31st March 1947.
Jesus comes out early from the tent of a Galilean, on the tableland on the Mount of Olives, where many Galileans gather on the occasion of solemn festivities. The Field is all asleep, lit up by the moon that is setting slowly, enveloping tents; trees and slopes, and the town asleep down there at the bottom, in a white-silvery light...
Jesus passes resolutely and noiselessly among the tents, and once He is out of the Field, He goes down fast along the steep slopes towards Gethsemane, He passes through it, comes out of it, He crosses the little bridge over the Kidron, a silver ribbon singing to the moon, He arrives at the Gate watched over by legionaries. This night watch at the closed Gates is probably a precautionary measure of the Proconsul. The soldiers, four in all, are speaking sitting on large stones placed as seats against the massive wall, and they are warming themselves at a little fire of dry twigs that casts a reddish light on the shining loricas and stern helmets, under which appear faces so different, in their Italic features, from those of the Hebrews.
« Who is there!” asks the first one who sees Jesus' tall figure appear from behind the corner of a little house near the Gate, and he grasp a sharp-pointed spear that was leaning against the nearby wall, and he stands in the prescribed attitude, imitated by the others. And without giving Jesus time to reply he says: “No one is allowed to come in. Don't you know that this is the end of the second watch?”
« I am Jesus of Nazareth. My mother is in town, I am going to Her. »
« Oh the Man Who brought back from the dead the man of Bethany! By Jove! I shall see him at last! » And he approaches Him looking at Him curiously, walking around Him, as if he wished to make sure that it is not something unreal, something strange, but a man like everybody else. And he says so: « Oh! My goodness! He is as handsome as Apollo, but He is made exactly like us! And he has neither baton, nor cap, nor any sign of His power! » He is perplexed. Jesus looks at him patiently, smiling gently.
The others, who are not so curious–they have probably already seen Jesus on other occasions – say: « It would have been a good thing if He had been there half way through the first watch, when the beautiful girl, who died this morning, was taken to her sepulchre. We would have seen her rise... »
Jesus kindly repeats: « May I go to My Mother? »
The four soldiers rouse up. The senior says: « Actually, according to insructions, we should not let anybody pass. But You would pass just the same. He who forces the doors of Hades, can easily force the gates of closed town. And You are not a man who will provoke rebellions. So the prohibition does not apply to You. Try not to be seen by the patrol in town. Open the gate, Marcus Gratus. And You, go in noiselessly. We are soldiers and we must obey... »
« Be not afraid. Your kindness will not become a punishment for you. »
One of the legionaries cautiously opens the wicket-door within the huge main door and says: “Be quick. The second watch ends shortly and we shall be replaced by the guards.
« Peace be with you »
« We are warriors... »
« The peace I give lasts also in wartime, because it is the peace of the soul. »
And Jesus enters the dark arch opened in the thick wall. He passes silently before the guard-room, through the door of which comes the flickering light of an oil lamp, hanging from a hook of the low ceiling, and which allows one to see the bodies of soldiers sleeping on mats laid on the floor, all wrapped in their mantles, with their weapons beside them.
Jesus is in town by now.. and I lose sight of Him, while I watch two of the previous soldiers go back in, after watching to see whether Jesus had gone away, before waking the sleeping soldiers for the change.
« He can no longer be seen... I wonder what he meant by those words. I should have liked to know” says the younger one.
« You should have asked Him. He does not despite us. He is the only Jew who does not look down on us and does not annoy us in any way” replies the other one, who is in full manhood.
« I did not dare. How could I, a peasant from Benevento, speak to a man. Who is said to be God? »
A god riding a donkey? Ha! Ha! If He were as drunk as Bacchus, He might do that. But He is not drunk. I don't think He even drinks honeyed wine. Don't you see how wan and lean He is?
