430. Near Sephoris, with Johanan's Peasants.
8th May 1946.
"Will they come?" Matthew asks his companions who are sat in a wood of holm-oaks in the lower slopes of the hill on which Sephoris rises. The Esdraelon plain is no longer visible, as it is beyond the hill where they are. But there is a much smaller plain between this hill and those in the region of Nazareth and which can be seen clearly in the bright moonlight.
"They promised. And they will come" replies Andrew.
"At least some of them. They were going to leave half-way through the first watch and they will be here at the beginning of the second one" says Thomas.
"Later" says Thaddeus.
"It took us less than three hours" objects Andrew.
"We are men and in full strength. They are tired and will have women with them" replies Thaddeus again.
"Provided their master does not find out!" says Matthew with a sigh.
"There is no danger. He left for Jezreel, where he will be the guest of a friend. The superintendent is there. But he is coming as well, because he does not hate the Master" says Thomas.
"Will that man be sincere?" asks Philip.
"Yes, because there is no reason why he should not be."
"Well! To get into his master's good graces and..."
"No, Philip. When vintage time is over he will be dismissed by Johanan just because he does not hate the Master" replies Andrew.
"Who told you?" several of them ask.
"He himself and the peasants... each on his own account. And when two people of different categories agree in saying the same thing, it means that what they say is true. The peasants were weeping because the superintendent is leaving. He was very humane. And he said to us: “I am a man and not a clay puppet. Last year he said to me: 'Honour the Master, approach Him, become one of His believers'. I obeyed. Now he says to me: 'Woe betide you if you love my enemy and if you allow the servants to love Him. I do not want my land to be anathematised by receiving that cursed man'. But now that I know Him, how can I consider that order just? I said to the master: 'Last year you spoke differently, but He is always the same'. He beat me a first time. I said: 'I am not a slave, and even if I were, you would not be in possession of my thought. My thought judges Him to be holy Who you say is cursed'. He beat me again. This morning he said to me: “The anathema of Israel is in my property. Woe to you if disobey my order. You will no longer be my servant'. I replied: 'You are right. I will no longer be your servant. Look for another one who has a heart like yours and who is as rapacious about your property as you are about other people's souls'. And he threw me on the ground and struck me... But the work of the year will soon be over and at the new moon of Tishri I will be free. I am only sorry for these...” and he pointed at the peasants" says Thomas.
"But where did you see him?..."
"In the wood, as if we were highwaymen. Micah, to whom we had spoken, had informed him and he came while he was still bleeding and servants and maidservants came a few at a time..." says Andrew.
"H'm! so Judas was right! He is familiar with the mood of the Pharisee..." remarks Bartholomew.
"Judas knows too many things!..." says James of Zebedee.
"Be quiet! He may hear you!" advises Matthew.
"No. He has gone away saying that he is sleepy and has a headache..." replies James.
"Moon! Moon in the sky and moon in his head. It is so: he is more changeable than the wind" pronounces Peter who has been silent so far.
"Yes! A real misfortune among us!" says Bartholomew with a sigh.
"No, don't say that! Not a misfortune! On the contrary: a way to sanctify oneself..." says the Zealot.
"Or to damn oneself, because he makes one lose one's virtues..." says Thaddeus resolutely.
"He is a poor wretch!" remarks Andrew sadly.
There is silence. Then Peter asks: "But is the Master still praying?"
"No. While you were dozing He passed by and joined John and his brother James, placed as sentries on the road. He wants to be with the poor peasants at once. Perhaps it is the last time He will see them" replies the Zealot.
"Why the last time? Why? Don't say that. It seems to bring bad luck!" says Thaddeus excitedly.
"Because you can see it... We are persecuted more and more... I don't know what we will do in future..."
"Simon is right... Eh! it will be lovely to be all spiritual... But... if we had been permitted to have a little... humanity... a pinch of protection from Claudia would have done no harm" says Matthew.
"No. It is better to be alone... and above all to be free from contacts with the heathens. I... do not approve of them" says Bartholomew resolutely.
"Not much myself... But... the Master says that His Doctrine must spread all over the world. And that we have to do that... We have to sow His words everywhere... So we will have to adapt ourselves to approaching Gentiles and idolaters..." says Thaddeus.
"Impure people. It seems to me something sacrilegious. Wisdom to pigs!..."
"They have a soul, too, Nathanael! You felt sorry for the girl yesterday..."
"Because... she is... a mere nothing which is to be perfected. She is like a newborn baby... But the others!... And she is not a Roman..."
"Do you think that the Gauls are not idolaters? They have their cruel gods as well. You will find out if you have to go and convert them!..." says the Zealot who is more learned than the others, I would say, in a cosmopolitan manner.
