443. Arrival at Tiberias. Parable of the Rain on the Vine.
3rd June 1946.
Jesus arrives at Tiberias with His apostles on a stormy morning. He has come along the short route from Tarichea to Tiberias, with the boats tossing terribly on the very rough lake which is grayish like the sky, where large clouds chase one another threateningly.
Peter scans the sky and the lake and orders the servants to put the boats in a safe place: "Before long you will hear some fine music! I am no longer Peter the fisherman, if the downpour and the billows of the lake do not cause damage shortly. Is there anybody on the lake?" he asks himself scanning the heavy sea of Galilee. And he sees that it is deserted, with billows sweeping it more and more violently, under the vault of heaven which is becoming more and more threatening. He takes comfort seeing that it is deserted and thinking that it will not cause any harm to human beings, and he happily follows the Master, Who is proceeding among such strong gusts of wind, that the apostles walk with difficulty in clouds of dust, while their garments flap fiercely in the storm.
In Tiberias, in this part of the town where ordinary people live, families of fishermen or of poor workmen employed in jobs connected with fishing, people are busy coming and going to put back in the houses what could be damaged by the storm. Some run laden with nets, some with the oars from boats which have already been beached safely, and some drag their working tools into the houses, and all this takes place in the howling wind which raises clouds of dust and makes doors bang. The other part of Tiberias, the northern one, with buildings lined along the lake and beautiful parks visible along the curved shore, is sleeping idly. Only some servants or slaves, according to whether the house belongs to Israelites or to Romans, are busy removing curtains from roof terraces, beaching sport-boats, and taking away chairs lying about in gardens...
Jesus, Who has come to this part, says to Simon Zealot and to His cousin Judas: "Go and ask the door-keeper of Johanna of Chuza whether any of our friends have been looking for us. I will wait here."
"All right. And what about Johanna?"
We will see her later. Go and do what I told you."
The two go away quickly, and while the others are awaiting their return, Jesus sends them, some here, some there, to get a little food for themselves and for the women, because it is not fair to be a burden to the family of the disciple" says Jesus. And He remains alone, leaning against the wall of a garden, from which comes the roar of a hurricane, so violent is the struggle of its tall trees against the wind.
Jesus is engrossed in thought, enveloped in His clothes, which He holds tight under His mantle, the top part of which He has pulled over His head like a hood, to protect Himself against the wind, which blows His hair in His eyes. And thus, covered in dust, with His face half hidden by the edge of His mantle, leaning against a wall almost at the corner of a road, which crosses a beautiful thoroughfare coming from the lake towards the town centre, He looks like a beggar waiting for alms. Some people pass by and look at Him. But since He does not say anything and does not ask for anything and is keeping His head lowered, no one stops to give Him anything or to speak to Him. The storm in the meantime has become more violent and the noise of the lake stronger, filling the whole town with its roar.
A tall man, who is walking stooped to defend himself from the wind — he also is completely enveloped in his mantle, which he is holding tight under his chin with one hand — is coming from the internal road towards the coast one, and, on looking up to avoid a file of donkeys of market-gardeners who, after leaving the vegetables at the market, are going back to their gardens, he sees Jesus (and I see that the young man is Judas of Kerioth).
"Oh! Master!" he exclaims from the other side of the donkey file. "I was just coming to Johanna's looking for You. I was at Capernaum looking for You, but..." The last donkey has gone by and Judas rushes towards the Master, ending his speech: "... but there was nobody at Capernaum. I waited for days, then I came back here, and I went to Joseph's and to Johanna's every day looking for You..."
Jesus looks at him with His piercing eyes, and stops those impetuous words by saying simply: "Peace be with you."
"It's true! I did not even greet You! Peace be with You, Master. But You always have such peace!"
And have you not?"
"I am a man, Master."
"A just man has peace. Only the guilty man is upset. Are you such?"
"I... No, Master. At least... Of course, if I have to tell You the truth, the fact that I was far from You did not make me happy... but that was not exactly being deprived of peace. I missed You, because I am fond of You... But peace is something different, is it not?..."
