15th March 1947.
A large number of people have crowded on Nike's meadows, where the hay is drying in the sun. And two heavy tilted wagons are waiting near the meadows. And I realise why they are waiting when I see all the women disciples being led towards them and get on them after the Master has blessed and dismissed them. Also the Blessed Virgin goes away with the other women disciples, and also the young man from Enon joins them, while many disciples place themselves at the sides of the wagons and, when the latter move off at the slow pace of the oxen, also the disciples set out. The apostles, Zacchaeus and his friends remain on the meadows with a small group of personages, all enveloped in their mantles, as if they did not want to be recognised.
Jesus slowly retraces His steps towards the middle of the meadow and sits on a heap of half-dry hay, which will soon be taken to the hay-loft. He is engrossed in thought, and everybody respects His concentration, remaining in three different groups, a little aside from Him and from one another.
The meditation is prolonged and so is the wait. The sun becomes stronger and stronger and blazes down on the meadow that smells strongly of drying stems. Those who are waiting take shelter at the edges of the meadow, where the last trees of the orchard cast a refreshing shade.
Jesus remains alone. Alone in the sun that is already strong, all white in His linen tunic and in the headgear of light byssus that blows lightly in the breeze. Perhaps it is the one woven by Syntyche. The slow plaintive bellowing of cows can be heard from a nearby stable, and the chirruping of nestlings from the branches of the trees in the orchard and from the threshing-floors: the chirping of fledglings and the peeping of cheeky chicks. The life that continues being renewed at each springtime. Doves are wheeling high above, before going back to their nest with steadfast flights. I do not know whether in Nike's nearby house, or in some field, a woman is singing a lullaby, and the thin voice of the child, at first shrill and trembling, like the bleating of a lamb, grows faint and then is silent...
Jesus is pensive. He is still meditating. Always. Insensible to the sun. I have often noted the exceptional resistance of our blessed Jesus to the rigours of the seasons. I have never understood whether He felt heat and cold severely and endured them without complaining, out of spirit of mortification, or whether, as He dominated unchecked elements, He also dominated excessive heat and cold. I do not know. I know that, although I have seen Him wet to the skin in downpours and wet with perspiration in dog-days, I have never noticed any gesture of discomfort in Him owing to heat or cold, neither have I seen Him take those precautionary measures that men usually take against the excesses of sun or frost.
It was pointed out to me one day that in Palestine it is not customary to go about bare-headed and that consequently I am wrong in saying that Jesus' bare fair-haired head shines in the sunshine. It may be very true that in Palestine it is not possible to go about bare-headed. I have never been there and I do not know. What I know is that Jesus usually does not wear any headgear. And if at the beginning of a journey He has any on, He soon takes it off, as if He were impatient of encumbrances, and He carries it in His hand, using it, more than anything else, to wipe the dust and perspiration from His face. When it rains, He covers His head with the edge of His mantle. In strong sunshine, particularly when He is on the way to some place, He looks for the shade of rows of trees, even if they are not close to one another, to protect Himself from sunbeams. But He hardly ever wears a light veil on His head as He is doing today. This comment may seem useless to some people, but it is also part of what I see and I mention it while Jesus is thinking...
« It will hurt Him to stay there so long! » exclaims one who belongs to a group that is neither the apostolic one nor Zacchaeus'.
« Let us go and tell His disciples... Further... I would like... I would not like to be delayed too long » replies another man.
« Eh! Yes. The Adummim mountains are not very safe by night... »
They go towards the apostles and speak to them.
« All right. I will go and tell them that you want to go away » says the Iscariot.
« No. Not thus. We would like to be at least at En-Shemesh before dark. »
Judas goes away smiling ironically. He bends over the Master and says to Him: « They say that it is because the sun may hurt You – but the truth is that they may be hurt by being noticed too much – but the Jews want to be dismissed. »
« I am coming... I was thinking... They are right » and Jesus stands up.
« Everybody, except me... » grumbles the Iscariot.
Jesus looks at him and is silent. They go together towards those men whom Judas has called Jews.
« I had already dismissed all of you. I told you yesterday. I will speak only in Jerusalem... »
« That is true. But the fact is that we should like to speak to You, we who... We can speak to you privately. »
« Satisfy them. They are afraid of us, or, more exactly, of me » says Judas of Kerioth again, with his venomous smile.
