457. Be as Wise as Serpents and as Simple as Doves.
17th July 1946.
"In the room upstairs there are some men from Nazareth. And your brothers came yesterday looking for You. And then some Pharisees came, and many sick people. And a man from Antioch" says the Iscariot as soon as he sees them enter the house.
"Have they gone away, perhaps?"
"No. The man from Antioch has gone to Tiberias, but he is coming back after the Sabbath. The sick people are scattered in various houses. But the Pharisees wanted your brothers as their guests and paid much honour to them. They are now in the house of Simon, the Pharisee."
"H'm!..." mumbles Peter.
"What's the matter with you? Are you not glad that they honour the Master in His relatives?" asks the Iscariot.
"Oh! if it is true honour and a useful meeting... I am very happy!"
"To mistrust is to judge. The Master does not want us to judge."
"Of course! But to be certain I will wait before judging. I will thus avoid being a fool and a sinner."
"Let us go upstairs, to see the people from Nazareth. We will go to the sick people tomorrow" says Jesus.
The Iscariot addresses Jesus: "You cannot. It is the Sabbath. Do You want to be reproached by the Pharisees? If You are not concerned about Your honour, I am" says Judas very theatrically. And he concludes: "By the way, as I realise that You are anxious to cure at once those who are looking for You, well, we will go and impose our hands on them in Your Name and..."
"No." A very sharp "no" allowing no discussion.
"You do not want us to work miracles? You want to work them Yourself? Well... we will go and tell them that You are here and that You promise to cure them. They will be happy..."
"It is not necessary. The fishermen have seen us. So it is already known that I am here. And they know that I cure those who have faith in Me, in fact they have come looking for Me."
Judas is silent, dissatisfied, his face momentarily dark and unpleasant.
Jesus goes outside, heedless of the storm and of the heavy showers of rain, and He goes upstairs. He pushes the door and goes inside. The apostles follow Him. The women are already up there talking to the Nazarenes. In a corner there is a man unknown to me.
"Peace to you."
"Master!" The Nazarenes bow and then they say: "Here is the man" pointing at the unknown person.
"Come here" orders Jesus.
"Do not curse me!"
"To do that it was not necessary to tell you to come here. Is that the only word you have for the Saviour?" Jesus is austere, but encouraging at the same time. The man looks at Him... He then bursts into tears and throwing himself on the ground he shouts: "If You do not forgive Me, I will have no peace..."
"Why did you reject Me, when I wanted to make you good? Now it is late to make amends. Your mother is dead."
"Ah! don't tell me! You are cruel!"
"No. I am the Truth. And I was the Truth when I told you that you would kill your mother. And I am the Truth now. And you laughed at Me then. Why are you looking for Me now? Your mother is dead. You have sinned and you have continued to sin although you knew that you were sinning. I had told you. That is your grave sin: you wanted to sin rejecting the Word and Love. Why complain now that you have no peace?"
"Lord! Lord! Have mercy on me! I was insane and You cured me, I have hoped in You, before I had lost all hope, in everybody. Do not disappoint my hope..."
"And why had you lost all hope?"
"Because... I caused my mother to die of grief... also the last evening... she was exhausted... and I was merciless... I hit her, Lord!!!" A cry of real despair fills the room. "I struck her!... She died during the night!... And she had only told me to be good... My mother!... I killed her..."
"You killed her years ago, Samuel! Since you stopped being just. Poor Esther! How many times have I seen her weep! And how many times she asked Me to caress her in your place... And you know that I used to come to your house not because I was friendly with you, who are My age, but out of pity for her... I should not forgive you. But two mothers have begged Me to help you, and your repentance is sincere. So I forgive you. With an irreproachable life you must obliterate from the hearts of your fellow-citizens the memory of Samuel sinner and win back your mother. You will achieve that if through a life of justice you conquer Heaven and your mother at the same time. But remember — and bear this very clearly in mind — that your sin was very grave and consequently your justice must be great in proportion in order to cancel your debt."
"Oh! You are good! You are not like that disciple of Yours who went out immediately after he came in. And he came to Nazareth only to terrify me! These people can tell You..."
Jesus turns round... Of all the apostles only the Iscariot is missing. So it is he who ill-treated Samuel. What is Jesus to do? In order not to have the apostle criticised, as apostle if not as man, he says: "Every man can but be severe with regard to your sin. When one commits an evil deed one ought to consider that men judge the evil-doer, and that one gives them the opportunity to judge... But one must bear no grudge. Put the mortification you receive on the scales of God as expiation. Let us go. Here, the just are rejoicing because of your redemption. You are among brothers who do not despise you. Because every man can sin, but a man is contemptible only when he persists in sinning."
"I bless You, Lord. I ask You to forgive me also for all the times I sneered at You... I do not know how to thank You... Peace, You know?, is coming back to me" and he weeps calmly...
"Thank My Mother. If you have been forgiven, if I have cured your delirium to enable you to repent, it was through Her intercession. Let us go downstairs. Supper is ready and we will share the food." And He goes out holding the man by the hand.
