15th February 1947.
Jesus is with the women disciples and the two apostles on one of the first undulations on the mountain behind Ephraim. Neither the children nor Esther are with Johanna. I think that they have been sent to Jerusalem with Jonathan. So, besides Jesus' Mother, there are only Mary Clopas, Mary Salome, Johanna, Eliza, Nike and Susanna. Lazarus' two sisters are not yet present.
Eliza and Nike are folding garments, which have certainly been washed in a stream that shines down in the valley, or have been brought here from the stream and then laid out on this sunny tableland. And Nike, after examining one of them, takes it to Mary Clopas saying: « Your son has unstitched also the hem of this one. » Mary of Alphaeus takes the garment and puts it near the others that are spread close to her on the grass.
All the women disciples are busy sewing and mending the damages done in the many months when the apostles were alone.
Eliza, who comes close to them with other dry garments, says: « One can see that for three months you have not had an experienced woman with you! There is not one garment in good order, with the exception of that one of the Master, Who on the other hand, has only got two, the one He is wearing and the one washed today. »
« He has given them all away. He seemed to be seized with the mania for not possessing anything. He has been wearing linen clothes for many days » says Judas.
« Fortunately Your Mother thought She should bring You some new ones. The one dyed purple is really beautiful. You needed it, Jesus, although You look so handsome dressed in linen. You really look like a lily! » says Mary of Alphaeus.
« A very tall lily, Mary! » says Judas satirically.
« But He is so pure as you are certainly not and neither is John. You are wearing a linen garment as well, but believe me, you do not look like a lily! » replies frankly Mary of Alphaeus.
« My hair is dark and so is my complexion. That is why I am different. »
« No. It does not depend on that. The fact is that your candour is on your outward appearance, His is instead within Him and it transpires through His eyes, His smile, His word. That is the situation! Ah! How lovely it is to be with my Jesus. » And the good Mary lays her toilworn honest hand of an elderly hard working woman on the knee of Jesus, Who caresses it.
Mary Salome, who is inspecting a tunic, exclaims: « This is worse than a tear! Oh! son! Who closed this hole like that for you? » and scandalised as she is, she shows her companions a kind of... very wrinkled navel, forming a raised ring on the cloth, held together by some very coarse stitches, enough to horrify a woman. The strange repair is the epicentre of a series of puckers that widen out radially on the shoulder of the tunic.
They all laugh. And John is the first – he did the mending – and he explains: « I could not go about with the hole, so... I closed it! »
« I can see that, poor me! I see that! But could you not get Mary of Jacob to mend it for you? »
« She is almost blind, poor woman! And then... the trouble was that it was not a tear! It was a real hole. The garment got stuck to the faggot I was carrying on my shoulder, and when I dropped the faggot from my shoulder, also a piece of the cloth came off. So I just repaired like that! »
« You spoiled it like that, son. I would need... » She inspects the tunic but shakes her head. She says: « I was hoping I could use the hem. But it is no longer there... »
« I took if off at Nob, because it was cut at the fold. But I gave your son the bit I removed... » explains Eliza.
« Yes. But I used it to make cords for my bag... »
« Poor sons! How badly you need us near you! » says the Blessed Virgin mending a garment belonging to whom I do not know.
« And yet some cloth is needed here. Look. The stitches have ended up by tearing the cloth all around, and a great damage has become an irreparable one; unless... I can find something to replace the missing cloth. Then... one will still see it... but it will be passable. »
« You have given Me the starting point for a parable... » says Jesus, and Judas at the same time says: « I think I have a piece of cloth of that shade at the bottom of my bag, the scrap of a tunic that was too discoloured to be worn; so I gave it to a little man who was so much smaller than I am, that we had to cut almost two palms off it. If you wait, I will go and get it for you. But I should like to hear the parable first. »
« May God bless you. Listen to the parable first. In the meantime I will fit the cords on to this tunic of James'. These ones are all worn out. »
« Speak, Master. Then I will make Mary Salome happy. »
« Yes. I compare the soul to a cloth. When it is infused, it is new, without tears. It has only the original stain, but it has no injuries in its structure, or stains or waste. Then with time and the acquisition of vices, it wears out at times to the extent of tearing, it becomes stained through imprudence, it breaks through disorder. Now, when it is torn one must not mend it clumsily, which would be the cause of many more tears, but it is necessary to mend it patiently and perfectly and for a long time to remove the damage already caused as much as possible. And if the cloth is too badly torn, nay if it has been so rent as to be deprived of a bit of it, one must not be so proud as to pretend to repair the damage by oneself, but one must go to Him, Who is known to be able to make the soul strictly honest once again, as He is allowed to do everything and He can do everything. I am referring to God, My Father, and to the Saviour, Who I am. But the pride of man is such that the greater is the ruin of his soul, the more he tries to patch it up with unsuitable means that make the damage more and more serious.
You may object that a tear can always be seen. Salome also said so. Yes, one will always see the damage a soul has suffered. But a soul fights its battle, it is therefore obvious that it may be struck. There are so many enemies around it. But no one, seeing a man covered with scars, the signs of as many wounds received in battle to gain victory, can say: “This man is unclean.” On the contrary one will say: “This man is a hero. There are the purple marks of his worth.” Neither will anyone ever see a soldier avoid being cured, because he is ashamed of a glorious wound, on the contrary he will go to the doctor and say to him with holy pride: “Here I am, I fought and I won. I did not spare myself, as you can see. Now heal my wounds that I may be ready for more battles and victories.” He instead who is suffering from foul diseases, brought about by shameful vices, is ashamed of his sores before relatives and friends, and also before doctors, and at times he is so silly that he conceals them until their stench reveals them. Then it is too late to remedy. The humble are always sincere, and they are also valiant fighters who have not to be ashamed of the wounds received in the struggle. The proud are always false and base, through their pride they end up by dying, as they do not want to go to Him Who can cure, and say to Him: “Father, I have sinned. But, if You want, You can cure me.” Many are the souls that because of their pride in not wanting to confess an initial sin end up by dying. Then, also for them, it is too late. They do not consider that divine mercy is more powerful and more extensive than any plague, however powerful and extensive the latter may be, and that it can heal everything. But they, the souls of the proud, when they realise that they have despised all means of salvation, fall into despondency, because they are without God, and when they say: “It is too late!”, they condemn themselves to the last death: to damnation.