"Yes. It is. Separations do not impair the peace of the heart, if the heart of the separated person does not do things which his conscience tells him to be such as to grieve the person he loves, if the latter should hear of them."
"But those who are absent do not know... Unless somebody tells them."
Jesus looks at him and is silent.
"Are You alone, Master?" asks Judas trying to change the subject to more usual topics.
"I am waiting for those whom I sent to Johanna to find out whether My Mother has come from Nazareth."
"Your Mother? Are You making Your Mother come here?"
"Yes, I am. I will stay with Her at Capernaum for the whole month, and I will go by boat to the villages on the banks of the lake, returning every day to Capernaum. There must be many disciples..."
"Yes... Many..." Judas has lost his gift of the gab. He is pensive...
"Have you nothing to tell Me, Judas? We are alone now... Has nothing happened to you, during the time of this separation, no incident about which you feel the need of a word of your Jesus?" Jesus asks kindly, in such a manner as to help the disciple to confess by making him feel all His merciful love.
"And do You know of anything in me which needs Your word? If You know — and I really do not know of anything which deserves such word — speak up. It is burdensome for a man to have to remember his sins and faults and confess them to another man..."
"I, Who am speaking to you, am not another man, but..."
"No. You are God. I know. That is why it is not even necessary that I should speak. You know..."
"I was saying that I am not another man, but I am your most loving Friend. I am not saying your Master, your superior, I am saying: your Friend..."
"It's still the same thing. And it is always boring to pry into what one has done in the past, as such confession may cause reproaches. But the annoying part is not so much to be reproached, as to lose a friend's esteem..."
"At Nazareth, the last Sabbath I was there, Simon Peter inadvertently told a companion something which he should not have mentioned. It was not a voluntary disobedience, it was not slander, it was not anything which might have injured his neighbour. Simon Peter had mentioned it to an honest heart and to a serious man, who realising that he had become acquainted with a secret, although neither he nor Peter wished so, swore that he would not repeat the secret to anybody else. Simon could have set his mind at rest... But he did not resign himself until he confessed his fault to Me. At once... Poor Simon! He called it a fault! But if in the hearts of My disciples there were only such faults, and so much humility, so much confidence, so much love, as Peter has, oh! I should proclaim Myself the Master of a crowd of saints!..."
"And so You want to tell me that Peter is holy and I am not. It's true. I am not a saint. Send me away, then..."
"You are not humble, Judas. Pride is ruining you. And you do not know Me yet..." concludes Jesus most sadly.
Judas perceives His grief and whispers: "Forgive me, Master!..."
"Always. But be good, son! Be good! Why do you want to harm yourself?"
Tears well up in Judas' eyes, whether they are true or not I do not know, and he seeks shelter in Jesus' arms, weeping on His shoulder.
And Jesus caresses his hair whispering: "Poor Judas! Poor Judas, who is seeking elsewhere, where he cannot find it, his peace and who may understand him..."
"Yes. It is true. You are right, Master. Peace is here... In Your embrace... I am a wretch... You are the only one who understands and loves me... You alone... I am the fool... Forgive me, Master."
"Yes, be good, be humble. If you fall, come to Me and I will raise you. If you are tempted, run to Me. I will defend you, from yourself, from those who hate you, from everything... But stand up. The others are coming..."
"A kiss, Master... A kiss..."
And Jesus kisses him... And Judas recomposes himself... But in the meantime he has not confessed his faults at all, at least I do not think so.. . "We are a little late because Johanna was already up and the door-keeper wanted to tell her. She will come today, to pay her respects to You, at Joseph's house" says Thaddeus.
"At Joseph's? If we get all the rain which heaven is promising, those streets will be like quagmires. Johanna will certainly not come to that hovel and along those streets. We had better go to her house..." says Judas who has already become sure of himself once again.
Jesus does not reply to him, but He replies to His cousin asking: "Did any of our friends look for us at Johanna's?"
"No, not yet."
