3rd November 1946.
They are all gathered in a large bare room. It was certainly beautiful once. Now it is nothing but a large room. From the dining-room and the bedrooms they have brought chairs and small beds into it and they are all sitting round the Master, Whom they have seated on a kind of armchair, of engraved wood, covered with a long-pile carpet. It is the most luxurious piece of furniture in the house.
Zacchaeus is speaking of a croft bought with the money gathered among them: « After all we had to do something. Idleness is not a good medicine to avoid sin. The ground is not fertile as yet, because it was neglected, just like us, and like us it was full of bramble, stones, barrenness and weeds. Nike sent us her peasants to show us how to clear neglected wells, to clean the fields, to prune the few trees left, and plant new ones. We were aware of so many things... but not of the holy work of man. But in this work so new to us, we really find a new life. Nothing around us reminds us of our past. Only our consciences remember it. But that is a good thing... We are sinners... Will You come to see it? »
« We shall depart together from here going towards the Jordan, and we shall stop at your croft. You told Me that it is just on the road to the river... »
« Yes, Master. But it is not a pleasant sight. The house is dilapidated. There is no furniture in it. We did not have enough money for everything... after making amends, as far as we could, for the wrongs done to our neighbour. With the exception of Demetis, Valens and Levi, who are too old for certain sacrifices and sleep here, the others must make shift with some hay, Lord. »
« Very often I do not even have that. I will sleep on hay, too, Zacchaeus. I slept My first sleeps on it and they were peaceful because they were watched over by love. I can sleep on it also tonight and it will not be a restless sleep, because I shall be among men whose good will has revived. » And He looks at those first redeemed men from every country so kindly that He seems to be caressing them.
And they look at Him... They are not men ready to weep. On the contrary who knows how many tears they have caused people to shed. Their faces are like books in which their wicked past is written, and if now their new life veils the brutality of those words, they can still be deciphered so clearly as to enable one to realise from which abyss they are rising towards Light. And yet their faces clear up and brighten, their eyes look reassured, a light of supernatural hope, of moral satisfaction shines in them upon hearing the Master say that they are men of good will once again.
Zacchaeus then says: « So You approve of what I have done? See, Master. On that day I said: “I will follow You.”, and I really wanted to follow You physically. But that very evening Demetis came to me for one of those... for one of his ill-famed affairs... and he was in need of money. He came from Jerusalem... they say that she is holy, but she is covered with shame, and the first to bring such shame on her are the very ones who then want to stone us as if we were lepers... But I must tell my sins, not theirs. I had no money left. I had given it all to You. Also what was left in the house was as good as given, because I had divided it up to give it back to those from whom I had extorted it by practising usury. So I said to him: “I have no money, but I have more than a treasure.” And I told him about my conversion, Your words and the peace I had in me... I spoke so much that the light of the new day came in making our faces look pale, and the lamps useless, while I was still speaking. I do not know what I exactly said. I know that with his fist he violently struck the table at which we were sitting and exclaimed: “Mercury has lost a follower and his satyrs a companion. Take this money as well, it is not enough for the criminal deed, but it will buy some bread for a beggar, and take me with you. I want to become acquainted with a perfume after so many foul smells.” And he remained with me. We went to Jerusalem together, I to sell some items, he to free himself from all engagements. And on our way back I said - I had prayed in the Temple, after such a long time, with the pure pacified heart of a boy - I said to myself: “Is this not to follow the Master, and perhaps follow Him in a better way, by remaining in Jericho, where my wretched publican friends like me, gamblers, procurers, usurers, after being superintendents of galley slaves and convicts, of slaves, torturers of all miserable people, lawless and pitiless soldiers, used to carousing to forget remorses in drunkenness, come to see me to invest their cursed money, or to propose affairs, or to invite me to banquets or to other infamous filthiness?
The town despises me. The Hebrews will always consider me a sinner. But they will not consider themselves such. But they are like me. They are filthy, but they may have something in them urging them to be good and they do not find who can give them a helping hand. I helped them in evil. Perhaps they sinned also because of my advice, for what at times I asked of them. It is my duty to help them to come towards goodness. As I paid those whom I had injured, as I made amends with regard to my fellow-citizens, so I must try and redress any wrongs done to them.” And I remained here. Now one, now another one would come from this or that town, and I spoke to them. They did not all behave like Demetis. Some ran away after mocking at me. Some were hesitant. Some stayed here but after some time they went back to their miserable life. These ones have remained. And now I feel that this is the way I must follow You, that we must follow You thus, struggling against ourselves, putting up with the scorn of the world that cannot forgive us. Our hearts bleed when we see that the world does not forget, when recollections come back... and are so many and so painful... In some they are... »
« The dreadful Nemesis that always throws our crimes in our faces and promises vengeance in the hereafter » says one.
