3rd March 1947.
Jesus is meditating, sitting all alone under a gigantic holm-oak, which has grown on a slope of the mountain dominating Shechem. The city, of a rosy-white shade in the early sunshine, is below, spread out on the lower slopes of the mountain. From above it looks like a handful of huge white cubes thrown by a big boy on a green sloping meadow. The two water courses near which it rises form a silvery blue semicircle round the city; then one of them enters it gurgling and glittering among the white houses, it then comes out and flows through the greenery towards the river Jordan, appearing and disappearing under olive-groves and luxuriant orchards. The other river, smaller in size, remains outside the walls, almost lapping on them, and irrigates fertile vegetable gardens; it then flows away watering flocks of white sheep grazing on meadows reddened by the capitula of clover flowers.
The view in front of Jesus is a wide one. After lower and lower undulating hills one can see the green Jordan valley foreshortened, and beyond it, the mountains of the region beyond the Jordan, ending to north-east in the typical summits of Hauran. The sun rising behind them has lit up three strange clouds resembling three light gauze ribbons placed horizontally on the turquoise veil of the firmament, and the light gauze of the three long narrow clouds has become the orange-pink hue of certain precious corals. The sky seems to be barred by this airy railing and is beautiful. Jesus stares at it, that is, He looks in that direction engrossed in thought. I wonder whether He even sees it. With His elbow pressed on His knee, His hand supporting His chin resting in the hollow of the palm of His hand, He looks, thinks, meditates. Above Him birds are making a hullabaloo chirping and flying around joyfully.
Jesus lowers His eyes looking at Shechem that is awakening more and more in the morning sunshine. The shepherds and flocks, so far the only ones animating the view, are now joined by groups of pilgrims, and the jingling of herd-bells mingles with the tinkling of the harness bells of donkeys and with the noise of voices, the shuffling of feet and the babble of words. The noise of the awakening city and of the people ending their night's rest is carried in waves as far as Jesus. Jesus stands up. With a sigh He leaves His quiet place and goes down quickly towards the town, along a short cut. He goes in among caravans of market-gardeners and pilgrims, while the former are hurrying to unload their goods, and the latter to buy them before setting off.
Waiting in a group in a corner of the square there are already the apostles and the women disciples, and around them there are the people from Ephraim, Shilo, Lebonah and many from Shechem. Jesus goes towards them and greets them. He then says to those of Samaria: « And now let us part. Go back to your homes. Remember My words. Grow in justice. » He then says to Judas of Kerioth:
« Have you given alms for the poor of every place, as I told you? »
« Yes, I have. With the exception of those of Ephraim, as they have already had them. »
« Go, then. Ensure that every poor person may be comforted. »
« We bless You on their behalf. »
« Bless the women disciples. They gave Me the money. Go. Peace be with you. »
They go away unwillingly, sorrowfully. But they obey.
Jesus stays with the apostles and the women disciples. He says to them: « I am going to Enon. I want to visit the place of the Baptist. I shall then go down to the road in the valley. It is more comfortable for the women. »
« Would it not be better to take the road through Samaria? » asks the Iscariot.
« There is no reason why we should be afraid of highwaymen, even if our road is close to their dens. Who wants to come with Me can do so. Who does not feel like coming as far as Enon, can remain here until the day after the Sabbath. On that day I shall go to Tirzah, and whoever remains here can join Me there. »
« Actually I... should prefer to stay here. I am not very well... I am tired... » says the Iscariot.
« One can see that. You look like one who is not well. You look gloomy indeed, also with regard to your humour and complexion. I have been watching you for some time... » says Peter.
« But no one asks me whether I am unwell, however... »
« Would that have pleased you? I never know what you like. But if it pleases you, I shall ask you now, and I am willing to stay with you to look after you... » Peter replies to him patiently.
« No, no! I am only tired. You may go. I shall stay where I am. »
« I shall stay as well. I am old. I shall rest assisting you as a mother » says Eliza all of a sudden.
« Are you staying? You had said... » interrupts Salome.
« If everybody went, I would have come as well, in order not to be left here all alone. But since Judas is going to stay... »
« Then I will come, too. I do not wish to sacrifice you, woman. You will certainly go willingly to see the refuge of the Baptist... »
« I come from Bethzur and I never felt the need to go to Bethlehem to see the grotto where the Master was born. That is something I shall do when I shall no longer have the Master. So you can imagine whether I am aflame with the desire to see where was John... I prefer to practice charity, as I am sure that it has more value than a pilgrimage. »
« You are reproaching the Master. Do you not realise that? »
« I am speaking for myself. He is going there and is doing the right thing. He is the Master. I am an old woman in whom grief has removed all curiosity and the love for the Christ has removed all desires except that of serving Him. »
« So, according to you, it is a service to spy upon me. »
« Are you doing anything blameworthy? Only those who do harmful things are watched. But I have never spied upon anybody, man. I do not belong to the snake family. Neither do I betray. »
« Neither do I. »
« God grant it for your own good. But I fail to understand why you are so against my staying here to rest... »
Jesus, Who so far has been listening in silence, in the middle of the others, amazed at the petty quarrel, raises His head that was somewhat lowered, and says: « That is enough. A woman, who is older than you, can with more reason have the same desire as you have. You will stay here until the dawn of the day after the Sabbath. You will then join Me. In the meantime, Judas, go and buy what we will need during the next days. Go and be quick. »
Judas goes away against his will to buy foodstuff.
Andrew is about to follow him, but Jesus holds him back by the arm saying: « Stay here. He can manage by himself. » Jesus is very severe.
Eliza looks at Him and then approaches Him saying: « Forgive me, Master, if I displeased You. »
« I have nothing to forgive you, woman. You, rather, should forgive that man, as if he were your son. »
« I will stay with him with that feeling... even if he thinks the very opposite... You understand me... »
« Yes, and I bless you. And I tell you that you were right in saying that pilgrimages to My places will be a necessity when I am no longer amongst you... a necessity to comfort your spirits. For the time being they only serve the desires of your Jesus. And you have understood one of My wishes, because you are sacrificing yourself to protect an imprudent spirit... »
The apostles look at one another... and also the women disciples do likewise. Mary only is completely covered with Her veil and does not raise Her head to look at anybody. And Mary of Magdala, standing upright like a queen who is judging, has never lost sight of Judas, who is going round the vendors, and her eyes blaze with anger while her closed lips express contempt. Her countenance says more than words...
Judas comes back. He gives his companions what he bought. He tidies up his mantle that he had used to carry the goods he purchased, and makes the gesture of handing the purse to Jesus. Jesus rejects it with His hand: « It is not necessary. Mary is still with us for alms. You are to do the necessary to be charitable here. There are many beggars who come down from all places these days and go towards Jerusalem. Give them alms without prejudice, with charity, bearing in mind that, with regard to God, we are all beggars of His mercy and of His bread... Goodbye. Goodbye, Eliza. Peace be with you. » And He turns round quickly and begins to walk fast along the road that was near Him without giving Judas time to say goodbye to Him...
They all follow Him in silence. They come out of the town turning their steps north-eastwards through the beautiful country...