88. Jesus with the Shepherd Jonah in the Plain of Esdraelon.
26th January 1945.
Jesus is walking along a little path which runs between parched fields, covered with stubble and full of crickets. Levi and John are walking beside Him. Behind in a group are Joseph, Judas and Simon. It is night. But there is no relief from the heat. The soil seems to be still burning after the great heat of the day. Dew is of no avail in so much heat. I think it evaporates even before reaching the ground, such is the burst of heat rising from the furrows and the cracks in the soil.
They are silent, exhausted and hot. But I see Jesus smile. It is a clear night although the setting moon is hardly visible in the far east.
"Do You think he will be there?" Jesus asks Levi.
"He will certainly be there. This is the time when the crops are stored away, but they have not yet started picking the fruit. Farmers are therefore busy watching their vineyards and orchards against robbers and they do not go away, particularly when their masters are as stingy as Jonah's. Samaria is not far and when those renegades get a chance… oh! they are happy to cause damage to us Israelites. Do they not know that the servants get beaten for it? Of course they do. But they hate us, that's all."
"Do not cherish resentment, Levi" says Jesus.
"No. But You will see how Jonah was wounded five years ago because of them. Since then he lives watching at night. Because the scourge is a cruel punishment..."
"Is there still a long way to go?"
"No, Master. See where this dreariness ends and there is a dark area? The orchards of Doras, the cruel Pharisee, are there. If You will allow me, I will go on in front of You, to let Jonah hear me."
"Are all the Pharisees like that, my Lord?" asks John. "Oh! I would not like to be in their service! I prefer my boat."
"Is your boat your dearest thing?" asks Jesus half serious.
"No, You are! It was the boat when I did not know that Love was on the earth" answers John promptly.
Jesus smiles at his impetuosity. "You did not know that love was on the earth? And how were you born then, if your father did not love your mother?" asks Jesus, jokingly.
"That love is beautiful, but it does not attract me. You are my love, You are the love on the earth for poor John."
Jesus embraces him and says: "I was anxious to hear you say so. Love is greedy for love and man gives and will always give tiny drops to its thirst, like these which are falling from the sky and are so small that they vanish mid-air, in the great summer heat. Also man's drops of love will vanish mid-air, killed by the heat of too many things. Hearts will still squeeze them out… but interests, love, business, greed, so many human things will burn them. And what will rise to Jesus? Oh! too little! The remains, the few surviving human pulsations, men's throbs interested in asking, asking, and asking, in urgent need. To love Me out of pure love will be the characteristic of few people… of people like John…
Look at an ear of corn grown after the end of the season. It is perhaps a seed that fell at harvest time. But it was able to spring up, to resist sunshine and dry weather, to grow up, to form an ear… Feel it: it is already formed. In these stripped fields it is the only living thing. Before long the ripe grains will fall on the ground, breaking the smooth husk that holds them close to the stem, and they will become charity food for the little birds, or yielding one hundred per cent, they will grow again and before winter brings the plough back to the earth, they will be ripe once again and will satisfy the hunger of many birds already starving in the dreariest season… See, My John, what one brave seed can do?
And the few people that will love Me out of pure love, will be like that. One only will satisfy the hunger of many. One only will make beautiful the area which before was ugly. One only will give life where there was death and all the hungry ones will come to that one. They will eat a grain of its active love and then, selfish and absent-minded, they will fly away. But also without their knowing it, that grain will Put vital germs in their blood, in their souls… and they will come back. And today, tomorrow and the day after, as Isaac said, the knowledge of the Love will increase in their hearts. The stripped stem will no longer be a living thing: a parched straw. But how much good from its sacrifice! And how much reward for its sacrifice!"
Jesus, Who had stopped for a moment before a thin ear of corn, grown at the edge of the path, in a little ditch, which in rainy weather was perhaps a little stream, has moved on, while John listens to Him all the time in his usual attitude of an ardent admirer, who takes in not only the words but also the movements of the person loved.
The others, who are speaking among themselves, are not aware of the tender conversation. They have now reached the orchard and they stop, forming one group. The heat is such that they are all perspiring, although they are not wearing mantles. They wait silently.
From the dark thicket, which is faintly lit up by moonlight, Levi, visible in his light clothes, appears, followed by a person of darker dress. "Master, Jonah is here."
"May My peace come to you!" greets Jesus, before Jonah reaches Him. But Jonah does not reply. He runs and throws himself weeping at His feet and kisses them. When he is fit to speak he says: "How long have I waited for You! How long! How depressing it was to feel that my life was passing away, that death was approaching, and I had to say: “I have not seen Him!” And yet, no, not all hopes were destroyed. Not even when I was about to die. I would say: “She said so: 'You will serve Him again' and She could not have said something that was not true. She is the Mother of the Immanuel. No one, therefore, possesses God more than She does, and who has God knows what is of God.”"