"But she does not belong to the race of those who are profaning Israel. I will never preach to the enemies of Israel, neither to the present nor to the old ones."
"Then... you will have to go very far away, among the hyperboreans, because... it does not seem so, but Israel has had a taste of all the neighbouring peoples..." says Thomas.
"I will go far away... But here is the Master. Let us go and meet Him. How many people! They have all come! Even the children..."
"The Master will be happy..."
They join the Master Who is advancing with difficulty on the meadow, pressed as He is by so many surrounding Him.
"Is Judas still absent?" asks Jesus.
"Yes, Master. But we will call him, if You wish so..."
"It is not necessary. My voice will reach him where he is. And his free conscience speaks to him with its own voice. It is not necessary for you to add your voices and force a will. Come, let us sit down here with our brothers. And forgive Me if I have not been able to break the bread with you in a feast of love."
They sit in a circle with Jesus in the centre, and Jesus wants around Him all the children who press against Him affectionately and full of confidence.
"Bless them, Lord! That they may see what we long to see: freedom to love You!" shouts a woman.
"Yes. They are depriving us also of that. They do not want Your words to be impressed in our souls. And now by forbidding You to come, they are preventing us from meeting... and we will have no more holy words!" moans an old man.
"If we are abandoned thus, we will become sinners. You taught us to forgive... You gave us so much love that we could bear our master and his ill-will... But now..." says a young man. I cannot see their faces very well, so I do not know exactly who is speaking. I base myself on the tones of the voices.
"Do not weep. I will see that you do not lack My word. I will come again, as long as I can..."
"No, Master and Lord. He is wicked and so are his friends. They could injure You and because of us. We will make the sacrifice of losing You, but do not give us the sorrow of having to say: “He was caught because of us”."
"Yes, save Yourself, Master."
"Do not be afraid. We read in Jeremiah how the prophet told his secretary Baruch to write what the Lord dictated to him and to go and read what he had written to those who had gathered in the house of the Lord, and to read it in place of the prophet who was in prison and could not go there. I will do the same. Among My apostles and disciples I have many faithful Baruchs. They will come and tell you the word of the Lord and your souls will not perish. And I will not be caught through your fault, because the Most High God will conceal Me from their eyes until the hour when the he King of Israel is to be shown to the crowds so that the whole world may know Him. And do not be afraid either of losing the words which are in you.
We read, always in Jeremiah, that also after the destruction of the scroll by Jehoiakim, king of Judah, who by burning the scroll hoped to destroy the eternal truthful words, what God had dictated remained, because the Lord gave this order to the prophet: “Take another scroll and write down all the words that were written on the scroll burnt by the king”. And Jeremiah gave a scroll to Baruch, a scroll without any writing, and he dictated once again to his secretary the eternal words and he added some more as well to complete the previous ones, because the Lord mends the damages caused by men when such amends are useful to souls, and He does not allow hatred to cancel the work of love. Well, even if I, comparing Myself to a scroll full of holy verities, should be destroyed, do you think that the Lord would let you perish without the help of other scrolls, which will contain My words and those of My witnesses telling you what I cannot tell you, as I am a prisoner of Violence and destroyed by it? And do you think that what is impressed in the scrolls of your hearts can be cancelled with the passing of time on the words? No. The angel of the Lord will repeat those words to you, keeping them fresh in your souls eager for Wisdom. Not only. But he will explain them to you and you will be wise through the word of your Master. You seal your love for Me by means of the seal of sorrow. Can what resists persecution perish? It cannot. I am telling you. God's gifts cannot be cancelled. Sin only can cancel them. But you certainly do not wish to commit sin, do you, My friends?"
"No, Lord. It would mean losing You in the next life" reply many.
"But they will make us sin. He has ordered us not to leave his fields any more on Sabbaths... and there will be no more Passovers for us. So we will commit sin..." say others.
"No. You will not sin. He will. He only, as he does violence to the right of God and of His children to embrace and love one another in sweet conversation of love and teaching on the day of the Lord."
"But he makes amends through many fasting-days and offerings. We cannot, because the food we get is already too scanty as compared with the work we do, and we have nothing to offer... We are poor..."
"You offer what is appreciated by God: your hearts. Isaiah speaking to false penitents in the name of God says: “Look, on your fast-days your will is revealed and you oppress your debtors. Look, you fast to quarrel and squabble and fight cruelly. Do not fast any more as you have done so far, if you want to make your voice heard on high. Is that the sort of fast that pleases Me? That man for one day should just afflict his soul and torment his body and lie down on ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to the Lord? The fasting I prefer is a different one. Break the chains of sin, undo oppressive obligations, let the oppressed go free, remove all burdens. Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the poor and pilgrims, clothe the naked and do not despise your neighbour”. But Johanan does not do that. You are his creditors because of the work you do for him making him rich, and he treats you worse than defaulting debtors and he raises his voice to threaten you and his hand to strike you. He is not merciful and he despises you because you are servants. But a servant is a man just like his master, and if it is his duty to serve, it is also his right to receive what is necessary to a man, with regard both to his body and to his spirit. The Sabbath is not honoured even if a man spends it in the synagogue, if on the same day the man who keeps it puts chains on his brothers and gives them aloe to drink. Keep your Sabbaths talking with one another of the Lord, and the Lord will be among you. Forgive and the Lord will glorify you.