And now, Judas, you may go and get the cloth... »
« I am going. But I did not like Your parable. I did not understand it. »
« But if it is so clear! I have understood it, and I am a poor woman! » says Mary Salome.
« And I have not. Once Your parables were more beautiful... Now... bees... cloth... towns changing names... souls that are boats... Such mean things, and so confused, which I do not like any more and I do not understand... But now I will go and get the cloth, because I say that it is in fact needed, but the garment will always be a spoilt one » and Judas stands up and goes away.
Mary lowered Her head more and more over Her work, while Judas was speaking. Johanna instead raised hers, fixing her eyes on the imprudent apostle with indignant authority. Eliza also raised her head, but then she imitated Mary and Nike did the same. Susanna opened her big eyes wide, being astonished, and looked at Jesus and not at the apostle, wondering why He does not react. But no one has spoken or made any gesture. Mary Salome and Mary of Alphaeus, two women with common manners, looked at each other shaking their heads, and as soon as Judas goes away, Salome says: « It's his head that is spoilt! »
« Yes. That is why he understands nothing, and I do not think that even You will be able to mend it. If my son were like that, I would break his head. Yes, as I made it for him that it might be the head of a just man, so I would break it. It is better to have a disfigured face than a disgraced heart! » says Mary of Alphaeus.
« Be indulgent, Mary. You cannot compare your sons, who were brought up in an honest family, in a town like Nazareth, to this man » says Jesus.
« His mother is good. His father was not a wicked man, so I heard » replies Mary of Alphaeus.
« Yes. But his heart was not lacking in pride. That is why he took his son away from his mother too early, and he also helped in developing the moral heritage, that he had given his son, by sending him to Jerusalem. It is painful to say, but the Temple is certainly not the place where hereditary pride may diminish... » says Jesus.
« No place in Jerusalem, even if it is a place of honour, is suitable for diminishing pride or any other fault » says Johanna with a sigh. And she adds: « And not even any other place of honour, whether at Jericho or Caesarea Philippi, at Tiberias or at the other Caesarea... » and she sews quickly bending her face over her work more than is necessary.
« Mary of Lazarus is imperious, but not proud » remarks Nike.
« Now. But previously she was very proud, just the opposite of her relatives, who were never such » replies Johanna.
« When are they coming? » asks Salome.
« Soon, if we are to leave in three days' time. »
« Let us work quickly, then. We shall just manage to finish everything in time » says Mary of Alphaeus urging them.
« We were late in coming because of Lazarus. But it was better so, because Mary was spared much work » says Susanna.
« But do You feel You can do so much walking? You are so pale and tired, Mary! » asks Mary of Alphaeus laying her hand on Mary's lap and looking at Her anxiously.
« I am not ill, Mary, and I can certainly walk. »
« No, You are not ill, but You are so distressed, Mother. I would give ten and ten years of my life, and I would embrace all sorrows, to see You once again as I saw You the first time » says John, who looks at Her compassionately.
« Your love is already a medicine, John. I can feel My heart calm down when I see how you all love My Child. Because there is no other cause for My suffering. None, except seeing that He is not loved. I am already recovering here, close to Him, and among you, who are so faithful. Of course... those months... all alone at Nazareth... after seeing Him depart so distressed, already so persecuted... and hearing all those rumours... oh! How much! How much grief! Now, being near Him, I see, I say: “At least My Jesus has His Mother to comfort Him and say words that drown other words”, and I see also that love is not completely dead in Israel. And I have peace. A little peace. Not much... because... » Mary does not say anything else. She lowers Her face that She had raised to speak to John, and it is only possible to see the top of Her forehead, that blushes through a mute emotion... and then two tears shine on the dark garment She is mending.
Jesus sighs and stands up, He goes and sits down at Her feet, in front of Her, and He rests His head on Her knees, kissing Her hand that is holding the cloth and remaining thus like a child who is resting. Mary removes the needle from the cloth, in order not to hurt Her Son, and then She lays Her right hand on His head bent on Her knees and She looks up towards the sky, and She certainly prays although She does not move Her lips; from Her whole attitude it is clear that She is praying. She then bends to kiss Her Son's hair near His bare temple.
The other women do not speak until Salome says: « But how long is it taking Judas? The sun will be setting and I shall not be able to see! »
« Someone has probably detained him » replies John and he asks his mother: « Shall I go and tell him to hurry? »
« You had better go. Because if he has not found the cloth, I will shorten your sleeves, as it will soon be summer, and I will make another garment for you for autumn, because you cannot wear this one any longer, and with the piece I take off, I will mend this one here. It will be all right to go fishing. Because after Pentecost you will certainly come back to Galilee... »
« I will go, then » says John and being always kind he asks the other women: « Have you any garments already mended that I can take to our lodgings? If you have, give them to me. You will have less to carry on your way back. »
The women gather together what they have already mended and give it to John, who turns round to go away but he stops at once seeing Mary of Jacob running towards them.
The old woman is plodding along as fast as her old age allows her, and she shouts to John: « Is the Master there? »
« Yes, mother. What do you want? »
The woman replies while continuing to run: « Adah is ill, very ill... And her husband would like to call Jesus to comfort her... But as those Samaritans have been... so wicked, he does not dare... I said: “You do not know Him yet. I will go and... He will not say no to me.” » The old woman is panting after hurrying uphill.
