12th January 1947.
« Get up and let us go along the stream. Like the Jews who live abroad and where there are no synagogues, we shall celebrate the Sabbath among ourselves. Come children... » says Jesus to the apostles idling in the kitchen garden, and He stretches out His hand to the three poor children who are in a group in a corner.
They go towards Him with an expression of timid joy on their faces prematurely pensive of children who have seen things far greater than themselves, and the two older ones put their hands in those of Jesus, but the little one wants to be taken in His arms, and Jesus satisfies him saying to the oldest one: « You will stay beside Me just the same and you will hold on to My tunic as you did yesterday. Isaac is too tired and too young to walk by himself... » The boy is delighted with Jesus' smile and he agrees, being satisfied with walking like a little man beside Jesus.
« Give me the child, Master. You must be tired after yesterday's fatigue, and Ruben is not happy because You are not taking him by the hand... » says Bartholomew and he stretches his arms to take the child who clings to Jesus' neck.
« He is as stubborn as all his race! » exclaims the Iscariot.
« No. He is frightened. You have no experience of children. Babies are like that. When they are distressed or scared they seek shelter in the first person who has smiled at them and comforted them » replies Bartholomew, and as he cannot take the youngest one in his arms, he takes the oldest one by the hand after caressing his head and smiling at him in a fatherly way.
They leave the house where only the old woman remains and they follow the stream beyond the village. Its banks are beautiful, covered as they are with fresh grass and studded with wild flowers. The clear water gurgles among stones and, although meagre, it sounds as sweet as a harp and rustles breaking against the larger stones scattered in its bed or insinuating itself into the recesses of some tiny island covered with reeds. Birds fly away from the trees near the banks trilling merrily, or they perch on boughs in the sunshine singing the first songs of springtime, or they fly down to the ground gracefully and lively, seeking insects and worms or drinking near the banks. Two wild turtle-doves are bathing at a bend of the stream pecking at each other and cooing; they then fly away carrying in their beaks strands of wool left by some sheep on a plant of hawthorn, the top branches of which are beginning to bloom.
« They do that to build their nest » says the oldest boy. « They certainly have young ones... » He lowers his head and, after smiling faintly when uttering the first words, he weeps silently wiping his eyes with his hand.
Bartholomew takes him in his arms, as he realises what anguish the two turtle-doves have brought about with their care for their nest. And Bartholomew, who has the kind heart of a good father of a family, sighs deeply. The boy weeps on his shoulder and the other one, the second one, seeing him weep, begins to cry as well, imitated by the third one who calls his father in the thin voice of a little child who has just begun to speak.
« This is going to be our Sabbatic prayer today! You could have left them at home! Women are better suited to such cases and... » remarks the Iscariot.
« But she does nothing but weep herself! As I feel like doing myself... Because such situations... do make one weep... » replies Peter taking the second boy in his arms.
