6th April 1945.
They are gathered in the Supper room. It must be late in the evening, because no noise comes from the street or the house. I think that all those, who had come earlier, have withdrawn to their houses to sleep, tired of so many emotions.
The ten apostles, instead, after eating some fish, some of which is still left on a tray on a sideboard, are conversing in the light of only one little flame of the chandelier, the one closest to the table, at which they are still sitting. Their conversation is fragmentary, and sounds like monologues, as each seems to be talking to himself, rather than to his companion. And the others let him speak, while they, in turn, speak of something completely different. But one feels that these rambling talks, that give me the impression of the spokes of a broken wheel, deal with one subject only, which is their centre, even if they are so disconnected, and it is Jesus.
« I hope that Lazarus has not misunderstood, and that the women have understood better than he did... » says Judas of Alphaeus.
« At what time did the Roman lady say that she saw Him? » asks Matthew.
No one replies to him.
« I am going to Capernaum tomorrow » says Andrew.
« How wonderful! To arrange things in such a way that Claudia's litter should come out just at that moment! » says Bartholomew.
« We made a mistake in coming away at once this morning, Peter... If we had stayed, we would have seen Him as the Magdalene did » says John with a sigh.
« I don't understand how He could be at Emmaus and at the mansion house at the same time. And how He was here with His Mother, and there with the Magdalene and at Johanna's all at the same time... » says James of Zebedee talking to himself.
« He will not come. I have not wept enough to deserve it... He is right. I say that He will keep me waiting for three days because of my three denials. How was I able to do that? »
« How transfigured was Lazarus! I tell you: he looked like a sun himself. I think that it happened to him as it did to Moses after he had seen God. And immediately after – it's true, isn't it, you who were there? – immediately after he had offered his life! » says the Zealot.
No one listens to him.
James of Alphaeus turns towards John and asks: « What did He say to those from Emmaus? I think that He excused us, did He not? Did He not say that everything happened because we Israelites failed to understand the nature of His Kingdom? »
John does not pay attention to him, and turning round to look at Philip, he says... wasting his breath, because he does not speak to Philip: « It is sufficient for me to know that He has risen. And then... And then that my love may be stronger and stronger. You have noticed this, eh! If you consider things properly, He has gone in proportion to the love we have had: the Mother, Mary Magdalene, the children, my mother and yours, and then Lazarus and Martha... When did He appear to Martha? I say when she intoned David's psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He has laid me in meadows of green grass. He has led me to waters of repose. He has called my soul to Himself...” Do you remember how she made our hearts beat violently with that unexpected song? And those words are connected to what she said: “He has called my soul to Himself”. Martha, in fact, seems to have found her way again... Previously, she, the strong woman, was lost! Perhaps, when calling her, He told her the place where He Wants her. And more than that, it is certain, because, if He gave her a rendezvous, He must know where she will be. What did she mean by: “accomplishment of the nuptials”? »
Philip, who has looked at him for a moment, and then has left him to talk to himself, says moaning: « If He comes, I shall not know what to say to Him... I ran away... and I feel that I will run away. Previously out of fear of men. Now out of fear of Him. »
« Everybody says: He is most handsome. Can He be more handsome than He already was? » asks Bartholomew.
I will say to Him: “You forgave me without saying one word, when I was a publican. Forgive me also now with Your silence, because my cowardice does not deserve Your Word” » says Matthew.
« Longinus said that he was thinking: “Shall I ask Him to be cured or to believe?” But his heart said: “To believe”, and then the Voice said: “Come to Me”, and he felt that he wanted to believe and that he was cured at the same time. That is exactly what he told me » states Judas of Alphaeus.
« My mind is always fixed on the idea that Lazarus was rewarded at once because of his offering... I also said: “My life for Your glory”. But He has not come » says the Zealot with a sigh.
What do you think, Simon? As you are a learned man, tell me: what shall I say to Him to make Him understand that I love Him and I ask Him to forgive me? And you, John? You have conversed a great deal with the Mother. Help me. If you are compassionate, you cannot leave poor Peter alone! »
John feels pity for his dejected companion and says: « Well... I would simply say to Him: “I love You”. Repentance and the wish for forgiveness are also included in love. But... I don't know. Simon, what do you think? »
And the Zealot: « I would say what was the cry for miracles: “Jesus, have mercy on me!” I would say: “Jesus”. Nothing else. Be cause He is by far more than the Son of David! »
« That is exactly what I think and makes me tremble. Oh! I will hide my head... Also this morning I was afraid of seeing Him and... »
« ... and then you were the first to go in. But don't be so afraid. One would think that you do not know Him » says John encouraging him.