"All right. Let us go to Joseph's house. The others will join us..."
"If I were sure that our mothers are on the way here, I would go and meet them..." says Judas of Alphaeus.
"It would be a good thing. But there are several roads from Tiberias. And perhaps they did not take the main one..."
"That's true, Jesus... Let us go..."
They walk away fast, while the first thunder and lightning furrow the leaden sky, rumbling in the gorges of the hills which surround the lake almost completely. They enter Joseph's poor house, which in the stormy atmosphere looks poorer and darker. There is only one bright thing, the face of the disciple, and those of his relatives, who are so happy to have the Master in their house. "But You are unlucky, Lord" apologises the boatman. "I could not go out fishing on a lake like this and I have nothing... but vegetables..."
"And your kind heart. But I have provided. Our companions are coming now with what is necessary. Do not tire yourself, woman... We can sit also on the floor. It is so clean. You are a clever woman, I know. And the tidiness which I see here confirms it."
"Oh! my wife! She is really a strong woman! My, nay, our joy" proclaims the boatman, who is thrown into a transport of delight by the praise of the Lord, Who has sat down peacefully on the lower edge of the fireplace in which no fire is lit, almost on the floor, holding between His legs a little boy, who looks at Him full of amazement.
Those who had gone to do the shopping arrive at the moment of the first downpour and they shake mantles and sandals on the threshold, to avoid carrying water and mud into the house. It seems the end of the world because of thunder, lightning, rain and wind. The roaring of the lake sounds like an accompaniment to the soli of thunderbolts and howling wind.
"Good health! Summer is wetting its feathers and drenching the fireplace... We will feel better afterwards... Providing it does not damage the vines... May I go upstairs to have a look at the lake? I want to see in what mood it is..."
"Go. The house is yours" the disciple replies to Peter.
And Peter, wearing only his tunic, goes out happily to enjoy the storm. He climbs up the outside staircase and remains on the terrace to freshen himself and to give his responses to those inside the house, as if he were on the deck of his boat giving orders for manoeuvres.
The others are sitting about in the kitchen, where they can hardly see, as they are compelled to keep the door ajar because of the rain, and only a thread of greenish light comes in through the fissure, interrupted by the short dazzling flashes of lightning...
Peter comes back in, wet through as if he had fallen into the lake and he states: "It's above our heads now. It's moving away towards Samaria. It's going to drench all there..."
"It has already soaked you! You are running like a fountain" remarks Thomas.
"Yes. But I feel so well after so much heat."
"Come inside. It will do you no good to stand at the door wet as you are" advises Bartholomew.
"No! I am like seasoned wood... I was not yet able to say “father” well, when I began to remain in dampness. Ah! How well one breathes!... The street, however, is like... a river... You should see the lake! It's all the colours of the rainbow and is boiling like a pot. You cannot even see which way the billows are running. They boil on the spot... But it was needed..."
"Yes, we needed rain. The walls were not cooling down any more, they were so heated by the sun. The leaves of my vines were curled up and dusty... I watered the roots... but... What can a little water do when all the rest is like fire?" says Joseph.
"It does more harm than good, my friend" states Bartholomew.
"Plants need water from heaven, because their leaves also drink it, eh?! It does not seem so, but it is true. Roots, roots! Very well. But leaves are there, too, for some reason and they have their rights..."
"Master, do You not think that Bartholomew is proposing the subject for a beautiful parable?" asks the Zealot provoking Jesus to speak.
But Jesus, Who is lulling the little boy frightened by the thunder, does not relate the parable, however, He agrees saying: "And how would you propose it?"
"Badly, certainly, Master. I am not You..."
"Tell it as best you can. It will be a great help to you to preach by means of parables. Get accustomed to doing it. I am listening, Simon..."
