76: Jesus at Juttah with the Shepherd Isaac.
12th January 1945.
A fresh valley resounding with the water of a silvery little torrent flowing foamy southwards among the rocks. The gay freshness of the water spreads out on the little pastures on the banks, but its moisture seems to climb up the very green slopes of the hills. It is a beautiful, varied, emerald green, which from the soil through the bushes and shrubs of the brushwood reaches up to the top of the tall trees of the wood. Many of them are walnut trees. The wood is spotted with many green open spaces, covered with thick grass, which are good, healthy pastures for herds.
Jesus is going down towards the torrent with His disciples and the three shepherds. He stops patiently to wait for a sheep which has been left behind or when one of the shepherds has to run after a lamb which has gone astray. He is the Good Shepherd now. He has provided Himself with a long branch to push aside blackberry, hawthorn and clematis branches, which stick out in all directions, and catch garments. And the stick completes His pastoral figure.
"See? Juttah is up there. We will cross the torrent, there is a ford, which is very useful in summer, without having to use the bridge. It would have been quicker to come via Hebron. But You did not want that."
"No. We will go to Hebron later. We must always go first to those who suffer. The dead do not suffer any longer when they have been just people. And Samuel was a just man. And if the dead need our prayers, it is not necessary to be near their bones to pray for them.
Bones? What are they? A proof of the power of God Who made man with dust. But nothing else. Also animals have bones. But the skeletons of all animals are not so perfect as a man's skeleton. Only man, the king of creation, has an upright position, as a king over his subjects, and his face looks forwards and upwards without having to twist his neck; man looks upwards, towards the Abode of the Father. But they are still bones. Dust which will return to dust. The eternal Bounty has decided to assemble them again on the eternal Day to give even a greater joy to the blessed souls. Just imagine: not the souls only will be reunited and will love one another as and even more than they did on the earth, but they will rejoice also seeing one another with the same features they had on the earth: dear curly-haired children, like yours, Elias, fathers and mothers with loving hearts and faces like yours Levi and Joseph. Nay, in your case Joseph, it will be the day when at last you will see the faces for which you feel nostalgia. There are no more orphans, no widows among the just, up there…
Prayers for the dead can be said anywhere. It is the prayer of a soul for the soul of a relative to the Perfect Spirit, Who is God, Who is everywhere. Oh! holy freedom of what is spiritual! There are no distances, no exile, no prisons, no tombs… There is nothing that can divide or restrict in painful impotence what is outside and above the chains of the flesh. You will go with your better part, towards your beloved ones. And they will come to you with their better part. And the whole effusion of loving souls will rotate around the Eternal Fulcrum, around God: the Most Perfect Spirit, the Creator of everything that was, is and will be, Love that loves you and teaches you how to love… But here we are at the ford. I can see a row of stones emerging from the shallow water."
"Yes, Master, it is that one there. At the time of floods it is a roaring waterfall, now there are seven streamlets flowing placidly between the six large stones of the ford."
In fact six large stones, cut quite squarely, are laid across the torrent, at about a foot from each other and the water, which before them is like a large sparkling\ ribbon, is divided into seven minor ones, rushing happily to join together again beyond the ford, forming one only fresh stream which flows, babbling among the stones.
The shepherds watch the sheep crossing, some walk on the stones, some prefer crossing in the stream, only a foot deep, and they drink the pure gurgling water. Jesus crosses on the stones followed by His disciples. They resume walking on the other bank.
"You told me that You want to inform Isaac that You are here, but You do not want to go into the village?"
"Yes, that is what I want."
"Well, we had better part. I will go to him, Levi and Joseph will stay with the herd and with You. I'll go up here. It will be quicker." And Elias starts climbing up the mountain side, towards the white houses which are so bright up there in the sunshine.
I seem to be following him. He is now at the first houses. He goes along a tiny path between houses and kitchen gardens. He walks thus for about ten meters. He then turns into a wider road and then enters the square. I forgot to mention that this is happening in the early morning hours. I am saying so now because the market is still on in the square and housewives and vendors are shouting under the shady trees of the square.
