17th March 1947.
It is daybreak and its whiteness is shading into the early pink hue of dawn. The fresh silence of the country is broken more and more and is adorned with the trills of the awakened birds.
Jesus is the first to come out of Nike's house, He silently sets the door ajar and turns His steps towards the green orchard resounding with the limpid notes of blackcaps and the flute-like song of blackbirds.
But before He arrives there four people come from it towards Him. Four of those who were in the unknown group yesterday and who had never uncovered their faces. They prostrate themselves to the ground, and at Jesus' order and at the question He asks them, after greeting them with His salutation of peace: « Stand up! What do you want of Me? » they stand up, throw their mantles behind their backs and push back their linen headgears, with which they had hidden their faces, as do Bedouins.
I recognise the thin pale face of Joel of Abijah, the scribe seen in the vision of Sabea. I do not know the others until they mention their names: « I, Judas of Beth-Horon, the last of the true Hasidaeans, the friends of Mattathias the Asmonaean »; « I, Eliel, and my brother Elkanah from Bethlehem in Judah, the brothers of Johanna, Your disciple, and we have no greater title than that. We were absent when You were strong, we are present now that You are persecuted »; « I, Joel of Abijah, whose eyes have been blind for so long, but are now open to the Light. »
« I had already dismissed you. What do you want of Me? »
« To tell You that… if we are covered up, it is not because of You, but… » says Eliel.
« Come on! Speak up! »
« But Joel, you had better speak, because you are the most informed »
« Lord What I know is so… horrible… I would not like even the clods of earth to hear, to know what I am about to say… »
« The clods will really be startled, but I shall not. Because I know what you want to say. But speak just the same… »
« If You know… do not let my lips tremble saying such a dreadful thing. It is not the case that I think that You are lying saying that You know and that You want me to speak to inform You, but just because… »
« Yes. Because it is a thing that cries to the Lord. But I will mention it to persuade everybody that I know the hearts of men. You, a member of the Sanhedrin and won over to the Truth, have found out something that you cannot bear by yourself, because it is too great. And you went to these true Judaeans whose spirits are only good, to consult with them. You did the right thing, although it will be to no avail. The last of the Hasidaeans would be ready to repeat the gesture of his ancestors in order to serve the true Liberator. And he is not the only one. Also his relative Barzillai would do so and many more with him. And Johanna's brothers for My sake and for the sake of their sister, and also of their Fatherland, would join him. But I shall not triumph by means of lances and swords. Enter the Truth completely. My triumph will be a celestial one.
You – and this makes you even more pale and emaciated than usual – you know who presented the witnesses for the persecution against Me, the witnesses who, while they are false in their spirits, are truthful with regard to the material meaning of their words, because I did infringe the Sabbath when I had to flee, as My hour had not yet come, and when I saved two innocents from the highwaymen, and I could say that necessity justified the actions as necessity justified David for eating the consecrated bread. It is true that I took shelter in Samaria, although, when My hour came and the Samaritans suggested that I should remain with them as their Pontiff, I refused honours and safety to remain faithful to the Law, even if that means handing Myself to My enemies. It is true that I love sinners and prostitutes to the extent of tearing them away from sin. It is true that I preach the ruin of the Temple, even if these words of Mine are nothing but the Messiah's confirmation of the words of His prophets. He who makes these and other charges and turns also miracles into indictments, and has made use of everything on the Earth to try to induce Me to sin and be able to add further charges to the previous ones, is one of My friends. That also was said by the king prophet, from whom I descend through My Mother: “He who shared my bread raised his heel against me.” I know. I would die twice if I could, not to prevent him from committing the crime – by now… his will has surrendered to Death, and God does not do violence to man's freedom – but if at least… oh! if at least the torture of the horrible deed accomplished would make him repent at God's feet… That is why you, Judas of Beth-Horon, yesterday admonished Manaen to be quiet. Because the snake was present and he might have damaged the disciple, besides the Master. No. Only the Master will be struck. Be not afraid. It will not be because of Me that you will have sufferings and misfortunes, but because of the crime of a whole population you will all have what the prophets said.
