341. At Kedesh. The Signs of the Times.
26th November 1945.
The town of Kedesh is built on a little mountain, at a short distance from a long chain of mountains, on its eastern side, stretching from north to south. A parallel chain of hills stretches also from north to south on its western side. The two parallel lines, however, bend inwards at their central part forming a rough 'X'. In the narrowest part, a little closer to the eastern chain, there is the mountain on the slopes of which Kedesh is built. The town stretches from the top down to the almost flat slopes and dominates a fresh green valley, which is very narrow to the east and wider to the west.
It is a beautiful walled town, with lovely houses and a magnificent synagogue; there is also an imposing fountain with many jets that pour abundance of cool water into a basin, from which little streams flow to feed other fountains or, probably, to water gardens. I do not know.
Jesus enters the town on a market day. His hand is no longer bandaged, but there is still a dark scab and a large bruise on the back of it. James of Alphaeus also has a small dark reddish scab on his temple and a large bruise around it. Andrew and James of Zebedee, who were not so badly injured, show no sign of the past incident and they walk fast, looking around, and particularly at their sides and behind them, as the apostles have formed little groups around the Master. I am under the impression that they have stopped for two or three days at the place that I described yesterday or in its neighborhood, perhaps to rest or to keep at a good distance from rabbis, in the event the latter should turn their steps towards the main towns, hoping to catch them at fault and injure them again. At least that is what I gather from their conversation.
"But this is a city of refuge!" says Andrew.
"And would you expect them to respect the refuge and holiness of any place! How simple you are, brother!" Peter replies to him.
Jesus is walking between the two Judases. James and John are ahead of Him, in the van, and behind them there is the other James with Philip and Matthew. Peter, Andrew and Thomas are behind the Master. Simon Zealot and Bartholomew are the last two.
Everything goes well as far as the entrance to a beautiful square, the one with the fountain and the synagogue, where many people are discussing business.
The market, instead, is farther down, to the south-west of the town, where two roads join: the main road from the south, and the road along which Jesus came, from the west; the two roads meet at a right angle and form one road only that enters through the gate and widens into a rectangular square, where there are donkeys, mats, vendors, buyers and the usual clamor...
But when they reach the most beautiful square – the heart of the town, I think, not so much because it is equidistant from the perimeter of the walls, but because the spiritual and commercial life of Kedesh thrives here, as appears also from its high dominating position, above most of the town, which is suitable to be defended like a citadel – trouble begins. Like snarling dogs awaiting to attack a defenseless puppy, or rather, like blood-hounds on the watch for game that they smell in the wind, a large number of Pharisees and Sadducees are leaning against the wide portal, ornate with sculptures and decorations, of the synagogue. Mingled with them, to poison them completely, there is a handful of the rabbis we saw at Giscala, and among them there is Uzziel. They immediately point out Jesus and the apostles to one another.
"Alas! Lord! They are here as well!" exclaims John, who is obviously frightened, turning round to speak to Jesus.
"Be not afraid. Go on fearlessly. But if any of you do not feel like facing those rogues, let them go back to the hotel. I definitely want to speak here, in this Levitical city of refuge."
They all protest: "Can You believe that we would leave You alone?! Let them kill us all, if they want. We will share Your lot."
Jesus passes before the enemy group and stops near the wall of a garden where a pear-tree is shedding its white blossoms. The dark wall and the white cloud outline the Christ Who has His twelve apostles before Him.
Jesus begins to speak: "Come and listen to the Gospel, all of you who are gathered here, because the conquest of the Kingdom of Heaven is more important than trade and money..." His beautiful loud voice fills the square and makes people turn towards Him.
"Oh! That is the Galilean Rabbi!" says one. "Come, let us go and listen to Him. Perhaps He will work a miracle."
And another adds: I saw Him work one at Bethginna. How well He speaks! Nothing like those predatory hawks and astute snakes."
