299. At Nain, in the House of Daniel Raised from the Dead.
12th October 1945.
It is a feast day for the people of Nain. Jesus is their guest for the first time since the miracle of young Daniel, who was raised from the dead.
Jesus is going through the town, blessing, preceded and followed by a large number of people. The people of Nain have been joined by incomers from other villages, who have come from Capernaum, where they had gone looking for Jesus, and from where they were sent to Cana and then to Nain. I am under the impression that now that Jesus has many disciples, He has set up a kind of information network, so that pilgrims looking for Him can find Him, although He moves around continuously, even for a few miles a day, as the season and the short days allow. And among those who have come looking for Him, there are some Pharisees and scribes, apparently respectful...
Jesus is a guest in the house of the young man raised from the dead. The notables of the place have also gathered there. And Daniel's mother, when she sees the scribes and Pharisees – seven of them, like the deadly sins – humbly invites them, apologising for not being able to offer them a worthier abode.
"There is the Master, woman, and that attaches great importance even to a cave. But your house is much more than a cave and we enter it saying: “Peace to you and to your house.”"
The woman in fact, although she is certainly not rich, has done her utmost to honour Jesus. All the wealthy families in Nain have certainly entered the lists, joining their efforts to adorn the house and the table. And the various women who have collaborated are casting glances, from all possible spots, at the group passing through the hall towards two rooms, facing each other, in which the landlady has laid the tables. Perhaps that is all they have asked for, as compensation for the loan of kitchenware, tablecloths and seats, and for their work in the kitchen: to see the Master close at hand and breathe the same air as He does. And now they appear here and there, flushed, covered with flour or ashes, or with dripping hands, according to their tasks in the kitchen, they watch Him closely, they take their little share of divine sight, of divine voice, drinking in with their eyes and ears His kind blessing and figure and look delighted when they go back to the kitchen stove, cupboards and sink, more flushed than ever.
The happiest is the one who offers with the landlady the basins for the ablutions to the guests of consequence. She is a young dark-haired and dark-eyed girl, but her complexion is suffused with pink. And she blushes even more when the landlady informs Jesus that she is the fiancée of her son and that they will soon be getting married. "We waited for You so that the whole house might be sanctified by You. Please bless her as well, that she may be a good wife in this house."
Jesus looks at her, and as the little bride bows, He imposes His hands on her head saying: "May the virtues of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel flourish again in you and may you give birth to true children of God, for His glory and the happiness of this house."
Jesus and the notables have now completed the purification rite and they enter the dining-room, with the young landlord, while the apostles and less influential persons of Nain go into the opposite room. And the banquet begins.
From their conversation I gather that before my vision began, Jesus had preached and cured in Nain. But the Pharisees and scribes pay little attention to that; they, instead, harass with questions the people of Nain for details of the disease of which Daniel died, of how many hours had elapsed between his death and resurrection, and they ask whether they had completed his embalming etc. etc. Jesus pays no attention to such investigations and converses with the revived man who is very well and is eating with a wonderful appetite.
But a Pharisee calls Jesus to ask Him whether He was aware of Daniel's disease.
"I was coming from Endor by mere chance, as I wanted to please Judas of Kerioth as I had pleased John of Zebedee. I did not even know I would be passing through Nain when I set out on our Passover pilgrimage" replies Jesus.
"Ah! Had you not gone to Endor deliberately?" asks an amazed scribe.
"No. I had not the least intention of going there, at that time."
"Why did You go then?"
"I told you: because Judas of Simon wanted to go there."
"And why that fancy?"
"To see the cave of the sorceress."
"Perhaps You had spoken about it..."
"Never! There was no reason why I should."
"I mean... perhaps with that episode You explained other witchcraft, to initiate Your apostles in..."
"In what? To initiate anyone in holiness, there is no need of pilgrimages. A cell or a desert barren land, a mountain top or a solitary house serve the same purpose: providing there is austerity and holiness in the teacher, and the will to become holy in the disciple. That is what I teach and nothing else."
"But the miracles which Your apostles now work what are they if not wonders and..."
"The will of God. That is all. And the more holy they become, the more miracles they will work, through prayer, sacrifices and obedience to God. By no other means."
"Are You sure of that?" asks a scribe holding his chin in his hand and looking Jesus up and down. His tone is rather ironical and pitiful.
