10th February 1947.
Jesus is still all alone, engrossed in thought, while walking slowly towards the thick wood to the west of Ephraim. The rustling noise of water rises from the torrent and the songs of birds come from trees. The bright springtime sunshine is pleasant under the tangle of branches, and silent is the tread on the luxuriant grassy carpet. The sunbeams form a mobile carpet of circles or golden strips on the green grass and some flowers still covered with dew shine as if their petals were precious scales, when a disc of light centres on them while all around there is shadow.
Jesus climbs towards a ledge protruding like a balcony over the empty space underneath. A balcony on which a huge oak-tree grows, and from which the flexible twigs of wild blackberries, or dogroses, or ivy and clematis hang down, as they do not find room or supports in their native place, too narrow for their exuberant vitality, and they hang in the empty space like loose dishevelled hair and they stretch out hoping to find something to which they may cling.
Jesus is now at the level of the ledge. He moves towards the most projecting spot, shifting aside the tangle of bushes. A flock of small birds fly away whirring and chirping for fear. Jesus stops watching the man who has preceded Him up there and who, lying on the grass with his face downwards, almost on the edge of the ledge, his elbows pressed on the ground, his face resting in his hands, is looking at the empty space, towards Jerusalem. The man is Samuel, the ex-pupil of Jonathan ben Uziel. He is pensive. He sighs. He shakes his head...
Jesus shakes some branches to attract his attention and, seeing that His attempt has been vain, He picks up a stone from the grass and rolls it down the path. The noise of the stone bouncing down the slope rouses the young man, who turns round surprised saying: « Who is there? »
« It is I, Samuel. You have preceded Me in one of the places where I prefer to pray » says Jesus showing Himself from behind the massive trunk of the oak-tree growing at the edge of the little path and He does so as if He had just arrived there.
« Oh! Master! I am sorry... But I will leave Your place free at once » he says standing up hurriedly and picking up his mantle that he had taken off and he had spread on the ground to lie on it.
« No. Why? There is room for two. The place is so beautiful! So isolated, solitary, suspended over the empty space, with so much light and such a wide view! Why do you want to leave it? »
« Well... to leave You free to pray... »
« And can we not do so together, or meditate, speaking to each other, elevating our spirits to God... forgetting men and their faults, thinking of God, our Father and the good Father of all those who seek and love Him with good will? »
Samuel shows surprise when Jesus says « forgetting men and their faults... » But he does not say anything. He sits down again.
Jesus sits beside him on the grass and says to him: « Sit here. And let us be together. See how clear the view is today. If we had the eyes of an eagle we should be able to see the white villages on the tops of the mountains around Jerusalem. And, perhaps, we could see a spot shining like a gem in the air and that would make our hearts throb: the golden domes of the House of God... Look. There is Bethel. You can see its white houses and there, beyond Bethel, there is Beeroth. How subtly crafty were the inhabitants of that place and of the neighbourhood! But it turned out well, although deceit is never a good weapon. It turned out well because it placed them at the service of the true God. It is always better to lose human honours in order to gain closeness to divinity. Even if human honours were many and valuable, and the closeness to divinity is humble and unknown. Is that right? »
« Yes, Master. What You say is right. That is what happened to me. »
« But you are sad, although the change should make you happy. You are sad. You are suffering. You live in isolation. You look at the places you left. You look like an imprisoned bird that, pressed against the bars of its prison, looks with so much regret at the place it loved. I am not asking you not to do that. You are free. You may go and... »
« Lord, has Judas perhaps spoken ill of me that You are saying so? »
« No, Judas has not spoken to Me. He has not spoken to Me, but he spoke to you. That is why you are sad. And you live in isolation as you are down-hearted because of that. »
