401. Simon of Jonah's Struggle and Spiritual Victory.
25th March 1946.
In Nomine Domini. And I am resuming, at long last, to write about you, o sweet Gospel, following my Master holily along the roads of Palestine! I resume you after fulfilling all my tasks in obedience to the orders. It would be better to say: "You resume me."
I do not know whether anyone ponders on the mute but so instructive lesson that the Lord gives through His silence, brought about by three different reasons: 1st pity for the weakness of His sick mouthpiece who at times is almost dying; 2nd silence as a punishment for those who do not conform properly to His gift; 3rd the lesson that He gives me, and of which I wish to speak, of our duty to always obey, even if obedience may seem inferior to the work we have to interrupt in order to obey.
Oh! it is not easy to be a "mouthpiece"! One lives in continuous vigilance and obedience. And Jesus, Who is the Master of the world, does not take the liberty of allowing His instrument to disobey an order, when obedience is exacted by a person authorised to do so.
During the past days I had to obey the orders given to me by Father Migliorini. They were bureaucratic matters and thus rather boring. But Jesus never interfered because I had to obey. And my obedience was to be precise and complete, as Azariah said yesterday explaining Holy Mass.
But now, as I have done everything, I can contemplate You, my Lord, while You descend the steep path towards the fertile valley, leaving behind the castle of Bether, still bright in the dying day, up there, on the flowery hill... leaving there the love of the women disciples, of the little ones, of the humble people, descending towards the roads that take to Jerusalem, towards the world, towards the lower part... And it is darker there not only because it is a "valley" and thus sunshine and light are no longer there, but above all because down there, in the world, there are snares, bitter hatred, so much evil waiting for You, my Lord... Jesus is ahead of them all: a white silent figure, walking stately also while descending uncomfortable abrupt paths, taken to shorten the journey. In the descent His long tunic and wide mantle trail on the ground and Jesus seems already enveloped in a royal mantle with a train behind His steps.
Behind Him, not so majestic, but equally silent, are the apostles... Judas, a little outdistanced, is last: he looks ugly in his rage. Now and again the more simple ones: Andrew, Thomas, turn round and look at him, and Andrew says to him: "Why are you remaining all alone, so far behind? Are you not feeling well?".
His question brings about a sharp reply: "Mind your own business" that surprises Andrew, also because it is followed by a rude epithet.
Peter is second in the line of the apostles, behind James of Alphaeus, who is immediately behind the Master. And Peter hears the rude reply, in the deep silence of the evening. And he turns round abruptly and is about to go back towards Judas. But he stops. He is pensive for a moment, then runs towards Jesus, He takes Him brusquely by the arm and shakes Him saying eagerly: "Master, can You assure me that what You told me the other evening is really true? That sacrifices and prayers never lack success, even if they seem to serve no purpose?..."
Jesus, meek, sad, pale, looks at His Simon who is perspiring in the effort not to react at once to the insult, and is purple and trembling, and perhaps is hurting Him as he is holding His arm so roughly, and He replies with a peaceful sad smile: "They are never without reward. You may rest assured."
Peter leaves Him and goes away, not to his place, but to the slope of the mountain, among the trees and he gives vent to his feelings by breaking shrubs and young plants with a violence that was directed elsewhere but is discharged here on tree-trunks.
"What are you doing? Are you mad?" many ask him.
Peter does not reply. He goes on breaking. He lets all the apostles, including Judas, overtake him, while he breaks... and breaks. He is so fast that he seems to be on piece-work. At his feet there is a bundle of sticks that would suffice to roast a veal. He loads it on to his shoulder with some difficulty and he strives to reach his companions. I do not know how he can manage − hampered as he is by his mantle − the weight, his haversack and the uncomfortable path. But he proceeds with a stoop, as if he were under the yoke...
And Judas laughs seeing him and says: "You look like a slave!"
Peter looks up with difficulty from under the yoke and is about to say something. But he remains silent, he grinds his teeth and goes on.
"I will help you, brother" says Andrew.
"But that wood is too much for a lamb" remarks James of Zebedee.
Peter does not reply. He proceeds. He must be exhausted. But he does not give up.
At last, at a grotto almost at the bottom of the descent, Jesus stops with all the apostles. "We are staying here, and we will leave at daybreak" orders the Master. "Prepare the supper."
Peter then throws his load on the ground and sits on it, without explaining to anybody the reason for his great effort, while there is plenty firewood about. But when the apostles move around, some to get drinking water, some to clean the floor of the grotto, some to wash the lamb before cooking it, and Peter is left alone with his Master, Jesus, standing up, lays His hand on Simon's grey-haired head, and caresses that honest head... Peter then clasps that hand and kisses it, he holds it against his cheek, kisses it again and caresses it... A drop falls on the white hand, a drop which is not perspiration of the coarse honest apostle, but a silent tear of love and suffering, of victory after the struggle. And Jesus bends and kisses him saying: "Thank you, Simon!"
Peter is certainly not a handsome man. But when he throws back his head to look at his Jesus Who has kissed him and thanked him, because He only has understood, veneration and joy do make him handsome...
And the vision ends on this transformation.