« And yet the Hebrews... »
« They do drink, although they pretend they don't And inebriated with the strong wines of this land and with their strong drinks, they have seen god in a man. Believe me. The gods are idle stories. Olympus is empty and the Earth has none. »
« If they heard you... »
« Are you still childish to the extent of not being a candidate and not knowing that Caesar himself does not believe in the gods, neither do the pontifices, the augurs, the haruspices, the Arval brethren, the vestal virgins, or anybody else? »
« Why then...? »
« Why the rites? Because people like them, they are useful to the priest and Caesar avails himself of them to be obeyed, as if he were an earthly god held by the hand by the Olympian gods. But the first not to believe are those whom we venerate as ministers of the gods. I am pyrrhonian. I have traveled round the world. I have had many experiences. My hair has become grey at my temples and my way of thinking has matured. My personal code consists of three sentences. To love Rome, the only goddess and the only certainty, to the extent of sacrificing my life for her. To believe nothing, because everything around us is an illusion, with the exception of our sacred immortal Fatherland. We must doubt even ourselves, because it is not certain whether we live. Senses and reason are not sufficient to make us know for certain that we have succeeded in knowing the Truth and to live and to die are of the same value, because we do not know what it is to live and what is to die » he says, affecting the philosophic skepticism of a superior mind...
The other one looks at Him doubtfully. He then says: « I, instead, believe. And I should like to know... To learn from that man who has just gone by. He certainly knows the Truth. Something strange emanates from Him. It is a light that penetrates you! »
May Aesculapius save you! You are ill! You came up to town from the valley only a short time ago, and those who make that journey and are not acclimatised to these surroundings become easily feverish. Your mind is wandering. Come. Only warm wine with spices can make you sweat the poison of Jordan fever... » and he pushes him towards the guard-room.
But the other one frees himself saying: « I am not ill. I don't want any warm spiced wine. I want to watch over there, beyond the walls (he points at the inner side of the walls) and wait for the man who said He is Jesus. »
« If you don't mind waiting... I am going to wake up the men for the change. Goodbye... »
« And he goes into the guard-room noisily, awaking his companions and shouting: « Your time is up. Come on, you lazy idlers! I am tired! ... » He yawns noisily and curses, because they have let the fire go out and they have drunk all the warm wine « so necessary to dry the Palestinian dew... »
The other one, the young legionary, leaning against the wall, illuminated lightly by the moon from the west, is waiting for Jesus to retrace His steps. The stars are watching over his hope...
In the meantime Jesus has arrived at Lazarus' house on the hill of Zion and knocks at the door. Levi opens it to Him.
You, Master?! The ladies are sleeping. Why did You not send a servant, if You needed something? »
« They would not have let him pass. »
« Ah! that is true! But how did You pass? »
« I am Jesus of Nazareth. And the legionaries let Me pass. But it not to be divulged, Levi. »
« I will not mention it... They are better than many of us! »
« Take Me where My Mother is sleeping and do not wake anybody else in the house. »
« As You wish, Lord. Lazarus has ordered all the managers of his houses to obey You in everything without any discussion or delay. It was just after dawn when a servant, many servants took his order to all the houses. Obey and be quiet. We will do that. You gave our master back to us... »
The man trots ahead of Jesus along the corridors, as wide as galleries, of Lazarus' wonderful mansion on the hill of Zion, and the light he is carrying in his hands illuminates in a fantastic manner the furniture and tapestry adorning the wide corridors. The man stops at a closed door saying: « Your Mother is in there. »
« You may go. »
« And what about the light? Do You not want it? I can go back without it. I know the house very well. I was born here. »
« Leave it. And do not take the key out of the door. I am going out at once. »
« You know where to find me. I will lock it as a precaution. But I shall be ready to open the door for You as soon as You come. »
Jesus remains alone. He knocks lightly, such a light knock that only one wide awake can hear it.
There is a noise in the room, as of a chair being moved, and a light shuffling of feet, and a low subdued voice asks: « Who is knocking? »
« It is I, Mother. Open the door. » The door is opened at once. Only the moonlight illuminates the quiet room and spreads its rays on an untouched bed. A chair is near the window wide open on the mystery of the night.
« Were You not sleeping yet? It is late! »
« I was praying... Come, Son. Sit here where I was » and She points at the chair near the window.