« Don't rush any farther. I will come with you. Nay, I will go ahead. Follow us slowly. You are old, mother, to hurry thus » Jesus says to her. Then He says to His Mother and the women disciples: « I am staying in the village. Peace to you. »
He takes John by the arm and runs down fast with him. The old woman, takes breath and would like to follow Him after replying to the women who ask her questions: « H'm! Only the Rabbi can save her. Otherwise she will die like Rachel. She is becoming cold and is losing her strength and she is writhing in the spasms of pain. »
But the women detain her saying: « But have you tried with hot bricks under her kidneys? »
« No! It is better to envelop her in woollen cloth soaked in wine with spices, as warm as possible. »
« I was helped, for James, by unctions with oil and then by hot bricks. »
« Make her drink a lot. »
« If she could stand straight and take a few steps while a woman rubbed her kidneys hard. »
The women mothers, that is all of them, except Nike and Susanna, and Mary, Who did not suffer the labour pains of every woman when She gave birth to Her Son, advise this or that remedy.
« Everything! They have tried everything. But her kidneys are too tired. It's the eleventh child! But I am going now. I have taken breath. Pray for that mother! That the Most High may keep her alive until the Rabbi arrives there. » And she toddles away, the poor good lonely old woman.
Jesus in the meantime is going down fast towards the town that is warmed by the sun. He enters the town at the side opposite the one where their house is, that is at north-west of Ephraim, whereas Mary of Jacob's house is south-east of it. He walks fast, without stopping to speak to those who would like to detain Him. He greets them and goes on.
A man remarks: « He is angry with us. Those from other villages behaved badly. He is right. »
« No He is going to Janoè. His wife is dying at her eleventh delivery. »
« Poor children! And is the Rabbi going there? How good He is. Although offended, He helps. »
« Janoè did not offend Him. None of us offended Him! »
« But they were men of Samaria. »
« The Rabbi is just and He can tell one from another. Let us go and see the miracle. »
« We shall not be able to go in. It's a woman and she is giving birth. »
« But we shall hear the new-born baby cry and it will be the voice of a miracle. »
They run to join Jesus. Other people also gather together to see.
Jesus arrives at the house, which is disconsolate because of the impending misfortune. The ten children – the oldest is a young girl in tears pressed by younger brothers who are weeping – are in a corner in the vestibule near the wide open door. Old wives are going and coming, whispers are heard and the shuffling of bare feet moving on the brick floor.
A woman sees Jesus and shouts: « Janoè! You can hope! He has come! » and she runs away with a steaming pitcher.
A man rushes and prostrates himself. He makes only a gesture and says: « I believe. Mercy! For them » and he points at his children.
« Stand up and take heart. The Most High helps those who have faith and He has mercy on His distressed children. »
« Oh! come, Master! Come! She is already black. Choked by convulsions. She can hardly breathe. Come! » The man, who has lost his head, and ends up by losing it completely upon hearing the cry of an old woman who shouts: « Janoè, run! Adah is dying! », pushes and pulls Jesus to make Him go quick towards the room of the dying woman, deaf to Jesus' words: « Go, and have faith! »
The poor man has faith, but what he lacks is the capability to understand the meaning of those words, the secret meaning of the certainty of a miracle. And Jesus, pushed and pulled, climbs the steps to go into the room upstairs, where the woman is. But He stops on the landing of the staircase, at about three metres from the open door, through which it is possible to see the deadly pale face that is already livid and contracted in the mask of agony. The old wives make no further efforts. They have already covered the woman up to her chin and are looking at her. They are petrified awaiting her death.
Jesus stretches out His arms and shouts: « I want it! » and He turns round to go away.
The husband, the old women, the curious people who have gathered together are disappointed, because they probably expected Jesus to do something more astonishing and to see the baby be born at once. But Jesus, elbowing His way and fixing His eyes on their faces while passing before them, says: « Do not be in doubt. Have faith for a little longer. For a moment. The woman has to pay the bitter tribute of childbirth. But she is out of danger. » And He goes downstairs leaving them disconcerted.
But when He is about to go out onto the road, saying to the ten frightened children when passing near them: « Be not afraid! Your mummy is all right » – and in saying so He touches their scared faces with His hand – a loud cry resounds in the house and spreads as far as the road where Mary of Jacob is just arriving and who shouts: « Good gracious! » thinking that that cry meant death.
« Be not afraid, Mary! And go quickly! You will see the baby being born. She has recovered strength and she is in labour again. But there will soon be great joy. »
He goes away with John. No one follows Him because everybody wants to see whether the miracle will take place, nay, more people rush towards the house, because the news has spread that the Master had gone to save Adah. And so, slipping into a secondary little street, Jesus can go without any hindrance to a house which He enters calling: « Judas! Judas! » Nobody replies.
« He went up there, Master. We can go home as well. I will put here the garments of Judas, of Simon and of Your brother James, and then I will put those of Simon Peter, Andrew, Thomas and Philip in Anna's house. »
They do so and I realise that in order to make room for the women disciples, the apostles, if not all of them, at least part of them, have spread out in other houses.
As they have now got rid of all the garments, they go towards the house of Mary of Jacob, talking to each other, and they go in through the kitchen garden little gate, which is always left ajar. The house is silent and empty. John sees a pitcher full of water laid on the floor, and probably thinking that the old lady had put it there before being called to assist the woman in childbed, he picks it up and goes towards a room that is closed. Jesus loiters in the corridor taking off His mantle and folding it with His customary care before putting it on the chest in the vestibule.
John opens the door and utters « ah! » almost in terror. He drops the pitcher and covers his eyes with his hands, bending as if to grow smaller, to disappear, not to see. From the room comes the noise of coins falling on the floor tinkling.
Jesus is already at the door. It took me longer to describe the scene than it took Him to arrive. He vehemently pushes aside John who moans: « Away! Go away! » He opens the door that was ajar and goes in.
It is the room where they take their meals, now that the women are there. In it there are two old coffers reinforced with iron fittings and in front of one of them, opposite the door, there is Judas, livid, his eyes full of anger and dismay at the same time, with a bag in his hands... The coffer is open... there are coins on the floor and more fall on it from an open bag, half inclined on the edge of the coffer. Everything testifies, in a manner that leaves no doubt, to what was happening. Judas entered the house, he opened the coffer and stole. He was stealing.
No one speaks. No one moves. But it is worse than if they all shouted and rushed at one another. Three statues. Judas the demon, Jesus the Judge, John terrorised by the revelation of his companion's baseness.
