7th March 1947.
It is another beautiful April morning. The earth and the sky display all their springtime beauties. One breathes light, songs, scents, so sated is the air with brilliance, with voices of joy and love, with fragrance. Rain must have drizzled during the night as the roads are dark and without dust, but they are not muddy, and the stems and leaves washed by the rain are now quivering, all bright and clean, in a mild breeze blowing down from the mountains towards this fertile plain that foreshows Jericho.
People are coming up continuously from the banks of the Jordan; they have ferried from the other bank or they have followed the road that runs along the river, and have come on this one that heads straight for Jericho and Doco, as indicated on road signs. And with the many Jews who from all over are going to Jerusalem for the rite, there are mingled merchants from other places and shepherds with bleating lambs, destined for sacrifices, but unaware of their fate.
Many recognise Jesus and greet Him. They are Jews from Perea and the Decapolis and even from places farther away. There is a group from Caesarea Paneas. They are shepherds, who leading a rather nomadic life with their flocks, have knowledge of the Master, having met Him or heard of Him from disciples.
A shepherd prostrates himself and says to Him: « May I offer You a lamb? »
« Do not deprive yourself of it, man. It is your earnings. »
« Oh! it is my gratitude. You do not remember me, but I remember You. I am one who was cured by You when You cured so many. You cured the bone of my thigh that no one knew how to cure and made an invalid of me. I will give You a lamb willingly. The best one. This one. For the banquet of joy. I know that for the sacrifice You are to buy one. But for the joy! You gave me so much of it. Take it, Master. »
« Yes, take it. It is money that we shall save. Or rather, it will enable us to have a meal because with all our lavishness I have no money left » says the Iscariot.
« Lavishness? Since we left Shechem we have not spent a farthing! » says Matthew.
« Well, I have no more money. I gave the last to Merod. »
« Listen, man » says Jesus to the shepherd to put an end to the Iscariot's words. « I am not going to Jerusalem just now and I cannot take the lamb with Me. Otherwise I would accept it to show you that I welcome your gift. »
« But later You will go to the city. You will stop there for the feasts. You will certainly have a place in which to stay. Tell me where it is, and I shall hand it over to Your friends… »
« I have nothing of the kind… But I have a poor old friend at Nob. Listen to Me carefully: on the day after the Passover Sabbath you will go to Nob at dawn and you will say to John, the Elder of Nob (anyone will tell you where he lives): “Jesus of Nazareth, your friend, sends you this lamb, so that you may celebrate this day with a banquet of joy, because for the true friends of the Christ there is not a greater joy than today's.” Will you do that? »
« If that is what You want, I will do it. »
« And you will make Me happy. Not before the day after the Sabbath. Make sure you remember that. And remember the words I told you. Go, now, and peace be with you. And keep your heart firm in that peace in future days. Remember that as well, and go on believing in My Truth. Goodbye. »
Some people have approached them to listen to their conversation and they disperse only when the shepherd, proceeding with his flock, compels them to scatter. Jesus follows the herd taking advantage of the open space left by it.
The people whisper: « So is He really going to Jerusalem? Does He not know that He is banned? »
« Hey! No one can prohibit a son of the Law from presenting himself to the Lord at Passover. Is He guilty of a public crime? No, He is not. Because if He were, the Proconsul would have had Him arrested, as he did with Barabbas. »
And others say: « Have you heard? He has nowhere to go nor friends in Jerusalem. Have they all abandoned Him? Even the man He raised from the dead? How grateful of him! »
« Be quiet. Those two women over there are Lazarus' sisters. I come from the countryside of Magdala and I know them well. If the sisters are with Him it means that Lazarus' family is loyal to Him. »
« Perhaps He dare not enter the town. »
« He is right. »
« God will forgive Him if He remains outside. »
« It is not His fault if He cannot go up to the Temple. »
« He is wisely prudent. If He were caught it would all come to an end before His time. »
« He is certainly not yet ready to be proclaimed our king, and He does not want to be caught. »
« They say that when it was known that He was at Ephraim, He went everywhere, even to nomadic tribes, to prepare followers and soldiers and to seek protection. »
« Who told you? »
« The usual lies. He is the holy King and not the king of soldiers. »
« Perhaps He will celebrate the supplementary Passover, when it is easier not to be noticed. The Sanhedrin breaks up after the feasts and all the members go home for harvest time. They do not meet again until Pentecost. »
« And once the members of the Sanhedrin have gone away, who do you think will do Him any harm? They are the jackals! »
« H'm! Is it possible for Him to be so prudent? That is too human! He is more than a man and He will not be cowardly prudent. »
« Coward? Why? No one can say that he who spares himself for his mission is a coward. »
« He would always be cowardly, because every mission is inferior to God. So the cult for God must have priority over everything else. »
Those are the words going from mouth to mouth. Jesus pretends He does not hear them.
