516. Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
25th October 1946.
Jesus, Who has entered the town by Herod's Gate, is now crossing it, going towards the Tyropoeon and the Ophel district.
"Are we going to the Temple?" asks the Iscariot.
"Yes, we are."
"Watch what You do!" many say warning Him.
"I will only stop for the time of the prayer."
"They will detain You."
"No. We will go in through the northern gates and will come out through the southern ones and they will have no time to organise themselves and harm Me. Unless there is always one behind Me who watches and reports."
No one replies and Jesus goes on His way towards the Temple which appears on the top of its hill, looking almost ghastly in the green yellowish light of a dull winter morning, as the sun is only a reminiscence, which insists on being present striving to make its way through the thick clouds. A useless effort! The joyful brightness of dawn has turned into a pale reflection of an unreal yellow hue, which is not diffused, but shows spots mixed with leaden hues veined with green. In such light the marbles and gold decorations of the Temple look pale, gloomy, I would say dismal, like ruins emerging from a dead area.
Jesus looks at it intensely while ascending towards the enclosure. And He looks at the faces of the morning wayfarers. Mostly humble people: market-gardeners, shepherds with small animals for slaughter, servants or housewives going to the markets. They all pass by silently, enveloped in their mantles, bending a little to protect themselves from the chilly morning air. Also their faces look paler than is usual with this race. It is the strange light that makes them look so greenish, almost pearly in the contour of the coloured cloths of their mantles, which are green, bright violet, deep yellow and thus not suitable to cast rosy reflections on their faces. Some greet the Master, but do not stop. It is not the right time. There are no beggars as yet, uttering their plaintive cries at crossroads or under the arches built across streets at short intervals. The hour and the season assist Jesus in going freely without any obstacle.
They are now at the enclosure. They go in. They go to the Court of Israel. They pray while the blares of trumpets, I would say silver ones by their timbre, announce something important spreading over the hill, and while the smell of incence spreads pleasantly overwhelming every other less pleasant odour which one can smell at the top of the Moriah, that is, I would say, the perpetual smells of meat slaughtered and consumed by fire, of burnt flour, of burning oil, which are always perceptible up there, more or less strongly, because of the continuous holocausts.
They come away following a different direction and they begin to be noticed by the first people going to the Temple, by those belonging to it, by moneychangers and vendors who are assembling their benches and enclosures. But they are too few and their surprise is such that they do not react. They exchange words of astonishment:
"He has come back!"
"He did not go to Galilee, as they said."
"But where is He hiding if He could not be found anywhere?"
"He really wants to defy them."
"What a fool!"
"What a holy man!" and so forth according to individual feelings.
Jesus is already outside the Temple and He is going down towards the street that takes one to Ophel, when, at the crossing with the streets leading up to Zion, He meets with the man born blind, cured recently, who laden with baskets full of sweet-smelling apples is going along cheerfully, joking with other young men, equally laden, going in the opposite direction.
Perhaps the young man would not notice the encounter, as he does not know the face of Jesus or those of the apostles. But Jesus recognises the face of the man He cured miraculously. And He calls him. Sidonia, named Bartholmai, turns round and looks inquisitively at the tall stately man, although modestly dressed, who is calling him by the name, going towards a narrow street.
"Come here" Jesus orders him.
The young man approaches Him, without putting down his load, looks stealthily at Jesus, and thinking that He wants to buy some apples, he says: "My master has already sold them. But he has more if You want them. They are beautiful and good. They arrived yesterday from the Sharon orchards. And if You buy many of them he will give you a good discount, because..."
Jesus smiles raising His right hand to check the talkative young man. And He says: "I did not call you because I want to buy apples, but to congratulate you and bless the Most High Who has been kind to you."
"Oh! yes! I do that continuously, because of the light that I can see and because of the work that I can do, helping my father and mother, at last. I found a good master. He is not a Hebrew but he is good. The Hebrews did not want me be... because I have been ejected from the synagogue" says the young man laying his baskets on the ground.
"They have ejected you? Why? What have you done?"
