458. The Sabbath at Capernaum.
18th July 1946.
"Are You not taking the boy back to his mother?" Bartholomew asks Jesus, when he sees Him on the terrace deeply engrossed in prayer.
"No. I will wait until she comes back from the synagogue..."
"Are You hoping that the Lord will speak to her there... and that she... will understand her duty? You are thinking wisely. But she is not wise. Any other mother would have run here yesterday evening to get her child. After all... we had been sailing on a stormy sea... she did not know whence we came... Was she anxious to ascertain whether her child had suffered? Will she be coming this morning? Look how many mothers are already up, although it is so early, as they are anxious to hang out the best clothes and dry them thoroughly so that they may be clean and ready to be worn by the children on the Lord's day. A Pharisee might say that they are doing servile work by hanging out those little garments. I say that they are doing a work of love, towards God and towards their children. They are mostly poor women. Look, over there is Mary of Benjamin and Rebecca of Micah. And on that poor terrace Johanna is patiently disentangling the fringe of the old mantle of her son so that it may look less shabby when he goes to the holy ceremony. And over there, on the shore which will soon be completely exposed to the sun, Selida is spreading out coarse cloth so that it may look finer, whereas it is beautiful only on account of the sacrifice it costs her: so many morsels of bread, of which she deprived her hungry stomach, to change them into tows of hemp. And is that not Adina who is rubbing her daughter's discoloured dress with greens in order to make it look more colourful? But I cannot see her..."
"May the Lord change her heart! There is nothing else to be said..."
They remain leaning on the low wall of the terrace, looking at nature refreshed by the storm which has cleaned both atmosphere and greenery. The lake, which is not yet completely calm, is not as blue as usual, because it is streaked with the waters of torrents which, in flood for a few hours, have dragged down the dust of their parched beds, but is beautiful despite those ochre infusions. It looks like a huge lapis-lazuli striped with pearls, and it smiles in the serene sun which is shining at present from behind the western mountains and is glittering in all the rain drops still hanging from branches and leaves. Swallows and doves are joyfully furrowing the purified air and all kinds of birds are trilling and chirping in the leafy branches.
"The warm season is ending. And this season is beautiful, rich and beautiful. Like ripe age. Isn't it, Master?"
"Yes... lovely..." But Jesus is obviously lost in thought.
\Bartholomew looks at Him... He then asks: "What are You thinking about? Of what You will be saying in the synagogue today?"
"No. I was thinking that the sick people will be waiting for us. Let us two go and cure them."
"Just the two of us?"
"Simon, Andrew, James and John have gone to haul the lobster-pots which Thomas cast foreseeing our return. The others are sleeping. Let us two go."
They go down towards the country, to the houses scattered among vegetable gardens, or in the fields, looking for sick people sheltered in the houses of poor people, who are always hospitable.
But some people run ahead of Him, guessing where He is going and some say to Him: "Wait here, in my kitchen garden. We will bring them to You here..."
And soon, like the waters of tiny brooks which gather in one pond only, the sick people come from all directions or are brought to Him, Who cures them. The miracles have been worked.
Jesus dismisses them saying: "If anybody should question you, do not say that I cured you. Go back to the houses where you were. This disciple of Mine will bring some assistance to the more needy ones before sunset."
"No, do not mention Him, because you would harm Him. Remember that this is the Sabbath and many people hate Him" corroborates Bartholomew.
"We will not harm Him Who has helped us. We will tell the people in our villages, without mentioning the day on which we were cured" says a man who was previously a paralytic.
"Nay, I would say that we should spread out in the country awaiting sunset. The Pharisees know where we were given hospitality and they might come to see..." says one whose diseased eyes have been cured.
"You are right, Isaac. Yesterday we were asking for too much and too many things... They will think that, being tired of waiting, we left before sunset."
"But did the apostle see us yesterday evening?" asks one who was blind. "Was it not him who was speaking?"
"No. It was one of the Lord's brothers. He will not betray us."
"Just tell me where you are going so that I may find you when I come" says Bartholomew.
The sick people consult with one another. Some would like to go towards Korazim, some towards Magdala. They leave it to Jesus to decide.
And Jesus says: "Go to the fields along the road to Magdala. Follow the second torrent and shortly afterwards you will find a house. Go there and say: “Jesus sent us”. They will receive you as brothers. Go and God be with you and you with God, not committing any sin in future."
And Jesus sets out again, but He does not go straight back to the village by the way He came. Walking along a semicircular lane among the kitchen gardens He arrives at the spring near the lake, while the women have assailed it wishing to get their supplies of water when it is still cool and the sun is not high in the sky.
"The Rabbi! The Rabbi!" There is a rush of women, children and also of men, mainly old ones, who are idle because of the Sabbath.
"A word, Master, to make this day a happy one" says an old man, who is holding a boy by the hand, perhaps a grandchild, because if the man is certainly almost one hundred years old, the little boy is not more than six.
"Yes, please old Levi, and us at the same time."
