288. The Sabbath at Gerasa.
28th September 1945.
The hours of the day are long when one does not know what to do. And those who are with Jesus do not know what to do on that Sabbath, in a town where they have no acquaintances, in a house where they do not feel at home because of different languages and habits, without taking into account the Jewish prejudices which keep them apart from Alexander Misace's camel-drivers and servants. Many, therefore, have stayed in bed or are dozing in the sun that makes the large square yard of the house comfortably warm. It is a yard suited to receive caravans, as it is fitted with basins and rings fixed to the walls or columns of a rustic porch, which runs along the four sides, with many stables and lofts for hay and straw on three sides. The women are in their rooms. I do not see even one of them.
Marjiam amuses himself also in the closed yard, watching the work of the stable-men, who curry mules, change litters, examine hoofs, fasten loose horseshoes, or, what is of greater interest to him because it is something entirely new, he is spellbound watching how the cameleers deal with the camels, preparing in advance the load for each animal, in proportion to each of them, balancing it, and how they make a camel kneel down and rise in order to load and unload it, rewarding each one with a handful of dry legumes, which I think are broad beans, and at the end they gave them carobs, which the men also chew with relish.
Marjiam is utterly amazed and he looks round to find someone with whom he may share his amazement. But he is disappointed because adults are not interested in camels. They are either speaking to one another or dozing. He goes to Peter who is sleeping blissfully with his head resting on soft hay, and shakes his arm. Peter half opens his eyes and asks: "What is it? Who wants me?" "I do, Come and see the camels."
"Let me sleep. I have seen so many of them... Ugly animals."
The boy then goes to Matthew, who is checking his accounts, as he is the treasurer during this trip: "You know, I have been to see the camels. They eat like sheep, did you know? And they kneel down like men and they look like boats moving up and down. Have you seen them?"
Matthew, who has lost his count owing to the interruption, replies sharply: "Yes" and resumes counting his money.
Another disappointment... Marjiam looks round... There is Simon Zealot speaking to Judas Thaddeus... "How lovely camels are! And how good! They loaded and unloaded them and they lay down on the ground so that the cameleer should not have to work too hard. And they eat carobs. The men also were eating them. I would like... But I cannot make myself understood. Come with me..." and he takes Simon by the hand.
Simon, who is engrossed in peaceful conversation with Thaddeus, replies absent-mindedly: "Yes, dear... Go... and watch that you do not hurt yourself."
Marjiam is astonished... Simon has not replied to the point. The boy is almost weeping. He goes away down-heartedly and leans against a column...
Jesus comes out of a room and sees that he is sulky and alone. He goes towards the boy and lays a hand on his head. "What are you doing all alone and so sad?" "No one will listen to me..."
"What did you want from them?"
"Nothing I was speaking of the camels... They are lovely... I like them. It must be like being on a boat to be up there... And they eat carobs; the men also eat them..."
"And you want to go up there and eat carobs. Come, let us go to the camels" and Jesus takes him by the hand and goes to the end of the yard with the child, who has become cheerful once again.
He goes straight to a cameleer and greets him with a smile. The man bows to Him and continues examining his animal, adjusting its halter and reins.
"Man, do you understand Me?"
"Yes, Lord. I have known Your people for twenty years."
"This boy has a big desire: to climb up on a camel... And a little one: to eat a carob" and Jesus smiles once again more lively.
"No, I have no children. I am not married."
"You, so handsome, so strong, You have not found a woman?"
"I have not looked for one."
"You have never felt the desire of a woman?"
The man looks at Him and is spellbound. He then says: "I have nine children at Ischilo... I go: one son. I go: another son. Always."
"Do you love your children?"
"They are of my blood! But my work is hard. I am here, my children are there. We are far apart... But I do it for their bread. Do you understand?"
"I do. So you can understand the boy who would like to mount a camel and eat carobs."