The room lightens brightly, as if there were a dazzling flash. The apostles cover their faces, fearing it is lightning. But they hear no noise and they raise their heads.
Jesus is in the middle of the room, near the table. He stretches out His arms Saying: « Peace be with you. »
No one replies. Some look paler, some flush, they all look at Him with fear and embarrassment. They are fascinated and at the same time they are almost anxious to run away.
Jesus takes a step forward, smiling more brightly. « But do not be so afraid! It is I. Why are you so upset? Were you not wishing to see Me? Did I not let you know that I would come? Did I not tell you on Passover evening? »
No one dare open his mouth. Peter is already weeping, and John is already smiling, while His two cousins, with shining eyes and lips that tremble without uttering a word, look like two statues representing desire.
« Why do you have in your hearts thoughts that are in such contrast between doubt and faith, love and fear? Why do you still want to be flesh and not spirit, and only with the latter see, understand, judge, act? Have your old egos not been completely burnt by the flame of sorrow, and have your new egos not risen to a new life? I am Jesus. Your Jesus, Who has risen from the dead, as He had said. Look, John, who have seen My wounds, and you all, who are not aware of My torture. Because what you know is quite different from the exact knowledge that John has. Come, be the first. You are already completely cleansed. So cleansed that you can touch Me without fear. Love, obedience, loyalty had already cleansed you. My Blood, which wetted you completely when you took Me down from the Cross, has finished cleansing you. Look. These are real hands and real wounds. Look at My feet. Can you see that the mark is that of the nail? Yes. It is really I and not a ghost. Touch Me. Ghosts do not have bodies. I have real flesh on a real skeleton. He lays His Hand on the head of John who has dared to approach Him:
« Can you feel it? It is warm and heavy. » He breathes on his face: « And this is My breath. »
« Oh! my Lord! » John whispers in a low voice, so...
« Yes. Your Lord. John, do not weep out of fear and desire. Come to Me. I am always the one who loves you. Let us sit down, as usual, at the table. Have you nothing to eat? Well, give Me it. »
Andrew and Matthew, with the gestures of sleep-walkers, from the sideboards take bread and fish, and a tray with a honeycomb, a corner of which has just been nibbled at.
Jesus offers the food and eats, and gives each of them a little of what He eats. And He looks at them. He is so kind and so majestic that they are paralysed.
James, John's brother, is the first who dares to speak: « Why do You look at us so? »
« Because I want to know you. »
« Do You not know us yet? »,
« As you do not know Me. If you knew Me, you would know Who I am and how I love you, and you would find words to tell Me your torture. You are silent, as if you were before a mighty stranger of whom you are afraid. Not long ago you were speaking... For almost four days you have been talking to yourselves saying: “I will say this to Him...”, saying to My Spirit: “Come back, Lord, that I may tell You this”. Now I have come, and you are silent? Have I changed so much that I no longer seem Myself to you? Or have you changed so much that you no longer love Me? »
John, sitting near his Jesus, makes the usual gesture of laying his head on His chest, while he whispers: « I love You, my God », but he becomes stiff, preventing such abandon out of respect for the shining Son of God. Because Jesus seems to be shedding a light, although His Body is like ours.
But Jesus clasps him to His Heart, and then John opens the flood-gates to his blissful tears. And it is the sign for everybody to do the same.