Elias goes resolutely to the point where the square ends and quite an attractive street starts. Perhaps the nicest in the village. At the comer there is a little house, or rather, a room with the door wide open. Almost on the threshold there is a little bed, on which an emaciated sick man is lying, asking all passers-by for alms, in a plaintive voice. Elias dashes in. "Isaac… it's me."
"You? I was not expecting you. You were here last month."
"Isaac… Isaac… Do you know why I have come?"
"No, I don't… You are excited. What's happening?"
"I have seen Jesus of Nazareth, He is a man, now, a rabbi. He came looking for me… and He wants to see us. Oh! Isaac! Are you not well?"
Isaac, in fact, has fallen back as if he were dying. But he comes round: "No. The news… Where is He? What is He like? Oh! If I could see Him!"
"He is down in the valley. He sent me to say to you exactly this: “Come, Isaac, because I want to see you and bless you.” I'll call someone now to help me and I'll take you down."
"Is that what He said?"
"Yes, it is. But what are you doing?"
Isaac throws away the blankets, he moves his paralyzed legs, he throws them off the straw mattress, he puts his feet on the floor, he stands up, still somewhat hesitating, and shaky. It all happens in an instant, under Elias' wide open eyes… who at last understands and begins to shout… A little woman looks in curiously. She sees the sick man stand up and cover himself with one of the blankets, since he has nothing else, and run away, shouting like a mad man.
"Let us go… this way, it will be quicker and we will not meet the crowd… Quick, Elias." They run through a little door of a kitchen garden in the back, they push the gate, made of dry branches, and once outside, they run along a narrow dirty path, then down a little road along kitchen gardens and finally through meadows and thickets, right down to the torrent.
"There is Jesus, over there" says Elias, pointing at Him. "The tall, handsome one, with fair hair, with a white tunic and red mantle…"
Isaac runs, he cuts through the grazing sheep, and with a cry of triumph, joy and adoration he prostrates himself at Jesus' feet.
"Stand up, Isaac. I have come. To bring you peace and blessings. Stand up, that I may see your face."
But Isaac cannot stand up. Too much excitement at the one time and he remains prostrated, with his face on the ground, crying happily.
"You came at once. You did not worry whether you could…"
"You told me to come… and I came."
"He did not even close the door or pick up the alms, Master."
"It does not matter. The angels will watch his house. Are you happy, Isaac?"
"Oh! My Lord!"
"Call Me Master."
"Yes, my Lord, my Master. Even if you had not cured me, I would have been happy to see You. How could I find so much grace with You?"
"Because of your faith and patience, Isaac. I know how much you suffered…"
"Nothing! nothing! It does not matter! I have found You. You are alive. You are here. That's what matters. The rest, all the rest is over. But, my Lord and my Master, You are not going away any more, is that right?"
"Isaac, I have the whole of Israel to evangelize. I am going… But if I cannot stay, you can always serve and follow Me. Do you want to be My disciple, Isaac?"
"Oh! But I am not capable!"
"Can you avow Who I am? Avow it against jeers and threats? And tell people that I called you and you came?"
"Even if You did not want, I would avow all that. I would disobey You in that, Master. Forgive me for saying so."
Jesus smiles. "You can see then that you are capable of becoming a disciple!" "Oh! If that's all one has to do! I thought it was more difficult, that we had to go to school with the rabbis to learn how to serve You, the Rabbi of rabbis… and to go to school at my age…" The man in fact must be at least fifty years old.
"You have done your schooling already, Isaac."
"Yes, you have. Have you not continued to believe and love, to respect and bless God and your neighbor, not to be envious, not to wish what belongs to other people, and even what was your own and you no longer possessed, to speak only the truth, even if it should be harmful to you, not to associate with Satan committing sins? Have you not done all these things, in the last thirty years of misfortunes?"
"So you see, you have done your schooling. Go on doing so and reveal, in addition, to the world, that I am in the world. There is nothing else to be done."