Jesus is soon surrounded by a crowd. And He continues to speak to the attentive listeners.
"From the heart of this Levitical town I do not wish to remind you of the Law. I know that it is present in your hearts, as in few towns in Israel, as is proved by the order I have noticed here, by the honesty I found in your merchants from whom I bought food for Myself and My little flock, and by this synagogue, which is as ornate as is suitable to the place where God is worshipped. But in each of you there is also a place where God is honored, a place where the most holy yearnings are, where the sweetest words of hope resound with the most ardent prayers that your hope may become true. Your souls. The holy unique place that speaks of God and to God, while waiting for the Promise to be accomplished. And the Promise is accomplished. Israel has its Messiah, Who brings you the news and the certainty that the time of Grace has come, that Redemption is close at hand, that the Savior is among you, and the invincible Kingdom has begun. How many times have you heard Habakkuk! And the more meditative ones among you whispered: “I also can say: 'How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help, while You will not listen?'.” Israel has been wailing thus for ages. But the Savior has now come. The great robbery, the endless trouble, disorder and injustice brought about by Satan are about to collapse, because the envoy of God is on the point of restoring man to his dignity of son of God and co-heir of the Kingdom of God. Let us look at Habakkuk's prophecy with fresh eyes and we will see that it bears witness to Me, and it already speaks the language of the Gospel, which I bring to the children of Israel. But now it is I who must wail: “Sentence was passed, but opposition is triumphing.” And I moan so sorrowfully. Not so much for My own sake, as I am above human judgment, as for those who are in opposition and thus condemn themselves, and for those who are misled by opposers. Are you surprised at what I am saying? Among you there are merchants from other parts of Israel. They can confirm that I am not lying. I do not lie by leading a life that is the opposite of what I teach, by not doing what people expect the Savior to do, neither do I lie by stating that human opposition sets itself up against the judgment of God, Who sent Me, and against the judgment of humble sincere crowds who have heard Me and judged Me for what I am."
Some of the people in the crowd whisper: "That is true! It is true indeed! We belong to the people and we want Him and we know that He is holy. But they (and they point to the Pharisees and their companions) are hostile to Him."
Jesus continues: "And because of that opposition the Law is torn to pieces, and will be torn more and more, until it will be abolished, in order to do a supreme wrong, which, however, will not last long. And blessed are those, who during the short fearful pause, when opposition will appear to have triumphed over Me, have continued to believe in Jesus of Nazareth, in the Son of God, in the Son of man, predicted by the Prophets. I could fulfill the judgment of God to the very end, by saving all the children of Israel. But I will not be able because the impious will triumph against themselves, against their own better part, and as they trample on My rights and oppress My believers, so they will trample on the rights of their souls, which need Me to be saved and which are presented to Satan in order to deny them to Me."
The Pharisees begin to murmur. But a stately old man has just approached the place where Jesus is, and now, in a pause of His speech, he says: "Please. Come into the synagogue and teach us there. No one is more entitled to do so than You are. I am Matthias, the head of the synagogue. Come, and may the Word of God be in my house as it is on Your lips."
"Thank you, O just man of Israel. My peace be always with you."
And Jesus, through the crowd that opens to let Him pass and then closes like a wake following Him, crosses the square again and enters the synagogue, after passing before the snarling Pharisees. But they enter the synagogue as well, elbowing their way overbearingly. But the people look unfavorably on them saying: "Where are you from? Go and wait for the Rabbi in your own synagogues. This is our house and we do not want strangers here." And the rabbis, Sadducees and Pharisees must put up with the situation and remain quietly near the entrance to avoid being thrown out by the citizens of Kedesh.