Peter, two seats behind John, falls on his knees between the table and the seat and he weeps shouting: « Forgive me, forgive me! Take me out of this hell in which I have been for so many hours. Tell me that You have seen my error for what it was. Not of the spirit, but of the flesh that overwhelmed my heart. Tell me that You have seen my repentance... It will last until my death. But... but do tell me that I must not fear You as Jesus... and I, and I... I will try to behave so well, as to make also God forgive me... and die... having only a long purgatory to suffer. »
« Come here, Simon of Jonah. »
« I am afraid. »
« Come here. Be no longer cowardly. »
« I do not deserve to come near You. »
« Come here. What did My Mother say to you? “If you do not look at Him on this veronica, you will never have the heart to look at Him again.” O foolish man! Did that Face not tell you with its Sorrowful look that I understood you and forgave you? And yet I gave that linen as comfort, guide, absolution and blessing... But what has Satan done to you to blind you so much? Now I say to you: if you do not look at Me now, that I have spread a veil on My glory to adapt Myself to your weakness, never again will you be able to come to your Lord without fear. And then what will happen to you? You sinned out of presumption. Do you want now to sin again out of obstinacy? Come, I tell you. »
Peter drags himself along on his knees, between the table and the seats, covering his weeping face with his hands. Jesus stops him when he is at His feet, by laying His Hand on his head. Peter, weeping more bitterly, takes that Hand and kisses it, amid hearty sobs Without restraint. He can only say: « Forgive me! Forgive me! »
Jesus frees Himself from his grip and lifting the chin of the apostle with His hand, He compels him to raise his head, and He stares at his reddened, burnt eyes, tortured by repentance, with His own clear bright Eyes. He seems to be wishing to pierce his soul. He then says: « Come on. Remove the shame of Judas from Me. Kiss Me where he kissed Me. Wash with your kiss the sign of betrayal. »
Peter raises his head, while Jesus bends even more, and he touches His cheek lightly... then he rests his head on Jesus' knees and remains thus... like an old child who has done wrong but is forgiven.
The others, who now see Jesus' kindness, become somewhat daring, and they approach Him, as best they can.
His cousins are the first to come... They would like to say so much, but they do not succeed in saying anything. Jesus caresses them and encourages them with His smile.
Matthew comes with Andrew. Matthew says: « As in Capernaum... », and Andrew: « I... I love You, I do. »
Bartholomew comes moaning: « I was not wise, but foolish. He is wise » and he points at the Zealot, at whom Jesus is already smiling. James of Zebedee comes and he whispers to John: « You should tell Him... »; and Jesus turns round and says: « You have said it for four evenings, and I have pitied you all that time. »
Philip, the last, comes completely stooped. Jesus compels him to raise his head and says to him: « Greater courage is required to preach the Christ. »
They are all now around Jesus. They pluck up courage little by little. They find again what they had lost or had feared they had lost for good. Confidence and tranquillity come to light again and, although Jesus is so majestic as to make His apostles have a new respect for Him, they at long last find the courage to speak.
It is His cousin James who says with a sigh: « Why have You done this to us, Lord? You knew that we are nothing and that everything comes from God. Why did You not give us the strength to remain beside You? »
Jesus looks at him and smiles.
« Now everything has happened. And You do not have to suffer anything any more. But do not ask this sort of obedience of me any more. I have grown five years older every hour, and Your sufferings, which love and Satan have also increased five times more in I my imagination than what they really were, have really consumed all my strength. I have left only what I need to continue to obey, holding, like one who is drowning with his hands broken, my strength with my will, like teeth set on a board, in order not to perish... Oh! do not ask Your leper that any more. »
Jesus looks at Simon Zealot and smiles.
« Lord, You know what my heart wanted. But later I no longer had my heart... as if the rascals who had captured You had torn it off me... and I was left with a hole through which all my previous thoughts escaped. Why did You allow that, Lord? » asks Andrew.
« I... you say it was your heart? I say that I was one who no longer had his reason. Like one who is struck by a club on the nape of his neck. When, at dead of night, I found myself at Jericho... oh! God! God!... But can a man perish like that? I say that that is what possession is like. Now I realise what is that dreadful thing!... » Philip opens his eyes wide at the recollection of his suffering.
« Philip is right. I was looking back. I am old and not devoid of wisdom. And I did not know anything of what I had known till that hour. I looked at Lazarus, so tortured but so sure of himself, and I said to myself: “But how can it be possible that he still knows how to find a reason and I can no longer find anything?” » says Bartholomew.
« I also was looking at Lazarus. And as I hardly know what You have explained to us, I was not thinking of knowledge. But I said to myself: “If at least my heart were like his!”; instead I felt nothing but grief, grief, grief. Lazarus was grieved but had peace... Why so much peace for him? »
Jesus in turn looks first at Philip, then at Bartholomew and then at James of Zebedee. He smiles and is silent.
Judas says: « I was hoping to get to see what Lazarus certainly saw. That is why I was always close to him... His face!... A mirror. Shortly before the earthquake on Friday he was like a man who is crushed to death. Then all of a sudden he became imposing in his grief. Do you remember when he said: “An accomplished duty gives peace”? We all thought that it was only a reproach for us or an approval for himself. Now I think that he said so referring to You. Lazarus was like a lighthouse in our darkness. How much You have given him, Lord! »
Jesus smiles and is silent.