« I cannot stop. I have come to get You and go to Eliza at Ophel. Annaleah is dead. Did You not know? »
« No. Nobody... When, Jesus? »
« After I passed. »
« After You passed! So You were the liberating Angel for her?! The Earth was such a prison for her! Happy girl! I wish I were in her place! Did she die... of a natural death? I mean: not by a misfortune? »
« She died of the joy of loving. I was told when I was already on the slope of the Temple. Come with Me, Mother. We are not afraid of profaning ourselves to comfort a mother who held in her arms her daughter who died of supernatural joy... Our first virgin! The one who came to You at Nazareth, to see Me and ask Me to give her this joy... Remote peaceful days. »
« The other day she was singing like a blackcap in love and she kissed Me saying: “I am happy!”, and she was eager to hear everything about You. How God formed You. How He chose Me. And My first throbs of a consecrated virgin... Now I understand... I am ready, Son. »
Mary, while speaking, has put up Her plaits that were hanging down Her shoulders, making Her look like a young girl, and She has put on Her veil and mantle.
They go out making the least possible noise. Levi is already near the main door. He explains why saying: « I preferred so... Because of my wife... Women are curious. She would have asked me dozens of questions. Instead she does not know... »
He opens the door and is about to close it. Jesus says: « I will bring My Mother back during this watch. »
« I shall be watching here. Do not be afraid. »
« Peace to you. »
They go along the silent empty streets, from which the moonlight is slowly withdrawing, while it still shines on the tops of the tall houses on the hill of Zion. It is brighter in the suburb of Ophel where the modest houses are lower.
Here is Annaleah's house, Closed, dark, silent. Some withered flowers are still lying on the two steps of the house. Perhaps they were thrown by the virgin before she died, or they fell off her coffin... Jesus knocks at the door. He knocks again...
The noise of a window opened on the upper part of the building. A dejected voice asks: « Who is knocking? »
« Mary and Jesus of Nazareth » replies Mary. « Oh! I am coming!... »
A short wait, then the noise of the sliding bars. The door is opened showing the worn-out face of Eliza, who is holding on with difficulty the door-post, and when Mary going in stretches Her arms towards her, she collapses on Her breast, sobbing faintly like one who has wept so much as to have no tears or voice left.
Jesus closes the door patiently waiting for His Mother to soothe so much grief. There is a room close to the door. They go into it and Jesus takes the lamp that Eliza had laid on the floor of the entrance before opening the door. The tears of the mother seem to be endless. She speaks to Mary sobbing hoarsely. A mother is speaking, the Mother... Jesus, standing against a wall, is silent...
Eliza cannot resign herself to that death, that happened so... And in her grief she blames Samuel, the perjurious fiance, for it: “That cursed man broke her heart! She never said anything, But I wonder for how long she had been suffering! And in her joy, in shouting, her heart broke. May he be cursed forever. »
« No, My dear. No. Do not curse, It is not so. God loved her so much that He wanted her in His peace. But even if she had died because of Samuel – it is not so, but let us suppose so for a moment – consider what a joyful death she had, and say that the wicked deed brought about a happy death for her. »
« I no longer have her! She is dead! She is dead! You do not know what it is to lose a daughter! Twice I have tasted that sorrow. Because I was already weeping over her, as she was as good as dead, when Your Son cured her. But now... But now... He did not come back! He did not have mercy... I have lost her! Lost! My child is already in her grave! Do You know what it means to see a son in the throes of death? To know that he must die? To see him dead, when one thought he had recovered and was strong? You do not know. You cannot say anything... She was as beautiful as a rose that had just opened in the early sunshine, when she was adorning herself this morning. She had wanted to adorn herself with the dress I had made for her wedding. She was also intending to crown herself as a bride. Then she preferred to undo the garland, that was ready, and pluck the flowers to throw them to Your Son, and she sang! She sang! Her voice filled the house. She was as graceful as springtime. Joy made her eyes shine like stars, and her parted lips showing her white teeth were a delicate pomegranate red, and her cheeks were as rosy and fresh as spring roses adorned with dew. And she became as white as a lily that had just opened. And she bent on my breast like a broken stem... Not another word! Not a sigh! No longer colourful. Not a glance. As placid and beautiful as an angel of God, but lifeless. As You are rejoicing in the triumph of Your Son, and He is healthy and strong, You do not know what my grief is like Why did He not come back? In what had she displeased Him, and I with her, that He did not hear my prayer? »