Supper is in fact ready. But Judas is not even downstairs. He is not in the house. The landlady explains: "He went out. He said: “I will be back soon”."
"All right. Let us sit down and have our meal."
Jesus offers, blesses and hands out the food. But a glacial shadow is in the room lit up by two lamps and the fireplace. Outside the storm is still raging...
Judas comes back, panting, soaked through as if he had fallen into the lake. Although he had covered his head with his mantle, his hair looks smooth, wet, sticking to his cheeks and neck, when he throws the drenched cloak on the floor. They all look at him. But no one speaks. Although no one asks him anything, he wants to apologise saying: "I ran to Your brothers to tell them that You are here. But I obeyed You. I did not go to the sick people. It was not possible, in any case. What a downpour!... But I wanted to honour Your relatives at once... Are You not glad, Master? You are not speaking!..."
"I am listening. Take this and eat. And while waiting to go and rest, let us talk among ourselves.
Listen: it is written that we must not confide secrets to a foreigner, because we do not know his habits. But can we say that we know the hearts even of our fellow-citizens? Or the hearts of our friends? Or of our relatives? God alone has perfect knowledge of the heart of man, and man has one means only to know the heart of a fellow-man and understand whether he is a true fellow-countryman, or a true friend and relative. Which is the means? Where is it to be found? In our neighbour and in ourselves. In his actions and words and in our upright judgement. When through our honest judgement we perceive that there is no good in the words or actions of our neighbour, or in the actions required of us, then we can say: “This man has not an honest heart and I must distrust him”. But he is to be treated charitably, because he is a poor wretch affected by the gravest unhappiness: that of a diseased spirit, but his actions are not to be imitated, his words are not to be taken as true and wise, least of all is his advice to be followed.
Do not allow yourselves to be harmed by the following proud thoughts: “I am strong and the evil of other people will not affect me. I am just, and even if I listen to unjust people, I will remain just”. Man is a deep abyss in which all the elements of good and evil can be found. The former, that is, the help of God, assists us in improving and becoming kings; the latter, that is, evil passions and bad friendship help men to grow more wicked and to reign noxiously. All the germs of evil and all the longing for good are latent in man by God's loving will, and by the wicked will of Satan, who influences, tempts and instigates, whereas God attracts, comforts and loves. Satan tries to seduce, he works to conquer God. And God does not always win, because creatures are heavy until they choose love as their law, and being heavy they debase themselves and crave more easily for anything which is immediate satisfaction and gratification of the lowest instincts of man.
From what I am telling you about human weakness, you can understand how necessary it is not to trust yourselves and to watch your neighbour very carefully, lest you should join the poison of an impure conscience to that already fermenting in you. When you understand that a friend is the ruin of your hearts, when his words upset your consciences, when his advice is the cause of scandal, you must forsake the harmful friendship. If you persist you would end by seeing your souls perish, because you would pass on to actions which remove from God and prevent a hardened conscience from understanding God's inspirations. If every man guilty of grave sins could or wanted to speak explaining how he came to commit such sins, one would see that there is always a bad friendship at the origin..."
"That is true!" admits Samuel of Nazareth in a low voice.
"Do not trust those who after fighting you without any reason, load you with honours and gifts. Do not trust those who praise every action of yours and who praise everybody and everything: they commend loungers as being hard workers, adulterers as faithful husbands, thieves as honest people, violent fellows as being meek, liars as being sincere, wicked people as being loyal and they point out the worst disciples as exemplary ones. They do so to ruin you and to make use of your downfall for their artful aims. Shun those who want to intoxicate you with praises and promises to make you do things, which you would refuse to do if you were not intoxicated. And when you have sworn loyalty to a man, have nothing to do with his enemies. They would approach you only to harm him whom they hate and do so through your very help. Keep your eyes open. I said: be as wise as serpents besides being as simple as doves. Because simplicity is holy when dealing with spiritual matters, but to live in the world without damaging oneself and one's friends, it is necessary to possess the cunning which is capable of finding out the artfulness of those who hate saints. The world is a nest of snakes. You must become acquainted with the world and its systems. And then, staying like doves not in the mire where serpents are, but in the shelter of a high cliff, have the simple hearts of the children of God.
And pray and pray, because I solemnly tell you that the great Serpent is hissing around you, and you are therefore in great danger and those who are not vigilant will perish. Yes, among the disciples there are some who will perish with great joy of Satan and infinite grief of the Christ."
"Who, Lord? Perhaps one who does not belong to us, a proselyte, one... who is not from Palestine, one..."
"Do not investigate. Is it not written that abomination will enter, and has already entered the Temple? Now, if it is possible to sin in the Holy Place, will a Galilean or a Judaean among My followers not be able to sin? Be vigilant, My friends. Watch over yourselves and other people, take heed of what other people say to you and of what your consciences tell you. And if you cannot see clearly by yourselves, come to Me, for I am the Light."
Peter bustles and whispers something standing behind John who shakes his head in denial. Jesus turns His eyes and sees... Peter strikes an attitude and feigns to be going away. Jesus stands up, He smiles gently... He then intones the prayers, He blesses and dismisses the crowds. And He remains alone to go on praying.