4th December 1946.
Jesus with Peter and Judas Thaddeus is walking fast in a gloomy stoney place, on one side of the town. As I cannot see the green olive-grove, but I only see the hill, or rather the hills with little or no greenery to the west of Jerusalem, among which is the gloomy Golgotha, I think that I am outside the eastern side of the town.
« We shall be able to give them something with what we purchased. It must be terrible to live in the sepulchres in winter » says Thaddeus who is laden with parcels just like Peter.
« I am glad we went to the freedmen as we received this money for the lepers. Poor wretches! During these feast days no one thinks of them. Everyone is enjoying himself... they will remember their lost homes... Alas! If they only believed in You! Will they believe, Master? » asks Peter, who is always so simple and so attached to his Jesus.
« Let us hope so, Simon, let us hope so. Let us pray in the meantime... » And they proceed praying.
The gloomy Hinnon valley appears with its sepulchres of living beings.
« Go ahead and supply them » says Jesus.
The two go on speaking in loud voices. The faces of lepers appear at the openings of caves or shelters.
« We are disciples of Rabbi Jesus » says Peter. « He is coming and has sent us to assist you. How many are you? »
« Seven here. Three on the other side, beyond En Rogel » says one on behalf of everybody.
Peter opens his bundle and Thaddeus his. They make ten portions. Bread, cheese, butter, olives. The oil, where can they put the oil that is in a little jar?
« One of you should bring a vessel. Over there, at the rock. You will divide the oil among you, like brothers and in the name of Jesus, Who preaches love for our neighbour » says Peter.
Meanwhile a leper comes down limping towards them near a large rock, and he lays a chipped jug on it. He looks at them while they pour oil into it and as he is greatly surprised he asks: « Are you not afraid to be so close to me? » In fact only the rock is between the two apostles and the leper.
« We are only afraid of offending love. He sent us here telling us to assist you, because those who follow the Christ must love as the Christ loves. May this oil open your hearts, may it give them light as if it were already burning in the lamps of your hearts. The time of Grace has come for those who hope in the Lord Jesus. Have faith in Him. He is the Messiah and He heals bodies and souls. He can do everything because He is the Immanuel » says Thaddeus with his usual imposing dignity.
The leper is standing with the little jug in his hands looking at him as if he were enchanted. He then says: « I know that Israel has her Messiah, because the pilgrims who come to town looking for Him, speak of Him and we hear their conversation... But I have never seen Him as I came here only recently. And do you think that He would cure me? Among us there are some who curse Him and some who bless Him, and I do not know which I should believe. »
« Are those who curse Him good people? »
« No, they are cruel and they maltreat us. They want the best places and the biggest portions. In fact we do not know whether we shall be able to stay here because of that. »
« So you can see that only those who are the guests of hell hate the Messiah. Because hell realises that it is already defeated by Him and consequently it hates Him. But I tell you that He is to be loved, and with faith, if we want to receive Grace from the Most High here and hereafter » says Thaddeus again.
« If I want to have Grace! I have been married two years and I have a little son who does not know me. I became leprous only a few months ago, as you can see. » In fact he has only a few stains.
« Then apply to the Master with faith. Look! He is coming. Tell your companions and come back here. He will pass by and will cure you. »
The man waddles up the slope and calls: « Uriah! Joab! Adina! And also you who do not believe. The Lord is coming to save us. »
One, two, three lepers appear: three wrecks come forward looking more and more dreadful. The woman just shows herself. She is a living horror... Perhaps she is weeping and speaking, but it is not possible to understand anything, because her voice sounds like a yelp coming from what was a mouth and now is nothing but two horrible uncovered jaws devoid of teeth...
« Yes. I tell you that they asked me to come and call you, because He is coming to cure us. »
« No! I am not coming because I did not believe Him the other times He came... and He will not listen to me any more... in any case I cannot walk » the woman says more distinctly, with I wonder how much difficulty. She even helps herself with her fingers to hold the edges of her lips to make herself understood.