« Lord, if You know all that, although no one has mentioned that to You, You must also know that I am sad not because I want to leave You, because I regret I was converted, or because I have a longing for the past... or because I am afraid of men, as they would like to instill the fear of their punishments into me. I was looking over there. That is true. I was looking towards Jerusalem. But not because I am anxious to go back there. I mean: to go back there as I was previously. Because I am certainly eager, like everybody else, to go back as an Israelite who loves to go into the House of God and worship the Most High, and I do not think that You can reproach me for that. »
« I am the first, in My double Nature, to long for that altar and I would like to see it surrounded by holiness, as befits it. As the Son of God, everything that honours Him is a sweet voice to Me, and as the Son of man, as an Israelite, and therefore a Son of the Law, I see the Temple and the altar as the most sacred place in Israel, in which our humanity can approach Divinity and become scented with the air surrounding the throne of God. I do not abolish the Law, Samuel. It is sacred to Me because it was given by My Father. I perfect it and complete it with new parts. As the Son of God I can do that. My Father sent Me for that. I have come to establish the spiritual Temple of My Church, against which Temple neither men nor demons shall prevail. And the tables of the Law will have a place of honour in it, because they are eternal, perfect, untouchable. The commandment “do not commit this or that sin” contained in those tables, which in their lapidary conciseness comprise what is necessary to be just in the eyes of God, is not cancelled by My word. On the contrary! I also give those ten commandments to you. I only tell you to keep them with perfection, that is, not for fear of the wrath of God on you, but out of love for your God Who is your Father. I have come to put your hands of sons into the hands of your Father. For how many ages those hands have been divided! Punishment divided them. Sin divided them. Now that the Redeemer has come, sin is about to be cancelled. Barriers are falling. You are once again the sons of God. »
« That is true. You are good and you comfort. Always. And You know. So I shall not tell You my worry. But I ask You: why are men so wicked, insane and foolish? How and with which expedients can they diabolically influence us to do evil things? And why are we so blind as not to see real facts and to believe false ones? And how can we become such demons? And persist when one is close to You? I was looking there and I was thinking... Yes. I was thinking of how many streams of poison come out from there to upset the children of Israel. I was considering how the wisdom of the rabbis can be joined to so much iniquity that misrepresents things in order to deceive people. I was thinking above all of that, because... » Samuel, who had spoken passionately, stops and lowers his head.
Jesus ends the sentence: « ...because Judas, My disciple, is what he is, and he grieves Me and those who are around Me or come to Me, as you did. I know. Judas is trying to send you away from here and he makes insinuations and sneers at you... »
« Not only at me. Yes. He poisons my joy of coming to justice. He poisons it so skilfully that I think I am like a traitor here, betraying You and myself. Myself, because I flatter myself that I am better, whereas I shall be the cause of Your ruin. In fact I do not know myself as yet... and if I meet those of the Temple I may fail in my purpose and be... Oh! if I had done it then, I would have had the excuse of not knowing You for what You are, because I knew of You what I was told to make a cursed man of me. But if I did it now! What curse will be that of the traitor of the Son of God! I was here... Pensive, yes. I was wondering where I might flee to save myself from myself and from them. I was thinking of fleeing to some remote place, to join those of the Diaspora... Away, far away, to prevent the demon from making me commit sin... Your apostle is right in not trusting me. He knows me, because he knows us all knowing our Leaders... And he is right in doubting me. When he says: “Don't you know that He tells us that we shall be weak? Just imagine: we are His apostles and have been with Him for such a long time. And you, infected as you are with old Israel, have just come, and you have come when circumstances make us shudder, do you think you have enough strength to remain just?” when he says so he is right. » The man is down-hearted and lowers his head.