"Oh!... You are the Master, I... a fool... But I will obey. I would say this: “A man had a beautiful vine. But as he did not own a vineyard, he had planted the vine in the little kitchen garden near his house, so that it might climb up to the terrace to give shade and grapes, and he took great care of his vine. But it was growing amid houses, near the street, so the smoke of kitchens and ovens and the dust of the road began to molest it. And while the rain still descended from heaven in the month of Nisan, the leaves of the vine were cleaned of impurities and enjoyed sunshine and air without any ugly crust of dirt on their surfaces preventing it. But when summer came and no more water descended from heaven, smoke, dust, excrement of birds formed thick layers on the leaves, while the sun, which was too strong, dried them up. The owner of the vine watered the roots deeply set in the ground, and thus the plant did not die, but it vegetated with difficulty, because the water sucked by the roots nourished only the central part, and the poor leaves did not enjoy any of it. On the contrary, fumes of fermentation rose from the torrid soil, wetted with little water and spoiled the leaves with spots resembling malignant pustules. But at last a torrential rain came from heaven and the water descended on the leaves, it ran along the branches, the trunk, the grapes, it quenched the fierce heat of walls and ground, and after the storm, the owner of the vine saw that his plant was clean, fresh, enjoying and giving joy under the serene sky”. That is the parable."
"Good. But what about the comparison with man?..."
"Master, do it Yourself."
"No. You must do it. We are among brothers, so you must not be afraid of cutting a bad figure."
"I am not afraid of a bad figure, as if it were something grievous. On the contrary I love it, because it helps me to be humble. But I would not like to say anything wrong..."
"I will correct you."
"Oh! In that case I would say: “The same applies to a man who does not live isolated in the garden of God, but lives in the midst of the dust and smoke of worldly things. They, in fact, encrust him slowly, almost inadvertently, and he finds that his spirit is sterilised under such a thick layer of humanity, that the breeze of God and the sun of Wisdom can no longer be of any avail to him. And in vain he tries to make up for it with a little water drawn from practices, and given with so much humanity to the inferior part, that the superior part does not enjoy any of it... Woe to the man who does not cleanse himself with the water from Heaven, as it cleans out impurities, it extinguishes the ardours of passions, and gives true nourishment to his whole ego”. I have spoken."
"You have spoken well. I would also say that, unlike plants, which have no free will and are fixed to the ground, and consequently they are not free to go and look for what helps them and shun what is harmful for them, man can go and look for the water of Heaven and avoid the dust, the smoke and the ardour of the flesh, of the world and of the demon. The teaching would then be more complete."
"Thank You, Master. I will remember that" replies the Zealot. "We do not live a solitary life... We live in the world... So..." says Judas of Kerioth.
"So what? Do you mean that Simon has spoken foolishly?" asks Judas of Alphaeus.
"I don't mean that. I am saying that as we cannot live all alone... we are bound to be covered with things of the world."
"The Master and Simon are just saying that we must seek the water of Heaven to keep ourselves clean notwithstanding that the world is around us" says James of Alphaeus.
"Sure! But is the water of Heaven always available to cleanse us?"
"Of course it is" replies John sure of himself.
"Is it? And where do you find it?"
"Love is fire. It will burn you even more."
"Yes, it is fire. But it is also water which cleanses. Because it removes everything which belongs to the Earth and gives all the things which come from Heaven."
"... I do not understand these operations. It removes, it gives..."
"No. I am not mad. I say that it removes what is humanity and it gives you what comes from God and is therefore divine. And a divine thing can but nourish and sanctify. Day after day love cleanses you of what the world gave you."
Judas is about to reply, but the little child who is in Jesus's lap says: "Another parable, a beautiful one... for me..." which puts an end to the argument. "On what, child?" asks Jesus condescending.
The little fellow looks around and he finds it. He points at his mother and says: "On mothers."
"A mother is for the soul and the body what God is for them. What does a mother do for you? She looks after you, she takes care of you, she teaches you, she loves you, she watches that you do not hurt yourself, she keeps you under the wings of her love, just as a dove does with its little ones. And a mother is to be obeyed and loved, because everything she does, she does it for our good. Good God also, and much more perfectly than the most perfect of mothers, keeps His children under the wings of His love, He protects them, He teaches them, He helps them and He thinks of them day and night. But also good God, just like, even much more than a mother — because a mother is the greatest love on Earth, but God is the greatest and eternal love on Earth and in Heaven — is to be obeyed and loved, because everything He does, He does it for our good..."