"I, nothing. I can assure You. The Lord did it. On a Sabbath He made me find that man who is said to be the Messiah, and He cured me, as You can see. And that is why they drove me out."
"Then, He Who cured you, did not do you a completely good turn" says Jesus tempting him.
"Don't say that, man! You are blaspheming! First of all He showed me that God loves me, and then He made me see... You do not know what it is “to see” because You have always had Your eyesight. But one who had never seen! Oh!... It is... It is all the things together that one has with his sight. I tell You that when I saw, over there near the Siloam pool, I laughed and wept, for joy, eh? I wept as I had never wept in my misfortune. Because I then understood how great it was and how good was the Most High. And now I can earn my living and by means of a decent work. And then... - this is above all what I hope the miracle I received will grant me - I hope to meet the man who is said to be the Messiah and His disciple who had..."
"What would you do then?"
"I would like to bless Him. Him and His disciple. And I would like to ask the Master, Who must really come from God, to take me as His servant."
"What? Because of Him you are anathema, you have difficulty in finding a job, you may be punished more severely, and you want to serve Him? Do you not know that all those who follow Him Who cured you are persecuted?"
"Yes, I know! But he is the Son of God, that is what is said among us. Although those up there (and he points at the Temple) do not want us to say that. And is it not worth leaving everything to serve Him?"
"So do you believe in the Son of God and in His presence in Palestine?"
"I do believe it. But I would like to meet Him to believe in Him not only with my intellect, but with my whole self. If You know Who He is and where He is, tell me, that I may go to Him and see Him, and I may believe in Him completely, and serve Him."
"You have already seen Him, and there is no need for you to go to Him. He, Whom you see just now and Who is speaking to you, is the Son of God."
I could not assert this with full certainty, but I got the impression that in saying these words Jesus almost underwent a very short transfiguration, becoming most handsome and I would say bright. I think that to reward the humble believer in Him and confirm him in his faith, for the duration of a flash, He revealed His future beauty, I mean the beauty that He will assume after Resurrection and will retain in Heaven, His beauty of a glorified human creature, of a body glorified and blended with the inexpressible beauty of Perfection, which is exclusively His. I say, an instant. A flash. But the semi-dark corner, where they have withdrawn to speak, under the archivolt of the lane, lightens with a strange brightness emanating from Jesus Who, I would repeat, becomes very handsome. Then everything returns to normal, with the exception of the young man, who is now prostrated on the ground, his face in the dust, and who adores saying: "I believe, Lord, my God!"
"Stand up. I came into the world to bring light and the knowledge of God and to test men and judge them. This time of Mine is the time of choice, election and selection. I have come for the pure in heart and intention, for the humble, the meek, the lovers of justice, of mercy, of peace, for those who weep and for those who know how to give the real value to the various riches and prefer spiritual riches to material ones, that they may find what their spirits long for and those who were blind may see - because men have built thick walls to obstruct light, that is the knowledge of God - and those who consider themselves seers, may become blind..."
"Then You hate a large part of men and You are not as good as You say. If You were, You would like everybody to be able to see, and those who can see not to become blind" interrupt some Pharisees who have arrived from the main road and have cautiously approached the group at the back of the apostles. Jesus turns round and looks at them. He is certainly no longer transfigured into divine beauty, now! It is a very severe Jesus Who stares at His persecutors with His sapphire eyes, and His voice no longer has the golden note of joy, but it is a bronze voice and it is sharp and severe like the sound of bronze while He replies: "I am not the one who wants those, who at present are fighting the truth, not to be able to see it. They themselves are raising plates in front of their eyes in order not to see. And they become blind of their own free will. And the Father sent Me that the division may take place, and the children of Light and those of Darkness may be really known, those who want to see and those who want to be blind."
"Are we among these blind people as well?"
"If you were and you tried to see, you would not be guilty. But it is because you say: “We see”., and then you do not want to see, that you commit sin. Your sin persists because you do not try to see, although you are blind."
"And what have we to see?"