« How much grief the sons of men can give themselves! Satan really knows how to make use of that disposition of theirs to terrorise them completely and separate them from the Joy that comes towards them to save them. Because the sadness of the spirit, the fear of the morrow and worries are always weapons that man puts in the hands of his enemy, who frightens him by means of the same phantasms that man himself imagines. And there are other men who really form an alliance with Satan to help him frighten his brothers. But, My dear son, is there not a Father in Heaven? A Father Who, as this fissure in the rock provides for this blade of grass – this fissure full of earth situated in such a way that the moisture of dews flowing on the smooth stone gathers in that thin furrow, so that the blade of grass may live and yield this tiny little flower, which is not less admirable for its beauty than the great sun shining up there: both the perfect work of the Creator – a Father Who takes care of the blade of grass grown on a rock, will He not take care of one of His sons who firmly wants to serve Him? Oh! God really does not disappoint the “good” wishes of man. Because it is He Who kindles them in your hearts. He providently and wisely creates the circumstances to encourage the wishes of His children, not only, but in the event that a desire to honour Him should follow an imperfect path, He straightens and perfects it so that it may follow the right path. You were among the latter. You believed, you wanted and were convinced that you were honouring God by persecuting Me. The Father saw that your heart did not hate God, but it longed to give glory to God by removing from the world Him Who you were told was the enemy of God and the corrupter of souls. So He created the circumstances to comply with your desire to give glory to your Lord. And here you are now among us. And can you believe that God will abandon you, now that He brought you here? Only if you abandon Him, the power of evil will be able to overwhelm you. »
« I do not want that. My will is sincere! » states the man.
« So what are you worried about? About the word of a man? Let him say. He thinks with his own thought. And man's thought is always imperfect. But I will see to that. »
« I do not want You to reproach him. Your assurance that I will not sin is enough for me. »
« I assure you. It will not happen to you because you do not want it to happen. Because see, son, it would not help you to go to the Diaspora or even to the end of the world to preserve your soul from hating the Christ and from being punished for such hatred. Many in Israel will not sully themselves with the Crime materially, but they will not be less guilty than those who condemn Me and execute the sentence. I can speak to you of these matters. Because you are already aware that everything has been arranged for them. You know the names and the thoughts of My most pitiless enemies. You said: “Judas knows us all because he knows all the Leaders.” But if he knows you, you also, the minor ones, because you are like lesser stars near the major planets, you also know what is being done, how it is done and who does it, and what plots are made and which means are studied... So I can speak with you. I could not do so with the others... What I can suffer and bear with, others cannot... »
« Master, but how can You, knowing that, be so... Who is coming up the path? » Samuel stands up to look. He exclaims: « Judas! »
« Yes. It is I. I was told that the Master had passed through here, instead I find you. So I will go back, leaving you to your thoughts » and he laughs with his sly laugh that is more mournful than the cry of an owl, so insincere it is.
« I am here as well. Do they want Me at the village? » says Jesus appearing behind Samuel's shoulders.
« Oh! You! So you were in good company, Samuel! And You, too, Master... »
« Yes. The company of one who embraces justice is always good. So you wanted Me, to be with Me. Come, then. There is room for you and also for John, if he were with you. »
« He is down in the village, at grips with other pilgrims. »
« If there are some pilgrims, I must go. »
« No, They will be staying all day tomorrow. John is settling them in our beds for their stay. He is happy to do so. Of course, everything makes him happy. You are really like each other. I do not know how you manage to be always happy even when things are most... worrying. »
« The same question I was going to ask when you came! » exclaims Samuel.
« Ah! Were you? So you are not happy, and you are surprised that other people, in conditions even more... difficult than ours, can be so. »
« I am not unhappy. I am not speaking for myself. But I am thinking from which sources the serenity of the Master may come, as He is aware of His future and yet He is not upset by anything. »
« From heavenly sources, of course! It is natural! He is God! Do you doubt it? Can a God suffer? He is above sorrow. His Father's love is for Him like... like an exhilarating wine. And the firm belief that His actions... are the salvation of the world is an exhilarating wine for Him. And then... Can He have the physical reactions that we, humble men, have? That is contrary to common sense. If Adam, when innocent, was not aware of any kind of sorrow, neither would he have ever become aware of it if he had remained innocent, Jesus... the Superinnocent, the creature... I do not know whether I should say so: uncreated being God, or created because He has relatives... oh! how many insoluble “whys” for future generations, my Master! If Adam was free from sorrow because of his innocence, can one think that Jesus must suffer? »
Jesus' head is bent. He has sat down once again on the grass. His face is veiled by His hair. So I cannot see His countenance.