« Yes, they do make one weep. That is true. And Mary of Jacob, a poor old distressed soul, is not very good at consoling... » confirms the Zealot. « We do not think that she is very successful either. The only one capable of consoling was the Master. And He did not do it. »
« He did not do it? And what else should He have done? He convinced the highwaymen, He walked for miles with the children in His arms, He had their relatives informed... »
« All trifling matters. Since He has power also over death He could, nay He should have gone down to the fold and raised the dead shepherd. He did it for Lazarus, who was of no use to anybody! In this case there was a father, and a widower into the bargain, and there are children who are left all alone... That resurrection should have been worked. I do not understand You, Master... »
« And we do not understand you, as you are so disrespectful... »
« Peace, peace! Judas does not understand. He is not the only one who does not understand the reasons of God and the consequences of sin. You also, Simon of Jonah, do not understand why children should suffer. So do not judge Judas of Simon, who does not understand why the man has not been raised from the dead. If Judas ponders on the matter, since he always reproaches Me for going far away all alone, he will realise that I was not able to go so far... Because the fold was in the Jericho plain, but beyond the town, near the ford. What would you have said if I had been away for at least three days? »
« You could have ordered the man to rise again with Your spirit. »
« Are you more exacting than the Pharisees and scribes, who wanted the proof of a decomposed body, so that you may say that I really do raise the dead? »
« They wanted that because they hate You. I would like it because I love You and I would like to see You crush all Your enemies. »
« Your old feelings and your disorderly love. You have not been able to extirpate the old plants from your heart and replace them with new ones; and the old ones, fertilised by the Light that you approached, have become even sturdier. Many people make your error at present and many will make it in future. It is the error of those who, notwithstanding the assistance from God, do not improve themselves because they do not correspond to God's help with heroic wills. »
« Have these men, who, like me, are Your disciples, destroyed the old plants? »
« They have at least pruned them down and engrafted them considerably. You did not. You did not even examine them carefully to see whether they deserved to be engrafted, pruned or removed. You are an improvident gardener, Judas. »
« But only with regard to my soul. Because I know what to do with gardens. »
« You know what to do. You are an expert with all earthly matters. I would like to see you equally capable in matters concerning Heaven. »
« But Your light should work wonders in us by itself! Is it really good? If it fertilises evil and invigorates it, it cannot be good, and it is its fault if we do not become good. »
« Speak for yourself, my friend. As far as I know, the Master has not made my bad tendencies any stronger » says Thomas.
« I agree. »... « I agree, too » say Andrew and James of Zebedee.
« With regard to me, His power has freed me from evil and has made a new man of me. Why do you say that? Do you not consider what you say? » asks Matthew.
Peter is about to say something, but he prefers to go away, and he begins to walk fast with the child astride his shoulders imitating the rolling of a boat to make him laugh, and when he passes near Thaddeus he takes him by the arm and shouts: « Come on, let's go to that island! It's full of flowers like a basket. Come, Nathanael, Philip, Simon, John... In one bound we are there. The torrent, divided as it is, is only two brooks, one on each side of the island... » And he is the first to jump resting his foot on a sandy protrusion a few metres wide, covered with grass like a meadow and so full of early flowers that it looks like a carpet, with in its middle only one tall thin poplar, the top of which is swaying in a light breeze. He is slowly joined by those he called and then by the others who were closer to Jesus, Who is left behind speaking to the Iscariot.
« But has he not finished yet? » Peter asks his brother.
« The Master is working at his heart » replies Andrew.
« Eh! it is easier for me to make figs grow on this tree than it is for justice to enter Judas' heart. »
« And his mind » adds Matthew.
« He is a fool because he wants to be so, and when he likes » says Thaddeus.
« He is upset because he has not been selected to evangelize. I know » says John.
« As far as I am concerned... If he wants to go in my place... I am not at all anxious to wander about! » exclaims Peter.
« None of us are anxious. But he is. And my Brother does not want to send him. I spoke to Him this morning because I was aware of Judas' mood and of its causes. But Jesus said: “Just because his heart is so unsound I am keeping him with Me. Those who suffer and are weak need a doctor and someone to support them.” »
« Of course!... Well!... Come, children. We shall now take these lovely reeds and make little boats with them. See how beautiful they are! And we shall put these little flowers in them to act as fishermen. Look: do they not seem heads with white and red caps?... We shall make the harbour here, and here... the fishermen's little houses... Now let us tie the boats to these lovely slender grass-blades, and you will put them in the water, like that.... then you will beach them when you finish fishing... You can also make the tour of the island... and watch the rocks, eh!... » Peter's patience is wonderful. He cuts the reed into pieces with a knife, from knot to knot, removing one side to make little boats, he puts daisies still in bud in them as fishermen, he dugs a Lilliputian harbour in the sand and makes some little houses with the damp sand, and when he is successful in pleasing the children he sits down satisfied whispering: « Poor children!... »
Jesus sets foot on the island just when the two children are beginning to play and He caresses them putting down the little one who joins in the game of his brothers.
« Here I am with you. Let us speak of God now. Because to speak of God and to God is a preparation for one's mission. And after praying, that is, after speaking to God, we shall speak of God, Who is present in everything to teach men good things. Stand up and let us pray » and He intones some psalms in Hebrew and the apostles join Him singing in chorus.
