468. Jesus Speaks of Matrimony to a Mother-in-law.
7th August 1946.
The fertile woody mountains where Giscala is situated afford refreshment of greenery, breezes, water and views which are varied and beautiful according to the different directions of the road. To the north is a series of wooded summits covered with the most varied green shades. I would say that the Earth seems to rise towards the blue vault of heaven, offering it, in grateful homage for the waters and sunbeams granted by it, all the vegetable beauties of nature. To north-east the eye stops fascinated contemplating the jewel of the Great Hermon which changes its colour according to time and light and raises its highest peak like a gigantic obelisk of diamond, of opal, of very pale sapphire, or of very delicate ruby, or of lightly hardened steel - according to whether the sun kisses it or leaves it and the ruffled clouds blown by winds cause play of light on its perpetual snow - then the eye descends along the emerald slopes of the tablelands, along ridges, gorges and peaks, which are at the base of the royal giant. Then turning farther eastwards one sees the green expanse of the plateaux of Gaulanitis and Hauran bordered at their eastern ends by mountains vanishing in distant haze, and delimited on the western side by the different shade of green which lies along the Jordan and marks its valley. And closer at hand, are two lakes, as splendid as two sapphires: the lake of Merom within the low circle of a well watered plain, and the lake of Tiberias, as graceful as a delicate pastel amid the hills surrounding it, different in shape and shades, with its shores perennially full of flowers: an eastern dream with groups of palm-trees waving their tops in the breeze from nearby mountains, the poetry of our lakes most beautiful for the calm of their waters and the cultivations of their shores. And then to the south, mount Tabor with its typical summit, and the little Hermon, completely green, watching over the plain of Esdraelon, the vast extent of which is revealed by the long horizon uninterrupted by mountain chains, and farther down, to the south, the high powerful mountains of Samaria stretching beyond man's sight towards Judaea. The only one which is not visible is the western side, where mount Carmel must be and the plain stretching to the north, towards Ptolemais, both hidden by a mountain chain higher than this one, so that they cannot be seen. It is one of the most beautiful sights in Palestine.
Jesus is proceeding following the road among the mountains, at times all alone, at times joined by this or that apostle.
He stops once to caress a shepherd's children who are playing near the flock and He accepts the milk that the shepherd, who has recognised Him as the Rabbi described by other people who had seen Jesus, wants to give Him saying: "For You and for Your friends."
He stops again to listen to an old woman who, not knowing who He is, tells Him her family troubles caused by a daughter-in-law who is shrewish and disrespectful.
Although He pities the old woman, Jesus exhorts her to be patient and to convince her daughter-in-law to be kind through her own kindness: "You must be a mother to her, even if she is not your daughter. Be sincere: if instead of being your daughter-in-law she were your daughter, would her faults appear to you so grave?"
The old woman ponders... and she then confesses: "No... But a daughter is always a daughter..."
"And if one of your daughters should tell you that in the house of her husband her mother-in-law ill- treated her, what would you say?"
"That she is bad. Because she ought to teach the customs of the house - as every house has its own - kindly, particularly if the wife is young. I would say that she should remember when she was a newly- wed bride herself, and how pleased she was to be loved by her mother-in-law, if she had been lucky to have a good one, and how she had suffered, if she had had a bad one. And that she should not make her daughter-in-law suffer what she had not suffered, or not make her suffer because she knows what it is to suffer. Oh! I would defend my daughter!"
"How old is your daughter-in-law?"
"She is eighteen years, Rabbi. She has been married to Jacob three years."
"She is very young. Is she faithful to her husband?"
"Oh! yes. She is a stay-at-home and she is full of love for him and for little Levi and for the little girl, whose name is Anne, like mine. She was born at Passover... She is so beautiful!..."
"Who wanted her to be named Anne?"
"Mary did! Levi was the name of the father-in-law and Jacob called his first son after him, and when Mary had the girl she said: “We will give her the name of your mother”."
"And do you not think that that is love and respect?" The old woman is pensive... Jesus insists: "She is honest, she is fond of her home, she is a loving wife and mother, she is anxious to make you happy... She could have given her daughter the name of her own mother, instead she called her after you... she honours your house with her behaviour..."
"Oh! That is true! She is not like that wretch of Jezebel."
"Well, then! Why do you complain and lay information against her? Do you not think that you are using two measures in judging your daughter-in-law in a different manner than you would judge a daughter of yours?..."
"The trouble is... is... that she has deprived me of the love of my son. Before he was all for me, now he loves her more than he loves me..." The real reason of prejudices of mothers-in-law overflows at last from the old woman's heart together with tears from her eyes.
"Does your son leave you wanting anything? Has he neglected you since he got married?..."
"No. I cannot say that. But, in brief, he belongs to his wife now..." and she weeps moaning more loudly.