Oh! My miserable Fatherland! Miserable land that will experience the punishment of God! Miserable inhabitants and children whom I now bless and I would like to be saved, and who, although innocent, when adults, will suffer the torture of the greatest misfortune. Look at this land of yours: flourishing, beautiful, green and flowery like a wonderful carpet, as fertile as Eden… Impress its beauty on your hearts, and then… when I shall have gone back whence I came… run away. Run away while you can, before the desolation of ruin, like a hellish fury, spreads here demolishing and destroying, making everything sterile and burning more than happened at Gomorrah, more than happened at Sodom… Yes, more than there, where it was nothing but quick death. Here… Joel, do you remember Sabea? For the last time she prophesied the future of God's people who did not want the Son of God. »
The four men are dumbfounded. The fear of the future makes them dumb. Eliel at last says: « What do You advise us to do?… »
« Yes. Go. There will be nothing left here worthy of detaining the children of Abraham's people. On the other hand, you notables of the people in particular, would not be left here… The mighty ones made prisoners embellish the triumph of the victor. The new and immortal Temple will fill the Earth with itself and every man seeking Me will have Me, because I shall be wherever a heart loves Me. Go. Take your women, sons and the old ones away… You are offering Me salvation and help. I advise you to save yourselves, and I help you by means of this advice… Do not disregard it. »
« But now… what greater harm can Rome do us? We are dominated. And if her law is a hard one, it is also true that Rome has rebuilt houses and towns and… »
« Really, you had better know that not one stone will be left intact in Jerusalem. Fire, battering-rams, catapults, spears will knock down, demolish, destroy every house and the holy City will become a cavern, and will not be the only one… Our Fatherland will become a cavern. The grazing ground of onagers and jackals, as the prophets say. And not for one or more years, or for ages, but forever. The desert, aridity, sterility… That is the destiny of this land! The field of contentions, the place of torture, the dream of reconstruction always destroyed by an inflexible sentence, attempts at resurrection stifled at birth. The destiny of the Land that rejected the Saviour and wanted a dew that is fire on culprits. »
« So… will there never again be a Kingdom of Israel? Shall we never again be what we dreamed? » ask the three Jewish notables in panting voices. Joel, the scribe, is weeping…
« Have you ever watched an old tree whose medulla has been destroyed by disease? For years it vegetates with difficulty, with so much difficulty that it neither blossoms nor yields fruit. Only rare leaves on the worn out branches reveal that there is still a little lymph rising… Then in April it blossoms miraculously, it becomes covered with dense foliage and the owner, who for many years took care of it without receiving any fruit, rejoices thinking that it has recovered and has become luxuriant after so much decay… Oh! deception! Sudden death follows such an exuberant outburst of life. The blossoms, leaves and little fruit fall off, while they seemed to have already set on the branches promising a rich harvest, and with a sudden crash the tree, rotten at its base, falls to the ground. That is what Israel will do. After ages of sterile scattered vegetation, it will gather on its old trunk and will have an appearance of reconstruction. The dispersed People gathered together at last. Gathered and forgiven. Yes. God will wait for that hour to end the course of ages. Then time will not longer exist, but only eternity. Blessed are those who, being forgiven, will form the fleeting blossoming of the last Israel that, after so many ages, will have become of the Christ, and will die redeemed, with all the peoples of the Earth, blessed with those who, among them, have not only become acquainted with My existence, but have embraced My Law as the law of salvation and life.
I can hear the voices of My disciples. Go before they come… »
« It is not out of cowardice, Lord, that we are trying to remain unknown, but to serve You, to be able to serve You. If they knew that we, I in particular, have come to You, we should be excluded from future resolutions… » says Joel.
« I understand. But bear in mind that the snake is wily. You in particular, Joel, be cautious… »
« Oh! let them kill me! I would prefer my death to Yours! So that I should not see the days You mentioned! Bless me, Lord to fortify me… »
« I bless you all in the name of God One and Trine and in the name of the Word Incarnate to be salvation for the men of good will. » He blesses them collectively with a wide gesture and then He lays His hand on each of the four heads bent at His feet.
They then stand up, they cover their faces again and they disappear among the trees of the orchard and the hedges of blackberries, that separate pear-trees from apple-trees and the latter from other trees. Just in time, because the twelve apostles come out of the house in a group looking for the Master, in order to set forth.
And Peter says: « In front of the house, towards the town, there is a large crowd of people, whom we held back with difficulty, to let You pray. They want to follow You. None of those You dismissed have left. On the contrary, many have come back and many have just arrived. We reproached them… »
« Why? Let them follow Me! I wish everybody did so! Let us go! » And Jesus, after putting on the mantle that John hands Him, places Himself at the head of His apostles, He arrives at the house, He passes by it, He takes the Bethany road and intones a psalm in a loud voice.
The people, a real crowd, the men first, then the women and children, follow Him, singing with Him… The town is left behind in its enclosure of greenery.
The road is busy with pilgrims. And on the roadside many beggars raise their plaintive voices to move the crowd to pity and thus receive abundant alms. Cripples, maimed and blind people… The usual miserable people who, in every age and in every region, are in the habit of gathering wherever a festivity assembles crowds. And if the blind people cannot see those who are passing by, the others can see them and as they know how kind the Master is to the poor, they utter their cries louder than usually, to draw Jesus' attention. But they do not ask for miracles. They only ask for alms, and Judas gives them alms.
A well-to-do looking woman stops the donkey, which she is riding, near a robust tree that shades a crossroad and she waits for Jesus. When He is close at hand, she slides down from her mount and prostrates herself, with some difficulty, because she is holding in her arms a little child, who is completely inert, She lifts it without saying a word. Her eyes and distressed face are praying. But Jesus is surrounded by people forming a hedge and He cannot see the poor mother kneeling on the roadside.
