337. Going towards Saphet. The Parable of the Good Farmer.
22nd November 1945.
The road to Saphet leaves the plain of Korazim and climbs a remarkable mountain range thickly covered with trees. A stream flows down the mountains towards the lake of Tiberias.
The pilgrims are waiting at a bridge for those who were sent to Merom. And they do not have to wait long. The others in fact walking fast arrive punctually at the rendezvous and meet the Master and their companions with great joy and inform them of their journey, which was blessed also with some miracles, worked in turn by "all the apostles". But Judas of Kerioth rectifies: "With the exception of me, as I was not able to do anything." His mortification in admitting it is painful.
"We told you that it was due to the fact that we were dealing with a great sinner" replies James of Zebedee. And he explains: "You know, Master? it was Jacob and he was very ill. That is why he invokes You, because he is afraid of death and of God's judgement. But he is more avaricious than ever, now that he foresees a real disaster for his crops, which have been completely ruined by frost. He lost all his seed-corn and he cannot sow any more because he is ill and his maid-servant is not fit to plough the field, because she is worn out by fatigue and starvation, as he economises also on flour for bread, seized as he is with fear that he may be left without any food one day. We ploughed a large extension of ground for him, and perhaps we sinned, because we worked all day on Friday, also after sunset until it was dark, and even then with torches and bonfires. Philip, John and Andrew know how to do it, so do I. We worked hard... Simon, Matthew and Bartholomew followed us removing the corn that had come up and had been ruined, and Judas went in Your name to ask Judas and Anne for a little seed, promising that we would call on them today. He got it and it was chosen seed. So we said: “We will sow it tomorrow.” That is why we are a little late. Because we started at the beginning of sunset. May the Eternal Father forgive us considering the reason why we sinned. Judas, in the meantime, remained near Jacob's bed, to convert him. He can speak better than we can. At least that is what Bartholomew and the Zealot said spontaneously. But Jacob turned a deaf ear to all his arguments. He wanted to be cured, because his disease costs him money and he insulted the servant calling her a sluggard. Since he said: “I will be converted if I recover”, Judas imposed his hands on him to calm him down. But Jacob remained as ill as before. Judas was discouraged and told us. We tried before going to bed. But we did not obtain a miracle. Now Judas maintains that it is because he has lost Your favour, as he displeased You and is now downhearted. But we say that it is because we had in front of us an obstinate sinner, who pretends to get everything he wants and lays down terms and gives orders to God. Who is right?"
"You seven. You have spoken the truth. What about Judas and Anne? And their fields?"
"Only slightly ruined. But they have means... and everything has already been repaired. And they are good people! Here. They have sent You this offering and this food. They hope to see You some time. It is Jacob's frame of mind that is sad. I would have liked to cure his soul, rather than his body..." says Andrew.
"And what about the other places?"
"Oh! On the way to Deberet, near the village, we cured a man − actually Matthew did − who suffered from bouts of fever. He was just coming back from a doctor who had given him up. We stopped at his house and he did not have a temperature from sunset till dawn and he said that he was feeling well and strong. Then at Tiberias Andrew cured a boatman, who had broken his shoulder falling on the bridge. He imposed his hands and the shoulder was cured. You can imagine the man! He insisted on taking us free of charge to Magdala and Capernaum and then to Bethsaida and he remained there, because there are several disciples there: Timoneus of Aera, Philip of Arbela, Ermasteus and Marcus of Josiah, one of those who were freed from the demon near Gamala. Also Joseph, the boatman, wants to become a disciple... The children, at Johanna's, are very well. They do not seem to be the same. They were playing in the garden with Johanna and Chuza..."
"I saw them. I was there, too. Go on."
"At Magdala Bartholomew converted an evil heart and cured a wicked body. How well he spoke! He explained that disorderliness of the spirit engenders disorder in the body and that every concession to dishonesty degenerates into a loss of peace, of health and finally of the soul. When he saw that the man was repentant and convinced, he imposed his hands and the man was cured. They wanted to keep us at Magdala. But we obeyed Your instructions and the following morning we went on our way to Capernaum. There were five people there who wanted to be cured by You. And they were about to go away, as they were discouraged. We cured them. We did not see anybody, because we left at once by boat for Bethsaida, to avoid questions by Eli, Uriah and companions. At Bethsaida! But, Andrew, will you tell your brother..." concludes James of Zebedee who has spoken all the time.
"Oh! Master! Oh! Simon! If You saw Marjiam! You would not recognise him!..."
