354. Nicolaus of Antioch. Second Announcement of the Passion.
9th December 1945.
Jesus is all alone on the terrace of Thomas' house in Capernaum. The town is quiet on the Sabbath and its population is already greatly reduced, as the most zealous in practising their religion have already left for Jerusalem, as well as those who go there with their families and have children who cannot march long distances and thus compel adults to make frequent stops and short journeys. One thus misses the bright note of cheerful children, even more so on a rather cloudy day. Jesus is pensive. He is sitting on a low bench in a corner near the parapet, with His back to the staircase, almost hidden by the parapet; He is resting one elbow on His knee and reclines His head on His hand with a tired almost painful gesture.
He is interrupted in His meditation by the arrival of a little boy who wants to say goodbye to Him before leaving for Jerusalem."Jesus! Jesus!" he calls at each step, as he cannot see Jesus because the low wall conceals Him from the sight of whoever is below. And Jesus is so engrossed in thought that He does not hear the light voice or the step of the child, which is as light as a dove's... so that when the boy arrives on the terrace, He is still in the same painful position. And the little boy is frightened. He stops on the threshold, puts a finger between his lips and thinks... he then makes up his mind and moves slowly forward... he is now almost behind Jesus' back... he bends to see what He is doing... and says: "No, lovely Jesus! Don't weep! Why? Because of those bad ugly men of yesterday? My father was saying to Jairus that they are not worthy of You. But You must not weep. I love You. And my little sister, and James and Toby, and Johanna, and Mary and Micah and all the children in Capernaum, they all love You. Don't weep any more..." and he clasps Jesus' neck caressing Him and concludes: "Otherwise I will weep, too and I will weep during all the journey..."
"No, David, I am not weeping any more. You have consoled Me. Are you alone? When are you leaving?"
"After sunset. We are going by boat as far as Tiberias. Come with us. My father loves You, You know?"
"Yes, I know, My dear. But I must go to other children... Thank you for coming to say goodbye to Me. I bless you, little David. Let us kiss each other goodbye and then you will go back to your mother. Does she know that you are here?..."
"No, she doesn't. I ran away because I did not see You with Your disciples and I thought that You might be weeping."
"I am not weeping any more, as you can see. Go back to your mother, who perhaps is looking for you and is worried. Goodbye. Watch the donkeys of the caravans. See? They stop everywhere."
"Are You really not weeping any more?"
"No. I am no longer grieved. You have comforted Me. Thank you, My child."
The boy runs down the steps while Jesus watches him. He then shakes His head and goes back to His place in the same sorrowful meditation as before.
Some time goes by. The setting sun appears now and again when the cloudy sky clears.
A heavy step is heard coming up the staircase. Jesus looks up. He sees Jairus going towards Him. He greets him. Jairus replies respectfully.
"How come you are here, Jairus?"
"Lord! Perhaps I have done the wrong thing. But as You see the, hearts of men You know that there was no ill-will in mine. I did not invite You to speak in the synagogue today. But I suffered for You so much yesterday, and I saw You suffer so much... that I did not dare. I spoke to Your disciples. They said to me: “He wishes to be alone”... But a little while ago Philip, David's father, came to me saying that his son had seen You weep. He said that You thanked him for coming to see You. So I came, too. Master, the people who are still in Capernaum, are about to meet in the synagogue. And my synagogue is Yours, Lord."
"Thank you, Jairus. Other people will speak there today. I will come as a simple believer..."
"And You would not be obliged to come. The world is Your synagogue. Are You not really coming, Master?"
"No, Jairus. I am staying here with My spirit before the Father Who understands Me and finds no fault in Me." Jesus' sad eyes shine with tears.
"Neither do I find fault in You... Goodbye, Lord."
"Goodbye, Jairus." And Jesus sits down once again, meditating.
Jairus' daughter, in a white dress, goes upstairs as lightly as a dove. She looks round... She then calls in a low voice: "My Saviour!"
Jesus looks round, sees her, smiles and says: "Come near Me."
"Yes, my Lord. But I would like to take You to the others. Why is the synagogue to be silent today?"
"There is your father and many others to fill it with words."
"But they are words... Yours is the Word. Oh! My Lord! Through Your word You gave me back to my mother and father, and I was dead. But look at those who are now going towards the synagogue! Many of them are more dead than I was. Come and give them Life."