Judas of Alphaeus stops to wait for the women and when they arrive – they were with the boy, about thirty steps behind – he says to Eliza: « You have given out a lot of money at Shechem after we left! »
« Why? »
« Because Judas has not a farthing left. Your sandals, Benjamin, are not likely to come. It was destined to be so. It was not possible to enter Tirzah, and even if we had been able to go in, as we had no money, we could not have bought anything… You will have to enter Jerusalem as you are… »
« There is Bethany before Jerusalem » says Martha with a smile.
« And before, there is Jericho and my house » says Nike, also with a smile.
« And I am before everything. I promised and I will do it. We have had interesting experiences during this journey! I have experienced what it means not to have a drachma. And now I will experience what one feels like when one has to sell something at need » says Mary of Magdala.
« And what do you want to sell, if you do not wear jewels any longer? » Martha asks her sister.
« My big silver hairpins. I have so many of them. But to keep this useless weight tidy, iron ones will be sufficient. I will sell them. Jericho is full of people who buy such things. And this is market day as well as tomorrow, and every day because of the festivities. »
« But, sister! »
« What? Are you scandalised at the thought that I may be considered so poor as to have to sell my silver hairpins? Oh! I wish I had always given rise to such scandals in you! It was much worse when, without being in need, I sold myself to the vice of other people and mine. »
« Be quiet! There is the boy, who does not know! »
« He does not know as yet. Perhaps he does not know that I was the sinner. Tomorrow he would be told by someone who hates me because I am no longer such, and with details not pertaining to my sin, which, however, was so grave. So he had better be told by me, so that he may realise what the Lord, Who accepted him, can do: turn a sinner into a repentant soul; turn a dead person into a resurrected one; of me, dead in my spirit, of Lazarus, dead in his body, He made two living beings. Because that is what the Rabbi has done to us, Benjamin. Always bear that in mind and love Him with all your heart, because He really is the Son of God. »
An obstacle along the road has stopped Jesus and the apostles, and the women join them. Jesus says to the women: « Go ahead, towards Jericho, and enter the town, if you wish so. I am going to Doco with the apostles. At sunset I shall be with you. »
« Oh! Why are You sending us away? We are not tired » say all the women protesting.
« Because I should like you, or at least some of you, to inform the disciples that I shall be at Nike's tomorrow. »
« If that is the case, Lord, we shall go. Come Eliza, and you Johanna, and you Susanna and Martha. We shall prepare everything » says Nike.
« And the boy and I. We shall do our shopping. Bless us, Master. And come soon. Are You staying, Mother? »
« Yes, with My Son. »
They part. Only the three Maries remain with Jesus: His Mother, Her sister-in-law Mary Clopas, and Mary Salome. And Jesus leaves the Jericho road and takes a secondary one that goes to Doco.
And He has not been long on it when from a caravan coming from I do not know where – a rich caravan that certainly comes from afar, because the women are mounted on camels, closed in swaying palanquins fastened to the humped backs, and the men are riding fiery horses or other camels – a young man departs and, making his camel kneel down, he slides from his saddle and goes towards Jesus. A servant, who has approached him, holds the animal by the reins.