"Goodness gracious! He has not become a girl?" exclaims and asks Peter.
"On the contrary! A fine young man; he is tall and thin, as he has grown so much... He is wonderful! We could hardly recognise him. He is as tall as your wife and as me..."
"Oh! well! Neither you, nor Porphirea nor I are palm-trees! At most we could be compared to thorn-bushes..." says Peter, who, however, is overjoyed at the news that his adoptive son has grown up.
"Yes, brother. But at the recent feast of the Dedication he was still a stunted boy who hardly reached up to our shoulders. Now he is really a young man, with regard to height, voice and seriousness. He has behaved like those plants that stagnate for years then all of a sudden they become surprisingly luxuriant. Your wife has been very busy lengthening his garments and making new ones. And she makes them with wide hems and flounces at the waist, because she rightly foresees that Marjiam will grow more. And he is growing even more in wisdom. Nathanael in his wise humility did not tell You that for almost two months Bartholomew was the master of the youngest and most heroic of Your disciples, who gets up before daybreak to pasture the sheep, split wood, draw water, light the fire, sweep the floors, do the shopping, out of love for his putative mother, and then in the afternoon, until late at night, he studies and writes like a little doctor. Just imagine! He gathers all the children of Bethsaida together, and on the Sabbath he gives them short evangelical lessons. Thus the little ones, who are excluded from the synagogue, lest they should disturb the service, have their day of prayer, just like grown up people. And mothers tell me that it is beautiful to hear him speak and that children love and obey him with respect and are becoming very good. What a disciple he will be!"
"Well, well! I... am moved... My Marjiam! Even at Nazareth, eh! his heroism... for that little girl. Rachel, was it not?" Peter stops in time, blushing for fear he might have said too much.
Fortunately Jesus comes to his rescue and Judas is engrossed in thought and inattentive. Or he pretends he is. Jesus says: "Yes, Rachel. You are right. She is cured. And the fields will yield a good crop of corn. James and I have been there. The sacrifice of a young child can do so much."
"At Bethsaida James worked a miracle for a poor cripple, and Matthew, in the street, near Jacob's house, cured a boy. And today, in the square of that village near the bridge, Philip cured a man with diseased eyes and John a boy who was possessed."
"You have all done well. Very well. We shall now go to that village on the slopes and will stop in one of the houses to sleep."
"And You, my dear Master, what have You done? How is Mary? And the other Mary?" asks John.
"They are well and they send you their regards. They are preparing garments and all that is necessary for the springtime pilgrimage. And they are longing to make it in order to be with us."
"Also Susanna, Johanna and our mother are just as anxious" says John.
Bartholomew says: "Also my wife and daughters want to come this year, after so many years, to Jerusalem. She says that it will never be as beautiful as this year... I don't know why she says so. But she maintains that she feels it in her heart."
"In that case also mine will come. She has not told me... But what Anne does, Mary does, too" says Philip.
"And Lazarus' sisters? You have seen them..." asks Simon Zealot.
"They comply with the Master's instructions and with necessities, but they suffer... Lazarus looks very poorly, doesn't he, Judas? He has to lie down most of the time. But they are anxiously awaiting the Master" says Thomas.
"It will soon be Passover and we shall go to Lazarus' house."
"But what have You done at Nazareth and at Korazim?"
"At Nazareth I greeted relatives and friends and the relatives of the two disciples. At Korazim I spoke in the synagogue and I cured a woman. We stayed at the house of the widow, whose mother died. It was a grief and a relief at the same time, because of their scanty resources and of the working time that the widow lost to take care of the invalid; she is now spinning for other people. But she is no longer in despair. What is indispensable for her, is now secured and she is thus happy. Every morning Joseph goes to work with a carpenter near the Well of Jacob to learn the trade."
"Have those of Korazim become any better?" asks Matthew.
"No, Matthew. They are becoming worse and worse" Jesus admits frankly.
"And they ill-treated us. The mighty ones did, of course. Not the simple people."
"It is a very awkward place. Don't go there any more" says Philip.
"It would grieve the disciple Elias, the widow and the woman I cured today, and all the other good people."
"Yes. But they are so few that... I would not worry any more about that place. You said it Yourself: “It is unworkable”" says Thomas.
"Resin is one thing and hearts are a different thing. Something will remain, like seed buried under very hard clods of earth. It will take a long time to spring up, but it will at last come up. The same applies to Korazim. What I have sowed will begin to grow one day. One must not give up the first time one is defeated. Listen to this parable. It could be called: “The parable of the good farmer.” A rich man owned a beautiful large vineyard, in which there were various kinds of fig-trees. The vineyard was cultivated by a servant, an expert vine-dresser and pruner of fruit-trees, who did his work with love for his master and for the trees.