"I have already preached You, Lord Jesus. I preached You to the children, who used to come, when I arrived lame in this village, begging for bread and doing some work, such as shearing and dairy work, and the children used to come round my bed, when I got worse and I was paralyzed from my waist downwards. I spoke of You to the children of many years ago, and to the children of present times, who are the sons of the previous ones… Children are good and they always believe… I told them of Your birth… of the angels… of the Star and the Wise Men… and of Your Mother… Oh! Tell me! Is She alive?"
"She is alive and She sends you Her regards. She always spoke of you all."
"Oh! If I could see Her!"
"You will see Her. You will come to My house one day. Mary will greet you saying: “My friend”."
"Mary… yes, when you utter that name it is like filling your mouth with honey… There is a woman in Juttah, she is a woman now, she had her fourth child not long ago, but once she was a little girl, one of my little friends… and she called her children: Mary and Joseph the first two, and as she dared not call the third one Jesus, she called him Immanuel, as a good omen for herself, her home and Israel. And she is now thinking of the name to be given to her fourth child, born six days ago. Oh! When she hears that I am cured! And that You are here! Sarah is as good as home made bread, and her husband Joachim is also so good. And their relatives? I owe them my life. They have always helped and sheltered me."
"Let us go and ask them for hospitality during the hottest hours of the day and to bless them for their charity."
"This way, Master. It is easier for the sheep and we will avoid the people, who are most certainly excited. The old woman, who saw me getting up, will have certainly told them."
They follow the torrent, then further south, they depart from it, and take to a steep path, following a prominence of the mountain shaped like the prow of a ship. Now the torrent flows in the opposite direction to that of those who are climbing. The water runs along a beautiful uneven valley formed by the intersection of two ranges of mountains. I recognize the place. It is unmistakable. It is the scene of the vision of Jesus and the children, which I saw last spring. The usual little dry-stone wall marks the boundaries of the estate, which declines towards the valley. I see the meadow with apple-trees, figtrees, walnut-trees, then the white house surrounded by green lawns, with the protruding wing which protects the staircase and forms a porch and loggia. And there is the little dome on the highest part, the kitchen garden with the well, the pergola and the flower beds…
One can hear a lot of shouting from the house. Isaac walks in front of them all. He goes in. He calls at the top of his voice: "Mary, Joseph, Immanuel! Where are you? Come to Jesus."
Three little ones run: a girl about five years old, and two little boys, about four and two years of age, the latter still somewhat uncertain when walking. They are dumbfounded when they see the… revived man. Then the little girl shouts: "Isaac! Mummy! Isaac is here! Judith was right."
A woman comes out of a room, where there is a lot of noisy shouting: the buxom, brown, tall, lovely mother of the past vision, most beautiful in her best dress: a snow-white linen dress, like a rich chemise falling in puckers down to her ankles, tied at her well-shaped waist by a multicolored striped shawl, that covers her wonderful hips dropping in fringes down to her knees at the back, while at the front it is tied under the filigree buckle and its ends are hanging loose. A light veil patterned with rose branches on a beige background is pinned to her black plaits, like a tiny turban, and falls on to her neck in flowing folds and then onto her shoulders and breasts. It is held tight on her head by a small crown of medals tied together by a little chain. Heavy rings hang from her ears, and her tunic is held close to her neck by a silver necklace which passes through eyelets of her dress. She wears heavy silver bracelets on her arms.
"Isaac! What's this? Judith… I thought she had gone mad… But you are walking! What happened?"
"The Savior! Oh! Sarah! He is here! He has come!"
"Who? Jesus of Nazareth? Where is He?"
"Over there! Behind the walnut-tree, and He wishes to know if you will receive Him!"
"Joachim! Mother! Come here, all of you! The Messiah is here!"
Women, men, boys, little ones run out shouting and yelling… but when they see Jesus, tall and stately, they lose heart and become petrified.