"My dear daughter, you deserved it; they... No word can give life to those who choose death for themselves."
"Yes, my Lord. But come just the same. There are also some who live more intensely when they hear You... Come. Give me Your hand and let us go. I am the witness of Your power and I am ready to bear witness also before Your enemies, even at the cost of being deprived of this second life, which in any case is no longer mine. You gave it to me, my dear Master, out of pity for a mother and a father. But I..." the girl, a beautiful girl, almost a young woman, with large bright eyes and a pure intelligent face, stops choked by tears, which from her long eyelashes stream down her cheeks.
"Why are you weeping, now?" asks Jesus laying His hand on her hair.
"Because... I was told that You say that You will die..."
"Everybody must die, my girl."
"But not as You say!... I... oh! now I would not have liked to be brought back to life, in order not to see that, not to be there when... that horrible thing will happen..."
"In that case, you would not have been here either to comfort Me as you are doing now. Do you not know that a word, even one word only, of a pure soul who loves Me, takes all grief away from Me?"
"Does it? Oh! Then You must no longer be grieved because I love you more than I love my father, my mother and my own life!"
"It is so."
"Then come. Don't be alone. Speak for me, for Jairus, for my mother, for little David, for those who love You. We are many, and we will be more. But do not be alone. It makes You sad" and through motherly instinct, like every honest woman, she ends saying: "No one will hurt You if I am near You. In any case, I will defend You."
Jesus stands up and pleases her. With His hand in hers, they cross the street and enter the synagogue by a side door.
Jairus, who is reading a roll in a loud voice, stops reading and bowing lowly says: "Master, please speak to those whose hearts are righteous. Prepare us for Passover with Your holy word."
"You are reading the Book of Kings, are you not?"
"Yes, Master. I was endeavouring to make them consider that those who part from the true God become idolaters of golden calves."
"You are quite right. Does anybody wish to speak?"
The crowd begins to whisper. Some want Jesus to speak, some shout: "We are in a hurry. Let us say the prayers and dismiss the congregation. We are going to Jerusalem in any case and we will hear the rabbis there." Those who shout thus are the deserters who have been held up in Capernaum because of the Sabbath. Jesus looks at them with deep sadness and says: "You are in a hurry. That is true. God also is in a hurry to judge you. You may go." Then addressing the people who are reproaching them He says: "Do not rebuke them. Each tree bears its own fruit."
"Master! Repeat the gesture of Nehemia! Since You are the High Priest, speak against them!" shouts Jairus indignantly and the apostles, the faithful disciples and the people of Capernaum join in with him.
Jesus stretches out His arms crosswise; He is very pale and His countenance is most sorrowful, although very kind while He cries: "Remember Me, My God! Remember Me propitiously! And remember them propitiously, too! I forgive them!"
The synagogue is soon empty, only those who are faithful to Jesus have remained... There is a stranger in a corner. A strong man whom no one notices and to whom no one speaks. On the other hand he does not speak to anybody. He stares at Jesus, so much so that the Master turns His eyes towards him and asks Jairus who he is.
"I do not know. He must be a passer-by."
Jesus asks him: "Who are you?"
"Nicolaus, a proselyte from Antioch. I am going to Jerusalem for Passover."
"Whom are you looking for?"
"For You, Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. I wish to speak to You."
"Come, then." And when he comes near, Jesus goes out with him into the kitchen garden behind the synagogue, to listen to him.
"I spoke in Antioch with a disciple of Yours, whose name is Felix. I have longed to meet You. He told me that you are often in Capernaum and that Your Mother lives in Nazareth. And that You go to Gethsemane or to Bethany. The Eternal Father has granted me to find You in the first place. I was here yesterday... And I was near You this morning, while You were weeping and praying near the fountain... I love You, Lord, because You are holy and meek. I believe in You. Your actions and Your words had already conquered me. But Your mercy of a little while ago, on the culprits, has finally convinced me. Lord, accept me in place of those who leave You! I will come to You with everything I have: my life, my wealth, everything." He has knelt down while saying the last words.
Jesus gazes at him... then He says: "Come. As from today you belong to the Master. Let us go to your companions."
They go back into the synagogue where the disciples and apostles are discussing animatedly with Jairus.