A man and a woman, who appear to be with the sorrowful mother, are speaking to her and the man shaking his head says: « There is nothing for us. » And the woman says: « Mistress, He has not seen you. Call Him with faith and He will hear your prayer. »
The mother listens to her and she shouts, in a loud voice, to overcome the noise of songs and steps: « Lord! Have mercy on me! »
Jesus, Who is a few metres ahead, stops and turns round looking for the person who has shouted, and the servant says: « Mistress, He is looking for you. So stand up and go to Him and Fabia will be cured » and she helps her to stand up and leads her towards the Lord Who says: « Who invoked Me, should come to Me. It is the time of mercy for those who can hope in mercy.. »
The two women elbow their way through the crowd, the servant in front preparing the way for the mother who follows her, and they are about to arrive near Jesus, when a voice shouts: « My dead arm! Look! Blessed be the Son of David. Our always mighty and holy true Messiah! »
There is some excitement because many people turn round and bustle about confusedly, moving like opposite waves around Jesus. Everybody wants to know, to see… They question an old man who is waving his right arm as if it were a flag and who replies: « He stopped, I succeeded in getting hold of the hem of His mantle and in covering myself with it, and something like fire and life ran along my arm, and here it is: my right arm is like my left one, only because it was touched by His garment. »
In the meantime Jesus asks the woman: « What do you want? » The woman raises her child and says: « She also is entitled to life. She is innocent. She did not ask to be of one place or of another one, of one blood or of a different one. I am guilty. I am to be punished. Not her. »
« Do you hope that God's mercy is greater than men's? »
« I do, Lord. I believe. On my behalf and on my child's to whom I hope You will give lucidity of mind and motion. You are said to be the Life… » and she weeps.
« I am the Life and those who believe in Me will have the life of the spirit and of their bodies. I want it! »
Jesus has shouted those words in a loud voice, and He now lays His hand on the inert child who thrills, smiles and says one word: « Mummy! »
« She moves! She smiles! She has spoken! Fabius! Mistress! » The two women have followed the phases of the miracle and have proclaimed them loud. And they have called the father who pushes through the crowd and arrives near the women when they are already at Jesus' feet weeping, and when the servant says: « I told you that He has mercy on everybody! », and the mother says: « And now forgive me also my sin. »
« Does Heaven not show you, through the grace granted to you, that your error has been forgiven? Rise and walk. On the new way, with your daughter and the man you have chosen. Go. Peace be with you. And with you, little girl. And with you, faithful Israelite. Great peace to you, for your loyalty to God and to the daughter of the family you served and you kept close to the Law with your heart. And peace also to you, man, who have been more respectful to the Son of man, than many in Israel. »
He takes His leave of them while the crowd, after leaving the old man, takes an interest in the new miracle for the paralysed dullwitted girl, perhaps the consequence of meningitis, and who is now skipping happily, saying the only words she knows, probably the ones she knew when she was taken ill and which now she finds intact again in her revived mind: « Father, mummy, Eliza. The beautiful sun! The flowers!… »
Jesus is about to go away, but from the cross-road that has now been overtaken, two more plaintive cries are heard in the typical Jewish accent, coming from the place where the donkeys have been left by the people who received the miracle: « Jesus, Lord! Son of David, have mercy on me! » And once again, in a louder voice, to overcome the shouts of the crowd who say: « Be quiet. Let the Master go on. The way is a long one, and the sun is becoming stronger and stronger. Let Him reach the hills before it gets hot », they shout: « Jesus, Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me. »
Jesus stops again saying: « Go and get those who are shouting and bring them here to Me. »
Some volunteers go. They reach the two blind men and say: « Come. He has mercy on you. Stand up because He wants to satisfy you. He sent us to call you in His name » and they try to guide the two blind men through the crowd.
But if one lets them guide him, the other, who is younger and probably has more faith, precedes the intentions of the volunteers and moves forward by himself, with his stick pointed forward and the typical smile and attitude of blind people in raising their faces seeking light… and he proceeds so fast and sure of himself that he seems to be led by his angel. If his eyes were not white, he would not seem to be blind.
He is the first to arrive before Jesus Who stops him asking: « What do you want Me to do for you? »
« That I may see, Master. O Lord, let my eyes and those of my companion open. » The other blind man has arrived and they make him kneel near his companion.
Jesus lays His hands on their raised faces and says: « Let it be done as you wish. Go! Your faith has saved you! »
He removes His hands and two cries come from their lips: « I can see, Uriel! »; « I can see, Bartimaeus! » and then together: « Blessed He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed He Who sent Him! Glory be to God! Hosanna to the Son of David » and prostrating themselves with their faces on the ground they kiss Jesus' feet. They then stand up and the one named Uriel says: « Lord, I am going to let my relatives see me, then I will come back and follow You. » Bartimaeus instead says:« I am not going to leave You. I will send word to them. It will always be a great joy. But I am not going to part from You. You have given me my eyesight. I consecrate my life to You. Have Pity on the wish of the least of Your servants. »
« Come and follow Me. Good will makes all statuses equal, and he only is great who knows how to serve the Lord in a better way. »
And Jesus takes to the road again amid the hosannas of the crowd, and Bartimaeus mingles with the people and while going he sings hosannas saying: « I came for a piece of bread and I found the Lord. I was poor, now I am a minister of the holy King. Glory to the Lord and to His Messiah »…