"I gave them those weapons and that doctrine. If among them, and they are many, there should be anyone who becomes corrupted through base practices, out of pride or for other reasons, he will not have received such advice from Me. I can pray to see the culprit redeemed. I can undertake hard penance in expiation, imploring God to help him particularly with the light of His wisdom so that he may see his error. I can throw Myself at his feet to entreat him with all My love of Brother, Master and Friend to abandon his sin. And I would not consider that a humiliation, because the price of a soul is such that it is worth suffering any humiliation to save that soul. But I can do no more. And if after all he perseveres in his fault, the eyes and heart of the betrayed and misunderstood Master and Friend will shed tears and blood." How much kindness and sadness there is in Jesus' voice and expression!
The scribes and Pharisees look at one another. They exchange meaningful glances, but say no more on the subject.
They instead ask young Daniel questions. Does he remember what death is? What did he feel when he came back to life? And what did he see in the gap between death and life?
"I know that I was suffering from a mortal disease and I suffered agony. Oh! what a dreadful thing! Don't make me remember it!... And yet the day will come when I will have to suffer it once again! Oh! Master..." He looks at Him and is so terrified that he goes pale at the idea of having to die once again.
Jesus kindly comforts him saying: "Death is in itself expiation. By dying twice you will be completely cleansed of faults and you will rejoice at once in Heaven. Let this thought make you live a holy life, so that you may have only involuntary and venial faults."
But the Pharisees return to the attack: "But what did you feel when you came back to life?"
"Nothing. I was alive and healthy as if I had awaked from a long sound sleep."
"But did you remember that you had died?"
"I remembered that I was very ill, in agony, and that is all."
"And what do you remember of the other world?"
"Nothing. There is nothing. A black hole, an empty space in my life... Nothing."
"So, according to you, there is no Limbo, no Purgatory, no Hell?"
"Who says there isn't? Of course there are. But I do not remember them."
"But are you sure that you were dead?"
The people of Nain lose their temper: "Was he dead? What more do you want? When we put him into the coffin, he was about to smell. In any case, with all those balms and bandages even a giant would die!"
"But do you not remember that you were dead?"
"I have told that I don't" the young man is losing his patience and he adds: "But what are you getting at with all these questions? That the whole village was pretending that I was dead, including my mother and my fiancée, who was dying with grief in her bed, including myself, all bandaged up and embalmed, while it was not true? What are you saying? That in Nain we were all children or idiots in a jesting mood? My mother's hair turned white in a few hours. My fiancée had to be treated because sorrow and joy had almost driven her mad. And you doubt it? And why should we have done all that?"
"Why? That's true! Why should we have done it" exclaim those of Nain.
Jesus does not speak. He toys with the tablecloth as if He were absent. The Pharisees do not know what to say... But Jesus begins to speak all of a sudden, when the conversation on the subject seemed to have come to an end, and He says: "I will tell you why. They (and He points at the Pharisees and scribes) want to prove that your resurrection from the dead was a cleverly contrived game to increase My reputation with the crowds. I, the inventor, you the accomplices to deceive God and our neighbour. No. I leave fraud to worthless people. I do not need witchcraft, or tricks or accomplices to be what I am. Why do you want to deny God the power of giving a soul back to a body? If He creates a soul and gives it when the body is being formed, will He not be able to give it back to the body, when the soul, being restored to the body through the prayer of His Messiah, is an incentive for many people to come to the Truth? Can you deny God the power of miracle? Why do you want to deny it?"
"Are You God?"
"I am Who I am. My miracles and My doctrine testify Who I am."
"But why does he not remember while the spirits evoked can tell what the next world is?"
"Because this soul speaks the truth, sanctified as it is by the penance of a first death, instead what is spoken by the lips of necromancers is not the truth."
"Samuel came by the order of God, not of the sorceress, to bring to the traitor of the Law the verdict of the Lord, Who is not to be derided in His commandments."
"Then why do Your disciples do it?" The arrogant voice of a Pharisee, who stung to the quick raises his voice, draws the attention of the apostles, who are in the opposite room, separated by a corridor a little more that a yard wide, but not isolated by doors or heavy curtains. When they hear themselves being referred to, they stand up and come noiselessly into the corridor to listen.
"In what do they do it? Speak frankly, and if your accusation is true, I will warn them not to do anything against the Law."
"I know in what they do it, and many others know as well. But since You raise people from the dead and You say that You are more than a prophet, find out for Yourself. We shall certainly not tell You. In any case, You have eyes to see also many other things which Your apostles have done, when they are not to be done, or they did not do, when they are to be done. And You do not mind."
"Tell Me some of them."
