408. The Apostles Speak.
5th April 1946.
"I am dying to be up in the mountains!" exclaims Peter puffing and blowing and wiping the perspiration that trickles down his cheeks and neck.
"What? You hated mountains, and now you want them?" sarcastically asks Judas Iscariot, who has become overbearing and bold once again, now that he sees that his fear of being found out has come to nothing.
"Yes, now I really want them. At this time of the year they are the right place. Not just like my sea... That one, ah! But... I do not understand why fields are warmer after harvest time. The sun is still the same, and yet..."
"It is not a question that they are warmer. The fact is that they are gloomier and one feels more depressed looking at them thus, than when they are full of corn" sensibly replies Matthew.
"No. Simon is right. They are unbearably warm after they have been reaped. I never felt so worn" says James of Zebedee.
"Never? And what about the heat we suffered going to Nike?" retorts Judas of Kerioth.
"It was never as bad as this" replies Andrew.
"No wonder! Summer is now forty days ahead and consequently the sun is scorching hot" insists Judas.
"It is a fact that stubble gives off more heat than fields full of corn, and the reason is clear. The sunbeams, which previously stopped on the top of the ears, now blaze down directly on the bare burnt ground and the latter reflects its heat upwards, in opposition to the sun that descends from above, and thus man finds himself between two fires" sententiously says Bartholomew.
The Iscariot laughs ironically and he gives a low bow to his companion saying: "Rabbi Nathanael, I greet you and thank you for your learned lesson." He is as offensive as one can be.
Bartholomew looks at him... but is silent. Philip, instead defends him: "There is no need to be ironical! What he said is correct! You are surely not going to deny a truth that millions of people with good common sense have judged to be true, logical and verifiable."
"Of course! Of course! I know, that you are all learned, experts, sensible, good, perfect people... You are everything! Everything! I only am the black sheep in the white herd!... I only am the bastard lamb, the disgrace that is disclosed and puts on ram-horns... I only am the sinner, the imperfect one, the cause of all the evil among us, in Israel, in the world... perhaps also in the stars... I cannot stand this any longer! Not so much because I see that I am the last, but because I see that nonentities, like those two fools who are speaking to the Master, are admired as if they were two holy oracles, I am tired of..."
"Listen, boy..." Peter begins to say, while red in the face not so much from the heat, as from his efforts in controlling himself.
But Judas Thaddeus interrupts him: "Are you judging other people by your own standard? Try and be a “nonentity” yourself like my brother James and John of Zebedee, and there will no longer be imperfections in the apostolic group." "See now, whether I am right! I am imperfection! Ah! that's too much! But it is..."
"Yes, I think that it was too much the wine that Joseph made us drink and in this heat it is upsetting you... just a reaction of the blood..." says very calmly Thomas, to make a joke of the quarrel, which is about to arise.
But Peter has worn out his patience and with set teeth and clenched fists to continue to master himself, he says: "Listen boy. There is one thing only advisable for you: part for a little while..."
"I? Part? By your order? The Master only can give me orders and I will obey Him only. Who are you? A poor..."
"An ignorant, coarse, good-for-nothing fisherman. You are right... I am the first to say that. And before the omnipresent, all-seeing Jehovah, I testify that I would prefer to be the last, instead of the first, I declare that I would like to see you or anybody else in my place, but you above all, so that you might be freed from the monster of jealousy, which makes you unfair, and I wish I had but to obey you, my boy... And believe me, it would cost me much less trouble than having to speak to you as the “first”. But He, the Master, appointed me the “first” among you... And I must obey Him first of all and more than I have to obey anybody else. And you must obey. And with my good sense of a fisherman I tell you to part, not as you have understood, mistaking my soothing words for fiery ones, but to go away for a short while and be alone, to meditate... You were behind us all from Bether to the valley. Do that again... The Master ahead... you in the rear... we... the nonentities, in the middle... All one has to do to understand and to calm down is to be alone... Listen to me... It is better for everybody, and for you first of all..." And he takes him by the arm and pulls him out of the group, saying: "There, stay there while we join the Master. Then... come slowly, slowly... and you will see that the storm will soon be over" and he leaves him, joining his companions who are already a few metres ahead.
"Ugh! I perspired more speaking to him than walking... What temperament! Shall we ever be able to get something from him?"
"Never, Simon. My brother persists in keeping him. But... He will never get any good out of him" replies Judas Thaddeus to him.
"He is a real punishment for us!" whispers Andrew, and he concludes: "John and I are almost afraid of him and we always keep quiet fearing further quarrels."
"It is in fact the best policy" says Bartholomew.
"I just cannot keep quiet" admits Thaddeus.
"I am not very successful either... But I have found the secret to become so" says Peter.
"Which? Tell us..." they all say.
"Working like an ox at the plough. Even a useless job... Something that serves to get off my chest the load that is brewing up inside me... something that is not Judas."
"Ah! I understand! That is why you made such havoc of plants when descending to the valley! That's why, eh?" asks James of Zebedee.
"That's it... But today... here... I had nothing to break without causing damage. There are only fruit trees and it would be a sin to spoil them... I worked three times as hard... breaking myself... so that I would not be the old Simon of Capernaum... And my bones are aching..."