The children, who had moved aside with their little boats, on hearing the men sing, stop playing and prattling in their shrill voices, and approach the group. They listen attentively, their eyes fixed on Jesus Who is everything to them, then, with the spirit of imitation of children, they take the same posture of the praying apostles humming the tune as they do not know the words of the psalms. Jesus looks at them with a smile that encourages the humming of their innocent voices. They feel as if He approved of them and they are encouraged...
The singing of the psalms comes to an end. Jesus sits down on the grass and begins to speak: « When the kings of Israel, of Edom and of Judah united to fight the king of Moab and they applied to the prophet Elisha for advice, he replied to the kings' messenger: “If I did not respect Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, I should not even look at you. Now bring me someone who can play the lyre.” And as the harpist played, God spoke to His prophet ordering ditch on ditch to be dug in the wadi so that it might be filled with water for men and animals. And the following morning at the hour of the oblation, although there was neither wind nor rain, the torrent was filled as the Lord had said. According to you, what is the teaching of that episode? Speak up! »
The apostles consult with one another. Some say: « God does not speak to an agitated heart. Elisha wants to appease his anger, brought about by seeing the king of Israel appear in his presence, so that he may hear God ». Some instead say: « It is a lesson of justice. Elisha, in order not to punish the innocent king of Judah, saves also the guilty one. » Others say: « It is a lesson of faith and obedience. They dug the ditches obeying an apparently silly order, and they waited for the water although it was a clear windless day. »
« Your replies are correct but not complete. God does not speak to an agitated heart. That is true. But lyres are not required to calm a heart. It is sufficient to have charity, which is the spiritual lyre with paradisiac notes. When a soul lives in charity, its heart is calm and it can hear and understand the voice of God. »
« So Elisha did not have charity because he was upset. »
« Elisha lived at the time of Justice. We must learn to transfer ancient episodes to the time of Charity and see them not in the light of thunder and lightning but in the light of stars. (1) You belong to the new times. So why are you so often more irascible and agitated than people of the ancient times? Divest yourselves of the past. I repeat that to you, although Judas does not like to hear it being repeated. Extirpate, prune, engraft, plant new trees. Renovate yourselves, dig the ditches of humility, obedience and faith. Those kings were able to do so although two of them did not come from Judah, and they did not hear God but the prophet of God repeat the orders of the Most High. Had they not obeyed they would have died of thirst in the arid land. They obeyed and the water filled the ditches they had dug, and they were not only saved from dying of thirst but they also defeated their enemies. I am the Water of Life. Dig ditches in your hearts in order to be able to receive Me.
(1) Allusion to the lightning that accompanied the manifestations of the ancient Law (Exodus 19, 1-20, 21) and to the star that indicated the coming and manifestation of Jesus in the world (Matthew 2, 1-12).
And now listen. I am not going to make long speeches. I will just give you some simple thoughts on which you can meditate. You will always be like these children and even inferior to them, because they are innocent and you are not, and thus the spiritual light will be dimmer in you, if you do not get accustomed to meditation. You always listen but you never remember, because your intelligence is asleep instead of being awake. So listen. When the son of the woman of Shunem died, she wanted to go to the prophet although her husband told her that it was not the first day of the month or the Sabbath. But she knew that she had to go, because for certain matters no delay is allowed. And as she was able to understand the matter from a spiritual point of view, she had her son restored to life. What do you say about that? »
« That it is a reproach to me because of the Sabbath » says the Iscariot.
« So, Judas, do you realise that you understand things when you want to? So open your heart to justice. »
« Yes... but You did not infringe the Sabbath to raise the man from the dead. »
« I did more than that. I prevented their ruin and death, their true death. And I reminded the thieves that... »
« Wait before consoling Yourself with the idea of having done some good! I don't believe they obeyed You... »
« If the Master says so... »
« Also Elisha, in the story of the woman of Shunem, says: “The Lord has hidden it from me.” So not even the prophets always know everything » replies the Iscariot.