"Yes. Come. Are you afraid? No? Good. Lovely boy! I have one, too, like you. Dark like you. Here. Take and hold it tight" and he puts into Marjiam's hand the strange handle which is in the front part of the saddle. "Hold it. I will come on now. And the camel will stand up. You are not afraid, eh?"
And the man climbs up on the high saddle, he makes himself comfortable and spurs the camel, which stands up obediently with a heavy pitch.
Marjiam laughs happily. And he is all the more happy because the cameleer has put a delicious carob into his mouth. The camel ambles along the yard, then the driver puts it into a trot, finally, seeing that Marjiam is not afraid, he shouts something to one of his companions, who opens the very wide door at the rear of the yard and the cameleer disappears with his load in the green country. Jesus goes back towards the house and enters a large room where the women are. He smiles so happily that Mary asks Him: "What has happened, Son, that You are so happy?"
"I am as happy as Marjiam who is galloping on a camel. Come out so that we may see him coming back."
They all go out into the yard and sit on the low wall near the basins. The apostles who are not sleeping approach them. Those who are at the windows in the rooms upstairs, look down, they see the group and go down to join them. Their shrill youthful voices, they are in fact the voices of John and of the two Jameses, awake also Peter and Andrew and arouse Matthew. They are now all together because John of Endor and the two disciples have also joined the group. "But where is Marjiam? I don't see him" asks Peter.
"He has gone for a run on a camel. None of you would listen to him... I saw that he was so sad and I took care of him."
Peter, Simon and Matthew remember: "Of course! He was talking about camels... and carobs. But I was sleepy!"; "I had to check my accounts as I wanted to inform You of what I had received from the Gerasenes and what I had given to the poor"; "And I was speaking of faith with Your brother."
"It does not matter. I saw to it. But, incidentally, I tell you that to take care of children's games is also love... But now let us talk of something else. The town is full of merriment. The only remembrance of our Sabbath is general mirth. So it is better to stay indoors. So much so because if they want, they can find us as they know where we are. There is Alexander inspecting his camels. I will now tell him that one is missing through My fault." And Jesus hastens towards the merchant and speaks to him.
They come back together. The merchant says: "Very well. He will enjoy himself and a run out in the sun will do him good. You may rest assured that the man will treat him well. Calipius is a clever man. In exchange for the run, I ask You to tell me something. Last night I was thinking of Your words... those I heard at Ramoth, which You exchanged with the woman, and those You spoke yesterday. And I thought I was climbing up a high mountain, like those where I live, the tops of which reach up to the clouds. You were carrying me higher and higher. I was under the impression of being caught by an eagle, one of those eagles of our highest mountain, the first to emerge from the Deluge. I saw entirely new things, of which I had never thought before, all made of a light... And I understood them. Then I became confused. Tell me more."
"What shall I tell you?"
"I don't know... Everything was so beautiful. What You said about meeting again in Heaven... I understood that we will love there in a different way, and yet it will be the same. For instance: we shall not be worried as we are now, it will be as if we were one family only: one for all and all for one. Am I wrong?" "No. On the contrary! We shall one family also with the living. Souls are not separated by death. I am speaking of the just. They form one large family. Just imagine a large temple in which some worship and pray, and some work. The former pray also for those who are working, the latter work for those who are praying. The same applies to souls. We work on the earth. They help us with their prayers. But we must offer our sufferings for their peace. It is a chain which does not break. It is Love that ties those who were to those who are. And those who are must be good to be able to join those who were and want us to be with them."
Syntyche makes an involuntary gesture, which she soon cheeks. But Jesus notices it and invites her to come out of her habitual self-restraint.
"I was thinking... I have been thinking about it for some days, and if I must tell the truth, I am worried, because I feel that if I believe in Your Paradise, I will lose my mother and sisters forever..." a sob breaks the voice of Syntyche, who stops to stifle tears.
"What thought worries you so much?"