"The Way, the Truth, the Life. A man born blind, as this young man was, with the help of his stick can always find the door of his house and move about it, because he knows his house. But if he were taken to a different place he would not be able to go in by the door of the new house, because he would not know where it is and he would bump against the walls.
The time of the new Law has come. Everything is renewed and a new world, a new people, a new kingdom are rising. Now the people of the past do not know all this. They know their times. They are like blind people taken to a new town where the regal house of the Father is, but they do not know its location. I have come to lead them there and take them into it and that they may see. But I am the Door through which one enters the paternal house, in the Kingdom of God, in the Light, in the Way, in the Truth, in the Life. And I am also the One Who has come to gather the flock left without a guide and lead it to one only sheepfold: the Father's. I know the door of the Fold because I am Door and Shepherd.
And I go in and come out as and when I like. And I go in freely, and by the door, because I am the true Shepherd.
When a man comes to give the sheep of God other instructions or tries to mislead them taking them to other abodes and other ways, he is not the good Shepherd, but an idol shepherd. Likewise, he who does not go in by the door of the fold, but tries to enter in a different way, jumping over the enclosure, is not the shepherd, but a thief and an assassin, who goes in to kill and steal, so that the stolen lambs with their wailing voices may not draw the attention of the watchmen and of the shepherd. False shepherds are trying to insinuate themselves also among the sheep of the flock of Israel to lead them astray from the pastures, far from the true Shepherd. And they go in ready to tear them from the flock even by means of violence, and if necessary, they are also willing to kill them and strike them in many ways, so that they may not speak informing the Shepherd of the tricks of the false shepherds or they may cry to God to protect them from their enemies and the enemies of the Shepherd.
I am the good Shepherd and My sheep know Me, and those who have been for ever the watchmen of the true Fold know Me. They have known Me and My Name and they mentioned it to make it known to Israel, and they described Me and prepared My ways, and when My voice was heard, the last of them opened the door to Me saying to the flock awaiting the true Shepherd, the flock gathered round his crook: “Now! Here is the One Who I said would follow me. One Who precedes me because He was before me and I did not know Him. But for Him, that you may be ready to receive Him, I have come to baptise with water, that He may be revealed to Israel”. And the good sheep heard My voice and when I called them by their names they came to Me and I took them with Me, as a good shepherd does when he is known to the sheep that recognise his voice and follow him wherever he goes. And when he has let them all out, he walks in front of them and they follow him because they love the voice of the shepherd. But they do not follow a stranger, on the contrary they run away from him, because they do not know him and they are afraid of him. I also walk ahead of My sheep to point out the road to them and be the first to face dangers and show them to the flock, that I want to lead to safety in My Kingdom."
"Is Israel no longer the kingdom of God?"
"Israel is the place from which the people of God must rise to the true Jerusalem and to the Kingdom of God."
"And what about the promised Messiah? That Messiah that You say You are, is He not to make Israel triumphant, glorious, the master of the world, subjecting to His sceptre all the peoples and revenging Himself, oh! revenging Himself cruelly on all those who subjugated it since it was a people? So, nothing of all that is true? Are you denying the prophets? Are You saying that our rabbis are stupid? You..."
"The Kingdom of the Messiah is not of this world. It is the Kingdom of God, based on Love. It is nothing else. And the Messiah is not the king of peoples and armies, but the king of spirits. The Messiah will come from the chosen people, from the royal stock, and above all from God, Who generated Him and sent Him. The foundation of the Kingdom of God, the promulgation of the Law of love, the announcement of the Good News mentioned by the prophet began from the people of Israel. But the Messiah will be the King of the world, the King of kings, and His Kingdom will have no limit or boundary, neither in time nor in space. Open your eyes and accept the truth."
"We have understood nothing of Your nonsense. You speak words without any logical connection. Speak and reply to us without parables. Are You or are You not the Messiah?"
"And have you not yet understood? I told you that I am Door and Shepherd for that. So far no one has been able to enter the Kingdom of God, because it was walled up and without exits. But now I have come and the door to enter has been made."