Jesus is near the head of the synagogue and other people of the synagogue; I do not know whether they are his sons or assistants. He resumes speaking: "Habakkuk says: – and how lovingly he invites you to meditate! – “Cast your eyes over the nations, look, and be amazed and astounded, for something has happened in your own days, which no man will believe when he is told of it.” Even nowadays we have physical enemies in Israel. But let us leave out the little detail of the prophecy and consider only the great prediction contained in it. Because prophecies always have a spiritual meaning, even when they appear to have a material reference. So the event that has taken place – and is such that no one will accept it unless one is convinced of the infinite goodness of the True God – is that He has sent His Word to save and redeem the World. God Who parts from God to save the guilty creature. And I have been sent for that. And none of the powers in the world will be able to hold back the impetus of My Triumph over kings and tyrants, over sin and stupidity. I will win because I am the Triumpher."
A scornful laugh is heard together with a shout from the end of the synagogue. People protest and the head of the synagogue, whose eyes are closed, as he is so engrossed in listening to Jesus, stands up and commands silence, threatening to have the disturbers expelled.
"Let them speak. Invite them to expound their objections" says Jesus in a loud voice.
"Oh! good! Very well! Let us come near You. We want to ask You some questions" shout the contradictors ironically.
"Come. People of Kedesh, let them pass."
And the crowd, casting hostile glances and making faces at them – with a few reviling epithets as well – let them pass.
"What do you want to know?" Jesus asks severely.
"So You say that You are the Messiah? Are You really sure?"
Jesus, standing with folded arms, looks at the man who has spoken with such overwhelming authority, that his irony immediately vanishes and he becomes silent.
But another one resumes speaking: "You cannot expect us to believe You on Your word. Anyone can lie, even in good faith. One needs proofs to believe. So prove to us that You really are what You say."
"Israel is full of My proofs" replies Jesus sharply.
"Oh! those!... Trifles that any holy man can work. They have already been done and will be done again by the just in Israel!" says a Pharisee.
Another one adds: "Neither is it certain that You do them through holiness and the help of God! In fact they say, and it is really credible, that You are helped by Satan. We want other proofs. Of a superior level. That Satan cannot give."
"Of course! A victory over death..." says another one.
"You have already had it."
"They were cases of catalepsy. Show us a decomposed body that revives and is recomposed, for instance. So that we may be sure that God is with You. God: the Only One Who can give life back to mud that is becoming dust again."
"No one ever asked the Prophets for that in order to believe them."
A Sadducee shouts: "You are greater than a Prophet. You are the Son of God, at least so You say!... Ah! Ah! So why do You not act as God? Come On! Give us a sign!"
"Yes! A sign from Heaven proving that You are the Son of God, we will then worship You" shouts a Pharisee.
"Certainly! You are right, Simon! We do not want to commit Aaron's sin again. We will not worship an idol, the golden calf. But we could worship the Lamb of God! Are You not it? Providing Heaven proves that You are" says the one named Uzziel, and who was at Giscala, laughing sarcastically.
Another one shouts: "Let me speak, for I am Sadoc, the golden scribe. Listen to me, Christ. You have been preceded by too many false Christs. We have had enough frauds. We want a sign that You really are Christ. And if God is with You, He cannot deny You that. And we will believe in You and help You. Otherwise You know what is due to You, according to the Commandment of God."
Jesus raises His injured hand and shows it to His interlocutor. "Do you see this sign? You did it. You have pointed out a further sign. And when you see it incised in the flesh of the Lamb, you will rejoice. Look at it! Can you see it? You will see it also in Heaven, when you appear to give an account of your way of living. Because I will be your Judge, and I will be there with My glorified Body, with the signs of My ministry and of yours, of My love and of your hatred. And you will see it, too, Uzziel, and you, Simon, and Caiaphas and Annas will see it, and many more, on that Last Day, the day of wrath, the dreadful day, and you will then prefer to be in the abyss, because the sign on My injured hand will torture you more than the fire of Hell."
"Oh! those are blasphemous words! You will be in Heaven with Your body?! Blasphemer! You will be judge in the place of God?! Anathema on You! You are insulting the Pontiff! You deserve to be stoned" shout in chorus Pharisees, Sadducees and doctors.
