291. At Bozrah.
1st October 1945.
Bozrah looks very dull in the morning mist, both because of the season and because the town is closed in its narrow streets. It looks dull and dirty. The apostles, who have come back from their shopping at the market, are talking about it. Hotel practice in those days and in such places is so utterly antiquated, that one has to see to one's victuals. Innkeepers obviously do not want to lose any money. So they only cook what customers bring them, and let us hope that they do not steal any of that. Or at most they buy food for customers or sell them what they have in stock, working as butchers, if necessary, preparing poor lambs to be roasted.
Peter does not like buying from the innkeeper and is now squabbling with him. The man, with a rather roguish face, goes to the point of insulting the apostle, calling him "Galilean", while Peter answers back, pointing to a little pig, which the host has just slaughtered for some guests: "I am a Galilean, and you are a pig, you pagan. I would not stay in your stinking inn for one hour, if it depended on me. You thief and... (and he adds here a very clear epithet... which I leave in my pen)." I realise that between the people of Bozrah and the Galileans there is one of the many regional or religious incompatibilities, of which Israel, or rather Palestine was full.
The host shouts louder: "If you were not with the Nazarene, and I were not better than your filthy Pharisees who hate Him without any good reason, I would wash your face with the blood of the pig, so you would have to get out of here and rush to purify yourself. But I respect Him, Whose power is known. And I tell you, that notwithstanding all your fuss, you are sinners. We are better than you are. We do not lay snares neither do we betray. You, faugh! You are a lot of unfair traitors and rascals and you do not even respect the few holy people among you."
"Who are you calling traitors? Us? Ah! In God's truth I..." Peter is furious and is about to break upon the man, when his brother and James hold him back, and Simon Zealot intervenes with Matthew.
But Peter's wrath is abated not so much by their intervention as by the voice of\ Jesus Who appears at one of the doors and says: "You now, Simon, will be quiet. And you, too, man."
"Lord, this man was the first to insinuate and threaten."
"Nazarene, I was offended first."
I, he. He and I. The two culprits cast blame on each other.
Jesus comes forward seriously and calmly. "You are both wrong. And you, Simon, more than he is. Because you know the doctrine of love, of forgiveness, of meekness, of patience and brotherhood. In order not to be ill-treated as a Galilean, you must make yourself respected as a saint. And you, man, bless the Lord if you feel that you are better than others and endeavour to be worthy of becoming better and better. And above all, do not foul your soul with false charges. My disciples neither betray nor lay snares."
"Are You sure, Nazarene? Well, then, why did those four come and ask me whether You had come, with whom You were and so many more questions?"
"What? Who are they? Where are they?" The apostles gather round him, forgetting that they are drawing close to a person still wet with the blood of a pig, which struck them with horror shortly before and kept them away.
"Go and mind your own business. You may stay, Misace."
The apostles go into the room from which Jesus came out, and only Jesus and the innkeeper are left in the yard, one facing the other. The merchant is a few steps from Jesus and is watching the scene spellbound.
"Tell Me the truth, man. And forgive if blood made one of My disciples furious. Who are those four and what did they say?"
"I do not know exactly who they are. They are certainly scribes and Pharisees from the other side. I do not know who brought them here. I have never seen them. But they are well informed of You. They know from where You have come, where You are going, with whom You are. But they wanted confirmation from me. No. I may be a rascal. But I know my business. I know nobody and I see nothing. I know nothing. With regard to others, of course. As far as I am concerned, I know everything. But why should I tell others, particularly those hypocrites, what I know? Am I a rascal? Yes. If necessary I side also with robbers. In any case, You know... But I could not steal or try to steal Your freedom, honour and life. And those − I am no longer Phara of Ptolemy if what I say is not true and those are lying in wait for You, to do You harm. And who sent them? Perhaps someone from Perea or the Decapolis? Or someone from Trachonitis or Gaulanitis or Hauran? No. We either do not know You, or if we have heard of You, we respect You as a just man, if we do not believe in You as a saint. So, who sent them? Someone on Your side and perhaps one of Your friends, because they know too many things..."
"It is easy to be informed of my caravan..." says Misace.
"No, merchant. Not of you, but of the others who are with Jesus. I do not know and I do not want to know. I do not see and I do not want to see. But I say to You: if You are guilty, make amends, if You know that You have been betrayed, take the necessary action."
"I am neither guilty, man, nor betrayed. The only trouble is that Israel does not understand Me. But how do you know about Me?"