Samuel standing in front of Judas, who is also standing, replies: « But if He is to be the Redeemer, He must really suffer. Do you not remember David and Isaiah? »
« I do remember them! But although they saw the figure of the Redeemer, they did not see the immaterial help He would receive to be... shall we say: tortured, without feeling any pain. »
« Which help? A man may love sorrow or suffer it with resignation, according to his perfection of justice. But he will always feel it. Otherwise... if he did not feel it... it would not be sorrow. »
« Jesus is the Son of God. »
« But He is not a ghost! He is true Flesh! And flesh suffers if it is tortured. He is a true Man! And the thought of man suffers if it is offended and despised. »
« His union with God eliminates such human things in Him. »
Jesus raises His head and says: « I solemnly tell you, Judas, that I suffer and shall suffer like every man, and more than every man. But I can be equally happy, enjoying the holy spiritual happiness of those who have achieved freedom from the sadness of the Earth, because they have embraced the will of God as their only bride. I am able to do so because I have overcome the human concept of happiness, the uneasiness of happiness, as men imagine it. I do not pursue what, according to men, happiness consists of; but I place My joy in exactly the opposite of what man pursues as such. The things that are avoided and despised by man, because they are considered burdensome and grievous, are the sweetest thing for Me. I am not interested in one hour. I consider the consequences that one hour may bring about in eternal life. My episode will come to an end, but its fruit will last. My sorrow will end, but the value of My sorrow will not end. And what could I do with one hour of the so called “happy state” on the Earth, an hour achieved after pursuing it for years and years, when that hour could not come with Me as delight in eternal life and I had to enjoy it all by myself, without sharing it with those whom I love? »
« But if You should triumph, we, Your followers, would take part in Your happiness! » exclaims Judas.
« You? And who are you, compared with the past, present and future multitudes to whom My grief will bring joy? I see far beyond earthly happiness. I look at the supernatural beyond it. I can see My sorrow change into eternal delight for a multitude of people. And I embrace sorrow as the greatest power to reach the perfect happiness, which is to love one's neighbour to the extent of suffering to give him joy, to the extent of dying for him. »
« I do not understand that happiness » states Judas.
« You are not wise yet. Otherwise you would understand it. »
« And is John wise? He is more ignorant than I am! »
« From a human point of view he is. But he possesses the science of love. »
« All right. But I do not think that love can prevent clubs from being clubs and stones from being stones and both from causing pain to the bodies they strike. You always say that sorrow is dear to You because it is love for You. But when You are really caught and tortured, if that is possible, I do not know whether You will still be of the same mind. You had better think about it while You can shun pain. It will be dreadful, You know? If men will be able to get hold of You... oh! they will have no respect for You! »
Jesus looks at him. He is very pale. His wide open eyes seem to be seeing, beyond Judas' face, all the tortures awaiting Him, and yet, although sad, they remain meek and kind, and above all, serene: two limpid eyes of an innocent at peace. He replies: « I know. I know also what you do not know. But I hope in God's mercy. He, Who is merciful with sinners, will have mercy also on Me. I will not ask Him not to suffer, but to be able to suffer. And now let us go. Samuel, go a little ahead of us and tell John that I shall soon be in the village. »
Samuel bows and goes away quickly. Jesus begins to descend.
The path is so narrow that they have to proceed one behind the other. But that does not prevent Judas from saying: « You trust that man too much, Master. I told You who he is. He is Jonathan's most hot-headed and excitable disciple. Of course, it is late now. You have put Yourself into his hands. He is a spy close to You. And You more than once thought that I was a spy and the others thought so more than You did! I am not a spy. »
Jesus stops and turns round. Grief and majesty mingle on His face and in His eyes fixed on His apostle. He says: « No. You are not a spy. You are a demon. You have stolen the Serpent's prerogative to seduce and deceive in order to take people away from God. Your behaviour is neither a stone nor a club, but it hurts Me more than a blow with a stone or a club. Oh! in My atrocious suffering there will be nothing greater than your behaviour capable of torturing the Martyr. » Jesus covers His face with His hands, as if He wished to conceal so much horror, and then He begins to run down the path.