The young man prostrates himself before Jesus, and after his deep salutation, he says to Him: « I am Philip of Canata, the son of true Israelites who have remained such. I was a disciple of Gamaliel until my father's death put me at the head of his business. I have heard You speak more than once. I am aware of Your deeds. I aspire to a better life to have the eternal one that You assure will be possessed by those who create Your Kingdom in themselves. So tell me, good Master, what shall I have to do to have eternal life? »
« Why do you call Me good? God alone is good. »
« You are the Son of God, as good as Your Father. Oh! tell me what I must do. »
« To enter eternal life observe the commandments. »
« Which, my Lord? The ancient ones or Yours? »
« The ancient ones already contain Mine, Mine do not alter the ancient ones. They are always the same: worship the Only true God and respect the laws of cult, do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not bring false witness, honour your father and mother, do not injure your neighbour but love him as you love yourself. By doing so you will have eternal life. »
« Master, I have observed all those commandments since my childhood »
Jesus casts a loving glance at him and kindly asks: « And do you think they are not yet sufficient? »
« No, Master. The Kingdom of God is a great thing in us and in the other life. God Who gives Himself to us is an infinite gift. I feel that what is our duty is very little compared with the All Infinite Perfect Being Who gives Himself to us, and I think that we should obtain Him by means of things that are greater than those commanded, in order not to be damned and be agreeable to Him. »
« You are right. To be perfect you still lack one thing. If you want to be as perfect as our Father in Heaven wants, go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and in Heaven you will have a treasure that will make you loved by the Father Who has given His Treasure to the poor of the Earth. Then come and follow Me. »
The young man becomes sad and pensive. He then stands up and says: « I will remember Your advice… » and he goes away sadly.
Judas smiles ironically and whispers: « I am not the only one who loves money! »
Jesus turns round and looks at him… then He looks at the other eleven faces around Him and says with a sigh: « How difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the gate of which is narrow, and the way is steep, and those who are laden with the bulky weights of riches cannot go along it and enter! To enter up there only the immaterial treasures of virtue are required and one must be able to part with everything that is attachment to the things of the world and to vanity. » Jesus is very sad…
The apostles look stealthily at one another…
Jesus, looking at the caravan of the young rich man move away, says: « I solemnly tell you that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. »
« Who can be saved, then? Poverty often makes one sin, through envy and lack of respect for other people's property, and through lack of confidence in Providence… Riches are an obstacle to perfection… So? Who can be saved? »
Jesus looks at them and says: « What is impossible for men, is possible for God, because everything is possible for God. It is sufficient for man to help his Lord with his good will. And it is good will to take the advice given and strive to achieve freedom from riches. To achieve complete freedom, in order to follow God. Because this is the true freedom of man: to follow the voices that God whispers to his heart, and His commandments, not to be the slave of himself, or of the world, or of respect of public opinion, and consequently not to be the slave of Satan. To make use of the wonderful free will that God gave man to wish Good only and freely, and thus attain the very bright, free and blissful eternal life. Man must not be slave even of his own life, if to gratify it he must resist God. I said to you: “He who loses his life for My sake and to serve God will save it forever.” »
« Well! We have left everything to follow You, even what was lawful. So what about us? Shall we enter Your Kingdom? » asks Peter.
« I tell you solemnly that those who have followed Me thus and those who follow Me – because there is always time to make amends for laziness and sins committed so far, there is always time while man is on the Earth and has days in front of him during which he can redress wrongs done – those will be with Me in My Kingdom. I tell you solemnly that you, who have followed Me in the regeneration, will sit on thrones to judge the tribes of the Earth with the Son of man Who will be sitting on the throne of His glory. And once again I tell you solemnly that there is no one who in My Name has left house, fields, father, mother, brothers, wife, sons and sisters to propagate the Gospel and continue My work, who will not receive one hundredfold in this present time and eternal life in the world to come. »
« But if we lose everything how can we centuplicate what we have? » asks Judas of Kerioth.
« I repeat: what is impossible for men is possible for God. And God will give one hundredfold of spiritual joy to those who from men of the world became sons of God, that is spiritual men. They will enjoy real happiness, both here and beyond the Earth. And I also say to you that not all those who seem to be the first, and ought to be the first having received more than everybody, will be such. And not all those who seem to be the last, and even less than the last, as they do not appear to be My disciples or to belong to the chosen People, will be the last. Truly, many who were first will become last, and many who were last, least, will become first… But there is Doco over there. Go ahead all of you, except Judas of Kerioth and Simon Zealot. Go and announce Me to those who may need Me. »
And Jesus with the two apostles He held back waits for the three Maries, who are following them at a few meters' distance.