"Also thunderbolts?" interrupts the boy who is frightened of them.
"Because they clean the sky and the air and..."
"And then appears the rainbow!..." exclaims Peter, who, half inside and half outside the house, has listened and been quiet. And he adds: "Come, little dove, and I will show it to you. Look how beautiful!..."
In fact the weather is clearing up, as the storm is over, and a huge rainbow, from the shores of Hippo, stretches its arched ribbon across the lake, disappearing beyond the mountains behind Magdala.
They all go to the door, but in order to see the lake, they have to take off their sandals, because the yard is a little pond of yellowish water, which is slowly decreasing. The only remembrance of the storm is the lake, that has become yellowish, while its waves are beginning to calm down. But the sky is clear and the air fresh. The shades of leaves have brightened up.
And Tiberias becomes busy again... And along the road still full of water and mud, they soon see Johanna come with Jonathan. She looks up to greet the Master, Who is on the terrace, where she climbs up quickly to prostrate herself, full of happiness... The apostles are speaking to one another, with the exception of Judas, who, half way between Jesus and Johanna on one side and the apostles on the other, is absent-minded, pensive. I wager that he is all ears listening to the words of Johanna, whose attitude towards Judas is not known, as she greeted all the apostles, just saying: "Peace to you." But Johanna is speaking only of the children and of the permission she got from her husband to go to Capernaum by boat while the Master is there. And Judas' suspicions subside and he joins his companions...
With the lower parts of Her garments splashed with mud, but dry elsewhere, there appears the Most Holy Virgin Mary coming forward with Mary of Alphaeus and the five who had gone to bring Her here. Mary's smile while She goes up the short staircase is more beautiful than the rainbow still visible in the sky.
"Your Mother, Master!" announces Thomas.
Jesus goes to meet Her, followed by all the others. And they congratulate the women on their having had no other trouble but a little mud on the edges of their garments.
"As soon as it began to rain we stopped at a market-gardener's" explains Matthew. And he asks: "Have you been waiting long for us?"
"No. We arrived at dawn."
"We are late, because of a poor wretch..." says Andrew.
"Well. Now that you are all here and that the weather is clearing up, I would say that we should leave for Capernaum this evening" says Peter.
Mary, Who is always agreeable, this time objects: "No, Simon. We cannot leave, if first... Son, a mother has implored Me to ask You — as You are the only one who can do it — to convert the soul of her only son. I beg You, listen to Me, because I promised... Forgive him... Your forgiveness..."
"He has already forgiven, Mary. I have already spoken to the Master..." interrupts Judas thinking that Mary is referring to him.
"I am not speaking of you, Judas of Simon. I am referring to Esther of Levi, a woman of Nazareth, a mother killed by the behaviour of her son. Jesus, she died the night You left. Her invocations to You were not for herself, a poor mother martyr of a disgraceful son, but for her son... because we mothers are solicitous about you sons, not about ourselves... She wants her Samuel to be saved... But now that she is dead, Samuel, a prey to remorse, seems mad and will not listen to reason... But You, Son, can cure his intellect and spirit..."
"Is he repentant?"
"How can You expect him to be so if he is desperate?"
"In fact to have killed one's mother by grieving her continuously, must make one desperate. The first commandment of love for our neighbour cannot be infringed with impunity. Mother, how can You expect Me to forgive and God to give peace to this impenitent matricide?"
"Son, that mother is asking for peace from the other life... She was good... she suffered so much..."
"She will have peace..."
"No, Jesus. There is no peace for the spirit of a mother, if she sees that her child is deprived of God..."
"It is just that he should be deprived."
"Yes, Son. Of course. But for poor Esther's sake... Her last word was a prayer for her son... And she asked Me to tell You... Jesus, during her lifetime Esther never had any joy, You know that. Give her this joy now that she is dead, give it to her spirit which is suffering because of her son."