Judas shouts after Him: « Master! Master! Why are You grieving me? That liar has certainly made a slanderous report to You... Listen to me, Master! »
Jesus does not listen. He runs, He flies down the slopes. He does not stop when He passes by the woodcutters and shepherds who greet Him. He passes, He waves to them but does not stop. Judas resigns himself to being silent...
They are almost down when they meet John who, with his pellucid face brightened by a serene smile, is climbing towards them. He is holding by the hand a little boy who is prattling while sucking a honeycomb.
« Master, here I am! There are people from Caesarea Philippi. They heard that You are here and they came. How strange it is! No one has spoken and everybody knows where You are! They are resting now. They are very tired. I went and asked Dinah to give me some milk and honey because there is a sick person. I put him in my bed. I am not afraid. And little Annas wanted to come with me. Don't touch him, Master; he is all sticky with honey » and kind John, who has many drops and finger-marks of honey on his tunic, laughs. He laughs trying to hold back the boy who would like to go and offer Jesus his half-sucked honeycomb and shouts: « Come. There are so many of them for You! »
« Yes. They are removing the honeycombs at Dinah's. I knew. Her bees swarmed not long ago » says John.
They set out again and arrive at the first house where the bee-masters are still making the usual deafening noise near the beehives, I do not know exactly why. Swarms of bees – they look like big bunches of strange grapes – are hanging from some branches and some men are taking them to put them into the new beehives. Farther away, untiring buzzing bees are going in and coming out of beehives already settled.
The men greet Jesus and a woman approaches Him with some lovely honeycombs which she offers Him.
« Why are you depriving yourself of them? You have already given John some… »
« Oh! My bees have made much honey. It's a pleasure for me to offer it. But please bless the new swarms. Look, they are taking the last one. This year we had to double the beehives. »
Jesus goes towards the tiny towns of the bees and He blesses them one by one raising His hand amidst the humming of the worker-bees that do not stop working.
« They are all merry and they are also all excited. A new house... » says a man.
« And a new wedding. They really look like women preparing a wedding feast » says another one.
« Yes, but the women do more talking than work. The bees, instead, work in silence and they work also on the days of wedding feasts. They work all the time to build their kingdom and their wealth » replies a third man.
« To be always working in virtue is lawful, nay, it is dutiful. To work always for the sake of gain, no, it is not. Only those can do it who do not know that they have a God Who is to be honoured on His day. To work in silence is a merit that everybody should learn of the bees. Because holy things are done holily in silence. Be like your bees in justice. Untiring and silent. God sees. God rewards. Peace be with you » says Jesus.
And when He is alone with His two apostles He says: « To the workers of God in particular I propose the bees as their model. They deposit in the secrecy of the beehive the honey formed in their interiors through their unremitting work on wholesome corollas. Their fatigue does not even appear to be such, as they do it with so much good will, flying, like golden dots, from flower to flower, and then, laden with juice, going in to elaborate their honey in the privacy of their little cells. People ought to imitate them, choosing lessons, sound doctrines and friendships, capable of producing juices of true virtue, then living in isolation to elaborate, using what has been actively gathered, virtue, justice, which are like the honey extracted from many wholesome elements, of which one of the most important ones is good will, without which the juices collected here and there would be of no use. It is also necessary to meditate humbly, in the secrecy of one's heart, on the good we have seen and heard, without being envious if queen bees are near working bees, that is, if there is someone who is more just than he who meditates. Both queens and workers are necessary in the beehive. It would be a disaster if they were all queens or all workers. Both the former and the latter would die. Because the queens would have no food to procreate if there were no workers, and the workers would no longer exist if the queens did not procreate. And the queens are not to be envied. They have their work and their penitence. They see the sun but once, in their only one nuptial flight. Before it and after it, they are in perpetual seclusion within the amber-coloured walls of the beehive. Each one has its task, and each task is an appointment, and each appointment is an onus besides being an honour. And the working bees waste no time in vain or dangerous flights around diseased or poisonous flowers. They make no adventurous attempts. They do not fail to carry out their mission, they do not rebel against the purpose for which they were created. Oh! Admirable little beings! How much you teach men!... » Jesus becomes silent, lost in His meditation.
