511. At Emmaus in the Mountains. Parable of the Rich Wise Man and of the Poor Ignorant Boy.
14th October 1946.
The square in Emmaus is crowded with people. It is really packed. And in the middle of the square there is Jesus, Who is moving with difficulty so much is He surrounded and pressed by those who are besieging Him. Jesus is between the son of the chief of the synagogue and the other disciple and around Him there are, with the hypothetical intention of protecting Him, the apostles and disciples and among them many children, as they can easily creep everywhere, like little lizards in the tangle of a thick hedge.
The attraction that Jesus exerted on the little ones is wonderful. Wherever He went, whether He was known or unknown, He was at once surrounded by children, happy to cling to His garments, even happier when His hand touched them lightly with a loving caress, even if at the same time He said grave things to adults; most happy if He sat down on a seat, on a little wall, or stone, or fallen trunk of a tree, on the grass. In that case, as they had Him at their own height, they were able to
embrace Him, rest their little heads on His shoulder or knees, creep under His mantle and thus find themselves in His arms, like chicks that had found the most loving and protective defence. And Jesus always defends them from the arrogance of adults, from their imperfect respect for Him, as although imperfect for so many graver reasons, it pretended to be zealous by driving away the little ones from the Master...
Even now the usual sentence of Jesus can be heard in defence of His little friends: "Leave them alone! Oh! they do not disturb Me! It is not children who cause trouble and grief!"
Jesus bends over them, with a bright smile that makes Him young, so that He almost looks like their older brother, a kind accomplice in some of their innocent amusements, and He whispers: "Be good and quiet, so they will not send you away, and we shall be able to be together a little longer."
"And will You tell us a nice parable?" asks the... boldest one.
"Yes. One all for you. Then I will speak to your relatives. Listen, everybody. What is useful to the little ones is useful also to men.
A man one day was summoned by a great king who said to him: “I heard that you deserve a prize because you are wise and you honour your town with your work and your science. Now, I will not give you this or that thing, but I will take you into the hall of my treasures and you will choose what you like, and I will give it to you. In this way I will also judge whether you are up to your fame”. At the same time the king, approaching the terrace which surrounded his hall, cast a glance at the square in front of the royal palace and saw a poorly dressed boy pass by: a child of a very poor family, perhaps an orphan and a beggar. He turned to his servants saying: “Go to that boy and bring him here”.
The servants went and came back with the child to appear in the presence of the king. Although the dignitaries of the court said to him: “Make a bow, salute, say: 'Honour and glory to you, my king. I bend my knee before you, powerful king whom the Earth exalts as the greatest being existing ' ”, the boy refused to bow and repeat those words, and the scandalised dignitaries shook him rudely and said: “O king, this dirty boorish boy is a dishonour in your abode. Let us drive him out of here into the street. If you wish to have a boy near you we will go and look for one among the rich people in town, if you are tired of our children, and we will bring him to you. But not this boorish fellow who does not even know how to greet a person!...”
The rich wise man, who had previously humiliated himself with many deep servile bows, as if he were before an altar, said: “Your dignitaries are right. For the sake of the majesty of your crown you must ensure that your sacred person is given the homage due to it” and while saying these words he prostrated himself to kiss the king's foot.
But the king said: “No. I want this boy. Not only that, but I want to take him as well into the hall of my treasures, so that he may choose what he wants and I will give it to him. I am perhaps not allowed, just because I am a king, to make a poor boy happy? Is he not my subject like each of you?
Is it his fault if he is unhappy? No, God be praised! I want to make him happy at least for once! Come, child, and be not afraid of me” and he stretched out his hand which the boy took with simplicity kissing it spontaneously. The king smiled. And between two rows of stooping dignitaries, on purple carpets with golden flowers, he turned his steps towards the treasure room, with the rich wise man on his right hand side, and the poor ignorant boy on his left. And the royal mantle contrasted strikingly with the frayed garment and the bare feet of the poor boy.
They went into the treasure room, the door of which was opened by two great men of the Court. It was a high, round, windowless room. But light flooded in through the ceiling made of a huge plate of mica. A mild light which, however, made the gold knobs of safes shine brightly and the purple ribbons of many parchment rolls glow on high ornate reading-desks. Stately rolls, with precious rods, and clasps and labels adorned with shining stones. Rare works which only a king could possess. And, ignored on a grim dark low desk, a small parchment rolled on a white piece of wood, tied with a rustic thread, as dusty as a neglected thing.
The king said pointing at the walls: “Here are all the treasures of the Earth, and others which are even greater than earthly treasures. Because here are all the works of human genius, and there are also works coming from superhuman sources. Go and take whatever you wish”. And he stood in the middle of the room, with folded arms, watching.