"Oh! Others have said that they were the Messiah and later they were found out to be highwaymen and rebels and human justice punished their wickedness. Who can assure us that You are not like them? We are tired of suffering and of making the people suffer the severity of Rome, thanks to liars who say that they are kings and they induce the people to rebel!"
"No. What you say is not correct. You do not want to suffer, that is true. But you are not sorry if the people suffer. So much so that you add your rigour to the severity of our rulers, by oppressing the common people with heavy tithes and in other ways. Who can assure you that I am not a rascal? My deeds. I am not one who will make the hand of Rome heavy. On the contrary, if anything, I make it lighter by advising the rulers to be human and the people ruled to be patient. At least that."
Many people have assembled and they are growing more and more in numbers so much so that the traffic is obstructed on the main road and so they all move into the little lane, under the arches of which voices resound, as they express their approval saying: "He is quite right with regard to tithes! It's true. He advises us to submit and the Romans to be compassionate."
The Pharisees, as usual, become embittered because of the approval of the crowd and the tone in which they speak to the Christ becomes more biting. " Reply to us without so many words, and prove that You are the Messiah."
"I solemnly tell you that I am. I alone am the Door of the Fold of Heaven. He who does not pass by Me cannot enter. It is true. There have been other false Messiahs, and there will be still more. But I am the only and true Messiah. Those who have come so far proclaiming themselves such, were not the Messiah, they were only thieves and bandits. And not only those who made the few people of their kind call them Messiah, but also others who without taking that name demand a worship which is not even given to the true Messiah.
Listen, anyone who has ears to hear. But take notice of this. The sheep did not listen to the false Messiahs or to the false shepherds and masters, because their spirits understood the falseness of their voices which wanted to sound kind and were instead cruel. Only some billy-goats followed them to be their companions in wickedness. Wild unyielding billy-goats that do not want to enter the Fold of God, under the sceptre of the true King and Shepherd. Because this is now what happens in Israel. That He Who is the King of kings becomes the Shepherd of the Flock, whereas, once, he who was the shepherd of flocks became king and both the Former and the latter come from the same root, that of Jesse, as it is stated in the promises and prophecies.
The false shepherds did not speak sincere words or perform comforting deeds. They dispersed and tortured the flock or they abandoned it to wolves, or they killed it to make a profit selling it to secure their lives or they deprived it of its pastures to turn them into places of pleasure or thickets for idols. Do you know which are the wolves? They are the evil passions, the vices that the same false shepherds taught the flock, as they were the first to practise them. And do you know which are the thickets for idols? They are one's selfishness before which too much incense is burnt. The other two things need not be explained because the sermon is even too clear. But it is logical that false shepherds should behave thus. They are nothing but thieves who have come to steal, kill and destroy, to take the sheep to treacherous pastures or to false folds which are nothing but slaughter-houses. But those which come to Me are safe and they will be able to go out to My pastures or come back to rest with Me and become strong and fat with holy healthy food. Because I have come for that. That My people, My sheep, so far thin and depressed, may have life and have it abundantly, in peace and joy. And I want that so much that I have come to give My life so that My sheep may have the full abundant Life of the children of God.
I am the good Shepherd. And when a shepherd is good he gives his life to defend his flock from wolves and thieves, whereas a mercenary, who does not love the sheep but the money he gets for leading them to pasture, is only worried about saving himself and the savings that he keeps in his bosom, and when he sees wolves or thieves come, he runs away, save going back later to take some sheep left half dead by the wolves or dispersed by the thieves, killing the former to eat them or selling the latter to make more money and then with false tears he tells his master that not even one sheep was spared. What does the mercenary care if a wolf fangs and disperses the sheep, and a thief plunders them to take them to the butcher? Did he watch over them while they were growing and did he work to make them strong? But the owner who knows how much sheep cost, how many hours of work, of watch, how many sacrifices, loves them and takes care of them as they are dear to him. But I am more than the owner. I am the Saviour of My flock and I know how much the salvation of even one soul costs Me, and I am therefore willing to do anything to save a soul. It was entrusted to Me by My Father. All the souls have been entrusted to Me with instructions that I should save a very large number of them. The more I will be able to snatch from the death of the spirit, the more will My Father be glorified. I therefore struggle to free them from all their enemies, that is from their egos, from the world, from the flesh, from the demon, and from My enemies who contend for them with Me to grieve Me. I do that because I know the Thought of My Father. And My Father sent Me to do that, because He is aware of My love for Him and for souls. And also the sheep of My flock know Me and My love and they feel that I am ready to give My life to give them happiness.