Judas suddenly remembers that he has to go I do not know where, and he almost runs away. Jesus and John remain. And John looks at Jesus without letting Him notice. A keen look of anxious love. Jesus raises His head, turns round a little, meeting the eyes of His Favourite apostle who is watching Him. His face brightens when He draws John to Himself.
John, while walking embraced thus, asks: « Judas has grieved You again, has he not? And he must have upset Samuel as well. »
« Why? Has he said anything to you? »
« No. But I have understood. He only said: “Generally speaking when one lives near someone who is really good, one becomes good. But Judas is not, although he has lived with the Master for three years. He is corrupt in the depth of his heart, and the goodness of the Christ does not penetrate him, so full he is of wickedness.” I did not know what to say, because it is true... But why is Judas like that? Is it possible that he will never change? And yet... we are all getting the same lessons... and when he came among us, he was not any worse than we were... »
« My John! My meek child! » Jesus kisses his forehead, so open and pure, and He whispers through his fair hair that undulates lightly: « There are people who seem to live to destroy the good that is in them. You are a fisherman and you know what a sail does when a hurricane strikes it. It bends so low near the water that it almost overturns the boat and becomes a danger for it, so that at times it is necessary to lower it, and one is thus left without wings with which to fly towards one's nest, because a sail, struck by a hurricane is no longer a wing, but it becomes ballast that takes one to the bottom, to death and not to salvation. But if the violent blast of the hurricane abates, even for a few moments, then the sail becomes wing at once and the boat sails fast towards the harbour taking the people in it to salvation. The same happens to many souls. It is enough that the hurricane of passions subsides, and the soul that was bent and almost submerged by... by what was not good, begins to yearn for Goodness. »
« Yes, Master. But... so... tell me... will Judas ever reach Your harbour? »
« Oh! Do not make Me look at the future of one of My dearest apostles! I have in front of me the future of millions of souls for whom My sufferings will be useless!... I have in front of Me all the base actions of the world... The nausea upsets Me. The nausea of the seething of filthy things that like a river cover and will cover the Earth, in different ways, but always dreadful for the Perfection, until the end of time. Do not make Me look! Let Me quench My thirst and find comfort at a spring that does not taste of corruption, and let Me forget the verminous rottenness of too many people, by looking at you alone, My peace! » and He kisses him again between his eyebrows looking deeply into the limpid eyes of the pure loving apostle...
They go into the house. Samuel is in the kitchen chopping the wood to spare the old woman work when lighting the fire.
Jesus asks the woman: « Are the pilgrims sleeping? »
« I think so. I do not hear any noise. I am going to take this water to the mounts. They are in the wood-store. »
« I will do that, mother. You had better go to Rachel's house. She promised me some fresh cheese. Tell her that I will pay her on the Sabbath » says John picking up two tubs full of water.
Only Jesus and Samuel remain. Jesus approaches the man who bending over the fire is blowing to light the flame and He lays His hand on his shoulder saying: « Judas interrupted us up there... I want to tell you that I will send you with My apostles the day after the Sabbath. Perhaps you prefer that... »
« Thank You, Master. I am sorry not to be near You. But in Your apostles I shall find You once again. Yes, I prefer to be far away from Judas. I did not dare to ask You... »
« All right. That is settled. And take pity on him. As I do. And do not tell Peter or anybody else... »
« I can hold my tongue, Master. »
« The disciples will come later. There is Hermas and Stephen, and there is Isaac, two wise men and a just one, and many more. You will like it, among true brothers. »
« Yes, Master. You understand and help us. You really are the good Master » and he bends to kiss Jesus' hand.