"I now believe in You. I can only think of my mother as a heathen. She was good... Oh! very good! And my sisters, too. Little Ismene was the best daughter there ever was on the earth. But they were heathens... Now, when I was like them, I thought of Hades and I used to say: “We will meet there again.” Now Hades no longer exists. There is Your Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven for those who have served the True God in justice. And what about those poor souls? It is no fault of theirs if they were born in Greece! None of the priests in Israel ever came to say: “Our God is the True God.” So? Are their virtues and sufferings worth nothing? Will they be in eternal darkness and separated from me forever? I tell You: it is a torture! I seem to have almost disowned them. Forgive me, my Lord... I am weeping..." and she falls on her knees weeping disconsolately.
Alexander Misace says: "There You are! I also was wondering whether, if I become a just man, I will ever find my father, mother, my brothers and friends..."
Jesus lays His fingers on Syntyche's brown-haired head and says: "One is at fault when one knows the Truth, but persists in Error. Not when one is convinced of being in the Truth, and no voice has ever come to say: “The Truth is what I am bringing you. Forsake your chimeras for this True God and you will gain Heaven.” God is just. Can you believe that He will not reward virtue which was perfected all by itself in the corruption of the heathen world? Do not worry, My daughter."
"What about the original sin? And their nefarious cult? And..."
More objections would come from the Israelites to grieve Syntyche's already desolate soul, if Jesus with a gesture did not impose silence.
He says: "The original sin is common to everybody, whether one is from Israel or not. It is not a peculiarity of heathens. The pagan cult will be sinful after the Law of Christ has been spread throughout the world. Virtue will always be virtue in the eyes of God. And in virtue of My union with the Father I say, and I say this in His name, translating His Most Holy Thought into words, that the ways of God's merciful power are manifold, and they are so intent on giving joy to virtuous people that they will remove barriers between souls, and peace will be given to those who deserve peace. Not only, but I say that in future those who follow the religion of their ancestors with justice and holiness, convinced of being in the Truth, will not be disliked and punished by God. Wickedness, bad will, deliberate refusal of the known Truth, above all refutation of the revealed Truth and opposition to it, vicious living will really separate forever the souls of the just from those of sinners. Take heart, Syntyche. Such dejection is an assault of hell due to Satan's wrath against you, as you are a prey he has lost forever. There is no Hades. There is My Paradise. But it is not the cause of grief, but of joy. Nothing of the Truth is to be the cause of dejection or doubt, on the contrary it must give you strength for a greater faith and cheerful certainty. Always inform Me of your anxieties. I want the light in you to be as certain and steady as the light of the sun."
Syntyche, still kneeling, takes His hand and kisses it...
The cry of the cameleer makes the group understand that the camel is about to come back, at a slow pace, without making any noise on the thick grass outside the rear door, which a servant opens at once. And Marjiam comes back, he is happy and his face is flushed after the run. He is a tiny little man hoisted onto the high back of the camel, and he laughs waving his arms, while the camel kneels down and he slides down from the odd saddle, caressing the swarthy cameleer. He then runs towards Jesus shouting: "How lovely! Did the Wise men come from the East on those animals to worship You? I will go on them to preach You all over the world! The world seems larger when seen from up there and it says: “Come, you who know the Gospel!.” Oh! Do You know?... That man also is in need of it... And you, too, merchant, and all your servants... How many people are waiting and die without receiving it... More people than the sand in the river... They are all without You, Jesus! Oh! Make haste and announce it to everybody!" and he clings to Jesus' sides looking up at Him. And Jesus bends kissing him and promising: "You will see the Kingdom of God evangelized as far as the most remote borders of Rome. Are you happy?"
"I am. And then I will come and say to You: “This, that, and that other Country... they all know You.” I will then know the names of those remote Countries. And what will You say to me?"
"I will say: “Come, little Marjiam. Have a crown for every country in which you have preached Me and then come here beside Me, as on that day at Gerasa, and rest after all your work, because you have been a faithful servant and it is right that you should be happy in My Kingdom.”"