The rich wise man went first towards the safes and lifted their covers with more and more feverish anxiety. Gold bars and jewels, silver, pearls, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, opals... were shining in all the coffers... cries of admiration were heard as each one was opened... He then went to the reading-desks, and when reading the titles, his lips uttered new cries of admiration, and at last the man, highly enthusiastic, turned to the king and said: “You have an incomparable treasure: the stones equal the value of the rolls, and the rolls of the stones! Can I really make my choice freely?”
“I told you. As if everything belonged to you”.
The man threw himself with his face on the ground saying: “I worship you, o great king!” And he got up and ran first to the coffers, then to the desks, taking from both the best things he saw. The king, who had smiled a first time under his beard seeing the excitement with which the man ran from one coffer to another, and a second time seeing him throw himself on the ground worshipping, and a third time seeing the cupidity, the method and preferences by which he chose gems and books, addressed the boy who was standing beside him saying: “And are you not going to choose the beautiful stones and the valuable rolls?”
The boy shook his head in denial.
“Because with regard to the rolls, I cannot read them and as far as the stones are concerned... I do not know their value. They are nothing but little stones to me”.
“But they would make you rich...”.
“I have no father, no mother, no brother. Of what avail would it be to me to go to my shelter with a treasure in my bosom?”
“But you would be able to buy a house with it...”.
“I would still be alone in it”.
“You could buy clothes”.
“I would still be cold without the love of relatives”.
“I could not become satiated with my mother's kisses or buy them at any price”.
“You could get teachers and learn to read...”.
“I would like that better. But what could I read then?”
“The works of poets, philosophers, wise men... ancient words and the history of peoples”.
“Useless things, either vain or past... Not worth it...”.
“What a silly child!” exclaimed the man whose arms by now were full of rolls, and his belt and tunic round his chest were swollen with gems.
The king smiled once again under his beard. And taking the boy in his arms he carried him to the coffers, where he dipped his hand into the pearls, the rubies, the topazes, the amethysts, letting them drop like sparkling rain, tempting the boy to take some.
“No, king, I do not want any. I would like something else...”.
The king took him to the desks and read stanzas of poets, episodes of heroes, descriptions of countries.
“Oh! it is beautiful to read. But that is not what I would like...”.
“What, then? Tell me, and I will give it to you, my boy”.
“Oh! I don't think you can, o king, notwithstanding your power. It is not a thing of this world...”.
“Ah! you do not want works of the Earth. Here, then: here are the works which God dictated to His servants. Listen” and he read some of the inspired pages. “That is much more beautiful. But to understand it properly, one must first know God's language well. Is there no book which teaches that, that can make us understand what is God?”
The king was quite astonished and did not laugh any more, but he pressed the boy to his heart. The man instead laughed derisively saying: “Not even the wisest men know what God is, and you, an ignorant boy, want to know? If you want to become rich by that!...”.
The king looked at him sternly while the little fellow replied: “I do not seek riches, I am seeking love and one day I was told that God is Love”.
The king took him to the grim desk, where the little dusty roll tied with a string was. He picked it up, unrolled it and read the first lines: “Let little ones come to Me, and I, God, will teach them the science of love. It is in this book, and I...”.
“Oh! that is what I want! I will know God and by having Him, I shall have everything. Give me this roll, o king, and I shall be happy.”
“But it has no value moneywise. That boy is really foolish! He cannot read and he takes a book! He is not wise and he does not want to learn. He is poor and he does not take treasures”.
“I will strive to possess love, and this book will teach me. May you be blessed, o king, because you are giving me something which will no longer make me feel a poor orphan!”
“At least worship him as I did, if you think that you have become so happy through him!”
“I do not worship the man, but God Who made him so kind”.
“This boy is the true wise person in my kingdom, o man, whereas you have usurped the reputation of being wise. Pride and avidity have intoxicated you to such an extent that you maintain that a creature should be worshipped instead of the Creator, simply because a creature was giving you stones and human works. And you have not considered that you have gems, and I have had them, because God created them, and that you have rare rolls containing the thought of man, because God gave man an intellect. This child who is cold and hungry, who is all alone, who has been struck by all kinds of sorrow, who would be excused and justifiable if he became intoxicated with the sight of riches, this child knows how to express just thanks to God for making my heart kind and he seeks but the one only necessary thing: to love God, to know love in order to have true riches here and in future life. Man, I promised I would give you what you would choose. The word of a king is sacred. So, go with your stones and your rolls: multicoloured pebbles and... straw of human thought. And live trembling with fear of thieves and moths: the former the enemies of gems, the latter of parchments. And be dazzled by the vain flashes of those chips, and be disgusted with the sickly sweet flavour of human science, which is only flavour and not nourishment. Go. This child will remain with me and we will strive together to read the book that is love, that is, God. And we shall have no vain flashes of cold gems, nor the sickly sweet flavour of straw of the works of human knowledge. But the fire of the Eternal Spirit will grant us, even in this life, the ecstasy of Paradise and we shall possess Wisdom, which is more fortifying than wine, more, nourishing than honey. Come, child, to whom Wisdom has shown her face, that you may desire her as a genuine bride”.
