498. Descending from Mount Nebo..
23rd September 1946.
"I shall always regret this mountain and this rest in the Lord" says Peter while they are getting ready to descend from a very wild hillside to the valley. They are in a range of very high mountains. To the east, beyond the valley, there are more mountains, and there are mountains to the south and even higher ones to the north. To north-west there is the green valley of the Jordan which flows into the Dead Sea. To the west there is first the gloomy sea and then, beyond it, the arid stony desert, interrupted only by the wonderful Engedi oasis, and then the Judaean mountains. An imposing wide view. One's eyes can reach as far as they wish, forgetting in the vision of so much vegetable life, which one supposes or knows it is inhabited, the gloomy sight of the Dead Sea, devoid of sails and life, still gloomy even in sunshine, sad also in the low peninsula which almost halfway along the eastern side, projects into it. How dreadful are the paths descending to the valley! Only wild animals can feel at their ease on them. If they were not able to hold on to trunks and bushes it would be impossible for them to descend, and that makes the Iscariot grumble.
"And yet, I would like to go back again" replies Peter. "You have queer tastes. This place is worse than the first and the second one."
"But not worse than the place where our Master prepared for his mission of a preacher" remarks John objecting.
"Eh! everything seems beautiful to you..."
"Yes. Everything around my Master is beautiful and good and I love it."
"Be careful, I also am in that everything... and also Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and Herodians are often in it... Do you love them as well?"
"He loves them."
"And what about you? ha! ha! are you doing what He does? But He is He, and you are you. I don't know whether you will always be able to love, as you grow pale whenever you hear someone speak of betrayal and death, or you see someone who wishes such things."
"Which means that I am very imperfect, if I become upset out of fear for Him or out of anger towards culprits."
"Ah! so anger also upsets you? I didn't think so... So, if one day you should by chance see someone really hurting the Master, what would you do?"
"Me?! Why ask me? The Law says: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. My hands would become tongs round his throat."
"Oh! But He says that one must forgive! Has meditation improved you so much?"
"Leave me alone, you disturber! Why are you tempting and disturbing me? What have you got in your heart? I would like to see it..."
"The mystery of the bottom of the Dead Sea is not revealed to those prying into its waters. Those waters are like a sepulchral stone covering the rottenness they have received" says behind them Bartholomew, who is at the rear. The others are all ahead and have not heard, but Bartholomew did. And he intervenes in their conversation and his glance is an admonition.
"Oh! the wise Bartholomew! But you are not going to say that I am like the Dead Sea!"
"I was speaking to John, not to you. Come with me, son of Zebedee, I shall not upset you" and he takes John by the arm, as if he, an elderly man, were seeking the support of his young agile companion.
Judas is left last and makes an ugly gesture of wrath behind their backs. He seems to be swearing something to himself, or to be threatening...
"What did Judas mean? And what did you mean?" John asks elderly Nathanael.
"Forget about it, my dear friend. Instead let us think of what the Master explained to us during the past days. How well we understood Israel!"
"True. I don't understand why the world does not realise it!"
"We do not understand it fully either, John. We don't want to understand. See how difficult it is for us to accept His Messianic idea?"
"Yes, we believe Him blindly in everything, except that. As you are a learned man, can you tell me why? Since we find the rabbis to be dull-minded as compared with the Christ, why do we also fail to attain the perfect idea of a spiritual regality of the Messiah?"