« We will take you, Adina... » say the two men and the one with the little jug.
« No... No... I sinned too much... » and she collapses where she was...
Three more come running, as best they can, and say overbearingly: « Give us the oil at once and then you can also go to Beelzebub if you wish so. »
« The oil is for everybody! » says the man with the little jug striving to defend his little treasure. But the three violent cruel men overwhelm him and snatch the jug from his hands.
« There you are! It is always the same... A little oil after such a long time!... But the Master is coming... Let us go to Him. Are you really not coming, Adina? »
« I dare not... »
The three come down towards the rock. They stop waiting for Jesus, as the apostles have gone to meet Him. And when He arrives there, they shout: « Have mercy on us, Jesus of Israel! We hope in You, Lord! »
Jesus raises His head, He looks at them in His incomparable way. He asks: « Why do you want your health again? »
« For the sake of our families, for ourselves... It is dreadful to live here... »
« You are not only bodies, My children. You have also a soul, and it is worth more than your bodies. You must be anxious about it. So do not ask to be cured only for yourselves and your families, but to have time to become acquainted with the Word of God, and to live deserving His Kingdom. Are you just? Become more so. Are you sinners? Ask to live so that you may have time to make amends for the wrong you have done... Where is the woman? Why is she not coming? Dare she not confront the face of the Son of man, when she was not afraid of having to meet the face of God when she was sinning? Go and tell her that she was forgiven much because of her repentance and resignation and that the Eternal Father has sent Me to absolve all the sins of those who have repented their past. »
« Master, Adina is no longer able to walk. »
« Go and help her to come down here. And bring another vessel. We will give you some more oil... »
« Lord, there is just enough for the others » Peter says in a low voice while the lepers are going to get the woman.
« There will be enough for everybody. Have faith. Because it is easier for you to have faith in that, than for those poor wretches to believe that their bodies will become as they were. »
In the meantime, up in the eaves a fight has started among the three bad lepers for the sharing of the food...
The woman is carried down in the arms of her companions... and she is moaning, as much as it is possible for her, saying: « Forgive me! My past! For not asking to be forgiven in the past!... Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! »
They lay her at the foot of the rock. And on the rock they put a kind of pot that is all chipped.
Jesus asks: « What do you say? Is it easier to increase the oil in a vase or to make flesh grow where leprosy has destroyed it? »
There is silence... Then the woman says: « The oil. But also the flesh, because You can do everything. And You can also give me the soul of my early years. I believe, Lord. »
Oh! the divine smile! It is like a light that spreads gently., cheerfully, softly! And it is in His eyes, and on His lips, and in His voice as He says: « Because of your faith be cured and forgiven. And you as well. And take this oil and food to nourish yourselves. And show yourselves to the priest, as it is prescribed. Tomorrow, at dawn I will come back with some clothes, and you will be able to go being decently dressed. Cheer up! Praise the Lord. You are no longer lepers! »
Only then the four, who so far have had their eyes fixed on the Lord, look at themselves and shout their amazement. The woman would like to stand up, but she is too naked to do so. Her dress hangs in bits and pieces and what is nude is more than what is covered. Half hidden by the rock, out of a sense of decency not only with regard to Jesus, but also to His companions, her face recomposed in its features, which are only thinned by privations, she is weeping saying without interruption: « Blessed! Blessed! Blessed! » and her blessings mingle with the horrible blasphemies of the three wicked lepers, who are now furious seeing that the others have been cured. And they fling dirt and stones.
« You cannot remain here. Come with Me. No harm will befall you. Look. The road is empty. At the sixth hour all the people are at home. You will stay with the other lepers, until tomorrow. Be not afraid. Follow Me. Take this, woman » and He gives her His mantle to cover herself.
The four, a little frightened and amazed, follow Him like four lambs. They cover the remainder of the Hinnom valley. They cross the road and go towards the Siloam pool, another gloomy place for lepers.