« They are the cries of those whom I struck to make them work, although they were exhausted. »
« They are the curses of those I enslaved after taking all their properties through usurious practices. »
« They are the entreaties of widows and orphans who could not afford to pay and whose last belongings I had sequestered in the name of the law. »
« They are the cruelties accomplished in conquered countries against defenceless people terrorised by their defeat. »
« They are the tears of my mother, of my wife, of my daughter, who died of privations while I was squandering everything in banquets. »
« They are... oh! there is no name for my crime! Lord, my hands are not stained with blood, I did not steal money, I did not impose exorbitant taxes, I did not fleece anybody, I did not strike the defeated enemy, but I exploited all miseries, and I made money at the expense of innocent girls of the beaten enemy, of orphan girls, of women sold like merchandise for a piece of bread. I travelled round the world seizing such opportunities, following armies, where there was famine, where an overflowing river had deprived people of food, where pestilence had left young lives without protection, and I treated them as goods, infamous yet innocent goods. Infamous with regard to me, as I made money out of it, innocent because they were not yet aware of so much horror. Lord, I have in my hands the virginity of young girls seduced, and the honour of young wives taken in conquered towns. My trade centres... and my brothels were famous, Lord... Do not curse me, now that You know!... »
The apostles have unintentionally moved away from the last man who has spoken. Jesus stands up and approaches him. He lays a hand on his shoulder and says: « It is true! Your crime is grave. You have much to redress. But I, the Mercy, tell you that even if you were the demon himself and you were responsible for all the crimes of the Earth, if you want, you can make amends for everything and be forgiven by God, the true, great, paternal God. If you want. Join your will to Mine. I also want you to be forgiven. Join Me. Give Me your poor spirit, so ill-famed, ruined, full of scars and disheartened after you abandoned sin. I will put it on My Heart, where I place the biggest sinners and I will take it with Me to the redeeming Sacrifice. The holiest Blood, that of My Heart, the last Blood of Him Consumed on behalf of men, will be shed on the greatest ruins and will regenerate them. Have hope for the time being. Let your hope be greater than your immense crime, in the mercy of God, because it has no limit, o man, for those who can trust in it. »
The man would like to take and kiss the hand resting on his shoulder, so pale and thin against his brown garment and his strong shoulder. But he dare not. Jesus understands and stretches out His hand saying: « Kiss the palm of it, man. I will find that kiss again and it will cure My torture. A kissed hand, a wounded hand. Kissed out of love. Wounded for love. Oh! I wish all men could kiss the great Victim, and the great Victim could die in its clothes made of sores, knowing that in each are the kisses, the love, of all men redeemed! » and He holds his hand pressed against the clean-shaven lips of the man, who, judging from his overall appearance, I would say is a Roman. He holds it there until the man moves away as if he were sated with it after quenching the parching thirst of his remorses by drinking the Mercy of the Lord in the hollow of the divine hand.
Jesus goes back to His place and when passing He lays His hand on the curly hair of a very young man. I would say that he is hardly twenty years old, if that. One who has never spoken, and is certainly of Hebrew race. Jesus asks him: « And you, My son, are you not saying anything to your Saviour? »
The young man raises his head and looks at Him... A full speech is in his look. A story of grief, of hatred, of repentance, of love.