The hand of Judas holding the bag trembles, and the coins in it tinkle with a dull sound.
John is trembling from head to foot, and although he still has his hands pressed against his mouth, his teeth are chattering, while his frightened eyes look more at Jesus than at Judas.
Jesus does not quiver. He is straight and glacial, so stiff as to be glacial. At last He takes a step, He makes a gesture, and utters one word. A step towards Judas; a gesture: to make a sign to John to withdraw; a word: « Go! »
But John is afraid and moans: « No! No! Don't send me away. Let me stay here. I will not say anything... but leave me here, with You. »
« Go away! Be not afraid! Close all the doors... and if anybody comes... whoever it may be... even My Mother... do not let them come here. Go! Obey! »
« Lord!... » John is so entreating and broken-hearted that he seems to be the guilty one.
« Go, I tell you. Nothing will happen. Go » and Jesus moderates His order by laying His hand on the head of His Favourite and caressing it. And I now see that His hand is trembling. And John feels that it is trembling and takes it and kisses it with a sob that says so many things. He goes out.
Jesus bolts the door. He turns round to look at Judas who must be really crushed if he, who is so daring, dare not say one word or make one gesture. Jesus goes straight in front of him, going round the table, which is in the middle of the room. I cannot say whether He moves fast or slow. I am too frightened by His face to be able to measure time. I can see His eyes and I am afraid like John.
Judas himself is afraid, he draws back between the coffer and a wide open window, the red light of which, as it is sunset, is projected on Jesus.
What eyes has Jesus! He does not say one word. But when He sees a kind of picklock stick out from the belt of Judas' tunic, He has a fearful outburst of rage. He raises His arm with its clenched fist as if He wanted to strike the thief, and His lips begin to utter the word: « Cursed! » or « Curse! ». But He controls Himself. He stops His arm that was about to strike, and He breaks the word at the first three letters. And with an effort of self-control that makes His whole body tremble, He just unclenches His fist and lowers His raised arm to the level of the bag that Judas has in his hand and He snatches it and throws it on the floor, saying in a dull voice, while He tramples on bag and coins and scatters them with controlled but dreadful fury: « Away! Filth of Satan! Cursed gold! Spittle of hell! Snake's poison! Away! »
Judas, who uttered a stifled cry when he saw Jesus on the point of cursing him, does not react any further. But another cry is heard from beyond the closed door when Jesus throws the bag on the floor. And John's cry irritates the thief. It gives him back his demoniac daring. It makes him furious.
He almost flings himself on Jesus shouting: « You had me spied upon to bring dishonour on me. Spied by a foolish boy who cannot even keep quiet. Who will shame me in front of everybody! That's what You wanted. In any case... Yes! That's what I want, too. I want that! To force You to drive me away! To force You to curse me! To curse me! To curse me! I have tried everything to make You reject me. » He is hoarse with rage and as ugly as a demon. He is panting as if something were choking him.
In a low but dreadful voice Jesus repeats to him: « Thief! Thief! Thief! » and He ends saying: « A thief today. A murderer tomorrow. Like Barabbas. Worse than him. » He breathes that word on his face, as they are now very close to each other, at each sentence of the other.
Judas takes breath and replies: « Yes. A thief. Through Your fault. All the evil I do is attributable to You, and You never get tired of ruining me. You save everybody. You give love and honours to everybody. You accept sinners, prostitutes do not disgust You, You treat thieves, usurers and Zacchaeus' procurers in a friendly way, You welcome the spy of the Temple as if he were the Messiah, You fool! And You have appointed an ignorant man as our chief, an excise-man as Your treasurer, a fool as Your confidant. But with me, You ration even farthings, You do not leave me a coin, You keep me close to You as a galley-slave is tied to the rowing bench, You do not even want us, I say us, but it is I, only I who must not accept the offerings of pilgrims. Because You do not want me to touch money, You ordered everyone not to take money from anybody. Because You hate me. Well: I hate You, too! You were not able to strike and curse me a little while ago. Your curse would have reduced me to ashes. Why did You not lay Your curse upon me? I would have preferred that, rather than see You so inept, so enfeebled, such a finished defeated man... »
« Be quiet! »
« No! Are You afraid that John may hear? Are You afraid that at long last he may realise who You are and he may leave You? Ah! So You are afraid, although You play the hero! Yes, You are afraid! And You are afraid of me. You are frightened! That's why You could not curse me. That's why You pretend to love me whereas You hate me! To blandish me! To keep me quiet. You know that I am powerful. You know that I am the power. The power that hates You and will defeat You! I promised You that I will follow You until death offering You everything, and I have offered You everything, and I will be near You until Your hour and mine. What a magnificent king who cannot curse and drive people away! King of clouds! Idol king! Foolish king! Liar! Betrayer of Your own destiny. You have always despised me, since the first time we met. You have not corresponded to me. You thought You were wise. You are an idiot. I taught You the good road. But You... Oh! You are the pure one! You are the creature that is man but is God, and You despise the advice of the Intelligent One. You have been mistaken since the first moment and You are mistaken. You... You are... Ah! »
The torrent of words stops suddenly and a lugubrious silence replaces so much clamour and a lugubrious stillness after so many gestures. Because, while I was writing without being able to say what was happening, Judas, bending just like a wild dog that points a prey and approaches it ready to dash on it, has come closer and closer to Jesus, with a face that it was impossible to look at, his fingers hooked like claws, his elbows pressed against his sides, as if he were on the point of assailing Jesus, Who does not show the least sign of fear and moves turning round to open the door with His back to the other, who could attack Him seizing Him by His neck. But he does not do that and Jesus opens the door and looks to see whether John has really gone away. The corridor is empty and almost dark, as John has closed the door opening onto the kitchen garden after going out. Jesus then bolts the door and leans against it, waiting, without a gesture or word, for the fury to abate. I am not competent, but I do not think that I am wrong if I say that Satan himself spoke through Judas' lips and that this is a moment of obvious possession by Satan of the perverted apostle, who is already on the threshold of the Crime and is damned through his own will. The very manner how the torrent of words stopped, leaving the apostle dumbfounded, reminds me of other scenes of possession seen in the three years of Jesus' public life.