Jesus stops at the foot of the cliff and says: « Go up and tell them that I shall be here at the first hour tomorrow. Go and rejoice with them and preach the Master of the Gospel. » He tells the apostles to give them all the food they have and He blesses them before dismissing them...
« Let us go now. It is already past the sixth hour » says Jesus turning round to go back to the lower Bethany road.
But He is soon called back by a cry: « Jesus, Son of David, have mercy also on us. »
« These ones have not waited for dawn... » remarks Peter.
« Let us go to them. So few are the hours in which I can do some good, without the peace of the people I help being disturbed by those who hate Me! » replies Jesus and He retraces His steps looking at the three lepers of Siloam, who are looking out from the terrace of the little hill and are repeating their cry, helped by those who have already been cured and who are behind them.
Jesus does nothing but stretch out His hands and say: « Let it be done to you as you ask. Go and live in the ways of the Lord. » He blesses them while leprosy vanishes from their bodies as a thin layer of snow melts in the sun. And Jesus runs away followed by the blessings of those who have been cured and who from their terrace are stretching out their arms in an embrace more real than if they had physically done so.
They go back to the Bethany road, that follows the course of the Kidron and forms a hairpin bend after a few hundred steps from Siloam. But when they have passed the bend and they can see the other part of the road to Bethany, there is, all alone, Judas of Kerioth, walking fast.
« It's Judas! » exclaims Thaddeus who is the first to see him.
« Why are you here? Alone? Hey! Judas! » shouts Peter.
Judas turns round suddenly. He is wan, even greenish. Peter says to him: « Have you seen the devil, that you are the same colour as lettuce? »
« What are you doing here, Judas? Why did you leave your companions? » Jesus asks at the same time.
Judas has recovered his self-control. He says: « I was with them. I met a man who had news of my mother. Look... » He searches his belt. He strikes his forehead with his hand saying: « I left it at that man's house! I wanted You to read the letter Or I lost it on the way... She is not very well. Or rather she is ill But there are our companions over there They have stopped. They have seen You... Master, I am upset »
« I can see that. »
« Master here are the purses. I made two... to avoid attracting attention I was alone... »
The apostles Bartholomew, Philip, Matthew, Simon and James of Zebedee are somewhat embarrassed. They approach Jesus affectionately, but they are aware of having made a mistake.
Jesus looks at them and says: « Do not do it again. It is not right for you to part from one another. If I tell you not to do it, it is because I know that you need to support one another. You are not strong enough to be able to do things by yourselves. When united, one checks or supports the other. If you are divided... »
« It was I, Master, who gave the wrong advice, because later we remembered that You had told us not to divide, but to go all together to Bethany, and Judas had gone away with a just reason, and we did not think of going with him. Forgive me, Lord » says Bartholomew humbly and frankly.
« Yes, I forgive you. But I repeat: do not do it again. Consider that obedience always saves one from at least one sin: that of presuming of being able to do by oneself. You do not know how much the demon moves around you seeking all pretexts to make you sin and make you harm your Master, Who is already so fiercely persecuted. These days are becoming more and more difficult for Me and for the organism that I have come to form. So, much care is required, so that I shall not say it may not be wounded and killed - because that will never happen until the end of time - but it may not be stained with dirt. Its enemies are watching you carefully, they never lose sight of you, and likewise they weigh every action and word of Mine. And they do that to have valid reasons for disparagement. If they see that you are quarrelsome, divided, somehow imperfect, even in trifling matters, they pick up and adulterate what you have done and they will make use of it like dirt and a charge against Me and My Church that is now forming. See! I am not reproaching you, but I am advising you. For your own good. Oh! My friends, do you not know that they will adulterate even the best things and will exhibit them in order to be able to accuse Me with an appearance of justice. So, in future be more obedient and prudent. »
The apostles are all moved by Jesus' kindness.