"Mother, I tried to convert Samuel when I stopped at Nazareth. But I spoke to him in vain because love was extinguished in him..."
"I know. But Esther offered her forgiveness, her sufferings, that love might revive in Samuel. And, who knows? Could his present torment not be love coming back to life again? A painful love, and one could say: a useless love, since his mother can no longer enjoy it. But You... but I, we know, I through faith, You by knowledge, that the charity of the dead is vigilant and close at hand. They do not lose interest, neither do they ignore what happens to the beloved ones they left here... And Esther may still enjoy this late love which her ungrateful son, now tortured by remorse, has for her. My Jesus, I know, this man fills You with disgust because of the enormity of his sin. A son who hates his mother! A monster, for You, Who are full of love for Yours. But just because You are full of love for Me, listen to Me. Let us go back to Nazareth together, at once. The road is no burden to Me, nothing is of any trouble to Me, if it helps to save a soul..."
"All right. You have won, Mother... Judas of Simon, take Joseph with you and leave for Nazareth. You will bring Samuel to Me at Capernaum."
"I, Why I?"
"Because you are not tired. The others are. They walked for such a long time, while you were resting..."
"I have walked, too. I went to Nazareth looking for You. Your Mother can tell You."
"Your companions went to Nazareth every Sabbath and they have just come back from a long tour. Go and do not argue..."
"The fact is... they do not like me at Nazareth... Why send me?"
"They are not fond of Me either, and yet I go to Nazareth. It is not necessary to find love in a place to go there. Go and do not argue, I am telling you again."
"Master... I am afraid of madmen..."
"The man is deranged by remorse, but he is not mad."
"Your Mother said that he is..."
"And for the third time I say to you: go and do not argue. It will do you nothing but good to ponder on the consequences which may be brought about by making a mother suffer..."
"Are You comparing me with Samuel? My mother is the queen in her house. I am not even close to her to control her or to be a burden to her by keeping me..."
"Such things are no burden to mothers. But the lack of love of their sons, the fact that they are imperfect in the eyes of God and of men... are rocks that crush them. Go, I tell you."
"I am going. But what shall I tell the man?"
"To come to Capernaum, to Me."
"If he never obeyed even his mother, do You expect him to obey me, particularly now, that he is so desperate?"
"And have you not yet understood that if I am sending you, it means that I have already worked on the spirit of Samuel, freeing him from the delirium of desperate remorse?"
"I am going. Goodbye, Master. Goodbye, Mary. Goodbye, friends." And he leaves, not at all enthusiastic, followed by Joseph, who, on the contrary, is overjoyed at being chosen for that mission.
Peter sings something softly between his teeth...
Jesus asks him: "What are you saying, Simon of Jonah?"
"I was singing an old lake song..."
"It says: “Always so! Farmers like fishing, fishermen don't!” And here, truly, we have seen that the disciple was more anxious to go fishing than the apostle..."
Many laugh. But Jesus does not laugh, He sighs.
"Have I grieved You, Master?" asks Peter.
"No. But do not criticise all the time."
"My Cousin is grieved because of Judas" says Judas of Alphaeus. "Will you be silent, too, and above all in the bottom of your heart."
"But has Samuel really received a miracle already?" asks Thomas who is curious and somewhat incredulous.
"Yes, he has."
"Then there is no need for him to come to Capernaum."
"It is necessary. I have not cured his heart completely. He must seek to be cured, by himself, that is, he must ask for forgiveness through holy repentance. But I have enabled him to reason again. It is for him to achieve the rest through his free will. Let us go downstairs. We will go among the humble people..."
"Not to my house, Master?"
"No, Johanna. You can come to Me whenever you wish so. They are tied to their work and I am going to them..."
And Jesus descends from the terrace and goes out into the street followed by the others, also by Johanna, who has sent Jonathan home and who is quite determined not to part from Jesus, since Jesus is not willing to go to her house. They go among poor little houses, towards poorer and poorer suburbs... And the vision ends thus.