"You will have Jairus' explanation today. I am here to hear him. You have a wise synagogue leader..."
"Why do You say that, Master? You are the head of all synagogue leaders, the Master of Israel. We acknowledge but You."
"No, you must not do that. The synagogue leaders have been appointed as your masters, to practise the cult with you, setting a good example, in order to make you faithful Israelites. There will still be synagogue leaders when I am no longer here. They will have a different name and their ceremonies will be different, but they will still be the ministers of the cult. You must love them and pray for them. Because where is a good synagogue leader there are good believers and, consequently, God is there."
"We will do that. But speak to us now. We have been told that You are about to leave us..."
"I have so many sheep scattered throughout Palestine. They are all waiting for their Shepherd. But you have My disciples, who are becoming more and more numerous and wise..."
"Yes, but what You say is always good and easy to be understood by our ignorant minds."
"What shall I tell you?..."
"Jesus, we have been looking for You everywhere!" shouts Joseph of Alphaeus, who has just arrived with his brother Simon and a group of Pharisees.
"And where can the Son of man be if not among the humble and simple-hearted people? Did you want Me? Here I am. But allow Me to say a word to these people first... Listen. You have been told that I am about to leave you. It is true. I have not denied it. But before leaving you I give this commandment to you: watch over yourselves very carefully in order to know yourselves well, and approach the Light more and more so that you may see. My word is Light.
Preserve it in your hearts and when in its light you discover stains or shadows, persecute them to drive them out of your hearts. You must no longer be what you were before I met you. You must be much better because now you know much more. Previously you were in a kind of twilight, now you have the Light within you. You must thus be the children of Light. Look at the sky in the morning when it clears up at dawn: it may seem clear only because it is not completely covered with storm-clouds, but as the light increases and the bright sun appears from the east, then our surprised eyes see rosy spots in the blue sky. What are they? Oh! little light clouds, so light that they did not seem to be there while the light was faint, but now, lit up by the sun, they are like light foam in the vault of heaven. And they remain there until the sun melts them dispelling them with its splendour. Do likewise with your souls. Take them closer and closer to the light to discover even the lightest mist and then keep them under the great Sun of Charity. It will consume your imperfections as the sun evaporates the light humidity condensed in those flimsy little clouds which the sun dissolves at dawn. If you remain firmly in Charity will work continuous wonders in you. Go now and be good..."
He dismisses them and goes towards His two cousins, whom He kisses after giving low bows to the Pharisees present, among whom is Simon the Pharisee of Capernaum. The others are unknown to me.
"We have been looking for You more on behalf of these people than for ourselves. They came from Nazareth looking for You, so..."
"Peace to you. What do you need?"
"Oh! nothing. We only wanted to see You, listen to You and hear the wisdom of Your words..."
"Just for that?"
"Actually, to give You some advice as well... You are too good and the people take advantage of it. These people are not good. And You know that. Why do You not curse sinners?"
"Because the Father orders Me to save them, not to lose them."
"You will get into trouble..."
"It does not matter. I cannot disobey the order of the Most High for any human profit."
"And if... You know.... It is murmured that You caress the crowds to make use of them in a rebellion. We have come to ask You whether it is true."
"Have you come or have you been sent?"
"It is the same thing."
"No, it is not. But I reply to you and to those who have sent you that the water overflowing from My bucket is water of peace, that the seed which I spread is the seed of renunciation. I trim proud branches. I am ready to bare the roots of evil trees, so that they may not harm good ones, if they are unsuitable to be engrafted. But what I call “good” is not what you say is good. Because I call good obedience, poverty, renunciation, humility and the charity which embraces all humble and pitiful situations. Fear no one. The Son of man does not lay snares for the powers of men, but has come to inculcate strength into souls. Go and relate that the Lamb will never be a wolf."
"What do You mean? You are misunderstanding us and we are misunderstanding You."
"No. We understand each other very well..."
"Well, in that case do You know why we came?"
"Yes, to tell Me that I must not speak to the crowds. And you do not consider that you cannot interdict Me from going, like every Israelite, where the Scriptures are read and explained and where every circumcised man is entitled to speak."
"Who told You! It was Jairus, was it not? We will report that."
"I have not seen Jairus yet."
"You are lying."
"I am the Truth."
A man in the crowd which has gathered again says: "He is not lying. Jairus left before sunset with his wife and daughter; he took them to see his mother, who is dying and he will come back only after the purifications. He left his assistant here."
The Pharisees do not have the pleasure of proving that Jesus is lying, but they rejoice finding out that He is without His most powerful friend in Capernaum. They look at one another: a display of meaningful glances.
Joseph of Alphaeus, the eldest son in the family, feels it is his duty to defend Jesus and he addresses Simon the Pharisee saying: "You honoured me by sharing your bread and salt with me and the Most High will take into account such honour paid to the offspring of David. You showed yourself to be just. My brother is being accused by these Pharisees. Yesterday they said to me, the head of the family, that their only grief was that Jesus neglected Judaea, because, as the Messiah of Israel it was His duty to love and evangelize the whole of Israel in the same manner. I found their argument just and I was going to tell my brother. But why are they speaking so differently today? They should at least say why He must not speak. As far as I know He does not say anything against the Law or the Books. Tell me the true reason and I will convince Jesus to speak differently."