And I have other sheep. But they do not belong to this Fold. Therefore they do not know Me for what I am, and many do not know what I am and who I am. Sheep that to many of us appear to be worse than wild billy-goats and are considered unworthy of knowing the Truth and of having Life and the Kingdom. And yet it is not so. The Father wants them as well, so I must approach them, too, to make Myself known and to make the Good News known, to lead them to My pastures and gather them. And they also will listen to My voice because they will end up by loving it. And there will be only one Fold under only one Shepherd, and the Kingdom of God will be formed on the Earth ready to be transported to and received in Heaven, under My sceptre and My sign and My true Name.
My true Name! It is known to Me only! But when the number of the chosen ones is complete, and among hymns of jubilation they sit at the great wedding feast of the Bridegroom and the Bride, then My Name will be made known to My chosen ones, who through their loyalty to it have become holy, without however knowing the full extent and the depth of what it means to be marked with My Name and rewarded because of their love for it, or what the reward will be... This is what I want to give to My faithfull sheep. And that is My own joy..."
With His eyes bright with ecstatic tears Jesus looks at the faces turned towards Him, and a smile trembles on His lips, such a spiritualised smile in His spiritualised face, that it thrills the crowds who realise that the Christ has been in a beatific rapture and that out of love He wishes to see it accomplished. He collects Himself and for a moment He closes His eyes concealing the mystery that His mind sees and that the eyes might reveal, and He resumes:
"That is why the Father loves Me, o My people, o My flock! Because for your sake, for your eternal good, I give My life. Later I will retake it. But first I will give it that you may have life and your Saviour as your life. And I will give it in such a way that you may feed on it, as I will change from Shepherd into pasture and fountain, which give food and drink, not for forty years as for the Hebrews in the desert, but for all the time of exile in the deserts of the Earth. No one, actually, takes My life. Neither those who loving Me with their whole beings deserve that I should sacrifice it for them, nor those who take it through immense hatred and foolish fear. No one could take it if I did not agree to give it and if the Father did not allow it, as we are both enraptured by an ecstasy of love for guilty Mankind. I will give it Myself. And I have the power to retake it whenever I wish, as it is not befitting that Death should prevail over Life. That is why the Father gave Me that power, nay the Father ordered Me to do that. And through My life, offered and consumed, the people will become one only People: Mine, the heavenly People of the children of God, and in the people the sheep will be separated from the billy-goats and the sheep will follow their Shepherd to the Kingdom of eternal Life."
And Jesus, Who so far has spoken in a loud voice, turns towards Sidonia named Bartholmai, who has been all the time in front of Him with his baskets of sweet-smelling apples at his feet, and He says to him in a whisper: "You have forgotten everything because of Me. Now you will certainly be punished and you will lose your job. See that? I am always the cause of sorrow to you.
Because of Me you lost the synagogue, and now you will lose your master..."
"And what am I going to do with all that, if I have You? You only are of value to me. And I will leave everything to follow You, if You will allow me. Just let me take this fruit to him who bought it and then I will come with You."
"Let us go together. Then we will go to see your father. Because you have a father and you must honour him by asking him to bless you."
"Yes, Lord. Everything You wish. But teach me many things, because I know nothing, just nothing, I cannot even read and write because I was blind."
"Do not worry about that. Your good will will teach you."
And He sets out to go to the main street, while the crowds comment, discuss, and even quarrel, divided between the two usual opinions: is Jesus of Nazareth a person possessed or is He a saint? The crowds, with discordant opinions, dispute, while Jesus goes away.