1st March 1947.
Here is Shechem, beautiful and ornate, crowded with people of Samaria going to the Samaritan temple, and with pilgrims from all regions going to the Temple in Jerusalem. The town is all flooded with sunshine, stretched as it is on the eastern slopes of Mount Gerizim, that dominates it from its western side and is all green as the town is all white. To north-east Mount Ebal, the appearance of which is even wilder, seems to protect it against northern winds. The fertility of the land, rich in the waters that come down from the mountain watershed and form two charming little rivers, nourished by many brooks, flow towards the Jordan, is wonderful and brims over the walls of gardens and the hedges of kitchen gardens. Every house is decked with greenery, with flowers, with branches on which tiny fruits are swelling. Looking around at the environs, which are clearly visible owing to the configuration of the ground, one sees nothing but the green of olive-groves, of vineyards, or orchards and the golden hue of fields in which every day the glaucous shade of the unripe corn changes more and more into the delicate yellowness of straw, of ripe ears, that the sun and winds bend and blow, making them look almost like white gold.
The corn is really « yellowing », as Jesus says, and is really golden, after being « white » when springing up, then the green of a precious jewel, while it grew and formed ears. The sun is now preparing it to die, after preparing it to live. And it is difficult to say when it should be blessed more, whether now that is leads it to the sacrifice, or when it paternally warmed the earth to make it germinate and it painted its pale stem, which had just sprung up, with a beautiful green shade, full of vigour and promises.
Jesus, Who has spoken of that while entering the town and pointing at the place where they met the Samaritan woman and remembering that remote speech, says to His apostles, to all of them except John, who is already near Mary to comfort Her, as She is so sorrowful: « And is what I said then not being fulfilled now? We were unknown and lonely when we came in here. We sowed. Now, look! That seed has given a rich crop. And it will grow greater and you will reap it. And others will reap more than you... »
« And will you not, Lord? » asks Philip.
« I have reaped where My Precursor sowed. Then I sowed that you might reap and sow with the seed I had given you. But as John did not reap what he sowed, so I shall not harvest this crop. We are... »
« What, Lord? » asks Judas of Alphaeus worriedly.
« The victims, My brother. The sweat of one's brow is required to fertilise fields. But sacrifice is necessary to fertilise hearts. We rise, we work, we die. One, after us, replaces us, rises, works, dies... And there is who reaps what we watered with our death. »
« Oh! no! Don't say that, my Lord! » exclaims James of Zebedee.
« Are you, the disciple of John before being Mine, saying that? Do you not remember the words of your first master? “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.” He understood the beauty and justice of dying to give justice to other people. I shall not be inferior to him. »
« But, Master, You are You: God! He was a man. »
« I am the Saviour. As God I must be more perfect than man. If John, a man, was able to grow smaller to make the true Sun rise, I must not dim the light of My sun with clouds of cowardice. I must leave you a clear memory of Me, so that you may be able to proceed, and the world may grow in the Christian Idea. The Christ will go away, He will go back to the place whence He came, and He will love you from there following you in your work, preparing the place that will be your reward. But Christianity will remain. Christianity will grow through My going away... and through that of all those who, without attachment to the world and earthly life, will be able to go away, as John and Jesus, did... and die to make other people live. »
« So do You think that it is right that You should be put to death?... » asks the Iscariot almost panting.
« I do not think that it is right that they should put Me to death. I think that it is just to die because of what My sacrifice will yield. A homicide will always be a homicide with regard to him who commits it, even if it has a different value and appearance for him who is murdered. »
« What do You mean? »
« I mean that if he who is a homicide, because he has been ordered or forced, such as a soldier in battle or an executioner who must obey a magistrate, or he who defends himself against a highwayman, has not a guilty conscience, or is relatively guilty of killing a fellow man, he who without order or necessity kills an innocent or cooperates in his murder, will appear before God with the dreadful face of Cain. »
« But could we not speak of something else? The Master suffers because of all this, your eyes are like those of one who is tortured, we feel as if we were in agony, if His Mother hears, She will weep. She is already shedding so many tears under Her veil! There is so much to talk about!... Oh! Look! The notables are coming. That will make you keep quiet. Peace to you! Peace to you! » Peter, who was a little ahead and had turned round to speak, bows greeting a large group of pompous people from Shechem, who are coming towards Jesus.
« Peace to You, Master. The houses that gave You hospitality the last time are ready to receive You, and there are many more for the women disciples and those who are with You. Those whom You helped recently and the first time, will come to see You. One woman only will be missing because she departed from here to lead a life of expiation. So she said, and I believe her, because when a woman divests herself of everything she loved and rejects sin and gives all her property to the poor, it means that she wants to follow a new life. But I could not tell You where she is. No one has seen her any more since she left Shechem. One of our people thought he had seen her dressed as a servant in a village near the Phialè. Another one swears that he recognised her, although she was dressed poorly, at Bersabea. But what they say is not certain. When she was called by her name she did not answer and they heard her being called Johanna in the former place, and Agar in the latter. »
« It is not necessary to know more except that she has been redeemed. All other knowledge is vain and every research is intrusive curiosity. Leave your fellow-citizen in her secret peace, and be pleased that she no longer causes scandal. The angels of the Lord know where she is to give her the only help she needs, the only one that cannot hurt her soul... Be so charitable as to take the women to the houses, as they are tired. I will speak to you tomorrow. I will listen to everybody today and I will receive your sick people. »
« Are You not staying with us for a long time? Are You not spending the Sabbath here? »
« No. I am spending the Sabbath elsewhere, in prayer. »
« We were hoping to have You for a long time... »
« I have just time to go back to Judaea for the feasts. I will leave the apostles and women with you, if they want to remain, until the Sabbath evening. Do not look at one another thus. You know that I must honour the Lord our God more than anybody else, because to be what I am does not exempt Me from being faithful to the Law of the Most High. »
They go towards the houses into each of which go two women disciples and one apostle: Mary of Alphaeus and Susanna with James of Alphaeus, Martha and Mary with the Zealot, Eliza and Nike with Bartholomew, Salome and Johanna with James of Zebedee. Then Thomas, Philip, Judas of Kerioth and Matthew go all together in a group into one house; Peter and Andrew into another one; and Jesus with Judas of Alphaeus and John, and Mary, His Mother, goes into the house of the man who has always spoken on behalf of the citizens. The followers and the people from Ephraim, Shiloh and Lebonah and other pilgrims who were going to Jerusalem and broke their journey to follow Jesus, scatter through the village looking for lodgings.