« Eliza! Eliza! Do not say... Grief is making you blind and deaf. Eliza, you are not aware of My suffering. And you do not know what a deep sea My suffering will become. You saw she was placid and beautiful when she relaxed in peace. In your arms. I... I have been contemplating My Child for over thirty years and, beyond the smooth clean body that I contemplate and caress, I see the wounds of the Man of sorrows that My Son will be. You who say that I do not know what it is to see a son go to his death twice, and to die once and remain thus in peace, do you know what it means to a mother to see such a vision for so many years? My Son! Here He is. He is already dressed in red, as if He were coming out of a bath of blood. And soon, before long, the face of your daughter will not yet have become dark in her grave, and I shall see Him dressed it: the purple of His innocent Blood. Of the Blood that I gave Him. And while you received your daughter on your heart, do you know what My sorrow will be like, seeing My Son die like a criminal on a cross of wood? Look at Him, the Saviour of everybody! In their spirits and in their flesh. Because the flesh of those saved by Him will be incorrupt and blessed in His Kingdom. And look at Me! Look at this Mother Who continually accompanies and takes Her Son to the Sacrifice! Oh! I would not hold Him back one step! I can understand you, poor mother. But try and understand My heart! Do not hate My Son. Annaleah would not have been able to put up with the agony of her Lord. And her Lord made her blessed in an hour of jubilation. »
Eliza has stopped weeping upon hearing this revelation. She stares at Mary, Whose pale face of a martyr is wet with silent tears, she looks at Jesus, Who is looking at her pitifully... and she kneels at Jesus' feet moaning: « But she is dead! She is dead, Lord! Like a lily, a broken lily. The poets say that You take delight in lilies! Oh! really, You, born of the lily-Mary, often come down among flowery flower-beds, and You turn purple roses into snow-white lilies, and You pick them removing them from the world. Why? Why, Lord? Is it not fair that a mother should enjoy the rose born of her? Why extinguish its purple in the cold whiteness of death of a lily? »
« Lilies! They will be the symbol of those women who love Me as My Mother loved God. The snow-white flower-bed of the Divine King. »
« But we mothers shall weep. We mothers have a right to our children. Why deprive them of life? »
« I do not mean that, woman. The daughters will remain, but consecrated to the King, like the virgins in the palaces of Solomon. Remember the Song... And they will be spouses, the beloved, on the Earth and in Heaven. »
« But my daughter is dead! She is dead! » And she resumes weeping in a heart-rending manner.
« I am the Resurrection and Life. Who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live, and I solemnly tell you that he will never die. Your daughter is living. She will live forever because she believed in Life. My Death will be complete Life for her. She was aware of the Joy of living in Me before being aware of the grief of seeing Me torn away from life. Your sorrow makes you blind and deaf, as My mother rightly says. You will soon be repeating the word I sent you this morning: “Her death was really a grace of God.” Believe Me, woman. Horror is hanging over this place. And the day will come when mothers who have been struck like you, will say: “Praised be God Who spared our children these days.” And the mothers who have not been struck will cry to Heaven: “Why, o God, did You not kill your children before this hour?” Believe Me, woman. Believe My words. Do not raise between Annaleah and yourself the real barrier that separates people, that of the difference of faith. See? I could have refrained from coming. You know how much I am hated. Do not let the triumph of one hour deceive you!... Every corner may conceal a trap for Me. And I have come alone, at night, to console you and speak these words to you. I pity the sorrow of a mother. But I have come to say these words to you for the peace of your soul. Peace be with you! Peace! »
« Give me it, Lord! I cannot! In my grief I cannot set my mind at rest. But You, Who give life back to the dead and health to the dying, give peace to the heart of a mother torn by grief. »
« Let it be so, woman. Peace to you. » He imposes His hands on her, blessing her and praying silently over her. Mary has also knelt down beside Eliza, embracing her with Her arm.
« Goodbye, Eliza, I am going... »
« Shall we not meet again, Lord? I shall not leave my house for many days, and You will be going away after the Passover festivities. You... are still part of my daughter somehow... because Annaleah... because Annaleah lived in You and for You. » She weeps. More calmly, but how much she weeps!