Jesus, leaning against the door, all white against the dark wood, does not make the least gesture. Only His eyes, powerful in grief and fervour, look at the apostle. If one could say that eyes pray, I should say that Jesus' eyes are praying while He looks at the wretch. Because not only authority transpires from those eyes, which are so distressed, but also the fervour of prayer. Then, towards the end of Judas' words, Jesus opens His arms, so far held pressed against His body, but He does not open them to touch Judas, or to make any gesture towards him, or to raise them towards the sky. He opens them horizontally, taking the posture of the Crucified, there, against the dark wood and the reddish wall. It was then that the last words from Judas' lips slow down and he utters that « Ah! » that interrupts his speech.
Jesus remains still, with His arms stretched out, with His eyes always fixed on the apostle, with a look of sorrow and prayer. And Judas, like one coming out of delirium, rubs his forehead and sweaty face with his hand... he thinks, he recollects, and remembering everything he collapses on the floor, whether weeping or not, I do not know. He certainly falls on the floor, as if his strength failed him.
Jesus lowers His eyes and arms, and in a low but clear voice He says:
« Well? Do I hate you? I could strike you with My foot, I could tread on you calling you “worm”, I could curse you, as I freed you from the power that makes you rave. You thought that My impossibility to curse you was weakness. Oh! it is not weakness! It is because I am the Saviour. And the Saviour cannot curse. He can save. He wants to save... You said: “I am the strength. The strength that hates You and will defeat You.” I also am the Strength, nay, I am the only Strength. But My strength is not hatred. It is love. And love does not hate and does not curse, never. The Strength could also win single battles, like this one between you and Me, between Satan who is in you, and Me, and remove your master from you, for good, as I did now by transforming Myself into the sign that saves, the Tau that Lucifer abhors. It could win also these single battles as it will win the oncoming one against incredulous murderous Israel, against the world and against Satan defeated by Redemption. It could win also these single battles as it will win the last one, remote for those who count by centuries, close at hand for those who measure time with the measure of eternity. But of what avail would it be to infringe the perfect rules of My Father? Would it be justice? Would it be merit? No. It would be neither justice nor merit. It would not be justice with regard to guilty men, who have not been deprived of the freedom of being so, and who on the last day could ask Me the reason for their damnation and reproach Me for My partiality for you alone.
Ten thousand and one hundred thousand people, seventy times ten thousand and one hundred thousand people will commit the same sins as yours and will become demons through their own wills, and they will be the offenders of God, the torturers of their fathers and mothers, killers, thieves, liars, adulterers, lewd and sacrilegious people, and in the end deicides, killing the Christ materially on a day close at hand, killing Him spiritually in future times. And each of them could say to Me, when I will come to separate lambs from billy-goats, to bless the former and curse, then, yes, to curse the latter, to curse them because there will be no further redemption then, but glory or damnation, to curse them once again after cursing them individually at their death, first, and at their individual judgement. Because man, and you know this because you have heard Me say so a hundred, a thousand times, because man can save himself while he is alive, up to his last breath. An instant, a thousandth of a minute is sufficient for a soul to say everything to God, to ask to be forgiven and obtain absolution... Each of them, I was saying, each of these damned souls could say to Me: “Why did You not tie us to Good, as You did with Judas?” And they would be right.
Because every man is born with the same natural and supernatural things: a body, a soul. And while the body, being generated by men, may be more or less robust and healthy at birth, the soul, created by God, is the same for everybody, endowed by God with the same properties and gifts. Between the soul of John, I mean the Baptist, and yours, there was no difference, when they were infused into your bodies. And yet I tell you that, even if Grace had not presanctified him, so that the Herald of the Christ might be without stain, as all those who announce Me ought to be, at least with regard to actual sins, his soul would have been, would have become, quite different from yours. Nay, yours would have become quite different from his. Because he would have preserved his soul in the freshness of innocence, nay, he would have adorned it more and more with justice complying with the will of God, Who wishes you to be just, developing the gratuitous gifts received with greater and greater heroic perfection. You instead... You have ruined and dissipated your soul and the gifts God had given it. What have you done with your free will? What with your intellect? Have you kept for your spirit the freedom that belonged to it? Have you used the intelligence of your mind intelligently? No, you have not. You who do not want to obey Me, I do not say Me-Man, but not even Me-God, you have obeyed Satan. You have used the intelligence of your mind and the freedom of your spirit to understand Darkness. Voluntarily. Good and Evil were placed before you. You chose Evil. Nay, only Good was placed before you: I. Your eternal Creator, Who followed the evolution of your soul, Who was aware of such evolution because the Eternal Thought is aware of everything that happens since Time began to exist, placed Good before you, Good only, because He knows that you are weaker than an alga growing in a ditch.
You shouted to Me that I hate you. Now, as I am One with the Father and with the Love, One here as One in Heaven – because if there are two Natures in Me, and the Christ, because of His human nature and until victory will free Him from human limitations, is at Ephraim and cannot be elsewhere at the same moment; as God, the Word of God, I am in Heaven as on the Earth as My Divinity is always omnipresent and omnipotent – now, as I am One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the charge you made against Me, you made it against God One and Trine. Against that God Father Who created you out of love, against that God Son Who became incarnate to save you out of love, against that God Spirit Who has spoken to you so many times to instill good wishes into you, out of love. Against that God One and Trine Who has loved you so much, Who brought you on My way, making you blind to the world to give you time to see Me, deaf to the world, to enable you to hear Me. And you!... And you!... After seeing and hearing Me, after coming freely to the Good, realising with your intellect that that was the only path of true glory, you rejected the Good and you have freely given yourself to Evil. But if through your free will you wanted that, if you have always more and more rudely rejected My hand that was offered to you to pull you out of the vortex, if you have always moved farther and farther away from the harbour to plunge into the raging sea of passions, of Evil, can you say to Me, to Him from Whom I come, to Him Who formed Me as Man to try to save you, can you say that We have hated you?