Judas changes colour continuously. He is dejected, a little behind them all, until Peter says to him: « What are you doing there? You are not to be blamed more than the others. So come forward and stay with the others » and he is obliged to obey.
They are walking fast because, although there is sunshine, a cold breeze is blowing making them walk fast to warm themselves. And they have already walked a good distance when Nathanael, who is cold and it is obvious as he wraps himself up in his mantle more than ever, notices that Jesus has, on only His tunic: « Master, but what have You done with Your mantle? »
« I gave it to a leprous woman. We cured and consoled seven lepers. »
« But You must be cold. Take mine » says the Zealot and he adds: « I became accustomed to the winter winds in the ice-cold sepulchres. »
« No, Simon. Look. There is Bethany. We shall soon be in the house. And I am not cold at all. I have had much spiritual joy today and it is more comfortable than a warm mantle. »
« Brother, You reward us for what we have not done. You cured and consoled, not us... » says Thaddeus.
« You prepared their hearts to have faith in the miracle. So with Me and like Me you helped to cure and comfort. If you knew how I rejoice in associating you with Me in every deed! Do you not remember the words of My cousin John of Zacharias: “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller”? He rightly said so, because every man, no matter how great he may be, even if he were Moses or Elijah, becomes obscured like a star assailed by sunbeams, at the appearance of Him Who comes from Heaven and is greater than any man, because He comes from the Most Holy Father. But I also, the Founder of an Organism that will last throughout centuries and will be as holy as its Founder and Head, of an Organism that will last to represent Me, and will be one thing with Me, just as the limbs and body of man are one thing with the head dominating them, I must say: “That body must brighten and I must grow dim.” You will have to continue My work. Soon I shall no longer be here among you, here on the Earth, here materially, to guide My apostles, disciples and followers. However, I shall always be with you spiritually, and your spirits will perceive My Spirit and receive My Light. But you will have to appear, in the first line, while I have gone back whence I came. That is why I am preparing you by degrees to appear as the first. At times you object saying: “In the early days You sent us out more.” You had to be known. Now that you are known, now that for this little spot of the Earth you already are “the Apostles”, I always keep you near Me, taking part in every action of Mine, so that the world may say: “He makes them His partners in the work He accomplishes, because they will remain after Him to continue His work.” Yes, My friends. You will have to proceed more and more, and become enlightened, continuing Me, being Me, whereas I, like a mother who little by little stops supporting her little son who has learned to walk, will withdraw... The handing over from Me to you must not take place violently. The little ones of the flock and the humble believers would be frightened. I will hand them over to you gently so that they may not feel to be alone even for one moment. And love them so much, as I love them. Love them in memory of Me as I have loved them... »
Jesus becomes silent engrossed in thought. And He comes back to reality only when, a little outside Bethany, He meets the other apostles who have come along the other road. They proceed all together towards Lazarus' house. John says that they are already expected, because the servants have seen them. He also says that Lazarus is dangerously ill.
« I know. That is why I told you that we shall be staying in Simon's house. But I did not want to go away without greeting him again. »
« But why do You not cure him? It would also be fair. You let all Your best servants die. I do not understand... » says the Iscariot, who is always bold, even at his best moments.
« There is no need for you to understand in advance. »
« Yes. There is no need. But do You know what Your enemies are saying? That You cure when You can, not when You want, that You protect when You can... Do You not know that that old man from Tekoah is already dead? And that he was killed? »
« Dead? Who? Elianna? How? » they all ask excitedly. Peter only asks: « And how do you know? »
« I heard of it by chance a short while ago in the house where I was, and God knows whether I am lying. Apparently it was a highwayman, who came down in the guise of a merchant, and instead of paying the toll, killed him... »
« Poor old soul! What an unhappy life! What a sad death! Are You not saying anything, Master? » many say.
« I have nothing to say except that the old man served the Christ until his death. I wish they were all like him! »
« Tell me, son of Alphaeus, is it not as you said, by any chance, eh? » Peter asks Thaddeus.