I am the Good Shepherd and I have mercy on all My sheep. But I certainly love with particular fondness those which idolatrous shepherds have beaten, so that they may go away from My way. For them, more than for any other, I have come. Because your Father and Mine ordered Me: “Pasture these sheep for slaughter, killed mercilessly by their masters who have sold them saying: 'We have become rich!' and on which the shepherds had no mercy”. Well, I will pasture the flock for slaughter, o poor people of the herd, forsaking to their wickedness those who distress you and afflict the Father Who suffers in His children. I will stretch out My hand to the little ones among the children of God and I will draw them to Me, so that they may have My glory. The Lord promises that through the lips of the prophets who celebrate My pity and power as Shepherd. And I promise directly you who love Me. I will provide for My flock.
To those who accuse good sheep of making the water turbid or spoiling the pasture to come to Me, I will say: “Go away. You are the ones who cause the springs of My children to dry up and their Pastures to parch. But I have led and will lead them to other pastures; to the pastures which satisfy the spirit. I will leave you a pasture for your big bellies, I will leave you the bitter spring which you made well up and I will go with My sheep, separating the true sheep of God from the false ones, and My lambs will no longer be distressed by anything, but they will exult forever in the pastures of Heaven”.
Persevere, My beloved children! Be patient a little longer, as I am. Be faithful, doing what your unfair master allows you to do. And God will judge that you have done everything and will reward you for everything. Do not hate, even if everything urges and teaches you to hate. Have faith in God. See: Jonah was relieved of his suffering and Jabez was taken towards love. And what the Lord did to the old man and to the boy, He will do to you: partly in this life, completely in the next one.
I have but money to give you to make your material situation less painful. I will give it to you. Give it to them, Matthew, so that they may share it. It is much, but always too little for you who are so many and so poor. But I have nothing else... materially. But I have My love, and the power of being the Son of the Father, so that I can ask infinite supernatural treasures for you, to comfort your grief and enlighten your darkness. Oh! your sad life can be made bright by God! By Him alone!... And I say: “Father, I pray You for them. I do not pray You for the happy and rich people in the world. But I pray for these, who have but You and Me. Let them rise so high in the ways of the spirit, that they may find all comfort in Our love, and let us give Ourselves to them with love, with all our infinite love, to fill their days and their work with peace, serenity, courage, with supernatural peace, serenity and strength, so that, as if they were estranged from the world through Our love, they may endure their calvary and after their death, they may have You, Us, infinite beatitude”."
Jesus has prayed standing up, slowly freeing Himself from the children who had fallen asleep leaning against Him. And He is solemn and kind in His prayer. He now lowers His eyes and says: "I am going. You must go now, to be back in your homes in time. We will meet again. And I will bring Marjiam. But even when I can no longer come, My Spirit will always be with you and My apostles will love you as I did. May the Lord lay His blessing upon you. Go!" And He bends to caress the sleeping children and He gives Himself up to the effusive warm-heartedness of the poor people who cannot make up their minds to part from Him...
At last they all go their ways and the two groups part while the moon is setting and branches of trees are to be lit to illuminate the road. And the pungent smoke of the dampish branches is a good excuse for shining eyes…
Judas is waiting for them leaning against the trunk of a tree. Jesus looks at him and does not say anything, not even when Judas says: "I feel better."
They go on thus, as best they can during the night, then much quicker at dawn. When they are in sight of a cross-roads Jesus stops and says: "Let us part. Thomas, Simon Zealot and My brothers will come with Me. The others will go to the lake and wait for Me."
"Thank You, Master... I did not dare ask You, But You are helping me. I am really tired. And if You allow me, I will stop at Tiberias..."
"At a friend's" James of Zebedee cannot refrain himself from saying. Judas opens his eyes wide... but nothing else.
Jesus hastens to say: "As far as I am concerned it is enough if you go to Capernaum on the Sabbath with your companions. Come, that I may kiss you, you who are leaving Me." And He fondly kisses the apostles who are departing, giving each of them a piece of advice in a whisper...
No one objects. Peter only, when leaving, says: "Come soon, Master."
"Yes, come soon" say the others, and John concludes: "The lake will look very sad without You."
Jesus blesses them again and promises: "I will see you soon!" and then they all go their own way.