9th November 1946.
« Yes, Master! Judas of Kerioth has been here for many days. He came one Sabbath evening. He looked tired and exhausted. He said that he had lost You in the streets in Jerusalem and that he had run to the various houses where You usually go, looking for You. He comes here every evening. He will be here shortly. He goes away in the morning, and he says that he goes to the nearby villages to preach You. »
« All right, Eliza... And did you believe him? »
« Master, You know that I am not fond of that man. If my children had to be like him, I would have asked the Most High to take them from this world. No, I did not believe his words. But for Your sake I kept my opinion to myself... And I have been motherly to him. At least I succeeded in getting him to come back here every evening. »
« You did well. » Jesus looks at her intensely and then suddenly asks: « Where is Anastasica? » Eliza blushes and her elderly face becomes purple red, but she replies frankly: « At Bethzur. »
« You did the right thing there again. And please pity the man. »
« It is because I feel sorry for him that I wanted to put out the fire before it spread causing scandal, or, at the least, frightening the woman. »
« May God bless you, o just woman... »
« Are You suffering acutely, Master? »
« Yes, I am. It is true. I can tell a mother. »
« You can tell a mother... If You were not Jesus, the Lord, I would like You to rest Your tired head on my shoulder and I would press Your distressed heart on mine. But You are so holy that no woman, but Your Mother, can touch You... »
« Eliza, good friend of My Mother and a good mother, your Lord will soon be touched by much less holy hands than yours, and kissed... oh!... And afterwards, other hands... Eliza, if you were allowed to touch the Holy of Holies, with what spirit would you do so? Would you perhaps abstain, if the voice of God, in a cloud of incense, should ask you for love, to have a loving caress at long last, after being approached by so many people who do not love Him? »
« My Lord! If God should ask me, I would go on my knees to cover the holy place with kisses and would to God He would be satisfied and comforted by my love! »
« Then, Eliza, the good friend of My Mother, the good faithful disciple of your sorrowful Saviour, let Me rest My head on your heart because My heart is tormented to the extent of suffering mortal pains. »
And Jesus, sitting where He is, close to Eliza, who is standing, really rests His forehead on the breast of the old disciple, and silent tears stream down the dark dress of the woman, who cannot refrain from laying a hand on the head reclined on her heart, and then, feeling the tears fall on her bare sandal-shod feet, she bends to kiss Jesus' head, lightly and weeps silently, raising her eyes towards the sky in silent prayer. She looks like an elderly Mother of Sorrows. She does not speak or move. But she is so motherly in her attitude that she could not possibly be more so.
Jesus raises His head and looks at her. He smiles lightly and says: « May God bless you for your pity. Oh! a mother is really necessary when grief overwhelms the strength of man! »
He stands up. He looks once again at His disciple and says: « Every moment of this hour is to be kept to ourselves. I came ahead by Myself just for that. »
« Yes, Master. But You cannot remain all alone. Let Your Mother come. »
« She will be with Me in two months' time... » and He is about to say something else, when the strong voice, always somewhat insolent and ironical, of Judas of Kerioth, resounds downstairs in the kitchen: « Still busy carving, old man? It's cold! And there is no fire in here. I am hungry. And there is no food ready. Is Eliza sleeping perhaps? She wanted to do everything by herself. But old people are slow and their memory is weak. I say! Are you not speaking? Are you completely deaf this evening? »
« No, but I am letting you speak, because you are an apostle and it ill-becomes me to reproach you » replies the old man.
« Reproach me? Why? »
« Examine yourself and you will find why. »
« My conscience has no voice... »
« Which means that it is deformed or that you have maimed it. »
« Ha! Ha! Ha! » and Judas must have gone out of the kitchen because first a door bangs and then footsteps are heard on the staircase.
« I am going downstairs to prepare, Master. »
« Go, Eliza. »
Eliza leaves the room upstairs and she immediately meets Judas who is about to set foot on the terrace.
« I am cold and hungry. »
« Nothing else? Well, man, you still have very little. »
« What else should I have? »
« Eh! so many things!... » Eliza's voice fades away.
« They are all old fools. Ugh! »
He pushes the door and finds himself facing Jesus. He is so surprised that he takes a step backwards. He collects himself and says: « Master!! Peace to You! »
« Peace to you, Judas. » Jesus receives the kiss of the apostle, but He does not return it. « Master. You have... Are You not kissing me? » Jesus looks at him and remains silent.
