191. The Sabbath at Esdraelon. Little Jabez. The Parable of Rich Dives.
16th June 1945.
"Give Micah enough money so that tomorrow he may pay for what he borrowed today from the peasants of this area" says Jesus to the Iscariot, who usually handles the... common possessions. Then Jesus calls Andrew and John and sends them to two spots from which it is possible to see the road or the roads coming from Jezreel. He calls also Peter and Simon and sends them to meet the men of Doras with instructions to stop them at the boundary between the two estates. He then says to James and Judas: "Take the foodstuffs and come with Me."
The peasants of Johanan, women, men and children follow them. The men are carrying two small amphoras, which, however, are not very small, and which must be full of wine. They are jars rather than amphoras and contain about ten litres each. (Please do not take my estimate as an article of faith). They go towards a thick vineyard, which is already all covered with new leaves, at the end of Johanan's property. Beyond it there is a large ditch which is kept full of water with, I wonder, how much work.
"See? Johanan quarrelled with Doras over this ditch. Johanan said: “It is your father's fault if everything is ruined. If he did not want to adore Him, he should have been afraid of Him instead of provoking Him.” And Doras shouted like a demon: “It was this ditch that saved you. The insects did not cross it... And Johanan replied: “Why is all your property ruined, then, when previously your fields were the nicest ones in Esdraelon? It's God's punishment, believe me. You went beyond the limit. This water?... It has been here all the time and that is not what saved me.” And Doras shouted again: “Which proves that Jesus is a demon.” “He is a just man” Johanan shouted back. And they continued for some time, while they had breath. Later Johanan spent a lot of money to divert the torrent, to find other underground water sources, and to dig more ditches on the boundary line between him and his relative, and he made them deeper and told us what we told You yesterday... After all, he is happy that it happened. He was so envious of Doras... He now hopes that he will be able to buy everything, because Doras will end up by selling everything at a very low price."
Jesus benignly listens to all the confidential information, while waiting for Doras' poor peasants, who arrive without any delay and prostrate themselves on the ground as soon as they see Jesus in the shade of a tree.
"Peace to you, My friends. Come here. The synagogue is here today and I am your head of it. But first I wish to be the father of your family. Sit around Me, that I may give you some food. The Groom is with you today, and we will have a wedding banquet."
And Jesus uncovers a basket, from which He takes some loaves of bread handing them to the amazed peasants of Doras. From another basket He takes the foodstuffs He has been able to find: cheese, cooked vegetables, and a little kid or lamb, cooked whole, which He divides among the unhappy men. He then pours out some wine and hands round a coarse chalice so that everybody may drink.
"Why all this? And what about them?" ask Doras' men pointing to Johanan's men.
"They have already had their share."
"All this expense! How could You do that?"
"There are still some good people in Israel" replies Jesus smiling.
"But this is Sabbath..."
"Thank this man" says Jesus pointing at the man from Endor. "He got the lamb. It was easy to get the rest."
The poor men devoured – it is the right word – the food, the like of which they had not tasted for a long time.
One of them, a rather elderly man, is pressing to his side a boy about ten years old; he eats and weeps.
"What is the matter, father?..." asks Jesus.
"It's because Your goodness is too great..."
The man from Endor says in his guttural voice: "That is true... and it makes you weep. But the tears are not bitter ones..."
"They are not bitter. That's true. And then... There is something I would like. My tears express also a desire."
"What do you want, father?"
"See this child. He is my grandson. He was left to me after the landslide of last winter. Doras does not even know that he has come to me, because I have to let him live like a wild animal in the wood and I see him only on the Sabbath. If he finds out he will either drive him away or compel him to work... and this tender offspring of mine will be treated worse than a pack-animal. At Passover I am sending him to Jerusalem with Micah, to become a son of the Law... and after?... He is my daughter's son..."
"Would you give him to Me, instead? Do not weep. I have many friends who are honest, holy and without any children. They will bring him up in a holy manner, in My Way..."
"Oh! Lord! That is what I have been wishing for since I heard of You. And I prayed that holy man Jonah to save my grandchild from this death, because he knows what it means to belong to this master..."
"Child, would you come with Me?"
"Yes, my Lord. And I will cause You no grief."
"That is settled."
"But... to whom do You wish to give him?" asks Peter pulling Jesus by the sleeve. "Also this one to Lazarus?"
"No, Simon. But there are so many without any children..."
"And I am one of them..." Peter's desire seems to make his face grow thinner.