Jesus smiles a quiet pitiful smile for the jealous old woman. But, being as kind as ever, He does not reproach her. He feels pity for the suffering mother and tries to cure her. He lays His hand on her shoulder as if He wanted to guide her, because she is blinded by tears, perhaps to make her feel, through His contact, so much love that she may be comforted and cured, and He says to her:
"Mother, and is it not right that it is so? Your husband did so with you, and his mother did not lose him, as you say and think, but she felt that he belonged less to her because your husband divided his love between his mother and you. And your husband's father, in his turn, stopped belonging completely to his mother, to love the mother of his children. And so on from generation to generation, going back in time to Eve: the first mother who saw her children divide with their wives the love which they previously had exclusively for their parents. But does Genesis not say: “This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh... This is why a man will leave his father and mother and will join himself to his wife and they will become one body”. You may object: “It was the word of a man”. Yes, but of what man? He was in the state of innocence and grace. He thus reflected without any shadow the Wisdom which had created him and he was aware of its truth. Through Grace and his innocence he possessed also the other gifts of God in full measure. As his senses were subdued to his reason, his mind was not obscured by the fumes of concupiscence. And because science was proportionate to his state, he spoke words of truth. So he was a prophet. Because you know that prophet means a person who speaks in the name of another person. And as true prophets always speak of matters concerning the spirit and the future, even if relating apparently to the present time and the body - because in the sins of the flesh and in the facts of the present time are the seeds of future punishments, or facts of the future have roots in ancient events: for instance the coming of the Saviour originates from Adam's sin, and the punishments of Israel, foretold by the prophets, were brought about by the behaviour of Israel - so He Who urges their lips to speak things of the spirit can but be the Eternal Spirit Who sees everything in an eternal present. And the Eternal Spirit speaks through saints, because he cannot dwell in sinners. Adam was a saint, because justice was complete in him and every virtue was present in him, because God had instilled the fullness of His gifts into His creature. Man has to work hard now, to attain justice and possess virtues, because the incentives of evil are in him. But such incentives were not in Adam, on the contrary Grace made him little inferior to God his Creator. So his lips spoke words of grace. And this is a truthful word: “A man will leave his father and mother for a woman and he will join himself to his wife and they will become one body”. And it is so absolutely true, that the Most Good Lord in order to comfort mothers and fathers included the fourth Commandment in the Law: “Honour your father and your mother”. A Commandment that does not end with the marriage of man, but lasts beyond marriage. Previously good people instinctively honoured their relatives also after they left them to set up a new family. Since Moses it is an obligation of Law. And the purpose of it is to mitigate the grief of parents who were too often forgotten by their children after they got married. But the Law has not cancelled the prophetic words of Adam: “Man will leave his father and mother for his wife”. They were just words and they are still valid. They reflected the thought of God. And the thought of God is immutable because it is perfect. So, mother, you must accept without selfishness the love of your son for his wife. And you will be holy as well. On the other hand, every sacrifice is compensated on the Earth. Is it not pleasant for you to kiss your grandchildren, the children of your son? And will the evening of your life not be peaceful and your last sleep placid with the delicate love of a daughter near you, to take the place of those daughters who are no longer in your house?..."
"How do You know that my daughters, who are all older than my son, are married and live far away? ... Are You a prophet, too? You are a Rabbi. I can tell by the tassels of Your mantle and even if You did not have them, Your word reveals it. Because You speak like a great doctor. Are You perhaps a friend of Gamaliel? He was here just the day before yesterday. Now I do not know... And there were many rabbis with him, and many of his favourite disciples. Perhaps You have arrived late."
"I know Gamaliel. But I am not going to him. I am not even going into Giscala..."
"But who are You? You are certainly a rabbi. And You speak even better than Gamaliel..."
"Then... do what I told you. And you will have peace. Goodbye, mother. I am going on My way. You are certainly going to town."
"Yes Mother!... The other rabbis are not so humble with a poor woman She Who bore You is certainly holier than Judith, if She gave You such a kind heart for every creature."
"She is holy, indeed."
"Tell me Her name"
"Jesus!..." The little old woman is bewildered with astonishment. The news has paralysed her and riveted her where she heard it.
"Goodbye, woman. Peace be with you" and Jesus goes away quickly, He almost runs away before she may recover from the shock.
And the apostles follow Him with vigorous strides, amid much fluttering of garments, in vain chased by the shouts of the woman who implores: "Stop! Rabbi Jesus! Stop! I want to tell You something..." They slow down when the thick of the wooded mountains conceal them again and they can no longer see the road which takes one to Giscala and from which their mule-track branches off.
"How well You spoke to the woman" says Bartholomew.
"The lesson of a doctor! A pity that she was alone..." remarks James of Alphaeus.
"I want to remember those words..." exclaims Peter.
"The woman understood, or almost, after Your Name Now she will talk of You in town..." says Thomas.
"Provided she does not tease the wasps hurling them after us!" murmurs Judas of Kerioth.
"Oh! we are far away now!... And one does not leave traces in these woods, so we shall not be troubled" says Andrew optimistically.
"Even if we were!... I restored peace in a family" Jesus replies to everybody. "How peculiar they are! Mothers-in-law are all alike!" says Peter.
"No. We have met some good ones. Do you remember the mother-in-law of Jerusa of Doco? And the mother-in-law of Dorcas from Caesarea Philippi?"
"Of course, James... There are some good ones..." agrees Peter; but he certainly thinks that his mother-in-law is a torture.
"Let us stop and eat. Then we will have a rest, so that we may arrive at the village in the valley before night" orders Jesus. And they stop in a green dell, like the inside of a huge emerald green shell encrusted in the mountain and open to receive pilgrims in its peace. Light is mild, despite the time of the day, as tall mighty trees form a rustling vault over the meadow. And the temperature is mild because of the breeze blowing from the mountains. A little spring pours a silvery stream between two dark rocks and murmurs in a low voice disappearing among the thick herbs, in a tiny bed which it has dug, about a palm wide and all covered with the stalks growing on the banks, and waving in the light breeze; it then descends, in a tiny waterfall, on a rock below. The horizon, as seen between two large tree trunks, looks hazy and distant, towards the mountains of Lebanon, and is wonderful.