"Why do Your disciples infringe the traditions of our ancestors? We saw them today. Also today! Not more than an hour ago! They went into the dining-room to eat without purifying their hands beforehand!"
If the Pharisees had said: "and they slaughtered citizens beforehand" they would not have spoken in such a horrified manner.
"You have watched them, of course. There are so many things to be seen. Good and beautiful things which make us bless the Lord for creating or permitting such things and for giving us our lives so that we may see them. And yet you do not watch them. And many others do as you do. But you waste your time and your peace running after things which are not good.
You look like jackals, or better still, like hyenas running in the trail of a stench, neglecting the waves of perfumes brought by the wind from gardens full of aromatic herbs. Hyenas do not love lilies and roses, jasmines and camphor, cinnamon and cloves. They are unpleasant smells to them. But the stench of a decomposing corpse in the bottom of a ravine, or on a cart road, or buried under bramble where a murderer threw it, or washed ashore by stormy waves, swollen, violaceous, burst, horrible, oh! that is a delightful smell for hyenas! And as the evening wind condenses and carries all the smells which the sun has distilled from the things it has warmed, they sniff at it to smell that vague inviting scent, and once they discover it and find where it comes from, they run away, with their snouts in the air, showing their uncovered teeth in their quivering jaws, like a hysterical laugh, to go where there is putrefaction. And be it the corpse of a man or a quadruped, or a snake killed by a peasant, or a beech-marten killed by a housewife, or be it a poor mouse, oh! they relish it! And they sink their fangs into the revolting stench, they feast and lick their lips...
But it is a matter of no interest, if some men improve in holiness day by day! But if one only does wrong, or more omit not a divine commandment, but a human practice – you may call it tradition, precept, as you wish, but it is always a human thing – then it is noticed. And one runs after even a suspicion... to rejoice, if the suspicion is true.
You who have come here not out of love, or faith or honesty, but for a wicked purpose, tell Me: why do you infringe the commandment of God, for the sake of your tradition? Are you going to tell Me that a tradition is more than a Commandment? And yet God said: “Honour your father and your mother, anyone who curses father or mother must die”! You instead say: “Anyone who says to his father and mother: what you should have from me is corban (1) is no longer obliged to give it to his father and mother.” So with your tradition you have cancelled the commandment of God.
Hypocrites! Isaiah rightly said of you when he prophesied: “This people honours Me only with lip-service while its heart is far from Me, therefore they honour Me in vain as they teach human doctrine and commandments.”
And while you neglect the precepts of God, you keep the traditions of men, the ablutions of amphorae and chalices, of dishes and hands and other such things. While you justify the ingratitude and avarice of a son, by offering him the excuse of a sacrifice so that he may not give a piece of bread to those who gave birth to him and need his help and whom it is his duty to honour, because they are his parents, you are scandalised because one does not wash one's hands. You alter and infringe the word of God in order to obey words invented by you and imposed by you as precepts. You therefore proclaim yourselves more just than God. You arrogate to yourselves the rights of legislators, whereas God alone is the Legislator of His people. You..." and He would continue, but the hostile group goes out, in the hail of accusations, bumping into the apostles and those who were in the house, guests or women helping the landlady, and who had gathered in the corridor, attracted by Jesus' thundering voice.
Jesus, Who had stood up, sits down again, beckoning to all those present to enter where He is, and He says to them: "Listen to Me and understand the truth. There is nothing outside man which going into his mouth can make him unclean. It is what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean. Let those who have ears hear and use their reason to understand and their will to act. And now let us go. People of Nain, persevere in good and may My peace be always with you."
He stands up, He greets the landlord and landlady in particular and He sets out along the corridor. But He sees the friendly women, who are enraptured looking at Him and He goes towards them saying: "Peace to you as well. May Heaven reward you for assisting Me with such love that I did not regret My Mother's table. I perceived your motherly love in every crumb of bread, in every sauce and bit of roast, in the sweet honey and in the cool scented wine. Love Me always thus, O good women of Nain. But do not work so hard for Me the next time. A piece of bread and a handful of olives, dressed with your motherly smiles and your honest good looks, are quite enough for Me. Be happy in your homes because the gratitude of the Persecuted One is upon you and He is leaving comforted by your love."
The women, weeping in their happiness, are all on their knees, and in passing by He lightly touches their white or dark-haired heads, one by one, blessing them. He then goes out and sets out again...
The early shades of evening hide the pallor of Jesus, Who is embittered by too many things...
(1) Corban: offering to God, especially one made in fulfillment of a vow.