Jesus looks at her... He caresses her grey-haired head and He says to her: « You will see Me again. »
« When? »
« In eight nights' time as from tonight. »
« And will You comfort me again? Will You bless me to give strength? »
« My heart will bless you with all the fullness of My love for those who love Me. Come, Mother. »
« Son, if You will allow Me, I should like to remain a little long with this mother. Sorrow is a billow that comes back again, after He Who gives peace has gone away... I will come back at the first hour. I am not afraid to come by Myself. You know that. And You know that I would pass through a whole enemy army to console a brother of Mine in God. »
« As You wish. I am going. God be with you. »
He goes out noiselessly, closing the door of the room and that the house.
He goes back to the walls, to the Gate of Ephraim, or the Stercoral or Dung Gate, because I have heard several times these two Gates, which are close to each other, mentioned with these three names, perhaps because one opens on the Jericho road, which is at the bottom, a road that takes one to Ephraim, and the other is close to the Hinnom valley, where the rubbish of the town is burnt, and they are so alike that I confuse them.
It is just beginning to dawn on the eastern side of the sky, which however, is still crowded with stars. The streets are enveloped in a dim light that is more tedious than the darkness of the night, that was moderated by the white light of the moon. But the Roman soldier has good sight, and as soon as he sees Jesus advancing towards the Gate, he goes to meet Him.
« Hail. I have been waiting for You... » He stops hesitating. « Speak up without any fear. What do you want of Me? »
« To know. You said: “The peace that I give lasts also in wartime because it is the peace of the soul.” I should like to know what peace it is, and what is the soul. How can a man, who is at war, be at peace. The temple of Peace is closed when Janus' is opened. The two things cannot be together in the world. » He is speaking leaning against the low greenish wall of a kitchen garden, in a lane as narrow as a path running through fields, among poor houses, a damp, gloomy. dark lane. Apart from a glimmer showing the burnished helmet, nothing else can be noticed of the two who are speaking. The shadow envelopes their faces and bodies in complete darkness.
Jesus' voice sounds mild and bright because of His joy in throwing a seed of light into the heathen. « It is true, peace and war cannot be together in the world. One excludes the other. But in a warrior there can be peace even if he is ordered to fight in a war. My peace can be in him. Because My peace comes from Heaven and it is not upset by the rumble of war or the ferocity of massacres. A divine thing, it invades the divine thing that man has within himself, and is named soul. »
« Divine? In me? Caesar is divine. I am the son of peasants. Now I am a private soldier. If I am valiant, I may become a centurion. But not divine. »
« There is a divine part in you. It is the soul. It comes from God. from the true God. So it is divine, a living gem in man, and it nourishes itself and lives with divine things: faith, peace, truth. War does not upset it. Persecutions do not injure it. Death does not kill it. Evil only, doing what is ugly, wounds or kills it, and also deprives it of the peace that I grant. Because evil separates man from God. »
« And what is evil? »
« To be in heathenism and worship idols when the goodness of the true God has made one know that there is the true God. Not to love one's father, mother, brothers and one's neighbour. To steal, to kill, to be rebellious, to be lustful, to be false. That is evil. »
« Ah! then I cannot have Your peace! I am a soldier and I am ordered to kill. So there is no salvation for us?! »
« Be as just in wartime as you are in peace-time. Do your duty without cruelty and without avidity. While fighting and conquering, consider that your enemy is like you, and that every town has mothers and girls like your mother and your sisters, and be brave without being a brute. You will not move away from justice and peace, and My peace will remain in you. »
« And then? »
« And then? What do you mean? »
« After my death? What will happen to the good I have done and to the soul, that You say does not die if one does not do evil things? »
« It lives. It lives adorned with the good it has done, in a joyful peace, greater than the one any man enjoys on the Earth. »
« So in Palestine only one person had done good! I see. »
« Who? »
« Lazarus of Bethany. His soul did not die! »
« Truly, he is a just man. But many are like him, and they die without being raised from the dead, but their souls live in the true God. Because the soul has another abode, in the Kingdom of God. And those who believe in Me will enter into that Kingdom. »
« Even I, a Roman? »
« You as well, if you believe in the Truth. »
« What is the Truth? »
« I am the Truth and the Way to go to the Truth, and I am the Life and I give the Life, because those who accept the Truth accept the Life. »
The young soldier is pensive..., silent... Then he raises his face. The still pure face of a young man, and he smiles, a limpid, serene smile. He says: « I will try to remember all this and to learn even more. I like it... »
« What is your name? »
« Vital. From Benevento. From the countryside of that town. »
« I will remember your name. Make your spirit really vital by nourishing it with the Truth. Goodbye. The Gate is being open I am leaving the town. »
« Hail! »
Jesus goes quickly to the Gate and hastens along the road leading to the Kidron and to Gethsemane and thence to the Field of Galileans.