"Get up. She sends you Her greetings. You have been near Her and You are still near Her. She lives at Nazareth."
"You! She! At Nazareth? Oh! I wish I had known. At night, in the cold winter months, when the fields rest and evil people cannot cause damage to farmers, I would have come, I would have run there, to kiss Your feet and I would have come back with my treasure of certainty of faith. Why did You not show Yourself, Lord?"
"Because is was not the time. The time has now come. We must learn to wait. You said: “In the winter months when the fields rest”. And yet they have been sown, have they not? Well, I was like a grain that had been sown. And you saw Me when I was being sown. Then I disappeared. Buried in necessary silence. That I might grow and reach harvest time and shine in the eyes of the world and of those who had seen Me a New-Born Baby. That time has come. The NewBorn is now ready to be the Bread of the world. And I am looking first for My faithful ones, and I say to them: “Come. I will satisfy your hunger.”"
The man is listening to Him, smiling happily, and he keeps saying to himself: "Oh! You are really here! You are really here!"
"You were about to die? When?"
"When I was thrashed to death, because they had stripped two vineyards. Look how many wounds!" He lowers his tunic and shows his shoulders all marked by irregular scars. "He beat me with an iron rod. He counted the bunches of grapes that had been picked, he could see where the stalks had been torn off, and he gave me a blow for every bunch. And then he left me there, half dead. Mary helped me, she is the young wife of a friend of mine, and she has always been fond of me. Her father was the land agent before me and when I came here I became very fond of the little girl, because her name was Mary. She took care of me and, I recovered after two months, for the sores had become infected because of the heat, and had given me a high temperature. I said to the God of Israel: “It does not matter. Let me see Your Messiah again, and this misfortune is of no importance to me. Accept it as a sacrifice. I can never offer You a sacrifice. I am the servant of a cruel man and You know. He does not even allow me to come to Your altar at Passover. Accept me as a victim. But give me Him!”"
"And the Most High has satisfied you. Jonah, do you wish to serve Me, as your friends are already doing?"
"Oh! How shall I do that?"
"As they do. Levi knows and he will tell you how simple it is to serve Me. I only want your good will."
"I have given You that since the time You cried in the manger. It made me overcome everything. Both dejection and hatred. The fact is… we cannot speak very much here… The master once kicked me because I was insisting that You existed. But when he was away, and with those I could trust, oh! I did tell the wonder of that night!"
"And now tell the wonder of your meeting. I have found almost everyone, and everyone is faithful. Is that not a wonder? Only because you contemplated Me with faith and love you have become just in the eyes of God and men."
"Oh! Now I will have courage! And how much courage! Now that I know that You are alive I can say: “He is there. Go to Him!…” But where, my Lord?"
"All over Israel. Up to September I will be in Galilee. I will Often be at Nazareth or Capernaum, and I can be traced from there. After… I will be everywhere. I have come to gather the sheep of Israel."
"Oh! My Lord! You will find many billy-goats. Beware of the great ones in Israel!"
"They will not do Me any harm, if it is not the time. Say to the dead, the sleepers, the living: “The Messiah is amongst us.”"
"To the dead, Lord?"
"To those whose souls are dead. The others, the just who died in the Lord, are already rejoicing for their imminent liberation from Limbo. Say to the dead: “I am the Life.” Say to the sleepers: “I am the Sun that rises awaking from sleep.” Say to the living: “I am the Truth they are seeking.”"
"And You cure also sick people? Levi told me about Isaac. Is the miracle only for him, because he is Your shepherd, or is it for everybody?"
"For good people, a miracle is a just reward. For those who are not so good, it urges them toward true goodness. It is also for bad people, to shake them and make them understand that I am and that God is with Me. A miracle is a gift. Gifts are for good people. But He Who is Mercy and sees the human burden, which can be lightened only by powerful events, has resort also to this means, that He may say: “I have done everything for you, but all in vain. Tell Me, therefore, what else I must do.”"
"Lord, do You mind entering my house? If You give me assurance that no robber will come into the estate, I would like to give You hospitality, and invite also the few people who know You because I spoke to them of You. Our master has bent and broken us like ignoble stems. We have but the hope of an eternal reward. But if You will show Yourself to downcast hearts, they will feel new strength."
"I will come. Do not be afraid for your trees and vineyards. Can you believe that the angels will watch them faithfully?"
"Oh! My Lord. I saw Your heavenly servants. I do believe. And I will come with You and feel safe. Blessed these trees and vineyards which have the breeze and songs of angelical wings and voices! Blessed is the soil which is sanctified by Your feet! Come, Lord Jesus! Listen, trees and vines. Listen, soil. Now I will say to Him the Name that I confided to you for my own peace. Jesus is here. Listen, and may the sap exult through branches and vine-shoots. The Messiah is with us."
It all ends with these joyful words.