« We are not afraid of anybody. If we wanted we knew how to protect our tranquillity. But they are not all cowards yet in Palestine. We are descendants of David's valiant men, and if you are not yet despised and a slave, you must pay homage to our stock, the first by the holy king's side, the first by the Maccabees' side. And the first even now, when honour and advice are to be given to the Son of David. Because He is great. But every creature, no matter how great one may be, may need a friend in the crucial hours of life » replies passionately one who is all clothed with linen garments, including his mantle and headgear, which covers almost all his severe face.
« He has us as friends. We have been such for three years, since you... »
« We did not know Him. Too often we were deceived by false Messiahs to believe every assertion readily. But the latest events have enlightened us. His deeds are the deeds of God, and we say that He is the Son of God. »
« And do you think that He is in need of you? »
« As the Son of God, no. But as the Man, yes. He has come to be the Man. And the Man always needs men, His brothers. In any case, why are you afraid? Why do you not want us to speak? Tell us. »
« Me? Speak! You may speak! People listen more to sinners than to just men. »
« Judas! I thought that such words should feel like fire on your lips! How dare you judge when your Master does not judge? It is written: “If your sins were like scarlet, they shall become as white as snow, and if they were as red as crimson, they shall be as white as wool.” »
« But You are not aware that among these... »
« Be silent! Let them speak. »
« Lord, we know. The charge against You is ready. They accuse You of violating the Law and the Sabbaths, of loving the people of Samaria more than us, of defending publicans and prostitutes, of having recourse to Beelzebub and to other evil powers, of black magic, of hating the Temple and wanting to destroy it, of... »
« That is enough. Anybody can make charges, but it is more difficult to prove the charge. »
« But among them there are those who support it. Do You think that they are just in there? »
« I shall reply to you with the words of Job, who is a figure of the Patient Man who I am: “Far from me the thought of considering all of you just. But I will maintain my innocence until the end, I will not give up my justification which I have begun, because my conscience does not reproach me for anything in all my life.” Now, all Israel can testify, because I will not justify Myself with words that also a liar can speak, all Israel can testify that I have always taught people to respect the Law, nay, even more: that I perfected obedience to the Law, and the Sabbaths have not been profaned by Me... What do you want to say? Speak up! You made a gesture and then you stopped. Speak up! »
One of the... mysterious little group says: « Lord, at the last session of the Sanhedrin they read a denunciation against You. It came from Samaria, from Ephraim, where You were, and it stated that it had been proved that You had violated the Sabbath several times and... »
« And I reply to you once again with Job: “And what is the hope of the hypocrite if he steals out of avarice, and God does not free his soul?” This wretch, who shows one face and has a different heart and wants to commit the great robbery out of envy of My welfare, is already on the road to Hell, and it will be of no use for him to have money, and hope for honours, and dream to ascend where I did not want to go, in order not to betray the holy Decree. Shall we busy ourselves with him, but to pray for him? »
« But the Sanhedrin has derided You saying: “Here is the Samaritans' love for Him! They accuse Him to ingratiate themselves with us.” »
« Are you sure that it was a Samaritan hand that wrote those words? »
« No. But Samaria was severe with You during the past days... »
« Because the messengers of the Sanhedrin subverted and roused the people with false advice, exciting foolish hopes that I had to demolish. In any case it is said of Ephraim and of Judah, and it can be said of every place, because inconstant is the heart of man who forgets favours and yields to threats: “Your goodness is like morning mist, like dew that disappears in the morning.” But that does not prove that they, the Samaritans, are the accusers of the Innocent. A wrong love made them furious against Me, but it is love that is delirious. Which other proof proves the charge of preference for the Samaritans? »
« You are accused of loving them so much that You always say: “Listen, Israel”, instead of saying: “Listen, Judah”. And that You cannot reproach Judah... »
« Really? Is it there that the wisdom of the rabbis gets lost? Am I not the Branch of justice sprouted from David and through which, as Jeremiah says, Judah will be saved? The Prophet foresees that Judah, above all Judah, will then need salvation. And this Branch, says the Prophet again, will be called the Lord, our Just One “because, says the Lord, David shall never lack a male descendant to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.” So what? Has the Prophet made a mistake? Was he drunk? With what? Certainly with penance and nothing else. Because no one can maintain that Jeremiah was a guzzler, in order to accuse Me. And yet he says that the Branch of David will save Judah and sit on the throne of Israel. So one should say that the enlightened Prophet sees that Israel rather than Judah will be elected, that the King will go to Israel, and that it