"Through a boy. A mischievous boy who had a bad reputation at Bozrah and Arbela. Here, because he came here to commit his sins, there because he dishonoured his family. Then he became converted and more honest than a just man. And he passed by with Your disciples, a disciple himself, and is waiting for You at Arbela, to honour You with his father and mother. And he tells everybody that You changed his heart through his mother's prayers. If this region ever becomes a holy one, Philip of James will have the merit of having sanctified it. And if there is anyone who believes in You in Bozrah, it is due to him."
"Where are the scribes now, who came here?"
"I don't know. They went away because I told them that I had no rooms for them. I had them, but I did not want to give hospitality to snakes and thus have them close to the dove. They are certainly in this area. Be careful."
"Thank you, man, What is your name?"
"Phara. I did my duty. Remember me."
"Yes. And you must remember God. And forgive My Simon. The great love he has for Me at times blinds him."
"No harm. I offended him as well... But it hurts to be insulted. You do not insult..."
Jesus sighs... He then says: "Will you help the Nazarene?"
"If I can..."
"I would be glad to speak from this yard..."
"And I will let You speak. When?"
"Between the sixth and ninth hour."
"Go wherever You want and do not worry. Bozrah will know that You are going to speak. I will see to it."
"May God reward you for it" and Jesus smiles at him, a smile which is already a reward. He then goes to the room where He was before.
Alexander Misace says: "Master, will You smile at me as well, like that?... I am also going to tell the citizens to come and listen to the Bounty Which is speaking. I know many. Goodbye."
"May God reward you, too" and Jesus smiles at him.
He enters the room. The women are around Mary, Whose face is sorrowful and She gets up at once and goes towards Her Son. She does not speak. Her whole attitude is uncertainty. Jesus smiles at Her and He replies to Her saying to everybody: "Be free by the sixth hour. I will speak here to many people. In the meantime go, everybody, with the exception of Simon Peter, John and Ermasteus. Go and announce Me and give plentiful alms."
The apostles go away.
Peter slowly approaches Jesus Who is near the women and asks: "Why did You not send me as well?"
"When one is too impulsive, one stays at home. Simon, Simon! When will you learn to be charitable to your neighbour? For the time being it is a burning flame, but only for Me, it is a straight and stiff blade, but only for Me. Be mild, Simon of Jonah."
"You are right, Master. Your Mother has already reproached me, as She knows how to, but without hurting. But it penetrated right into me. But... reproach me as well, but do not look at me so sadly."
"Be good... Syntyche, I would like to speak to you privately. Come up to the terrace. Will you come, as well, Mother..."
And on the rustic terrace, which covers one wing of the building, in the sunshine which warms the air, walking slowly between Mary and the Greek woman, Jesus says: "Tomorrow we will part for a little while. When near Arbela, you women with John of Endor, will go towards the Sea of Galilee and will continue together as far as Nazareth. But as I do not want to send you by yourselves with an almost disabled man, I will get My brothers and Simon Peter to accompany you. I can foresee that there will be some reluctance to separate. But obedience is the virtue of the just. When you go through the country over which Chuza watches in Herod's name, Johanna can find some more people to escort you on the rest of the way. You will then send back Alphaeus' sons and Simon Peter. But the reason why I asked you to come up here is as follows. I want to tell you, Syntyche, that I have decided for you to stay for some time in My Mother's house. She already knows. John of Endor and Marjiam will be staying with you. Stay there willingly, perfecting yourself more and more in Wisdom. I want you to take great care of poor John. I am not saying this to My Mother because She does not need any advice. You can understand John and sympathise with him, and he can do you much good because he is an experienced master. I will come later. Oh! Quite soon! And we will often meet. I hope to find you wiser and wiser in the Truth. I bless you particularly, Syntyche. This is My farewell from you, for this time. You will find love and hatred in Nazareth as anywhere else. But in My house you will find peace. Always."
"Nazareth will ignore me and I will ignore Nazareth. I will live nourishing myself with the Truth and the world will be nothing to me, Lord."
"Very well. You may go, Syntyche. And do not mention it to anybody, for the time being. Mother, You know... I trust these dearest pearls of Mine to You. While we are in peace, among ourselves, Mother, let Your Jesus refresh Himself in Your caresses..."
"How much hatred, Son!"
"How much love!"
"How much bitterness, My dear Jesus!"
"How much sweetness!"
"How much incomprehension, My Son!"
"How much comprehension, Mother!"
"Oh! My darling, My Dear Son!"
"Mother! Joy of God and Mine! Mother!"
They kiss each other and remain together, on the stone bench against the low terrace wall: Jesus embracing His Mother, a loving protector, Mary reclining Her head on Her Son's shoulder, Her hands in His: happy... The world is so distant... buried in the waves of love and faithfulness...