Among the olive-trees of the mountain He meets with Judas Kerioth, who is also going up fast towards the Field, which is awaking. Judas makes a gesture as if he were frightened finding himself in front of Jesus. Jesus looks at him fixedly, without speaking.
« I went to take food to the lepers. But... I found two at Hinnom, five at Siloam. The others, cured. They are still there, but they are cured so well that they asked me to inform the priest. I had gone down at daybreak, to be free later. It will cause a stir. Such a large number of lepers cured at the same time after You blessed them in the presence of so many people! »
Jesus does not speak. He lets him speak... He does not say: « You did the right thing », or anything else concerning Judas' action an the miracle, but stopping suddenly and staring at the apostle He asks him: « Well? The fact that I left you freedom and money, what change has it made? »
« What do You mean? »
« This: I am asking you whether you have sanctified yourself since I gave you back freedom and money. And you understand Me... Ah! Judas! Bear it in mind! Always bear it in mind: you are the one whom I loved more than anybody else, receiving from you less love than all the others have given Me. Nay, I received hatred greater, because it is the hatred of one whom I treated as a friend, than the fiercest hatred of the fiercest Pharisee. And remember also this: that not even now I hate you, but as far as the Son of man is concerned. I forgive you. Go, now. Nothing more is to be said between you and Me. Everything has already been done... »
Judas would like to say something, but Jesus with an authoritative gesture beckons to him to go on... And Judas, his head lowered like a defeated man, goes on...
At the boundary of the Field of the Galileans, the apostles and Lazarus' two servants are ready.
« Where have You been, Master? And you, Judas? Were you together? »
Jesus prevents Judas' reply saying: « I had something to say to some hearts. Judas went to the lepers... But they are all cured, except seven. »
« Oh! why did you go? I wanted to come, too! » says the Zealot.
« To be free now to come with us. Let us go. We shall enter into town by the Sheep Gate. Let us make haste » says Jesus again.
He is the first to set out, passing through the olive-groves that take one from the Field, situated almost half-way between Bethany and Jerusalem, to the other little bridge that spans the Kidron near the Sheep Gate.
Some houses of peasants are scattered along the slopes, and almost at the bottom, near the water of the torrent, a ruffled figtree dangles over the stream. Jesus turns His steps towards it and He searches among the large thick leaves to see whether there are any ripe figs. But the fig-tree is nothing but leaves, many useless leaves, but there is not one fruit on its branches.
You are like many hearts in Israel. You are neither kind nor pitiful to the Son of man. May you never bear fruit again and may no one ever eat of your fruit in future » says Jesus.
The apostles look at one another. They are surprised at Jesus' anger at the barren tree, which is probably a wild one. But they do not say anything. Only later, after crossing the Kidron, Peter asks Him: « Where did You eat? »
« Nowhere. »
« Oh! Then You are hungry! There is a shepherd over there pasturing some goats. I will go and ask for some milk for You. I will not be long » and he strides away and comes back cautiously with an old bowl full of milk.
Jesus drinks it and with a caress He hands the bowl back to the young shepherd who had come with Peter...
They enter into the town and go up to the Temple and, after worshipping the Lord, Jesus goes back to the court where the rabbis teach.