« It may well be. A son who expels his father out of hatred, and of this kind of hatred, may be capable of anything. Brother, Your words are quite true: “And a brother will be against his brother, and a father against his children.” »
« Yes, and those who do that will think that they are serving God. Their eyes are blind, their hearts hard, their spirits without light. And yet you will have to love them » says Jesus.
« But how shall we be able to love those who treat us thus? It will be a great effort if we do not react and we put up with their behaviour with resignation... » exclaims Philip.
« I will set an example for you and it will teach you. In due time. And if you love Me, you will do what I do. »
« Here are Maximinus and Sarah. Lazarus must be very ill, if his sisters do not come to meet You! » remarks the Zealot.
The two rush towards them and prostrate themselves. Also in their faces and garments there is the modest appearance impressed by sorrow and fatigue on the members of families struggling with death. They only say: « Master, come... » but so sorrowfully that those two words are more expressive than a long speech. And they lead Jesus at once to the door of Lazarus' little flat, while other servants take care of the apostles.
At their light knocking Martha comes to the door and half-opens it, showing her thinned wan face through the opening: « Master! Come. May You be blessed! »
Jesus goes in, and He enters Lazarus' room after going through the one preceding it. Lazarus is sleeping. Lazarus? A skeleton, a yellowish mummy that is breathing... His face is already a skull, and in his sleep its destruction, that has already turned it into a head unfleshed by death, is even more visible. His waxen drawn skin shines on the sharp angles of his cheek-bones and jaws, on his forehead, on his eye-sockets that are so deeply sunken as to seem devoid of eyes, on his sharp nose that seems to have grown excessively so much the contour of the cheeks has vanished. His lips are so pale that they are hardly visible, and seem unable to close on the two rows of his half-covered open teeth... already the face of a dead man.
Jesus bends to look at him. He draws Himself up. He looks at the two sisters who look at Him with their souls concentrated on their eyes, two sorrowful hopeful souls. He nods to them and goes out noiselessly, into the little yard outside the two rooms. Martha and Mary follow Him. They close the door after them.
All alone, the three of them, inside the four walls, with the blue sky above them, look at one another. The sisters are not even able to ask, or to speak. But Jesus speaks: « You know Who I am. I know who you are. You know that I love you. I know that you love Me. You are aware of My power. I am aware of your faith in Me. You also know, and you in particular, Mary, that the more one loves the more one achieves. To be able to hope and to believe above all limits and above all realities that disprove faith and hope is to love. Well, for the sake of that, I tell you to hope and believe against all contrary realities. Do you understand Me? I say: hope and believe against every contrary reality. I can only stop for a few hours. As the Man, the Most High knows how much I would like to stop here with you, to assist and comfort him, to assist and comfort you. But as the Son of God I know that I must go, that I must depart... That I must not be here when... you will be wanting Me more than the air you breathe. One day, very soon, you will understand these reasons that now may seem cruel to you. They are divine reasons. Sorrowful to Me Man, as they are to you. Sorrowful now. Because now you cannot embrace and contemplate their beauty and wisdom. Neither can I reveal them to you. When everything is accomplished, then you will understand and rejoice... Listen. When Lazarus is... dead. Do not weep thus! Then send for Me at once. And in the meantime make the arrangements for the funeral inviting a large number of people, as becomes Lazarus and your household. He is a great Hebrew. Few people appreciate him for what he is. But he exceeds many in the eyes of God... I will let you know where I am, so that you can always find Me. »
« But why not be here at least at that moment? We are resigning ourselves to his death, yes... But You... But You... But You... » Martha sobs not being able to say anything else, stifling her tears in her dress...
Mary instead gazes at Jesus, as if she were hypnotised and does not weep.
« Obey, believe, hope... Always say yes to God... Lazarus is calling you... Go. I will come in a moment... And if I should not have the opportunity to speak to you aside, remember what I told you. »
And while they go in hastily, Jesus sits down on a stone bench and prays.