The head of the synagogue stands up again: he looks patriarchal and stately in his old age, like a Moses, and he shouts: "Kedesh is a city of refuge and a Levitical city. Respect it..."
"That's an old story! It doesn't count any more!"
"Oh! Blasphemous tongues! You are sinners, not He, and I will defend Him. He is not saying anything wrong. He is explaining the Prophets and has brought us the Good Promise, and you are interrupting, provoking and offending Him. I will not allow that. He is under the protection of old Matthias of the stock of Levi by father and of Aaron by mother. Go out and let Him instruct my old age and the youth of my sons." And he lays his old wrinkled hand on Jesus' forearm, in a gesture of protection.
"Let Him give us a real sign and we will be convinced and go away" the hostile group shouted.
"Do not be upset, Matthias. I will speak" says Jesus calming the head of the synagogue. And addressing the Pharisees, Sadducees and doctors, He says: "In the evening you scan the sky, and if it is red at sunset, you state, according to an old saying: “The weather will be fine tomorrow, because sunset has reddened the sky.” Likewise at dawn, when the heavy foggy damp air prevents the sun from shining as brightly as gold, you say: “There will be a storm before the day is over.” So you can tell the future of the day by the changeable signs of the sky and by the even more inconstant signs of winds. And you cannot tell the signs of times? That does no credit to your minds and your science, and brings utter dishonor on your souls and your alleged wisdom. You belong to a wicked adulterous generation, born in Israel of a marriage of one who fornicated with Evil. You are their heirs and you increase your wickedness and adultery by repeating the sin of the fathers of that error. Well, listen, Matthias, and you, citizens of Kedesh and whoever is present here either as a believer or as an enemy, listen! This is the prophecy that I make, of My own, in the place of the one of Habakkuk, which I wanted to explain to you: this wicked and adulterous generation, which is asking for a sign, will be given no other sign but the sign of Jonah... Let us go. Peace be with everyone of good will." And through a side door that opens on a quiet street among gardens and houses, Jesus goes away with His disciples.
But the people of Kedesh do not give in. Some follow Him, and when they see Him enter a small hotel in the eastern suburbs of the town, they inform the head of the synagogue and their fellow citizens. And Jesus is still eating when the sunny yard of the hotel becomes crowded with people and the old head of the synagogue and other elders of Kedesh go to the door of the room in which Jesus is, and the old man, bowing, implores: "Master, the desire to hear Your word is still in our hearts. The prophecy by Habakkuk was so beautiful, as You were explaining it! Are those who love You and believe in Your Truth to be left without the knowledge of You, only because there are some people who hate You?"
"No, father. It would not be fair to punish the good because of the wicked. Well, listen..." (and Jesus stops eating and goes to the door to speak to those who have thronged in the peaceful yard).
"The words of your head of the synagogue echo those of Habakkuk. On his own behalf and yours, he confesses and professes that I am the Truth. Habakkuk confesses and professes: “You have been since the beginning and You are with us and we shall not die.” And so it will be. He who believes in Me will not perish. The Prophet describes Me as the One Whom God has appointed to judge, as the One Whom God made strong in order to punish, as the One Whose eyes are too pure to rest on wickedness and Who cannot bear iniquity. But while it is true that sin disgusts Me, you can see that, as I am the Savior, I open My arms to those who have repented of their sins. I thus turn My eyes towards culprits and I invite the impious to repent...
People of the Levitical city of Kedesh, the city sanctified by the proclamation of charity towards those who are guilty of crimes – and every man is guilty towards God, his soul and his neighbor – come to Me, the Refuge of sinners. Here, in My love, not even the anathema of God would strike you, because My imploring glance would change the anathema of God into blessings of forgiveness for you.