People crowd round Him, and a mother, who has come from Cintium, shows Him her little boy whom a disease, I think, has made blind His eyes are white, as if he had a large cataract over his pupil or a leucoma. Jesus cures him touching his eyes lightly with His fingers. And He immediately begins to speak:
« A man bought a piece of ground and planted a vineyard in it, he built a house for the husbandmen, a tower for the caretakers, wine-cellars and places where to press the grapes, and he leased it to tenants whom he trusted. Then he went abroad. When the time came that the vineyard could bear fruit, as the vines had grown to the extent of being fruit-bearing, the owner of the vineyard sent his servants to the tenants to collect the profit of the harvest. But the tenants surrounded the servants and they beat some, they stoned some with heavy stones wounding them seriously, and they killed some of them. Those who had survived and had gone back to the landowner, told him what had happened to them. The owner cured and comforted them and sent more servants, this time a larger number. And the tenants dealt with them as they had done with the previous ones. Then the owner of the vineyard said: “I will send my son to them. They will certainly respect my heir.” But the tenants, when they saw him come and they realised that he was the heir, said to one another: “Come. Let us gather together in a large number. Let us take him out, to a remote place, and kill him. His inheritance will be left to us.” And, receiving him with hypocritical honours, they gathered round him as if they wished to give a hearty welcome, then, after kissing him, they tied him, they gave him a good thrashing, and with endless mocking words they took him to the place of torture and killed him. Now tell Me. That father and owner, who one day will realise that his son and heir to his property is not coming back, and he finds out that his servant-tenants, to whom he had given his land to cultivate in his name enjoying a fair share of it and giving what was fair to their master are the murderers of his son, what will he do? » and Jesus' saphire eyes, as bright as if they were lit by the sun, flash on the people present, and particularly on the groups of the more influential Judaeans, Pharisees and scribes, scattered among the crowd.
No one speaks.
« So, speak up! At least you, rabbis of Israel. Speak the word of justice to convince the people to be just. I might speak a word that is not good, according to your minds. So I ask you to speak, so that the people may not be led into error. »
The scribes are compelled to reply and they say: « He will punish the wicked men with a cruel death and will give the vineyard to other tenants, so that they may cultivate it in an honest manner, giving him the fruit of land entrusted to them. »
« What you said is correct. In the Scriptures it is written: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the keystone. This is the work of the Lord and it is wonderful to see.” Therefore, as it is written thus, and you know, and you rightly judge that those tenants who killed the son and heir of the owner of the vineyard should be punished in a cruel manner and the vineyard should be given to other tenants to be cultivated in an honest way, well, that is why I say to you: “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to people to make it yield fruit. And he who falls against this stone will break in pieces, and he upon whom the stone falls, will be crushed.” »
The chief priests, the Pharisees and scribes, with a really... heroic attitude, do not react. So powerful is the eagerness to reach one's aim! On past occasions they at least opposed Him, whereas today, when the Lord Jesus openly tells them that their power will be taken away from them, they do not abuse Him, they do not react violently against Him, they do not threaten Him, behaving like false patient lambs, that under the hypocritical appearance of meekness conceal the unchangeable hearts of wolves.
They just approach Him, as He has resumed walking backwards and forwards, listening to this one and that one of the many pilgrims who have gathered in the wide court, many of whom ask Him for advice for cases concerning their souls or family or social situations, and they wait to be able to say something to Him after hearing Him give His opinion to a man on a complicated matter of inheritance, which has brought about discord and ill-feeling among several heirs, because of a son their father had to a maidservant of the household and whom he adopted. The legitimate sons do not want the illegitimate one to stay with them, neither do they wish to have him joint heir in the sharing of houses and fields, as they do not want to have anything further to do with him. But they do not know how to settle the matter, because their father before dying made them swear that, as he had always divided the bread among the illegitimate son and the legitimate ones in equal parts, so they had to share out the inheritance in equal measure with him.