will be a grace if Judah receives only salvation. So will it be called the Kingdom of Israel? No. It will be called the Kingdom of Christ. Of Him Who joins the scattered parts and rebuilds in the Lord, after having, according to the other Prophet, in a month – what am I saying in a month? – in less than one day, judged and condemned the three false shepherds and closed My soul to them because their souls remained closed to Me, and although they desired Me in figure they did not love Me in Nature. Now He Who sent Me and gave Me the two staves will break both, so that Grace may be lost for cruel people, and the Scourge may come from the world, not from Heaven. And nothing is more painful than the scourges that men use for men. It will be so. Oh! so! I shall be struck and two thirds of the sheep will be scattered. Only one third, always one third only, will be saved and will persevere until the end. And this third part will pass through the fire through which I shall be the first to pass, and it will be purified and tested like silver and gold, and it will be said to it: “You are My people” and it will say to Me: “You are my Lord”. And there will be who weighs the thirty shekels, the price of the dreadful deed, the foul wages. And they will no longer be able to go back in from where they came out, because also the stones would cry with horror seeing those shekels, stained with the blood of the Innocent and with the perspiration of Him Who will be persecuted by the most violent desperation, and they will serve, as it was said, to buy the field for foreigners from the slaves of Babylon. Oh! the field for foreigners! Do you know who they are? Those of Judah and Israel, those who soon, for ages, will have no fatherland any more. Not even the earth of their ancient soil will receive them. It will vomit them out even when they are dead, because they wanted to repel the Life. How horrible!... »
Jesus becomes silent, as if He were oppressed, with His head lowered. He then raises it, looks round, He sees those who are present: the apostles, the secret disciples, Zacchaeus and his friends. He sighs like one who awakes from a nightmare. He says: « What else were you saying? Ah! that I am accused of loving publicans and prostitutes. That is true. They are sick, they are dying. I, the Life, give Myself to them as life. Come, My redeemed flock » He says to Zacchaeus and his friends. « Come and listen to My order. To many, who were whiter than you are, I said: “Do not come to Jerusalem”. To you I say: “Come”. This may seem to be unfair... »
« It is in fact » says the Iscariot interrupting Him.
Jesus feigns He has not heard him. He continues to speak to Zacchaeus and his companions saying to those enveloped in their mantles: « But I say to you: come, because you are plants that need dew more than others, so that your good will may be assisted by the Mighty Father and you may now grow freely in Grace. With regard to other matters... Heaven itself will reply by means of unmistakable signs. The living Temple may really be destroyed, and rebuilt in three days, and forever. But the dead Temple, which will only be shaken and will think that is has won, will perish never to rise again. Go! And be not afraid. Wait for My day, doing penance, and its dawn will bring you to the Light definitely. » He then says to Zacchaeus: « You may all go as well. But not now. Be in Jerusalem at the dawn of the day after the Sabbath. Beside the just I want those who have been raised again, because in the Kingdom of the Christ there are innumerable seats. As many as the men of good will. » And He sets out towards Nike's house through a thick shady orchard.
A little path is like a yellowish ribbon on the green ground and a clucking hen crosses it with her golden-hued chickens and the timorous mother, in the presence of so many strangers, crouches and spreads out her wings to defend them clucking louder, fearing danger for her little ones. And they rush and hide under the maternal feathers peeping until they feel safe, and do not seem to exist any more...
Jesus stops to contemplate her... and tears stream from His eyes.
« He is weeping! Why is He weeping? He is weeping! » they all whisper: the apostles, disciples and redeemed sinners. And Peter says to John: « Ask Him why He is weeping... » And John, in his usual attitude, lightly bent out of respect, looking up at Him, asks: « Why are You weeping, my Lord? Perhaps because of what You were told and what You said previously? »
Jesus rouses Himself, He smiles sadly and pointing at the hen, which is still protecting her offspring with love, He says: « I also, One with My Father, saw Jerusalem, as Ezekiel said, naked and shameful. I saw her and passed close to her, and when the time came, the time of My love, I spread My mantle on her and I covered her nakedness. I wanted to make her queen after being her father, and to protect her, as that hen is protecting her little ones... But, whilst the brood are grateful for the attention of their mother and take shelter under her wings, Jerusalem refuses My mantle... But I will persevere in My plan of love... I... My Father, later, will act according to His will. » And Jesus goes on to the grass in order not to disturb the brooding-hen and He passes by, and tears stream down His pale sorrowful face once again.
They all imitate Him, following His steps and whispering until they arrive at the threshold of Nike's house. Only Jesus goes in with the apostles and the others proceed to their destinations...