"Peace to this house and to you all. The peace and blessing of God." Jesus walks slowly, smiling, towards the group. "My friends: will you give hospitality to the Wayfarer?" and He smiles even more. His smile overcomes all fears. The husband takes heart: "Come in, Messiah. We have loved You before meeting You. We shall love You more after meeting You. The house is celebrating today for three reasons: for You, for Isaac and for the circumcision of my third son. Bless him, Master. Woman, bring the baby! Come in, my Lord."
They go into a room decorated for the feast. There are tables with foodstuffs, carpets and branches everywhere.
Sarah comes back with a lovely new-born baby in her arms. She presents him to Jesus.
"May God be always with him. What is his name?"
"No name yet. This is Mary, this is Joseph, this is Immanuel… but this one has no name yet…" Jesus looks at the parents, who are close to each other, He smiles: "Find a name, if he is to be circumcised today…" They look at each other, they look at Him, they open their mouths and close them again without saying anything. Everyone is paying attention.
Jesus insists: "The history of Israel has so many great, sweet, blessed names. The sweetest and most blessed ones have already been given. But perhaps there are still some left."
The parents cry out together: "Yours, Lord!" and the mother adds: "But it is too holy…"
Jesus smiles and asks: "When will he be circumcised?"
"We are waiting for the circumciser."
"I will be present at the ceremony. And in the meantime I wish to thank you for what you have done for My Isaac. He no longer needs the help of good people. But good people still need God. You called your third son: God be with us. But you had God with you ever since you were charitable to My servant. May you be blessed. Your charity will be remembered in Heaven and on the earth."
"Is Isaac going away now? Is he leaving us?"
"Is that upsetting you? But he must serve his Master. But he will come, and so will I. In the meantime, you will speak of the Messiah… There is so much to be said to convince the world! But here is the person you are expecting."
A pompous personage comes in with a servant. There are greetings and low bows. "Where is the child?" he asks with haughtiness.
"He is here. But greet the Messiah. He is here."
"The Messiah! The one who cured Isaac? I heard about it. But.. We will talk about it after. I am in a great hurry. The child and his name."
The people present are mortified by the man's manners. But Jesus smiles as if the impoliteness was not addressed to Him. He takes the baby, He touches his little forehead with His beautiful fingers, as if He wanted to consecrate him and says: "His name is Jesai" and He hands him back to his father, who goes into another room with the haughty man and other people. Jesus remains where He was until they come back with the child, who is screaming desperately.
"Woman, give Me the child. He will not cry any longer" He says to comfort the distressed mother. In fact, the child, once he is laid on Jesus' knees, is silent. Jesus forms a group of His own, with the little ones around Him, and also the shepherds and disciples. The sheep that Elias has put in an enclosure are bleating outside. There is the noise of a party in the house. They bring sweets and drinks to Jesus. But Jesus hands them out to the little ones.
"Are You not drinking, Master? Will You not have anything. We are offering it warmly."
"I know, Joachim, and I accept wholeheartedly. But let Me make the little ones happy first. They are My joy…"
"Pay no attention to that man, Master."
"No, Isaac. I will pray that he may see the Light. John, take the two little boys to see the sheep. And you, Mary, come closer to Me and tell Me: Who am I?"
"You are Jesus, the Son of Mary of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem. Isaac saw You and he gave me the name of Your Mother, that I may be good."
"To imitate Her, you must be as good as an angel of God, purer than a lily that blooms on top of a mountain, as pious as the holiest Levite. Will you be like that?"
"Yes, Jesus, I will."
"Say: Master or Lord, little girl."
"Let her call Me with My name, Judas. Only when it is uttered by innocent lips, it does not lose the sound that it has on My Mother's lips. Everybody, throughout future centuries, will mention that name, some because of an interest or other, some to curse it. Only innocent people, without any interest and any hatred, will pronounce it with the same love as this little girl and My Mother. Also sinners will invoke Me, because they need mercy. But My Mother and the little ones! Why do you call Me Jesus?" He asks, caressing the little girl. "Because I love You… as I love my father, mother and my little brothers" she says, embracing Jesus' knees, and smiling with her head turned upwards. And Jesus bends down and kisses her… and it all ends thus.