And after driving away the man, he kept the child and instructed him in divine Wisdom that he might be a just man and a king worthy of the sacred anointment on the Earth, and a citizen of the Kingdom of God in the other life. That is the parable promised to the little ones and proposed to adults.
Do you remember Baruch? He says: “Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies, growing older and older in an alien land, sharing defilement with the dead, reckoned with those who go to Sheol?” And he replies: “Because you have forsaken the fountain of Wisdom. Had you walked in the way of God, you would have lived in peace for ever”.
Listen, you who too often complain of being in exile, although you are in our fatherland, since our fatherland is no longer ours, but of our rulers; you complain of that and you do not know that in comparison with what is awaiting you in future, it is like a drop of vinegar mixed with water, compared with the inebriating drink given to condemned men and which, as you know, is more bitter than any other drink. The people of God is suffering because it forsook Wisdom. How can you possess prudence, strength, intelligence, how can you even know where they are, and consequently know minor things, if you no longer drink at the fountains of Wisdom?
His Kingdom is not of this Earth, but God's mercy grants its source. It is in God. It is God Himself. And God opens His bosom that it may descend upon you.
Well, does Israel, who has or had – and still thinks she has, with the foolish pride of prodigal people who squandered their money and think they are still rich and in such belief exact homage, whereas they receive nothing but pity or derision - does Israel, who has or had riches, conquests, honours, possess the only treasure? No, she does not. And she loses also the others because he who loses Wisdom loses also the capability of being great. And he who does not know Wisdom falls from one error into another. And Israel knows many things, even too many, but she no longer knows Wisdom.
Baruch correctly says: “The young men of this people have seen the day, they peopled the Earth but they have not known the way of Wisdom or her paths and their children have not received her and she has gone far from them”. Far from them! They have not received her! Prophetical words! I am Wisdom speaking to you. And three quarters of the people in Israel do not receive Me. And Wisdom goes away and will go farther away leaving them alone... And then what will those do, who now consider themselves giants and therefore capable of forcing the Lord to assist them and serve them? Are they giants useful to God in establishing His Kingdom? No, they are not. I with Baruch say so: “To establish the true Kingdom of God, God will not choose those proud giants, and He will let them perish in their own folly” outside the paths of Wisdom. Because to ascend to Heaven with one's spirit and understand the lessons of Wisdom, one must have a humble, obedient and above all an entirely loving spirit, because Wisdom speaks her own language, that is, she speaks the language of love, because she is Love. To become acquainted with her paths it is necessary to have limpid humble eyes, free from the treble concupiscence. To possess Wisdom one must buy her with living money: virtues.
Israel did not possess that and I have come to explain Wisdom, to lead you to her Way, and sow virtues in your hearts. Because I know everything and I am aware of everything and I have come to teach My servant Jacob and My beloved Israel all that. I have come to the Earth to converse with men, I, the Word of the Father, to take the children of men by the hand, I, the Son of God and of man, I, the Way of Life. I have come to show you into the room of eternal treasures, I, to Whom everything was given by My Father. I, eternal Lover, have come to take My Bride, Mankind, that I want to elevate to My throne and to My nuptial room, so that men may be in Heaven with Me, and I may introduce them into the wine-cellar that they may be exhilirated with the true Vine from which the vine-shoots draw Life. But Israel is a sluggish bride and does not get up from her bed to open the door to Him Who has come. And the Bridegroom goes away. He will pass. He is about to pass. And later Israel will look for Him in vain, and will not find the merciful Charity of her Saviour but the war wagons of the rulers, and she will be crushed and pride and life will be squeezed out of her, after she wanted to crush also the merciful Will of God.
Oh! Israel, Israel, who are losing true Life for the sake of keeping a false dream of power! Oh! Israel, who think that you are saving yourself and want to save yourself with different means than those of Wisdom, and you are getting lost by selling yourself to Falsehood and Crime, shipwrecked Israel who will not clutch at the solid rope thrown to rescue you, whereas you cling to the wreckage of your shattered past, and the storm carries you away, to the open sea, a frightful lightless sea, o Israel, what is the good of saving your life or presuming to save it for one hour, one year, for ten, twenty, thirty years, at the cost of a crime, and then perish for ever? What is life, glory, power? A bubble of dirty water on the surface of a pond used by laundry-men, an iridescent bubble, not because it is made of gems, but because it consists of greasy dirt that with potash swells into empty bubbles destined to burst leaving no trace, except a circle on the water foul with human sweat. One thing only is necessary, o Israel. To possess Wisdom. Even at the cost of one's life. Because life is not the most precious thing. It is better to lose one hundred lives than lose one's soul."
Jesus has finished in an admiring silence. And He tries to push through the crowd and go... But the children claim His kisses, and adults His blessing. Only then, after taking leave of Cleopas and Hermas of Emmaus, He can depart.