Every year, at the right season, the rich man used to go to his vineyard several times to see his grapes and figs ripen and to taste them, picking the fruit with his own hands. One day he went towards a fig-tree of a very good quality, the only one of that quality in the vineyard. But also on that day, as in the previous two years, he found that it was all leaves without any fruit. So he called the vine dresser and said: “For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig-tree and I have found nothing but leaves. It is obvious that the tree has finished yielding fruit. So cut it down. It is useless to have it here taking up room and wasting your time without any profit. Cut it down, burn it, clean the ground of its roots and put another young tree in its place. In a few years' time it will yield fruit.” The vine dresser, who was patient and loving, replied: “You are right. But leave it to me for another year. I will not cut it down. Nay, I will dig the ground with greater care, I will manure it and trim it. It may yield fruit again. If after this last trial it does not bear fruit, I will comply with your desire and cut it down.”
Korazim is the tree that does not bear fruit. I am the Good Farmer. You are the impatient rich man. Leave it to the Good Farmer."
"Very well. But the parable is not finished. Did the fig-tree bear fruit the following year?" asks the Zealot.
"It did not and it was cut down. But the farmer was justified for cutting down a tree which looked young and flourishing, because he had done all his duty. I also wish to be justified for cutting off some people with an axe and removing them from My vineyard, in which there are unfruitful and poisonous plants, nests of snakes, sap-suckers, parasites or poisons that spoil or injure their fellow disciples, or they penetrate creeping with their wicked roots to proliferate, without being called into My vineyard, where they rebel to being grafted, as they entered only to spy, to denigrate and to make My field sterile. I will cut them off after trying everything to convert them. For the time being, instead of an axe, I make use of shears and of the pruner's knife, and I thin out branches and engraft... Oh! it will be hard work. Both for Me Who does it and for those who undergo the treatment. But it is to be done. So that in Heaven they may say: “He has accomplished everything, but the more He pruned, grafted, hoed and manured them, shedding perspiration, tears and blood while working, the more sterile and wicked they have become... There is the village. Go ahead, all of you and look for lodgings. You, Judas of Kerioth, stay with Me."
They remain alone and in the twilight they proceed close to each other, in dead silence.
At last Jesus says, as if He were speaking to Himself: "And yet, even if we lose God's favour by infringing His Law, we can always become what we were, by renouncing sin..."
Judas does not reply.
Jesus resumes: "And if one understands that it is not possible to have the power of God, because God is not there where Satan is, one can easily remedy, by preferring what God grants to what our pride desires."
Judas is silent.
They have by now reached the first house of the village and Jesus, still speaking to Himself, says: "And to think that I did severe penance that he might mend his ways and go back to his Father..."
Judas starts, raises his head, looks at Him... but does not say anything. Jesus also looks at him... and then He asks: "Judas, to whom am I speaking?"
"To me, Master. It is because of You that I no longer have power. You took it off me to increase it in John, Simon, James, in everybody, except me. You do not love me, that's what it is! And I will end up by not loving You and by cursing the hour when I did love You and I ruined myself in the eyes of the world for a cowardly king, who is overwhelmed even by the populace. I was not expecting this from You!"
"Neither I from you. But I have never deceived you. And I have never forced you. So why do you remain with Me?"
"Because I love You. I cannot part with You. You attract me and You disgust me. I desire You as much as I desire air to breathe and... You frighten me. Ah! I am cursed! I am damned! Why do You not drive the demon out of me, since You can?" Judas' face is livid and upset, he looks like a madman full of hatred and fear... He reminds me, although faintly, of the satanic mask of Judas on Good Friday.
And Jesus' face reminds me of the scourged Nazarene, Who sitting on an upturned tub in the courtyard of the Praetorium, looks at His sneerers with all His loving pity. He says, and a sob already appears to be in His voice: "Because there is no repentance in you, but only hatred against God, as if He were guilty of your sin."
Judas utters a horrible curse between his teeth...
"Master, we have found lodgings. There is room for five in one place, for three in another, for two in a third place and then two places can accommodate one each. We could not find anything better" say the disciples.
"All right. I will go with Judas of Kerioth" says Jesus.
"No. I prefer to be alone. I am upset. You would not be able to rest..."
"As you wish... I will go with Bartholomew. You can do as you like. In the meantime let us go where there is more room, so that we may all have supper together."