« Our Brother is greater than a prophet » remarks Thaddeus.
« I know. He is the Son of God. But He is also the Man. And as such He may be subject to being unaware of secondary matters like this one concerning a conversion and a return... Master, do You always, really always, know everything? I often wonder... » says the Iscariot with stubborn insistence.
« And with what mind do you wish to know? For the sake of peace, of advice, or to be upset? » asks Jesus.
« Well... I do not know. I wonder and... »
« And you seem to be upset even in wondering » says Thomas.
« Me? Of course perplexity always upsets one... »
« How many quibbles! I do not worry about so many problems. I believe without inquiring, and I am not perplexed or upset about anything. But let us allow the Master to speak. I do not like this lesson. Tell us a beautiful parable, Master. The children also will like it » says Peter.
« I have still one question to ask you. This one. According to you, what is the meaning of the flour that removed the bittemess from the soup of the prophet's children? »
Dead silence is the reply to the question.
« What? Can you not reply? »
« Probably because the flour absorbed the bitterness... » says Matthew with no certainty.
« Everything would have been bitter, also the flour. »
« Because of a miracle of the prophet who did not want to mortify his servant » suggests Philip.
« Yes. But not only for that. »
« The Lord wanted the power of the prophet to shine also on common matters » says the Zealot.
« Yes. But it is not yet the right meaning. The lives of prophets anticipate what will take place in the fullness of time: Mine, they reflect My earthly days by means of symbols and figures. So... »
There is silence. They look at one another. Then John lowers his head blushing and he smiles.
« Why do you not express your thought, John? » asks Jesus. « There is no lack of love in speaking, because you do not intend to mortify anybody. »
« I think it means this. That in the time of hunger for Truth and of famine of Wisdom, that is, this time when You came, every tree has become wild and has yielded bitter fruits as inedible as poison for the sons of men, who thus in vain pick them and prepare them to nourish themselves. But the Eternal Father's Bounty sends You, the flour of selected corn, and with Your perfection You remove the poison from all food, restoring both the trees of the Scriptures again, perverted throughout ages, and the palates of men, corrupted by concupiscence. In this case it is the Father Who orders the flour to be brought and He pours it into the bitter soup, and You are the flour that sacrifices itself to become food for men. And after Your consummation no bitterness will be left in the world, because You will have re-established our friendship with God. I may be wrong. »
« You are not wrong. That is the symbol. »
« Oh! and what made you think that? » asks Peter, who is astonished.
Jesus replies to him: « I will tell you with the very words you spoke a few minutes ago. One bound and you are in the peaceful flowery island of spirituality. But one must have the courage to make a leap leaving the shore, the world. It is necessary to jump without worrying whether there is someone who may laugh at our clumsy jump or may deride us for our simplicity in preferring a lonely islet to the world. One must jump without being afraid of getting hurt or wet or being disappointed. You must leave everything to take refuge in God. One must remain on the island separated from the world and leave it only to distribute the flowers and pure water picked up on the island of the spirit, where there is only one tree, the tree of Wisdom, to those who are left on the shores. By being close to that tree, away from the noise of the world, one catches all its words and becomes a master, being aware of being a disciple. Also that is a symbol. But we shall now tell the children a lovely parable. Come here close to Me. »
The three children go so close to Him as to sit on His knees. Jesus embraces them and begins to speak.
« One day the Lord God said: “I will make man, and man will live in the Earthly Paradise where the great river is that then divides into four water-courses, which are the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates and the Tigris, that flow on the Earth. And man will be happy as he will have all the beautiful and good things of Creation and My love for the joy of his spirit.” And He did so. It was as if man were in a large island, more flowery than this one, with all kinds of trees and animals, and upon him there were the love of God shining like a sun on his soul, and the voice of God were heard in the winds, more sweet-sounding than the songs of birds.