You reproached Me for wanting what is evil for you... Also a sick child reproaches the doctor and his mother for the bitter medicines they make him drink and for the things he wishes to have and they deny him for his own good. Has Satan made you so blind and mad that you do not understand the true nature of the action I took on your behalf, and that you can call malevolence and wish to ruin you what is a provident cure of your Master, of your Saviour, of your Friend to restore you to health? I kept you close to Me... I took money away from your hands. I prevented you from touching that cursed metal that drives you crazy... But do you not know, do you not feel that it is like one of those magic potions that bring about an unquenchable thirst, and produce in the blood a fierce heat, a fury that leads one to death? You – I can read your thought – reproach Me thinking: “Why, then, for such a long time You allowed me to be the administrator of the money?” Why? Because if I had prevented you from touching money earlier, you would have sold yourself and you would have stolen earlier. You sold yourself just the same because there was little you could steal... But I had to try to avoid that without doing violence to your freedom. Gold is your ruin. Because of gold you have become lustful and treacherous... »
« There You are! You believed Samuel's words! I am not... »
Jesus, Who had become more and more animated in speaking, without ever assuming a violent tone or threatening punishment, suddenly utters a cry of authority, I would say a cry of anger. He darts a furious look at Judas who has raised his face to speak those words and imposes « Be quiet! » in a voice that sounds like the roar of thunder.
Judas falls back on his heels again and speaks no more.
There is silence and Jesus with visible effort recomposes His humanity in such a composure and with such powerful control that testifies by itself the divinity that is in Him. He resumes speaking in His usual voice that is warm and kind also when it is severe, persuasive, conquering... Demons only can resist that voice.
« I am not in need of information from Samuel or anybody else to know what you do. But, you wretch! Do you know in front of Whom you are? It is true! You say that you do not understand My parables any longer. You no longer understand My words. Poor wretch! You do not even understand yourself any more. You do not even understand good and evil any more. Satan, to whom you have given yourself in many ways, Satan whom you have followed in all the temptations he presented to you, has made you stupid. And yet once you understood Me. You believed that I am He Who I am! And you still retain a clear memory of that. And can you believe that the Son of God, that God needs the words of a man to know the thought and the actions of another man? You are not yet perverted to such an extent as not to believe that I am God, and that is where your greatest fault lies. The proof that you believe Me to be such is that you are afraid of My wrath. You realise that you are not struggling against a man, but against God Himself, and you shiver. You shiver, Cain, because you can but see and think of God as the Avenger of Himself and of innocents. You are afraid that it may happen to you as it happened to Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their followers. And yet, as you know Who I am, you struggle against Me. I should say to you: “Cursed!” But I would no longer be the Saviour...
You would like Me to reject you. You do everything, you say, to achieve that. Such reason does not justify your actions. Because it is not necessary to commit sin in order to part from Me. You can do that, I tell you. I have been telling you since Nob, when you came back to Me, one pure morning, filthy with lies and lust, as if you had come out of hell to fall into the mud of a pigsty, or on the litter of libidinous monkeys, and I had to struggle against Myself not to repel you with the point of My sandal like a revolting rag and to check the nausea that was upsetting not only My spirit but also My bowels.
I have always told you. Even before accepting you. Even before coming here. Then, I made that speech just for you, only for you. But you always wanted to stay. For your own ruin. You! My greatest grief! But you, o heretical founder of a large family that will come after you, you think and say that I am above sorrow. No. I am only above sin. I am only above ignorance. Above the former, because I am God. Above the latter, because there can be no ignorance in the soul unspoiled by the Original Sin. But I am speaking to you as a Man, as the Man, as Adam Redeemer Who has come to make amends for the Sin of Adam sinner, and to show what man would have been if he had remained as he was created: innocent. Among the gifts given by God to that Adam was there not an intelligence without impairment and a very great science, as the union with God instilled the light of the Almighty Father into His blessed son? I, the new Adam, am above sin through My own will...
One day, a long time ago, you were surprised that I had been tempted, and you asked Me whether I had ever yielded to temptation. Do you remember? And I replied to you. Yes, as I could reply to you... Because since then you were such... an impoverished man that it was useless to open the most precious pearls of Christ's virtues under your eyes. You would not have understood their value and... you would have mistaken them for... stones, as they were of such an exceptional size. Also in the desert I replied to you repeating the words, the meaning of the words I had spoken to you that evening while going towards Gethsemane. If John or also Simon Zealot had repeated that question to Me, I would have replied in a different manner, because John is pure and he would not have asked with the malice with which you asked, as you were full of malice... and because Simon is an old wise man, and although he is not unacquainted with life, as John is, he has achieved that wisdom that can contemplate every episode without being upset in his ego. But they did not ask Me whether I had yielded to temptations, to the most common temptation, to that temptation. Because in the irreproachable purity of the former there are no memories of lust, and in the contemplative mind of the latter there is so much light to see purity shine in Me. You asked... and I replied to you. As I could. With that prudence that must never be separated from sincerity, both being holy in the eyes of God. That prudence that is like the treble veil, stretched between the Holy and the people, to conceal the secret of the King. That prudence that adapts words to the person listening to them, to his intellectual power of understanding, to his spiritual purity and to his justice. Because certain truths mentioned to corrupt people become for them the object of laughter, not of veneration...
I do not know whether you remember all those words. I do. And I am repeating them here, just now that we are both on the brink of the Abyss. Because... But it is not necessary to say that. I said in the desert, in reply to the question that My first explanation had not satisfied: “The Master never felt that He was superior to man to be the 'Messiah', on the contrary knowing that He was the Man, He wanted to be so in everything except sin. To be masters it is necessary to have been pupils. I knew everything as God. My divine intelligence was able to make Me understand also the struggles of man through intellectual power and intellectually. But one day some poor friend of Mine could have said: 'You do not know what it means to be a man and to have senses and passions'. It would have been a just reproach. I came here to get ready not only for My mission, but also for temptation. A satanic temptation. Because man could not have had power over Me. Satan came when My solitary union with God ceased and I perceived that I was the Man with real flesh subject to the weaknesses of the flesh: hunger, tiredness, thirst, cold. I felt matter with its needs, morale with its passions. And if through My will I subdued evil passions at birth, I allowed the holy ones to grow.” Do you remember those words? And I also said, the first time, to you, to you alone: “Life is a holy gift and is to be loved holily. Life is a means serving a purpose, which is eternity.” I said: “Then let us give life what it needs to last and to serve the spirit in its conquest: continence of the flesh in its lusts, continence of the mind in its wishes, continence of the heart in all the passions belonging to humanity, infinite ardour for Heavenly passions, love for God and our neighbour, good will to serve God and our neighbour, obedience to the voice of God, heroism in good and in virtue.”