Jesus, bending lightly over him, staring at his eyes, reads a mute story and then says: « That is why I call you “son”. You are no longer alone. Forgive all those of your own blood and those who are strangers, as God forgives you. And love the Love Who saved you. Come with Me for a moment. I want to say a word to you privately. »
The young man stands up and follows Him. When they are alone, Jesus says: « I want to tell you this, son. The Lord has loved you very much, although it may not appear to be so to a superficial judge. You have been sorely tried by life. Men have harmed you seriously. Both could have ruined you irreparably. Behind them there was Satan, jealous of your soul. But above you there was the eye of God. And that blessed eye stopped your enemies. His love sent Zacchaeus along your path. And, with Zacchaeus, He sent Me, Who am now speaking to you. And now I tell you that in this love you must find what you have not had, you must forget what embittered you, and forgive, forgive your mother, your ill-famed master, and yourself. Do not hate yourself in an evil way, son. Hate your time of sin, but not your spirit that has been successful in leaving that sin. Let your thought be a good friend of your spirit, so that together they may reach perfection. »
« Me, perfect! »
« Did you hear what I said to that man? And yet he was in the depth of the abyss!... And thank you, son! »
« For what, my Lord? I have to thank You... »
« For not going to those who buy men to betray Me. »
« Oh! Lord! How could I do it, if I knew that You do not despise even us highwaymen? I also was among those who brought You the lamb at the Cherit. And one of us, who has now been captured by the Romans - at least so they say, he has certainly not been seen in the refuge of the highwaymen since before the Tabernacles - told me the words You spoke in a valley near Modin... Because at that time I had not yet joined the highwaymen. I went to them at the end of last Adar and I left them at the beginning of Ethanim. But I did not do anything that deserves Your thanks. You were good. I wanted to be good, and to warn a friend of Yours... can I say so of Zacchaeus? »
« Yes, you can. All those who love Me are My friends. You are one, too. »
« Oh!... I wanted to warn him so that You should be on the lookout. But a warning does not deserve thanks... »
« I will repeat it to you again: I thank you for not selling yourself to those who are against Me. That is important. »
« And is the warning not? »
« Son, nothing will be able to prevent Hatred from assailing Me. Have you ever seen a torrent overflow? »
« Yes, I have. I was near Jabesh-Gilead and I saw the damage caused by the river that had overflowed before flowing into the Jordan. »
« And could anything stop the water? »
« No, it flooded and ruined everything. Even some houses were swept away. »
« Hatred is like that. But it will not carry Me away. I shall be submerged but not destroyed. And in the very bitter hour the love of those who would not hate the Innocent One will be My consolation, my light in the dark of that hour of Darkness, My sweetness in the chalice of wine mixed with gall and myrrh. »
« You?... You are speaking of Yourself as if... That chalice is for highwaymen, for those who go to die on the cross. But You are not a thief! You are not guilty! You are... »
« The Redeemer. Give Me a kiss, son. »
He takes the man's head in His hands and kisses his forehead, then He bends to receive his kiss. A timid kiss that hardly touches the emaciated cheek... Then the young man collapses on Jesus' chest weeping.
« Do not weep, son! I am sacrificed by love. And it is always a sweet sacrifice even if it is grievous to human nature. »
He holds him in His arms until he stops weeping and then He goes back, holding him by the hand close to Himself, to the place where Peter was previously.
He resumes speaking: « While we were taking our food, one of you, not from Israel, said that he wanted to ask Me to explain something. Let him do so now, because we shall soon have to go back to the crowd and then part. »
« It is I who said that. But many wish to know. Zacchaeus cannot explain it clearly, neither can any of us who follow Your religion. We asked Your disciples, when they passed through here. But they did not give us a clear explanation. »
« So what do you wish to know? »
« We did not even know that we had a soul. That is... we, at least, should have known, because our ancestors... But we did not read the old books. We were like animals... And we no longer knew what this soul is. We do not know even now. What is the soul? Is it perhaps our reason? We do not think so, because in that case we would have been without it, and we have been told that without soul one cannot live. So what is the soul, which we have been told is incorporeal and immortal, if it is not our reason? Thought is incorporeal, but it is not immortal because it ends with our life. Even the wisest man thinks no more after his death. »
« A soul is not a thought, man. The soul is the spirit, the immaterial prime cause of life, the impalpable but true principle that animates the whole man and lasts after man. That is why it is said to be immortal. It is so sublime that even the most powerful thought is nothing in comparison with it. A thought comes to an end. The soul, instead, has a beginning, but has no end. Whether blissful or damned it continues to exist. Blessed are those who know how to keep it pure, or to restore it to its purity after making it impure, in order to give it back to the Creator as He gave it to man to enliven his humanity. »
« But is it within us, or above us, like the eye of God? »
« In us. »
« Imprisoned in us until death, then? A slave? »
« No. A queen. In the eternal thought, the soul, the spirit is what reigns in man, in the animal created and named man. The soul was created queen, with the authority and destiny of a queen, as it came from the King and Father of all kings and fathers, His breath and image, His gift and right, and its mission is to make of the creature named man a king of the great eternal kingdom and a god in the hereafter, a “living being” in the Abode of the most sublime only God. Its maidservants are all the virtues and faculties of man, its minister is the good will of man, the thought of man is its servant and disciple. It is from the spirit that thought acquires power and truthfulness, justice and wisdom, and can rise to regal perfection. A thought deprived of the light of the spirit will always be lacunose and obscure, it will never be able to understand the reason for truths that are more incomprehensible than mysteries to those who are separated from God, having lost the royalty of their souls. The thought of man will be obscure and dull, if it lacks the basic point, the lever indispensable to understand, to rise leaving the Earth and dashing upwards, towards the Intelligence, the Power, the Divinity, in one word. I am speaking thus to you Demetis, because you have not always been a money-changer, so you can understand and explain this to the others. »