« Yes. His life. And perhaps with it You have given him a different soul. Because, after all, in what is he different from us? And yet he is no longer a man. He is already something more than a man, and considering what he was in the past, he should have been even less perfect in spirit than we are. But he has made himself, and we... Lord, my love has been empty like certain ears of wheat. I have produced only chaff » says Andrew.
And Matthew: « I cannot ask for anything. Because I have already received so much with my conversion. Of course! I should have liked to have what Lazarus had. A soul given by You. Because I also think as Andrew does... »
« Also the Magdalene and Martha were like lighthouses. It must be their race. You did not see them. One was piety and silence. The other! If we were like a bundle round the Blessed Mother, it is because Mary of Magdala grouped us together with the flames of her courageous love. Yes. I said: the race. But I must say: love. They have exceeded us in love. That is why they have been what they have been » says John.
Jesus smiles and is always silent.
« But they have received a great reward for it... »
« You appeared to them. »
« To the three of them. »
« To Mary immediately after Your Mother... »
It is clear that the apostles have a regret for these privileged apparitions.
« Mary for so many hours has known that You had risen. And we can only see You now... »
« They are no longer in doubt. With us, instead, well... only now we feel that nothing has come to an end. Why to them, Lord, if You still love us and You do not reject us? » asks Judas of Alphaeus.
« Yes. Why to the women, and in particular to Mary? You also touched her forehead, and she says that she seems to be wearing an eternal crown. And to us, Your apostles, nothing... »
Jesus no longer smiles. His Face is not upset, but He has stopped smiling. He looks gravely at Peter, who was the last to speak, recovering boldness as his fear vanishes, and He says:
« I had twelve apostles. And I loved them with all My Heart. I had chosen them and like a mother I took care to bring them up in My Life. I had no secrets for them. I told them everything, I explained everything, I forgave everything. Their humanity, their thoughtlessness, and their stubbornness... everything. And I had some disciples. Some rich and some poor disciples. I had women with a gloomy past or of a delicate constitution. But the apostles were the favourite ones.
My hour came. One betrayed Me and handed Me over to the executioners. Three slept while I was sweating blood. All of them, with the exception of two, ran away cowardly. One denied Me out of fear, although he had the example of another one, who was young and faithful. And, as if it were not enough, among the twelve I had a desperate suicide and one who doubted My forgiveness so much that only with difficulty and through maternal words he believed in God's Mercy. So that, if I had looked at My group, if I had looked at it with human eyes, I should have said: “With the exception of John, faithful out of love, and of Simon, faithful to obedience, I no longer have disciples.” That is what I should have said while I was suffering in the enclosure of the Temple, in the Praetorium, along the streets, on the Cross.
I had some women... And one, the most guilty in the past, has been, as John said, the flame that has joined together the broken fibres of hearts. That woman is Mary of Magdala. You denied Me and you ran away. She defied death to be close to Me. When they insulted her, she uncovered her face, ready to receive spittle and slaps, considering that by doing so she would resemble her crucified King more. And when people sneered at her from the depth of their hearts because of her firm faith in My Resurrection, she continued to believe. Although tortured, she took action. When she was desolate this morning she said: “I will divest myself of everything, but give me my Master.” Can you still dare to ask Me: “Why to her?”
I had some poor disciples: the shepherds. I did not approach them very often, and yet how able they were to acknowledge Me with their faithfulness!
I had some shy women disciples, like all the Hebrew women. And yet they left their homes and amid a tremendous crowd of people that cursed Me, they came to give Me that assistance that My apostles had denied Me.
I had some heathen women who admired the “philosopher”. Such I was for them. But the mighty Roman ladies were able to lower themselves to Hebrew customs, to say to Me, in the hour that I was forsaken by a world of ungrateful people: “We are friends of Yours.”
My face was covered with spittle and blood. Tears and perspiration dripped on My wounds. Filth and dust encrusted them. Whose hands cleansed Me? Yours? Or yours? Or yours? None of your hands. This man was near My Mother. This one was gathering together the scattered sheep. You. And if My sheep were scattered, how could they help Me? You were concealing your faces, because you were afraid of the scorn of the world, while your Master was covered with the contempt of all the world. And He was innocent.
