by now and she will die... » says the man.
« It is never too late for the Most High. In a moment and because of a persistent prayer, He can change the course of events. Between the cup and the lips there is still time for death to thrust its dagger in and thus prevent him, who was taking the cup to his lips, from drinking of it. And that through the intervention of God. I am telling you. Go back to your places of prayer and persist today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and if you can have faith you will see the miracle. »
« Rabbi, You want to comfort us... but just now... It is not possible, as You know, to make void the writ, once it has been handed to the repudiated woman » says the man insisting.
« I tell you to have faith. It is true it cannot be made void. But do you know whether your daughter has received it? »
« There is not a great distance from Dora to Caesarea. While the servant was coming here, Jacob has certainly gone back home and driven out Mary. »
« There is not a great distance. But are you sure that he has covered it? Can a will superior to man's not have stopped a man, if Joshua, with the help of God, stopped the sun? Is your insistent confident prayer made for a good purpose not a holy will opposed to the evil will of man? And will God not help you in stopping the foolish man on his way, since you are asking for a good thing of Him, Who is your Father? Has He not perhaps already helped you? And even if the man should still persist in going on, would he succeed, if you persist in asking the Father for something that is just? I tell you: go and pray today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and you will see the miracle. »
« Oh! let us go, James! The Rabbi knows. If He tells us to go and pray it means that He knows that it is the right thing. Have faith, my spouse. I feel a great peace, a strong hope rise in me where I had so much sorrow before. May God reward You, Rabbi, since You are good and may He listen to You. Pray for us, too. Come, James, come » and she succeeds in convincing her husband, who follows her after greeting Jesus with the usual Hebrew salutation: « Peace be with You », to which Jesus replies with the same formula.
« Why did You not tell them who You are? They would have prayed with more peace » say the apostles, and Philip adds: « I will go and tell them. »
But Jesus holds him back saying: « I do not want that. He would in fact have prayed with peace, but with less value and less merit. As it is, their faith is perfect and will be rewarded. »
« Really? »
« Do you expect Me to lie deceiving two unhappy people? »
He looks at the people who have gathered near Him, about one hundred of them, and He says: « Listen to this parable that will explain to you the value of a constant prayer.
You know what Deuteronomy says speaking of judges and magistrates. They should be just and merciful listening with impartiality to those who have recourse to them, always judging as if the case that they have to judge were a personal case of their own, without taking into account gifts or threats, without being partial to guilty friends and severe with those who are at variance with the judge's friends. But if the words of the Law are just, men are not as just neither do they obey the Law. Thus we see that human justice is often imperfect, because rare are the judges who know how to keep free from corruption, and are merciful and patient both with the rich and the poor, with widows and orphans, as with those who are not so.
In a town there was a judge who was very unworthy of his office, that he had obtained through powerful relatives. He was most unfair in judging, as he was always inclined to say that the rich and mighty ones, or those recommended by rich and powerful people, or those who bribed him with rich gifts were right. He did not fear God and he derided the complaints of poor and weak people, because they were lonely and without strong supporters. When he did not want to listen to a man who had such evident reasons to prevail over some rich person that he could in no way decide against him, he had him driven away from his presence threatening to put him in prison. And most people suffered his violence withdrawing as if they had been defeated, and resigned to defeat even before the case was debated.
But in that town there was also a widow with many children, and she was entitled to receive a large sum of money from a mighty man for works done by her dead husband for the rich man. Urged by need and motherly love she had tried to obtain from the rich man the sum of money which would enable her to feed her children and clothe them in the oncoming winter. But when all her requests and entreaties to the rich man became vain, she applied to the judge.
The judge was a friend of the rich man who had said to him: “If you admit that I am right, one third of the amount will be yours.” So he turned a deaf ear to the words of the widow who begged him saying: “Do me justice against my opponent. You know that I am in need. Everybody can tell you that I am entitled to that amount.” He did not listen to her and had her expelled by his assistants. But the woman went back once, twice, ten times, in the morning, at the sixth, at the ninth hour, in the evening, without ever tiring. And she would follow him in the streets shouting: “Do me justice. My children are hungry and cold. And I have no money to buy bread and clothes for them.” She waited for him at the door of his house when he went home to sit at the table with his children. And the cries of the widow: “Do me justice against my opponent, because my children and I are cold and hungry” could be heard even inside the house, in the dining-room, in the bedroom, during the night, as insistent as the cry of a hoopoe: “Do me justice, if you do not want God to strike you! Do me justice. Remember that widows and orphans are sacred to God and woe to those who oppress them! Do me justice if you do not want to suffer one day what we are suffering now. The cold, the hunger we are suffering, you will find them in the next life if you do not do me justice. You mean man!”
The judge feared neither God nor his neighbour. But he was tired of being continuously molested, of seeing that he had become the laughing stock of the whole town, because of the widow's persecution, and that many people blamed him. So one day he said to himself: “Although I do not fear God, or the threats of the widow, or the opinion of the people, yet, to put an end to so much trouble, I will listen to the widow and do her justice by compelling the rich man to pay, providing she stops persecuting me and gets out of my way.” And he sent for the rich friend and said to him: “My friend, it is impossible for me to satisfy you. Do your duty and pay, because I cannot put up any more with being molested because of you. That is my decision.” And the rich man had to pay the sum according to justice.
That is the parable. It is now for you to apply it.
You have heard the words of a wicked man: “I will listen to the woman to put an end to so much trouble.” And he was a wicked person. But will God, the very good Father, be inferior to the bad judge? Will He not do justice to those sons of His who invoke Him day and night? And will He keep them waiting so long for the grace that their depressed souls stop praying? I assure you: He will do them justice at once so that their souls may not lose faith. But it is also necessary to know how to pray, without tiring after the first prayers and asking for good things. And you must rely also on God saying: “But let that be done what Your Wisdom sees is more useful to us.”
Have faith. Pray having faith in prayer and faith in God, your Father. And He will do you justice against those who oppress you, whether they are men or demons, diseases or other calamities. A persevering prayer opens Heaven, and faith saves the soul in whatever way the prayer is heard and answered. Let us go! »
And He sets out towards the exit. He is almost outside the enclosure when raising His head to look at the few people following Him and at the many indifferent or hostile ones watching Him from afar, He exclaims sadly: « But when the Son of man comes back, will He still find faith on the Earth? » and with a sigh He envelops Himself more tightly in His mantle and strides away towards the Ophel suburb.