« You are really a seer, Master. No, I have not been only a money-changer... Nay, that was the last step of my descent... Tell me, Master. If the soul is a queen, why then does it not reign and subdue the evil thought and evil flesh of man? »
« Subjection would be neither freedom nor merit; it would be oppression. »
« But thought and the flesh overwhelm also the soul, I am speaking of myself, of us, and they enslave it too often. That is why I asked whether it was in us in the form of a slave. How can God allow such a sublime thing - You called it “breath of God and His image” - to be degraded by inferior beings? »
« According to the divine Thought the soul was not to be aware of slavery. But are you forgetting about the enemy of God and of man? The infernal spirits are known to you as well. »
« Yes, and all of them with cruel desires. And remembering my childhood, I can say that I must ascribe only to those infernal spirits the man I became and was, up to the threshold of old age. I have now found the lost child of those days. But shall I be able to become such a child as to go back to the purity of my childhood? Is it possible to go backwards in time? »
« It is not necessary to go backwards. You would not be able to do it. Bygone days will not come back, one cannot make them come back or go back to them. And it is not necessary. Some of you come from places where the theory of Pythagoras' school is known. A wrong theory. Souls, when they end their stay on the Earth, do not come back to it again in any body. Not in the body of an animal, as it would not befit such a supernatural being to dwell in a brute. Not in the body of a man, because how could the body be rewarded when it is reunited to the soul in the Last Judgement, if that soul had been clothed with many bodies? Those who believe in that theory say that it is the last body that rejoices, because the soul through successive purifications, in successive lives, reaches the perfection deserving a reward only in the last reincarnation. An error and an offence! Error and offence against God, as it admits that God was able to create only a limited number of souls. Error and offence against man, as it considers him so corrupt that he deserves a reward only with great difficulty. The reward may not be granted at once, ninety-nine times in a hundred a purification will be required in life to come. But purification is preparation to joy. So he who is being purified is already saved. And once he is saved he will rejoice, after Doomsday, with his body. He will have only one body for his soul, as he had one life here, and with the body that his parents made for him, and with the soul that the Creator created for him to give life to his body, he will take delight in the reward. It is not possible to be reincarnated, as it is not possible to go back in time. But it is possible to be re-created through one's free will, and God blesses and assists such will. Each of you has had that will. And then man, who was sinful, vicious, filthy, delinquent, thieving, corrupt, corrupting, murderous, impious, adulterous, revives spiritually through the purification of repentance, he destroys the corrupt kernel of the old man, he dispels the mental ego which is even more corrupt, as if the will to be redeemed were an acid that attacks and destroys the unwholesome case concealing a treasure, and after laying bare his spirit, purifying it and restoring it to health, he clothes it with a new mentality, with a new, pure, good juvenile garment. Oh! a garment that can go close to God, that can worthily cover the recreated soul, protect and assist it until its supercreation, that is its complete holiness, that in future - perhaps a remote future if measured with human mind and means; very close if contemplated with the thought of eternity - will be glorious in the Kingdom of God. And every man can, if he so wishes, recreate in himself the boy of his childhood, the loving, humble, sincere, kind boy, whom the mother used to press to her breast and the father looked at glorying, whom the angel of God loved and God admired with love. Your mothers! Perhaps they were women of great virtue... God will not leave their virtue unrewarded. Strive therefore to be equally virtuous, to be united to them when there will be only one thing for all the virtuous people: the Kingdom of God for good people. Perhaps they were not good and they contributed to your ruin. But if they did not love you, if you do not know what love is, if the lack of love made you bad, now that a divine Love has embraced you, be holy so that with heavenly joy you may take delight in the Love that exceeds all love. Have you anything else to ask? »
« No, Lord. We have everything to learn. But for the moment we have nothing else... »
« I will leave John and Andrew with you for a few days. Later I will send you some good wise disciples. I want wild colts to know the ways of the Lord and His pastures, like the people of Israel, because I have come for everybody and I love everybody in the same way. Stand up and let us go. »
And He is the first to go out into the changed garden, closely followed by His apostles who complain gently saying: « Master, You have spoken to them as You have seldom done to Your chosen ones... »
« And do you complain of that? Do you not know that they do so also in the world, when they want to conquer someone they love? But with those who we know love us with their whole beings, there is no need for the art of conquering. It is sufficient to see one another in order to be in one another with joy and peace » says Jesus with a divine smile, really divine, so much being the joy it communicates.
And the apostles no longer complain, on the contrary they look at Him blissfully, lost as they are in the exultation of loving one another.