« It's true. I made a mistake. And to refuse to kiss me is the least You can do. But do not judge me too severely. On that day I was caught in the middle of some people who... do not love You and I argued with them until I talked myself hoarse. Later... I said: “I wonder where He has gone?!” and I came back here waiting for You. Isn't this house Yours by now? »
« While they allow Me. »
« You will not bear me a grudge for that! »
« No. I only want you to consider the example you have set for the others. »
« Eh! I can already hear their words. But I have reasons that will justify me with them. I am not even doing it with You because I know that You have already forgiven me. »
« I have already forgiven you. That is true. »
One would expect Judas to make a gesture of humility, of love for so much kindness. He instead makes one which is the very opposite: a gesture of anger, while he exclaims: « But is there no way to see You lose Your temper?! What kind of man are You? »
Jesus is silent. And Judas, standing, looks at Jesus, Who is sitting with His head lowered, and he shakes his head with an evil smile on his lips. And the incident is over, as far as he is concerned. He begins to speak about this and that matter, as if he were the best-behaved apostle.
Night is falling. The noise of the road dies out. « Let us go downstairs » says Jesus.
They go into the kitchen where a bright fire is burning and a three-flame lamp is lit. Jesus, tired, sits near the fireside and seems to be dozing in the warmth...
There is a knock at the door. The old man opens it. It is the apostles. Peter, the first to enter, sees Judas and assails him vigorously asking: « Can you tell us where you have been? »
« Here. Just here. It would have been foolish to run here and there after people who had disappeared. I came here as I was sure that you would be coming back here. »
« A fine way to behave! »
« The Master has not reproached me for it. In any case you had better know that I have not wasted my time. I evangelized every day and I also worked miracles, and that is a good thing. »
« And who authorised you to do that? » asks Bartholomew severely.
« Nobody. Neither you nor anybody else. It is enough to be of the... In brief: people are surprised, and grumble and laugh at us, the apostles who do nothing. And since I know, I acted on behalf of everybody. And I did more than that. I went to see Helkai and I proved to him that one does not misbehave when one is holy. There were many there and I convinced them. You will see that they will no longer disturb us. And now I am happy. »
The apostles look at one another. They look at Jesus. His face is impenetrable. It seems to be veiled with so much fatigue, which is the only visible thing.
« But you might have done that with the Master's permission » remarks James of Alphaeus. « We have been worried about you all the time. »
« Oh! well! Now you need not be anxious any longer. He would never have given me permission. He... protects us too much. So much so that people murmur that He is jealous of us, that He is afraid we might do more than He does, and also that we are punished by Him. People have caustic tongues. The truth, instead, is that He loves us more than the apple of His eye. Isn't that right, Master? He is afraid we may be exposed to danger or we may cut... a bad figure. And we, too, in our minds, thought that we were punished and that He was jealous... »
« Definitely not! I never thought that! » says Thomas interrupting him. And the others echo him, with the exception of Thaddeus, who fixes his sincere beautiful eyes on the beautiful but elusive eyes of Judas and says: « And how were you able to work miracles? In whose name? »
« What? In whose name? But do you not remember that He gave us that power? Has He deprived us of it? Not that I know. So... »
« So I would never take the liberty of doing anything without His consent and order. »
« Well, I wanted to do it. I was afraid I might no longer be able. But I was and I am happy! » and he breaks off the discussion going out into the dark kitchen garden.
Once again the apostles look at one another in dismay. They are shocked by so much audacity. But no one has the heart to say anything that may grieve their Master even more, as He seems to be suffering so much.
They get rid of their bags which John, Andrew and Thomas take upstairs. And Bartholomew, bending to pick up a dry branch fallen out of a faggot, whispers to Peter: « God forbid he was helped by a demon! »
Peter makes a gesture with his hands as if wished to say: « Goodness gracious! » but he does not say one word. He goes to Jesus and laying a hand on His shoulders, he asks Him: « Are You so tired? »
« Yes, Simon, I am. »
« It's ready, Master. Come to the table. Or... No. Remain there, near the fireside. I will bring You some milk and bread » says Eliza. In fact she puts a big bowl of steaming milk and some bread spread with honey on a tray and takes it to Jesus, and she waits while He, standing, offers the food. Then she crouches on the floor, like a good old mother, anxiously wishing to console Him, and she smiles at Him urging Him to eat. And when Jesus lovingly reproaches her for spreading the bread with honey, she replies: « I would give You my blood to invigorate You, my Master! This is the poor honey of my kitchen garden at Bethzur and it can but strengthen Your body. But my heart... »
The others are eating round the table, with the good appetite of people who have walked a long way. And Judas, peaceful, almost arrogant, eats with them and is the only one to speak...
He is still speaking when Jesus orders: « Let each of you go to the house giving you hospitality. Go. Peace be with you. »
Judas, Bartholomew, Peter and Andrew remain with Him. And Jesus orders them to go and rest at once. He is deadly tired, so tired that He can no longer endure to speak or hear people speak, and I think He is unable to bear the effort of controlling Himself with regard to Judas of Kerioth.