Then you told Me that I was able to do that because I was holy, but you could not do it because you were a young man, full of life. As if to be young and strong were an excuse to be vicious, and only old and sick people, being impotent, because of their age or weakness to do what you were thinking, burning as you are with lewdness, were free from sensual temptations! I could have replied to you with many arguments, then. But you were not able to understand them. You are not able even now, but at least now you cannot smile with your incredulous smile, if I tell you that a healthy man can be chaste, if he does not accept the allurements of the demon and of senses, of his own free will. Chastity is spiritual love, it is an impulse that influences the body and pervades it all, elevating, scenting and preserving it. He who is imbued with chastity has no room for any other evil incentives. Corruption does not affect him. There is no room for it. And then! Corruption does not enter one from outside. It is not an impulse penetrating inside from outside. It is an impulse that from inside, from the heart, from thoughts comes out and penetrates and pervades the envelope: the flesh. That is why I said that corruption comes from the heart. Every adultery, every lust, every sensual sin does not originate outside. But it comes from the intense activity of the mind, which being corrupt, clothes everything it sees with alluring appearance. All men have eyes to see. How come then that a woman who leaves ten men impassive, as they look at her as a creature like themselves and they also consider her a beautiful work of Creation without feeling obscene incentives and phantasms rise in them, upsets the eleventh man and leads him to shameful concupiscence? Because the heart and thought of the eleventh man are corrupt and where ten see a sister, he sees a female.
Although I did not say that to you then, I told you that I had come just for men, not for the angels. I have come to give back to men their royalty of children of God teaching them to live as gods. God is without lewdness, Judas. But I want to show to all of you that man also can be without lewdness. I wanted to show you that one can live as I teach you. To show you that I had to take a real body and thus be able to suffer the temptations of man and say to man, after instructing him: “Do as I do.” And you asked Me whether I had sinned when I was tempted. Do you remember? As I saw that you could not understand that I had been tempted without sinning, because you thought that temptation was unbecoming for the Word and that it was impossible for the Man not to sin, I replied to you that everybody can be tempted, but only those are sinners who want to become so. Great was your surprise and you were incredulous, so much so that you insisted saying: “Have You ever sinned?” It was then possible for you to be incredulous. We had known each other only for a short time. Palestine is full of rabbis whose lives are the antitheses of their doctrine. But now you know that I have not sinned, that I do not sin. You know that even the fiercest temptation provoking a healthy virile man, who lives among men and is circumvented by them and by Satan, does not disturb Me to the extent of making Me commit sin. On the contrary, every temptation, although its virulence increased when it was rejected, because the demon made it fiercer to overcome Me, was a greater victory. And not only with regard to lewdness, a whirl that revolved around Me without succeeding in shaking or scratching My will. There is no sin where there is no consent to temptation, Judas. There is instead sin, even without consummating the act, when one accepts the temptation and contemplates it. It may be a venial sin, but it prepares the way to mortal sin in you. Because when one accepts the temptation and allows one's thought to linger over it, following the phases of a sin mentally, one grows weaker. Satan is aware of that, and that is why he repeatedly hurls blazing thrusts, always hoping that one may penetrate and work inside... Afterwards... it would be easy to change the person who is tempted into a sinner.
You did not understand that then. You could not understand it. You can now. Now you are less deserving to understand than you were then, yet, I repeat those words that I spoke to you, for you, because it is in you, not in Me, that the repelled temptation does not subside... It does not calm down because you do not repel it completely. You do not consummate the act, but you brood over the thought of it. That is what happens today, and tomorrow... Tomorrow you will fall into real sin. That is why I taught you, then, to ask the help of the Father against temptation, I taught you to ask the Father not to lead you into temptation. I, the Son of God, I, Who had already defeated Satan, asked the Father for help, because I am humble. You did not. You did not ask salvation and preservation of God. You are proud. That is why you collapse...
Do you remember all that? And can you now understand what it means to Me, true Man, with all the reactions of man, and true God, with all the reactions of God, to see you thus: lustful, liar, thief, betrayer, homicide? Do you realise what a stress you impose on Me, having to put up with your being near Me? Do you know how laborious it is for Me to control Myself, as I am doing now, to fulfill My mission for you till the very end? Any other man would have seized you by your throat, seeing you, a thief, intent on picking the lock of a coffer and stealing money, and learning that you are a traitor, and worse than a traitor... I have spoken to you, still with pity. Look. It is not yet summer and the cool breeze of the evening is coming in through the window, and yet I am perspiring as if I had been working at a very hard task. But do you not realise how much you cost Me? Or what you are? Do you want Me to drive you away? No, never. When a man is drowning, he who lets him go is a murderer. You are between two forces attracting you, Satan and Me. But if I leave you, you will have him only. And how will you save yourself? And yet you will leave Me... You have already left Me with your spirit... Well, I will still keep Judas' chrysalis near Me. Your body deprived of the will to love Me, your body inert towards Good. I will keep it until you exact also this nonentity, that is, your mortal remains, to join them to your spirit and sin with your whole self…
Judas!... Will you not speak to Me? Have you not one word for your Master? Not even a prayer? I do not expect you to say: “Forgive me!” I have forgiven you too many times in vain. I know that that word is a mere sound on your lips. It is not an impulse of your contrite spirit. I would like an impulse of your heart. Are you so dead as to have no further wishes? Speak! Are you afraid of Me? Oh! if you were afraid! At least that! But you are not afraid of Me. If you were afraid of Me, I would repeat the words that I spoke to you on that remote day when we spoke of temptations and sins: “I tell you that also after the Crime of crimes, if its culprit should rush to the feet of God with true repentance, and implored Him with tears to be forgiven, offering himself to expiation with confidence, without despairing, God would forgive him, and through expiation, the culprit would still save his soul.” Judas! If you are not afraid of Me, I still love you. Have you nothing to ask My infinite love in this hour? »
« No. Or at most one thing only: that You order John not to speak. How do You expect me to make amends if I am a disgrace among you? ». He says so with arrogance.