"I have wondered many a time myself. Because I would like to arrive at what you call a perfect idea. And I think I can set my mind at rest by saying to myself that what opposes such acceptance in us, who are willing to follow Him not only materially and doctrinally, but also spiritually, are all the ages before us... and within us. Within us. See? Look eastwards, southwards, westwards. Every stone has a recollection and a name. Every stone, every fountain, every path, every village or castle, every town, every river, every mountain... what do they remind us of, and what do they shout to us? The promise of a Saviour. The mercy of God on His people. Like a drop of oil from a leaking goatskin, the little initial group, the nucleus of the future people of Israel spread with Abraham over the world, as far as remote Egypt, and then, more and more numerous, came back with Moses to the land of father Abraham, rich in greater and more certain promises and in the signs of God's paternity, established as a true People because it was provided with a Law, which is the holiest in existence. But what happened later? What happened to that summit which a little while ago was shining in the sun. Look at it now. It is enveloped in clouds that change its appearance. If we did not know that it is there and we were to identify it to direct our steps towards a safe road, would we be able to do so, disfigured as it is by thick clouds that look like rounded hills and mountain ridges? That is what happened to us. The Messiah is what God told our fathers, the patriarchs and the prophets. Immutable. But what we have added of our own, to... explain Him, according to our poor human wisdom, has created such a Messiah, such a false moral figure of the Messiah, that we can no longer recognise the true Messiah. And with the ages and generations behind us, we believe in the Messiah we have conceived, in the Avenger, in the very human King, and we are not able to conceive the Messiah and King as He really is, as thought of and wanted by God, although we say that we do believe in Him. That's the situation, my dear friend!"
"But shall we, at least we, never succeed in seeing, believing, wanting the real Messiah?"
"Yes, we shall succeed. If we were not to succeed, He would not have chosen us. And if Mankind were not to benefit by the Messiah, the Most High would not have sent Him."
"But He will redeem the Sin also without the help of Mankind! Through His own merit only."
"My dear friend, the redemption from the original Sin would be a great one, but would not be complete. We have other sins in addition to the original one. And to be cleansed, they need the Redeemer and the faith of those who apply to Him as their Salvation. I think that Redemption will be active until the end of the world. The Christ will not be inactive for a moment, when He becomes the Redeemer and gives Mankind the Life that is in Him, just as a fountain unceasingly gives its water to those who are thirsty, one day after the other, one month after the other, one year after the other, one century after the other. Mankind will always be in need of Life. He cannot cease giving it to those who hope and believe in Him with wisdom and justice."
"You are a learned man, Nathanael. I am a poor ignorant fellow."
"You do by spiritual instinct what I do with difficulty by means of mental reflection: our transformation from Israelites into Christians. But you will reach your goal sooner because you can love more than you can reflect. Love carries you off and transforms you."
"You are kind, Nathanael. If we were all like you!" says John with a deep sigh.
"Forget about it, John! Let us pray for Judas" says the elderly apostle, who has understood John's sighing...
"Oh! you are here as well! We were looking at you coming. What were you talking about so earnestly?" asks Thomas smiling.
"We were speaking of ancient Israel. Where is the Master?"
"He has gone ahead with His brothers and Isaac to see a sick shepherd. He told us to proceed along this road until we come to the one climbing up to the mountain."
"Let us go, then."
They are going down now on a path which is not so steep until they arrive at a real mule-track which goes up mount Nebo. There is a small group of houses in the wood. Farther down, almost in the valley, there are the white houses of a true and proper town on the slopes which are now almost flat. From the road where they are they can see people entering the town.
"Shall we wait for the man from Petra over there?" asks Peter.
"Yes, that is the town. Let us hope he has come. If so, tomorrow we will go back towards the Jordan. I don't know. I don't feel at all happy here" says Matthew.
"The Master had told us to go much farther on" says the Iscariot. "Yes, but I hope He will convince Himself of the opposite."
"But what are you afraid of? Of Herod? Of his bravoes?"
"Bravoes are not only at Herod's service. Oh! Here is the Master! The shepherds are numerous and happy. These have been conquered. They are nomads. They will go and spread the good news that the Messiah is on the Earth " says Matthew again.
Jesus joins them with a train of shepherds and herds.
"Let us go. We shall be just in time to arrive at the village. These men will give us hospitality, they are known." Jesus is happy to be among simple people who are capable of believing in the Lord.