I was thirsty. Yes. You had better know also that. I was dying of thirst. I had nothing but a temperature and pain. My Blood had already been shed in Gethsemane, drawn by the grief of being betrayed, forsaken, denied, beaten, overwhelmed by the infinite sins and by God's severity. And it had been shed in the Praetorium... Who thought of giving Me a drop of water for My parched throat? A hand of Israel? No. The pity of a heathen. The same hand that, by an eternal decree, opened My chest to show that My Heart already had a mortal wound, the one made by lack of love, by cowardice and by the betrayal. A heathen. I remind you: “I was thirsty and you gave Me drink”. There was not even one person in the whole of Israel who gave Me comfort, either out of lack of possibility to do so, as in the case of My Mother and the faithful women, or because of bad will. And for the Unknown One a heathen found the pity that My people had denied Me. In Heaven he will find the sip he gave Me.
I solemnly tell you that, while I refused all comforts, because when one is a Victim one must not mitigate one's destiny, I did not want to reject the heathen, in whose offer I tasted the sweetness of all the love that will come to Me from the Gentiles, as compensation for the bitterness Israel gave Me. It did not quench My thirst, but it relieved My dejection. That is why I took that ignored sip. To draw to Me him who was already inclined towards Good. May he be blessed by the Father for his pity!
Are you no longer speaking? Why do you not continue to ask Me why I acted so. Do you not dare ask? I will tell you. I will tell you everything of the whys of this hour.
Who are you? My continuators. Yes, you are, notwithstanding your bewilderment. What are you to do? To convert the world to Christ. Convert it! It is the most delicate and difficult matter, My friends. Indignation, disgust, pride, excessive zeal, are all harmful to success. But, as nothing and nobody would induce you to be kind, complying, charitable with those who are in darkness, it has been necessary – do you understand? – it has been necessary for you, once for all, to crush your pride of Hebrews, of males, of apostles, to make room only for the true wisdom of your ministry: for meekness, patience, compassion, love without ostentation and disgust.
You can see that everybody, among those whom you looked at with scorn or with proud indulgence, has exceeded you in believing and in acting. Everybody. The woman who had sinned in the past. Lazarus, imbued with profane culture, the first who in My Name has forgiven and guided. And the heathen ladies. And Chuza's delicate wife. Delicate? She really surpasses all of you! The first martyr of My faith. And the soldiers of Rome. And the shepherds. And the Herodian Manaen. And even Gamaliel, the rabbi. Do not start, John. Do you think that My Spirit was in darkness? All of you. And I say this so that in future, remembering your error, you may not close your hearts to those who come to the Cross.
I tell you. And I know that, although I tell you, you will not do it until the Strength of the Lord bends you like twigs to My Will, which is to have Christians all over the Earth. I defeated Death. But it is not so hard as old Hebraism. But I will bend you.
You, Peter, instead of weeping dejectedly, since you are to be the Stone of My Church, have these bitter truths engraved in your heart. Myrrh is used to preserve from corruption. So, become imbued with myrrh. And when you want to close your heart and the Church to someone of a different faith, remember that is was not Israel, it was not Israel, it was not Israel, but it was Rome that defended Me and took pity on Me. Remember that not you, but a woman, a sinner, remained at the foot of the Cross and deserved to be the first to see Me. And in order not to be worthy of reproach, be the imitator of your God. Open your heart and the Church saying: “I, poor Peter, cannot despise anybody, because if I do, I shall be despised by God, and my error will become alive once again in His eyes.” Woe to you, if I had not broken you so! You would not have become a shepherd, but a wolf. »
Jesus stands up. He looks most imposing.
« My children. I will speak to you again, while I remain among you. But, in the meantime, I absolve you and forgive you. May the peace of forgiveness come to you, after the trial, that, although humiliating and cruel, has been beneficial and necessary. And with this peace in your hearts, become once again My faithful strong friends. The Father sent Me into the world. I send you into the world to continue My evangelization. All kinds of miseries will come to you asking for relief. Be kind, thinking of your misery when you remained without your Jesus. Be enlightened. It is not possible to see in darkness. Be pure to give purity. Be love, to love. Then He will come, Who is Light, Purification and Love. But in the meantime, to prepare you for your ministry, I communicate the Holy Spirit to you. For those whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, they will be retained. May your experience make you just in judging. May the Holy Spirit make you saints, so that you may sanctify. May your sincere wish to overcome your faults make you heroes for the life expecting you. What is still to be said, I will tell you when your absent companion has come. Pray for him. Remain with My peace and without being upset by doubts about My love. »
And Jesus disappears as He had come in, leaving an empty place between John and Peter. He disappears in a flash that is so bright that it makes the apostles close their eyes. And when their dazzled 'eyes are opened again, they find that only Jesus' peace is left, a flame that burns and cures and consumes the bitterness of the past in one only desire: to serve.