But suddenly a serpent crept into that beautiful flowery garden, among all the animals and plants, and that serpent was different from all those that had been created by God and were good, without poisonous teeth and without fierceness in the spires of their flexuous bodies. Also that serpent had dressed itself with a skin having the shades of gems as the other snakes had, nay, it was even more beautiful than they were, so much so that it looked like a huge jewel of a king wriggling among the wonderful trees in the Garden. It went and coiled round a tree growing in the middle of the garden, a beautiful solitary tree that was much taller than this one and it was covered with marvellous leaves and fruits. And the serpent looked like a beautiful jewel around the lovely tree, and it shone in the sun, and all the animals were looking at it because none of them remembered seeing it being created, or seeing it before. But none of them approached it, nay, they all moved away from the tree, now that the snake was round its trunk.
Only the man and woman went near it, and the woman before the man, because she liked that bright thing shining in the sun and moving its head like a flower still half-closed, and she listened to what the serpent was saying, and she disobeyed the Lord and she made Adam disobey. Only after their disobedience they saw the snake for what it was and they understood sin, as by now they had lost the innocence of their hearts. And they hid themselves from God Who was looking for them and then they lied to God Who was questioning them.
God then put some angels at the borders of the Garden and drove the men out. And they felt as if they had been thrown from the safe shore of Eden into the rivers on the earth full of water, as when they are flooded in springtime. But in the hearts of the men who had been driven out God left the remembrance of their eternal destiny, that is, of the passage from the beautiful Garden, where they heard the voice of God and felt His love, to Paradise where they would enjoy God completely. And with that remembrance He left the holy incentive to ascend to the place they had lost, by means of a life of justice.
But, My dear children, you have just now experienced that as long as the boat sails with the stream its voyage is easy, whereas while it sails against the stream it finds it difficult to keep afloat, without being swept away by waves or being wrecked among the vegetation, sand or stones of the river. If Simon had not tied your little boats with the thin withes of the shores, you would have lost them all, as it happened to Isaac who did not hold his withe.
The same happens to men thrown into the streams of the Earth. They must always remain in the hands of God, trusting their will, which is like a withe, to the hands of the good Father Who is in Heaven and Who is the Father of all men, and in particular of innocent people, and they must be on the look-out to avoid herbs and bog grass, stones, whirpools and mud that might hold back, shatter or swallow up the boat of their souls by tearing away the thread of the will that keeps them joined to God. Because the Serpent, which is no longer in the Garden, is now on the Earth, and it really tries to wreck souls, preventing them from going up the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Gihon and the Pishon to the Great River that flows in the eternal Paradise and nourishes the trees of Life and Health, that yield perpetual fruits, that will be the delight of all those who have been able to go upstream to be united to God and to His angels, without having to suffer any further forever. »
« My mother also used to say that » says the oldest boy.
« Yes, she did » lisps the youngest one.
« You don't know. I do, because I am big. But if you say things that are not true you will certainly not go to Paradise. »
« But our father used to say that it was not true » says the second-born son.
« Because he did not believe in the Lord of our mother. »
« Was your father not a Samaritan? » asks James of Alphaeus.
« No. He came from another place. But mother was, and we are as well, because she wanted us to be like her. And she told us of Paradise and of the Garden, but not so well as You did. I was afraid of the serpent and of death, because mother used to say that one was the devil and our father said that death puts an end to everything. That is why I was so unhappy to be alone and I also said that it was quite useless to be good now, because as long as father and mother lived, we made them happy by being good, but now there was nobody to make happy if we were good. But now I know... And I will be good. I will never take my thread away from the hands of God so that I will not be carried away by the waters of the Earth. »
« Did mother go upstream or downstream? » asks the second son perplexedly.
« What do you mean, child? » asks Matthew.
« I mean: where is she? Did she go to the river of the eternal Paradise? »
« Let us hope so, my child. If she was good... »
« She was a Samaritan... » says the Iscariot contemptuously.
« Then is there no Paradise for us, because we are Samaritans? Then shall we not have God? He called Him the “Father of all men”. As an orphan I liked to think that I still have a Father... But if there is not one for us... » he says lowering his head sadly.