"Simon. I have already told you. You are to be the “father” of all the children I will bequeath to you. But you are not to be bound by any child of your own. Do not be upset. You are too indispensable to your Master, Who cannot detach you from Himself because of an affection. I am exacting, Simon. I am more exacting than a very jealous husband. I love you most partially and I want you to be entirely Mine."
"All right, my Lord... all right... Let it be done as You wish." Poor Peter is really heroic in adhering to Jesus' will.
"He will be the son of My dawning Church. All right? He will belong to everybody and to nobody. He will be “our” child. He will follow us when distances
will allow him to, or he will come to us and the shepherds will be his guardians, as in every child they love “their” Child Jesus. Come here, My child, what is your name?"
"Jabez of John and I am from Judah" says the boy without hesitating.
"Yes. We are Judaeans" confirms the old man. "I used to work in Doras' lands in Judaea, and my daughter got married to a man from that area. He worked in the woods near Arimathea and last winter..."
"I saw the disaster."
"The boy was spared because that night he was far away with a relative... In actual fact the boy was appropriately named Jabez. I said to my daughter at once: “Why? Do you not remember the ancient tradition?.” But her husband insisted in giving him that name, so he is Jabez(1).
"“The child will call on the Lord and the Lord will bless him and will extend his lands, and the hand of the Lord will be with him and will keep harm away from him.” That is what the Lord will grant him to comfort you, father, and the souls of the dead, and to console the orphan.
And now that we have separated the needs of the body from those of the soul, by an act of love for the boy, listen to the parable that I have thought out for you. There was once a very rich man. He wore the most beautiful garments, and in his purple and byssus clothes he used to strut about in squares and at home, respected by his citizens as the most powerful man in the country, and by his friends, who gratified his pride to gain benefits thereby. They feasted every day in his halls, where the multitude of his guests, all rich and none therefore needy, crowded flattering Dives. His banquets were famous for the copiousness of food and of choice wines.
In the same town there lived a beggar, a great beggar. He was great in his misery as the other was great in his wealth. But under the crust of the human misery of Lazarus, the beggar, there was hidden a treasure, which was even greater than Lazarus' misery and Dives' wealth. And it was Lazarus' true holiness. He had never infringed the Law, not even when urged by need, and above all he had complied with the precept of love for God and for his neighbour. He, as is wont with poor people, used to go near the doors of rich people to ask for alms, so that he would not starve to death. And every evening he would go to Dives' house, hoping to receive at least the crumbs of the pompous banquets which took place in the magnificent halls. He would lie in the street, near the door, and wait patiently.
But if Dives noticed him, he would have him driven away because that underfed body, covered with sores and ragged clothes, was too sad a sight for his guests. That is what Dives used to say. In actual fact, it was because the sight of so much misery and goodness was a continuous reproach to him. His well fed dogs, adorned with precious collars, were more pitiful than he was and they used to go near poor Lazarus and lick his sores, showing their great joy at being caressed by him. They even took the remnants of the bountiful tables to him, so that Lazarus survived malnutrition thanks to animals. If he had relied on man he would have died, because man did not even allow him to enter the halls, after the banquet, to pick up the crumbs which had fallen from the tables.
One day Lazarus died. No one on earth noticed it, no one mourned him. Nay, Dives rejoiced not seeing on that day or afterwards that misery which he called a “disgrace” near his door. But the angels noticed it in Heaven. And when he was about to breathe his last in his cold barren cave, the celestial cohorts were present and in a bright dazzling light they picked up his soul and singing hosannas they took it to the bosom of Abraham.
Some time went by and Dives died. Oh! What a grand funeral! The whole town, already aware of his agony, crowded in the square, where his abode was, some to be noticed as friends of the great man, some out of curiosity, some to gain favour with the heirs, and they all joined in the mourning, and their cries rose to the sky and with their cries also the false praises of the “great, just benefactor” who had died.
Can the word of man change God's judgement? Can human apology cancel what is written in the book of Life? No, it cannot. What has been judged is judged and what has been written is written. And notwithstanding the grand funeral, the soul of Dives was buried in hell.
Then, in that horrible jail, eating and drinking fire and darkness, finding hatred and torture everywhere and in every moment of eternity, he raised his eyes to heaven. He raised his eyes to heaven which he saw in the brightness of lightning, in the fraction of a second, and the indescribable beauty of heaven remained present in his mind and tormented him in the midst of atrocious tortures. And he saw Abraham up there. Far, but bright, happy... and in his lap, bright and happy there was also Lazarus, poor Lazarus, once miserable, despised, revolting... and now? He was handsome in the light of God and of his holiness, full of God's love, admired not by men but by the angels of God. Dives weeping cried: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus, as I cannot possibly hope that you will do it yourself, send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and touch my tongue with it, to cool it, for I am in agony in these flames which pierce me continuously and burn me!.”