Jesus says to the man who is consulting Him on behalf of his three brothers: « Each of you should give up a piece of ground and sell it, in order to put together the money equivalent to one fifth of the total patrimony, and give it to the illegitimate son saying: “Here is your share. You are not being cheated out of what belongs to you, neither have we wronged our father's will. Go and God be with you.” And give plentifully, even more than the exact value of his share. Do so in the presence of just witnesses, and no one on the Earth or beyond the Earth will be able to utter a word of reproach or give rise to a scandal. And there will be peace among you and in you, as you will not feel remorse for disobeying your father, and you will not have with you him who, although really innocent, upsets you more than if he were a highwayman placed among you. »
The man says: « The illegitimate son really upset the peace of our family, he ruined the health of my mother who died of grief, and usurped a place that did not belong to him. »
Man, he is not guilty, but he who procreated him is to be blamed. He did not ask to be born and bear the mark of illegitimacy. It was the covetousness of your father who begot him to hand him over sorrow and to grieve you. Be therefore just towards the innocent man who is already painfully expiating a sin that is not his. Do not let the spirit of your father be anathema to you. God has judged him. Your curses are not required. Always honour your father, even if he is guilty, not for himself, but because he represented your God on the Earth, as he created you by God's decree and because he is the lord of your house. Parents come immediately after God. Remember the Decalogue. And do not sin. Go in peace. »
The priests and scribes approach Him then to question Him: « We heard You. What You said is right. Not even Solomon could have given a wiser piece of advice. But since You work wonders You give advice such as only the wise king could give, tell us what authority have You to do such things? Whence does such power come to You? »
Jesus stares at them. He is neither aggressive nor contemptuous but He is very imposing. He says: « I also have a question to ask you, and if you reply to Me, I will tell you by which authority I, a poor man without authority of offices – because that is what you mean – do these things. Tell Me: where did John's baptism come from? From Heaven or from the man who administered it? Reply to me By which authority did John administer it as a purifying rite prepare you for the coming of the Messiah, if John was even poorer and less learned than I am, and he had no office whatsoever as he lived in the desert since his childhood? »
The scribes and priests consult with one another. The people press round them, with wide-open eyes and pricked up ears, ready to protest if the scribes disqualify the Baptist and offend the Master, and to acclaim if they are defeated by the question of the divinely wise Rabbi of Nazareth. The dead silence of this crowd awaiting the reply is striking. It is so profound that the breathing and whispering of the priests and scribes can be heard, as they speak to one another almost without uttering words, and in the meantime they glances at the people, whose feelings they realise are ready to explode. At last they make up their minds and they reply. They turn towards the Christ Who, leaning against a column, His arms folded across His chest, scans their faces without ever losing sight of them, and they say: « Master, we do not know by which authority John did that or where his baptism came from. No one ever thought of asking the Baptist while he was alive, and he never mentioned it of his own accord. »
« And neither will I tell you by which authority I do such things. And He turns His back to them calling the Twelve, and pushing His way through the cheering crowd, He leaves the Temple.
When they are already out, beyond the Probatica, as they came out on that side, Bartholomew says to Him: « Your enemies have become very prudent. Perhaps they are converting to the Lord Who sent You and will recognise You as the holy Messiah. »
« That is true. They did not discuss Your question or Your reply... » says Matthew.
« Let it be so. It is beautiful that Jerusalem should turn to the Lord her God » says Bartholomew again.
« Do not delude yourselves! That part of Jerusalem will never converted. They did not reply in a different manner because they were afraid of the crowd. I read their thoughts even if I could not hear their subdued words. »
« And what were they saying? » asks Peter.
« They were saying this. I want you to be acquainted with what they said, that you may know them thoroughly and you may give future disciples and exact description of the hearts of men in My days. They did not reply because they are turning to the Lord. But because they said to one another: “If we reply: 'The baptism of John came from Heaven', the Rabbi will say to us: 'Then why did you not believe what came from Heaven and was meant as a preparation for the Messianic time?'; and if we say: 'From man', then the crowds will turn against us saying: 'Then why do you not believe what our prophet John said of Jesus of Nazareth?' So it is better to say: 'We do not know.'” That is what they were saying. Not because they were being converted to God, but out of mean calculation and because they did not want to have to admit with their own lips that I am the Christ and I do what I do because I am the Lamb of God of Whom the Precursor spoke. And neither did I wish to say by what authority I do the things I do. I have already said it many times within those walls and all over Palestine and My miracles speak even more than My words. Now I will no longer say it with My words. I will let the prophets and My Father and the signs of Heaven speak. Because the time has come when all the signs will be given. Those mentioned by the prophets and indicated by the symbols of our history, and those which I announced: the sign of Jonah; do you remember that day at Kedesh? It is the sign that Gamaliel is awaiting. You, Stephen, and you, Hermas, and you, Barnabas, who have left your companions to follow Me today, have certainly heard the rabbi speak of that sign several times. Well, the sign will soon be given. »
He goes away up through the olive-groves on the mountain, followed by His apostles and by many of His seventy-two disciples, beside others who, like Joseph Barnabas, follow Him to hear Him speak again.
Jesus says: “You will put here the second part of the Monday, that is, the speeches delivered to My apostles during the night (vision of 6th March 1945. »