"Here is a new disciple. The Father has comforted Me. Love him as your brother. Let us go and share with him our bread and salt. Then, during the night, you will leave for Jerusalem with him and we will go to Hippo by boat... And do not tell anybody which way I am going so that I shall not be held up."
In the meantime the Sabbath is over and those who want to shun Jesus have gathered on the beach haggling over the price of boats to Tiberias. And they quarrel with Zebedee who does not want to hire out his boat, which is ready near Peter's to depart during the night with Jesus and the Twelve.
"I will go and help him!" says Peter who is annoyed.
To avoid too big a clash, Jesus holds him back saying: "We will all go, not just yourself."
And they go... And they experience a bitter disappointment seeing the fugitives go away without even a nod, avoiding all contact in order to go away from Jesus... and they hear some unpleasant epithets also and acrid advice to the faithful disciples...
Jesus turns round to go back home after the hostile crowd has left, and He says to the new disciple: "Have you heard them? That is what you are to expect if you come with Me."
"I know. That is why I am staying. I saw You one glorious day when the crowds cheered You and hailed You “king”. I shrugged my shoulders saying: “Another poor day-dreamer! Another plague for Israel!”, and I did not follow You because You looked like a king and I forgot all about You. I will now follow You because I see the promised Messiah in Your words and kindness."
"You are really more just than many others. But once again I warn you. He who hopes that I am an earthly king, should go away. He who feels that he will be ashamed of Me before the world accusing Me, should go away. He who will be scandalised seeing Me treated as an evil-doer should go away. I am telling you so that you may do so before being compromised in the eyes of the world.
Imitate those who are escaping in those boats, if you feel that you cannot share My lot in disgrace, to be able to share it later in glory. Because this is what is about to happen: the Son of man is about to be accused and put into the hands of men, who will kill Him as a criminal and will believe that they defeated Him. But they will have accomplished their crime in vain. Because after three days I will rise from the dead and triumph. Blessed are those who will be able to stay with Me till the end!"
They have now reached the house and Jesus entrusts the newcomer to the disciples, and goes upstairs where He was before. He goes into the upper room and sits down meditating.
Shortly afterwards the Iscariot goes upstairs with Peter. "Master, Judas has made me ponder on certain matters that I think are right."
"You have accepted this Nicolaus, a proselyte, whose past is unknown to us. We have already had so much trouble... and we are still experiencing it. And now? What do we know about him? Can we trust him? Judas quite rightly says that he may be a spy sent by our enemies."
"Of course! A traitor! Why does he not want to tell us where he comes from and who sent him? I have asked him, but he says only: “I am Nicolaus from Antioch, a proselyte.” I am very suspicious."
"I would remind you that he came because he saw that I was betrayed."
"It may be a lie! It may be treachery!"
"He who sees falsehood and treachery everywhere, is a soul capable of such things, because he measures himself on his own model" replies Jesus seriously.
"Lord, You are offending me!" shouts Judas indignantly.
"Leave Me, then, and go with those who abandoned Me."
Judas goes out slamming the door very rudely.
"But, Lord, Judas is not entirely wrong... In any case, I would not like that man... to mention John. It must be Felix, the man of Endor, who sent him to You..."
"It is certainly so. But John of Endor is a wise man and he resumed his old name. Do not worry, Simon. A man who becomes a disciple because he realises that My human cause is lost, can but be a righteous spirit. Quite different from him who just went out and who came to Me because he was hoping to become the prince of a powerful king... and he cannot convince himself that I am King only for the spirit..."
"Do You suspect him, Lord?"
"I suspect no one. But I solemnly tell you that the apostle Judas of Simon, an Israelite and Judaean, will never go as far as Nicolaus, a disciple and proselyte."
"Lord, I would like to ask Nicolaus after... John."
"No, do not. John has not entrusted him with any task, because he is wise. Do not be the unwise one."
"No, Lord, I was only asking You..."
"Let us go downstairs and hasten the supper. At dead of night we will leave... Simon... do you love Me?"
"Oh! Master! What are You asking?"
"Simon, My heart is darker than the lake in a stormy night and as agitated as it..."
"Oh! Master of mine!... What shall I tell You, if I am more sullen and agitated than You are? I can only say: “Here is Your Simon. And if my heart can comfort You, take it.” It is the only thing I have, but it is sincere."
For a moment Jesus rests His head on Peter's wide strong chest and then stands up and goes downstairs with him.