Abraham replied: “Remember, son, that you had all good things during your life, whereas Lazarus had all bad things. But he turned evil into good, whereas you did nothing but evil of all the good things. It is therefore just that now he should be comforted here and that you should suffer. In any case it is not possible to do it. Holy people are spread over the earth so that men may take advantage of them. But if notwithstanding all the opportunities, a man remains what he was – in your case: a demon – it is useless to make recourse to saints We are now separated. Herbs are mixed when they are in the field. But when they are cut, the good ones are separated from the evil ones. That is what happens to you and to us. We were together on the earth and you rejected and tortured us in every possible way, you forgot us, acting against the law of charity. We are now divided. There is an abyss between you and us, and those who wish to cross it and come to you, cannot do it, neither can you, where you are, cross the dreadful abyss and come to us.”
Dives, crying more loudly shouted: “Holy father, at least please send Lazarus to my father's house. I have five brothers. I have never understood what love is, not even among relatives. But now I understand what a terrible thing it is not to be loved. And since where I am there is hatred, in the fraction of a second, when my soul saw God, I understood what Love is. I do not want my brothers to suffer the pains which I am suffering. I am terrified because they are leading the same life as I did. Oh! send Lazarus to tell them where I am, and why I am here, and let them know that hell does exist, and it is dreadful, and that those who do not love God and their neighbour come to hell. Send him! So that they may provide in good time, and may not come here, to this place of eternal torture.” But Abraham replied: “Your brothers have Moses and the Prophets. They should listen to them.”
And with a deep groan of a tormented soul Dives replied: “Oh! Father Abraham! They will be more impressed by a dead person... Listen to me! Have mercy!.” But Abraham said: “If they have not listened to Moses and the Prophets, they will not believe either one who has risen from the dead for one hour to speak words of Truth to them. In any case it is not fair that a blessed soul should leave my bosom to go and be insulted by the sons of the Enemy. The time of insults is over for such souls. They are now in peace by the order of God Who sees that it is useless to endeavour to convert those who do not even believe in the word of God and do not practice it.”
That is the parable and its meaning is so clear that no clarification is required. My Jonah lived here and really achieved the holiness of Lazarus, whose glorious position near God is made clear by the protection He grants to those who hope in Him. Jonah can come to you, as a friend and protector, and he will come if you are always good.
I would like, and I tell you now what I told him last spring, I would like to be able to help you all, also materially, but I cannot, and I am sorry for that. I can but point Heaven to you. I can only teach you the great wisdom of resignation and promise the future Kingdom to you. Do not hate, never, for any reason whatsoever. Hatred is strong in the world. But it always has a limit. Love has no limit of power or time. Love therefore, to possess love, as a defense and comfort on the earth, and as a reward in Heaven. It is better to be Lazarus than Dives, believe Me. Believe it and you will be blessed.
In the desolation of these fields you cannot hear one word of hatred, even if facts could have justified it. Do not misunderstand the miracle. I am Love and I would not have struck. But seeing that Love could not bend cruel Dives, I abandoned him to Justice which avenged the martyr Jonah and his brothers. This is what the miracle teaches you. That Justice is always vigilant, also when It seems to be absent and that since God is the Master of creation, in pursuance of Justice, He can make use also of the least beings, such as caterpillars and ants, to punish the hearts of cruel and greedy people letting them die choked by a regurgitation of their own poison.
I bless you, now. And I will pray for you at every dawn. And you, father, do not worry about the little lamb you are entrusting to Me. I will bring him back now and again, that you may rejoice seeing him grow in wisdom and goodness in the way of the Lord. He will be your lamb of this poor Passover of yours, the most pleasing of all the lambs offered at the altar of Jehovah. Jabez, say goodbye to the old father and then come to your Saviour, to your Good Shepherd. Peace be with you!"
"Oh! Master! Good Master! How painful it is to leave you!"
"Yes, it is painful. But it is better if the steward does not find you here. I came here deliberately, to avoid punishments for you. Please obey for the sake of the Love Who advises you."
The unhappy men rise with tears in their eyes, and go back to their cross. Jesus blesses them once again and then, holding the boy by the hand and with the man from Endor on the other side, He goes back to Micah's house along the same way He came. Andrew and John join Him and the disciples after their watch.
(1) Jabez was not considered a lucky name. See Chronicles I, 4, 9-10.