Bartholomew and the Zealot make the same gesture and utter the same words: they embrace Peter exclaiming: "And you are astonished that He appointed you the first among us? You are a teacher to us..."
"Me? Because of that?... A trifle!... I am a poor man... I ask you only to love me by giving me wise advice, simple loving advice. Love and simplicity that I may become like you... And only for His sake as He is already so grieved..."
"You are right. That we at least may not be the cause of His grief!" exclaims Matthew.
"I had a terrible fright when Johanna sent for Him. You two, who have gone ahead, do you really not know anything?" asks Thomas.
"No, nothing for certain. But we have been thinking that it was in connection with that fellow behind there... who has been up to something" replies Peter. "Be quiet! I suspected the same when I heard the Master speak on the Sabbath" admits Judas Thaddeus.
"So did I" answers James of Zebedee.
"Oh!... I never thought of that... not even when I saw Judas so gloomy, so rude that evening, I must say" says Thomas.
"Well. Let us forget about it. And let us try to... improve him, with our love and sacrifices. As Marjiam taught us..." says Peter.
"What will Marjiam be doing?" asks Andrew smiling.
"Who knows!?... We shall soon be with him. I am dying to see him... These separations really cost me so much."
"I wonder why the Master wants this. Now... Marjiam also could be with us. He is no longer a little frail boy" remarks James of Zebedee.
"And then... If he walked such a long way last year when he was so weak, he could walk all the more now" says Philip.
"I think that it is to avoid him seeing certain disgraceful things..." says Matthew.
"Or being in touch with certain people..." grumbles Thaddeus who just cannot put up with the Iscariot.
"Perhaps you are both right" says Peter.
"Surely not! He must be doing it to let the boy grow stronger. You will see that next year the boy is with us" states Thomas.
"Next year! Will the Master still be with us next year?" asks Bartholomew pensively. "His speeches seem... so allusive to me..."
"Don't say that!" implore the others.
"I don't like to say so. But not saying does not serve to remove what is destined to happen."
"Well... That is another reason why we should improve much during the next months... In order not to grieve Him by not being ready. I mean, now that we shall be resting in Galilee, He should teach us twelve particularly as much as possible... In any case we shall soon be there..."
"Yes. And I am longing for that. I am old and these marches in this heat cause much personal trouble to me" confesses Bartholomew.
"And to me. I was a vicious man and if you count my years I am older than you think. Excesses... eh! I feel all their consequences in my bones now... And we children of Levi suffer from such trouble by nature..."
"And what about me? I was ill for years... and that life in caves, with scanty miserable food. One feels the effect of such situations!..." says the Zealot. "But you have always said that since you were cured you have been feeling strong?" asks Judas who has joined them and is behind the Zealot. "Has perhaps the effect of the miracle come to an end?"
The disfigured but expressive face of the Zealot makes a typical grimace, and seems to say: "He is here! Lord, grant me patience!" But he replies most kindly: "No. The effect of the miracle is not over. And you can see that. I have not been taken ill again. I am strong and healthy. But years are years and fatigue is fatigue. And this heat, which causes us to get as wet with perspiration as if we had fallen into a ditch, and the nights, which I would say are ice-cold as compared with the heat of the day and freeze perspiration on our bodies, while the dew adds more humidity to our garments already wet with sweat, all that certainly does me no good. And I am longing to have a rest so that I can take care of myself. In the morning, particularly when we sleep under the open sky, I am stiff all over. If I become an invalid, of what use shall I be?"
"You will be able to suffer. Jesus says that suffering is as good as work and prayer" Andrew replies to him.
"That's all right. But I prefer to serve Him apostolically and..."
"And you are tired, too. Admit it. You are tired of continuing this life without any prospect of pleasant hours, on the contrary, with the prospect of persecutions and... defeat. You are beginning to consider that you are running the risk of becoming an outlaw once again" says Judas of Kerioth.
"I am not considering anything. I am saying that I feel that I am going to fall ill."
"Oh! as He cured you once!..." and Judas laughs ironically.
Bartholomew feels that another squabble is approaching and to divert it he calls Jesus. "Master! Is there nothing for us? You are always ahead of us!..."
"You are right, Bartholmai. But we are going to stop now. See that little house? We will go there because the sun is too strong. We will set out again in the evening. We must make haste in going back to Jerusalem, because Pentecost is close at hand."
"What were you speaking of?" Judas Thaddeus asks his brother.
"Just imagine! We began to speak about Joseph of Arimathea and we ended up by talking about the old property of Joachim at Nazareth and about his habit - as long as he was able to do so - of taking half of the crops for himself giving the rest to the poor, which the old people in Nazareth remember so well. How abstinent were those two just people, Anne and Joachim! No wonder they were granted the miracle of a Daughter, of that Daughter!... And with Jesus I was recalling the past, when we were children..." And they continue talking while going towards the house through sunny fields.
Jesus says: "You will put here the vision of the miraculous gleaning on behalf of the little old woman (in the plain between Emmaus on the plain and the mountains towards Jerusalem) which you had on September 27th 1944."