"What you say is right. Reply to the man..." says Simon the Pharisee. "Has He said... anything sacrilegious?"
"No. But the Sanhedrin accuse Him of dividing, of trying to divide the Nation. The King must be the King of Israel, not of Galilee alone."
"Dear is all the Fatherland, most dear, in the Fatherland, is the birthplace. His love for Galilee is not such a grave reason as to deserve to be punished. In any case, we belong to David, so..."
"Let Him come to Judaea then. And tell Him not to despise us."
"Have You heard that? That is an honour for You and for the family!" says Joseph half severely and half haughtily.
"Yes, I have."
"I advise You to yield to their desire. It is good and honourable. You say that You want peace. Put an end, then, to the variance between the two regions, since You are loved by both of them. You will certainly do it. Oh! He will certainly do it. I can assure you on His behalf as He is obedient to His elders."
"It is written: “There is no one greater than I am. There is no other god except Me”. I will always do what God wants."
"Have you heard Him? So, you may go in peace."
"We have heard Him. But, Joseph, before going away, we want to know what He means by “what God wants”."
"What God wants is that I do His will."
"Which is? Tell us."
"That I may gather the sheep of Israel and unite them in one flock only. And I will do that."
"We will bear Your words in mind."
"That is good. May God be with you" and Jesus turns away from the group of Pharisees and goes towards the house.
His cousin Joseph stands beside Him, half happy, half unhappy, and with a patronising attitude points out to Him that if one knows how to deal with them (as he did), if one relies on relatives (as was the fortunate case today), if one remembers one's right to the throne (as David's offspring), and so forth, even Pharisees become good friends.
Jesus interrupts him saying: "And you believe that? You believe their words? Truly, pride and false praises are sufficient to make people absolutely blind."
"But I would... please them. You cannot expect them to carry You shoulder high shouting hosanna, all of a sudden... You must conquer them, Jesus, with a little humility, a little patience. Honour deserves every sacrifice..."
"Enough of that! You are speaking human words, and even worse. May God forgive you, and give you light, brother. But go away, because you are grieving Me. And do not mention such silly advice to your mother and brothers or to My Mother."
"You want to be ruined! You are the cause of our ruin and of Your own!"
"Why have you come if you are still the same? I have not yet suffered for you. But I will, and then..."
Joseph has gone away... upset.
"You disgust him... He is like our father, You know. He is an old Israelite..." whispers Simon.
"When he understands, he will see that My action, which he now considers disgusting, was holy..."
They are at the door of the house. They go in. Jesus says to Peter: "Have the boat ready at sunset. We will take the two Maries to Tiberias and Simon will see them home. Matthew will come with you in addition to your companions, the fishermen. The others will remain here and wait for us."
Peter draws Jesus apart: "And if the man from Antioch comes? I am asking You because of Judas of Kerioth..."
"Your Master tells you that we will meet him on the pier at Tiberias."
"Oh! well!" and in a loud voice: "The boat will be ready."
"Mother, come upstairs with Me. We will be together during these hours."
Mary follows Him without speaking. They go upstairs into a room which is cool and shady because it is covered by a vine and is protected from the sun by curtains.
"You are going away, My Jesus!?" Mary is very pale.
"Yes. It is time."
"And have I not to come for the Tabernacles? Son!..." says Mary with a sob.
"Mother! Why? It is not the first time that we part!"
"No, that is true. But... Oh! I remember what You told Me in the wood near Gamala... Son! Forgive a poor woman. I will obey... With the help of God I will be strong... But I want a promise from You..."
"That You will not conceal the dreadful hour from Me. Not out of pity, not out of mistrust of Me... It would be too grievous... and too much torture... Grief because... I would learn everything all of a sudden and not from people who love Me as You love this poor Mother... And it would be a torture if I were to think that while I am spinning, or weaving or looking after the doves, You, My Creature, are put to death..."
"Be not afraid, Mother. You will know... But this is not our last farewell. We shall meet again..."
"Yes. We shall meet again."
"And will You say to Me: “I am going to fulfill the Sacrifice”.? Oh!..."
"I will not say so. But You will understand... And then it will be peace. So much peace... Just consider: to have done everything that God wants from us, His children, for the welfare of all the other children. So much peace... The peace of perfect love..." He holds Her to His bosom, holding Her tight in a filial embrace: He so much taller and stronger, She smaller, young in Her incorrupt youth of body and countenance, added to the eternal youth of Her immaculate spirit.
And She repeats heroically, so heroically: "Yes. What God wants..." There are no other words. The two Perfect Ones are already consuming the sacrifice of their hardest obedience. No tears are shed. No kisses are given. There are only Two Who love perfectly and lay their love at the feet of God.