Listen! Write this promise in your hearts as Habakkuk wrote his certain prophecy on a roll. It is written there: “If it comes slowly, wait, because He Who is to come, will come without fail.” Now: He Who was to come, has come: it is I. “He who is incredulous, has not a righteous soul” says the Prophet and his word condemns those who provoked and insulted Me. I do not condemn them. But the Prophet, who foresaw Me and believed in Me, condemns them. As he describes Me, the Triumpher, so he describes a proud man, saying that he is not honorable, as he opened his soul to greed and insatiability, as hell is greedy and insatiable. And he threatens: “Trouble is coming to the man who amasses goods that are not his and loads himself with thick mud.” Evil deeds against the Son of man are that mud, and the desire to deprive Him of His holiness so that it may not dim one's own, is greed.
The Prophet says: “Trouble is coming to the man who grossly exploits others for the sake of his house, to fix his nest on high and so evade the hand of misfortune.” He who does that disgraces himself and kills his own soul. “Trouble is coming to the man who builds a town with blood and founds a city on crime.”
Really too many in Israel build the castles of their covetousness on tears and blood, and are awaiting the last blood to make a richer mixture. But what can a fortress do against the arrows of God? And what can a handful of men do against the justice of the whole world shouting for horror at the unequalled crime?
Oh! How well Habakkuk says! “What is the use of a carved image?.” And the false holiness of Israel is nothing but an idolatrous statue. The Lord only is in His holy Temple and to Him only the earth will bow and tremble with adoration and fear, while the promised sign will be given a first time and a second time and the true Temple in which God rests will ascend gloriously to say in Heaven: “It has been accomplished!”, as He will have whispered it to the earth to cleanse it through His announcement.
“Fiat!” said the Most High. And the world was created. “Fiat” the Redeemer will say, and the world will be redeemed. I will give the world the means to be redeemed. And those will be redeemed who want to be so.
Now stand up! Let us say the prayer of the Prophet, but as it is right to say it in this time of grace:
“I heard, O Lord, Your announcement and I rejoiced.” It is no longer the time of fright, O believers in the Messiah.
“Lord, Your work is in the middle of the course of years, make It live, notwithstanding the snares of enemies. In the middle of the course of years You will manifest it.” Yes. When the time is completed the work will be accomplished. “His mercy will shine, notwithstanding His wrath” because His wrath will strike only those who have cast nets or laid snares or shot arrows at the Lamb Savior. “From the Light God will come to the world.” I am the Light that came to bring you God. My splendor will inundate the earth springing in torrents “where the pointed horns” will have torn to pieces the Flesh of the Victim, the last victory “of Death and of Satan, who will be beaten and will flee before the Living Holy One.”
Glory to the Lord! Glory to the Creator of the world! Glory to the Giver of the sun and stars! To the Maker of the mountains. To the Creator of the seas. Glory, infinite Glory to the Good Lord, Who wanted the Christ to save His people and redeem man.
Join Me, sing with Me, because Mercy has come to the world and the time of Peace is close at hand. He Who stretches out His hands to you, exhorts you to believe and live in the Lord because Israel will be shortly judged with justice. Peace to you who are present here, to your families and to your homes."
Jesus makes a wide gesture blessing them and is about to withdraw. But the head of the synagogue begs Him: "Stay a little longer."
"I cannot, father."
"At least send us Your apostles."
"You will have them without fail. Goodbye. Go in peace."
They are alone...
"I would like to know who sent them our way. They look like necromancers..." says Peter.
The Iscariot turns pale and comes forward. He kneels at Jesus' feet. "Master, I am the culprit. I spoke in that village... to one of them, whose guest I was..."
"What? Was that your penance? You are..."
"Be silent, Simon of Jonah! Your brother is accusing himself sincerely. Respect him because of his humiliation. Do not worry, Judas. I forgive you. You know that I forgive. But be wiser the next time... And now let us go. We will walk as long as it is moonlight. We must cross the river before dawn. Let us go. The wood begins over there. Both the good and the wicked will lose trace of us. Tomorrow we will be on the way to Paneas."