And Jesus replies to him: « And you say so like that? John will not speak. But at least you, and I ask you this, must behave in such a way that nothing may leak out about your ruin. Pick up those coins and put them back into Johanna's bag... I will try to close the coffer... with the tool you used to open it... »
And while Judas with a bad grace picks up the coins that had rolled everywhere, Jesus leans on the open coffer, as if He were tired. The light is fading in the room, but not so much as to prevent one from seeing Jesus weep silently, looking at His apostle stoop to pick up the scattered coins.
Judas has finished. He goes towards the coffer. He takes Johanna's large heavy bag, puts the coins in it and closes it saying: « There it is! » He moves aside.
Jesus stretches out His hand to take the coarse picklock made by Judas, and with a trembling hand He gets the spring-lock to work closing the coffer. He then rests the iron bar on His knee and bends it in V shape, pressing it down completely with His foot, making it unserviceable. He then picks it up and hides it in His chest. In doing, so some tears fall on His linen tunic.
Judas at long last has a gesture of resipiscence. He covers his face with his hands and bursts into tears saying: « I am cursed! I am the opprobrium of the Earth! »
« You are the eternal wretch! And to think that, if you wanted, you could still be happy! »
« Swear it to me! Swear that no one will be told... and I swear to You that I will redeem myself » shouts Judas.
« Do not say: “and I will redeem myself”. You cannot. I alone can redeem you. He who was speaking through your lips a short while ago, can be defeated only by Me. Tell Me the words of humility: “Lord, save me!”, and I will free you from your ruler. Do you not understand that I am waiting more for that word of yours, than for a kiss of My Mother? »
Judas is weeping, but he does not say that word.
« Go. Go out of here. Go up to the terrace. Go wherever you wish, but make no noisy scene. Go. Go. No one will find you out, because I shall be watching. As from tomorrow you will keep the money. Everything is quite useless now. »
Judas goes out without replying. Jesus, now all alone, drops on a seat near the table and with His head resting on His arms folded on the table He weeps distressingly.
After some minutes John enters quietly and stops for an instant at the door. He is as white as death. He then runs towards Jesus and embraces Him imploring: « Do not weep, Master! Do not weep! I love You also for that wretch... » He lifts Him, kisses Him, drinks the tears of his God and weeps, too.
Jesus embraces him and the two fair-haired heads, close to each other, exchange tears and kisses. But Jesus soon controls Himself and says: « John, for My sake forget what happened. I want that. »
« Yes, my Lord. I will try to do that. But do not suffer any more... Ah! How sorrowful! And he made me sin, my Lord. I lied. I had to lie because the women disciples came back. No. The relatives of the woman came first. They wanted You to bless You. A baby boy was born without complications. I said that You had gone back to the mountain... Then the women disciples came and I lied again saying that You were out and that You had probably gone to the house where the baby was born... I could not find any other excuse. I was so dumbfounded! Your Mother saw that I had wept and She asked me: “What is the matter with you, John?” She was excited... She seemed to know. I lied for the third time saying: “I am moved because of that woman…” Being close to a sinner can lead to such an extent! To falsehood… Absolve me, my Jesus. »
« Be at peace. Forget all about this hour. Nothing. It was nothing... A dream... »
« But it is Your sorrow! Oh! how changed You are, Master! Tell me this, only this: has Judas at least repented? »
« And who can understand Judas, son? »
« None of us. But You can. »
Jesus replies only with fresh silent tears streaming down His tired face.
« Ah! He has not repented!... » John is terrified.
« Where is he now? Have you seen him? »
« Yes. He looked out of the terrace. He looked to see whether there was anybody, and when he saw me all alone, as I was sitting under the fig-tree, utterly anguished, he ran downstairs and went out through the little gate of the kitchen garden. Then I came in... »
« You have done the right thing. Let us tidy up in here, putting the chairs back in their places, and pick up the amphora, so that there are no traces... »
« Did he scuffle with You? »
« No, John. He did not. »
« You are too upset, Master, to remain here. Your Mother would understand... and She would be grieved. »
« That is true. Let us go out... Give the key to our next-door neighbour. I will go ahead, along the banks of the stream, towards the mountain... »
Jesus goes out and John remains to tidy up the place. Then he goes out as well. He gives the key to a woman who lives in a house nearby and he runs away, hiding among the bushes on the bank, not to be seen.
At about one hundred metres from the house there is Jesus sitting on a rock. Upon hearing the steps of the apostle He turns round. His face is pale in the evening light. John sits on the ground close to Him and rests his head on His lap, raising his face to look at Him. He sees that there are still tears on Jesus' cheeks.
« Oh! do not suffer any more! Do not suffer any more, Master! I cannot bear to see You suffer! »
« And am I not to suffer because of that? My deepest grief! Remember that, John: this will be forever My deepest grief! You cannot understand everything yet... My deepest grief... » Jesus is depressed. John is holding Him close to himself, with his arms round His waist, anguished at not being able to console Him.
Jesus raises His head, opens His eyes that He had closed to refrain His tears and says: « Remember that we are in three to know: the culprit, you and I. And no one else must know. »
« No one will learn it from me. But how could he do that? While he took the money of the community... But that!... I thought I had become mad when I saw... Horrible! »
« I told you to forget... »
« I am trying hard, Master. But it is too horrible... »
« It is horrible. Yes, John, it is! Oh! John! » And Jesus, embracing His Favourite, rests His head on his shoulder and weeps desolately.
The shadows, which become rapidly deep in the thicket, hide in their darkness the two who are embracing each other.