« God is the Father of everybody, My child. Have I loved you less because you are a Samaritan? I contended with the highwaymen for you, and I will contend with the demon for you, in the same way as I would contend for the little son of the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, if he did not consider it disgraceful that the Saviour should save his son. Nay: I would contend for you more firmly because you are alone and unhappy. There is no difference for Me between the soul of a Judaean and that of a Samaritan. And before long there will be no division between Samaria and Judaea, because the Messiah will have one people only that will bear His Name and will comprise all those who love Him. »
« I love You, Lord. But will You take me to my mother? » asks the oldest of the three boys.
« You do not know where she is. That man over there said that we can only hope... » says the second-born son.
« I do not know, but the Lord knows. He knew even where we were, whereas we do not even know where we were. »
« With the highwaymen... They wanted to kill us... » Terror appears again on the little face of the second son.
« The highwaymen were like demons. But He saved us because our angels called Him. »
« The angels saved also my mother. I know because I always dream of her. »
« You are a liar, Isaac. You cannot dream of her because you do not remember her. »
The little one weeps saying: « No. No. I dream of her. I do... »
« Don't call your brother a liar, Ruben. His soul can really see his mother, because the good Father Who is in Heaven can grant that the little orphan may dream of her and may know her partly, as He allows us to know Him, so that from such limited knowledge we may be willing to know Him perfectly, which is achieved by being always good. And now let us go. We have spoken of God, and the Sabbath has been sanctified. » He stands up and intones more psalms.
Upon hearing the chorus some people from Ephraim go towards them and they respectfully wait until the psalm is ended in order to greet Jesus and say to Him: « Did You prefer to come here instead of coming to us? Do You not love us? »
« None of you invited Me. So I came here with My apostles and these children. »
« That is true. But we thought that Your disciple had informed You of our wish. »
Jesus looks at John and Judas. And Judas replies: « I forgot to tell You yesterday; and today, with these children, I never thought of it. »
Jesus in the meantime leaves the islet and He crosses the tiny stream of water and goes towards the people of Ephraim. The apostles follow Him while the children delay unfasting the two remaining little boats, and as Peter urges them, they reply: « We want to keep them to remember the lesson. »
« And what about me? I lost mine. And I will not remember. And I will not go to Paradise » says the youngest one weeping.
« Wait! Don't weep. I'll make a little boat for you at once. Of course, you must remember the lesson as well. Eh! We ought all to have a little boat with a withe tied to its prow in order to remember. And we men more than you children! Well! » and Peter makes another little boat with its withe. He then takes the three children in his arms, in one armful, and jumps the stream going towards Jesus.
« Are these the ones? » asks Malachi of Ephraim.
« Yes, they are. »
« And are they from Shechem? »
« That is what the young shepherd said. He said that their relatives lived in the country. »
« Poor children! But if their relatives should not come, what would You do? »
« I would keep them with Me. But they will come. »
« Those highwaymen... Will they not come, too? »
« They will not come. Do not be afraid of them. Even if they came... I would be their plunderer, and they would not be your pillagers. I have already snatched four preys from them and I hope I have also snatched part of their souls from sin, at least in some of them. »
« We shall help You with these children. You will let us do that. »
« Yes, I will. But not because they come from your region, but because they are innocent, and love for innocent people leads one quickly to God. »
« But You are the only one who makes no distinction between innocents and innocents. Neither a Judaean nor a Galilean would have picked up these little Samaritans. People do not love us. And they dislike not only us but also those who do not even yet know what a Samaritan or a Judaean is. And that is cruel. »
« Yes, it is. But it will no longer be so when people follow My Law. See, Malachi? They are in the arms of Simon Peter, of My brother and of Simon Zealot. None of them are Samaritans or fathers. And yet not even you would press your own children to your heart as these disciples of Mine are pressing the orphans of Samaria. The Messianic idea is this: to re-unite everybody in love. This is the truth of the Messianic idea. One people only on the Earth under the sceptre of the Messiah. One people only in Heaven under the glance of one God only. »
They go away... speaking, towards the house of Mary of Jacob.