343. At Caesarea Philippi.
28th November 1945
The town must have been built recently, like Tiberias and Ashkelon. Situated on an inclined plane it culminates in a massive fortress with many towers, flanked with Cyclopean masonry and protected with deep moats into which flows part of the water of two little rivers that first come close together forming an angle, then part, as one runs out of the town and the other flows through it. Beautiful streets, squares, fountains, and buildings in Roman style give to understand that here also servile homage prevailed in Tetrarchs, trampling on all respect for the customs of the Fatherland.
The town is very busy and crowded, probably because it is the junction of important main roads and caravan-tracks for Damascus, Tyre, Saphet and Tiberias, as indicated on mile-stones at each gate. Pedestrians, horsemen, long caravans of donkeys and camels meet in the wide well-kept streets, and groups of business men or idlers are standing in the squares, under the porches, near the magnificent buildings, perhaps there are also some Thermae, discussing business or in idle conversation.
"Do you know where we can find them?" Jesus asks Peter.
"Yes, I do. Those whom I asked told me that the disciples of the Rabbi meet for their meals in the house of some faithful Israelites, near the citadel. And they described the house to me. I cannot go wrong: it is a Jewish house also on the outside, the front has no windows and there is a high main door with spy-hole, on the side of the wall there is a little fountain, the high walls of the garden extend on two sides along two lanes, and there is a roof-terrace with many doves."
"Very well. Let us go then."
They cross the whole town as far as the citadel. They arrive at the house they are looking for, and knock. The wrinkled face of an old woman appears at the peephole. Jesus moves forward and greets her: "Peace be with you, woman. Have the disciples of the Rabbi come back?"
"No, man. They are at the “Great Spring” with other people who have come from many towns on the other side of the river looking for the Rabbi. They are all waiting for Him. Are You waiting for Him as well?"
"No. I am looking for the disciples."
"Well, look: see that street which is almost opposite the fountain? Take that one and go up until You arrive in front of a massive wall of rock, from which water comes out and flows into a kind of vat and then becomes a little stream. You will find them there. But have You come from far? Do You want to come in and refresh Yourself and wait for them here? If You wish so, I will call my masters. They are good Israelites, You know? And they believe in the Messiah. They are disciples although they have only seen Him once in Jerusalem, in the Temple. But now the disciples of the Messiah have taught them and have worked miracles here, because..."
"Very well, good woman. I will come back later with the disciples. Peace to you. You may go back to your housework" says Jesus kindly but firmly to stop the avalanche of words.
They resume walking and the younger apostles laugh wholeheartedly at the performance of the woman and they make Jesus smile as well.
"Master" says John "I thought that she was the “Great Spring”. Don't You think so? She poured out continuous waves of words and treated us as vats that become streams because they are full of words..."
"Yes. I hope that the disciples have not worked a miracle on her tongue... We would have to say: you have worked too big a miracle" says Thaddeus, who contrary to his habit, laughs heartily.
"There will be fun when we go back and she finds out who the Master is! Who will be able to keep her quiet then?" asks James of Zebedee.
"No, she will be so shocked that she will become dumb" says Matthew, joining in the conversation of the younger ones.
"I will praise the Most High, if astonishment paralyses her tongue. It is probably because I have not had any breakfast yet, but the flood of her words certainly made me feel dizzy" says Peter.
"And how she shouted! Is she perhaps deaf?" asks Thomas.
"No. She thought we were deaf" replies the Iscariot.
"Leave the poor old woman alone! She is good and a believer. Her heart is as generous as her tongue" says Jesus half-seriously.
"Oh! Master! In that case the old woman is so generous that she is heroic" says John laughing heartily.
The calcareous rocky wall can now be seen and the gurgle of the water falling into the vat is heard.
"There is the stream. Let us follow it... There is the spring... and there... Benjamin! Daniel! Abel! Philip! Ermasteus! We are here! The Master is here!" shouts John to a large group of men gathered round someone who, however, is not visible.
"Be quiet, boy, or you will be like that old hen" suggests Peter.
The disciples have turned round. They have seen: and to see and rush down from the terrace is all one thing. Now that the group has opened out, I can see that people from Kedesh and from the village of the deaf-mute have joined the many disciples, who are all seniors by now. They must have taken more direct routes, because they have preceded the Master.
Their joy is great. Their questions and answers are numerous. Jesus listens and replies patiently until thin Isaac appears smiling, laden with supplies, together with two more people.
"Let us go to the hospitable house, my Lord. And when there You will be able to explain to us what we have not been able to clarify, because we do not know it ourselves... These people here, the last arrivals − they have been with us only a few hours − want to know what the sign of Jonah is, the one You promised to give this wicked generation that persecutes You" says Isaac.
"I will explain it to them while going..."
Going! It is not so easy! Like bees attracted by the scent of flowers that has spread in the air, people rush from all directions to join those who are around Jesus.
"They are our friends" explains Isaac. "People who have believed and have been waiting for You..."
"People who have received graces from the disciples and from him in particular" shouts one in the crowd pointing at Isaac.
Isaac blushes and as if he wanted to apologise he says: "But I am a servant. He is the Master. Here is the Master, for Whom you have been waiting. Here is Jesus!"
It was the last straw! The peaceful district of Caesarea, a little out of the way, in the suburb area, becomes busier than a market. And noisier. Hosannas! Acclamations! Entreaties! Everything!
Jesus proceeds very slowly, hemmed in on all sides by so much love. But He smiles and blesses. He proceeds so slowly that some people have time to run away and spread the news, and then come Lack with friends or relatives, holding their children high up in order to arrive safely close to Jesus, Who caresses and blesses them.
They thus arrive at the house seen previously and knock. The same old servant, on hearing all the voices, opens without any hesitation. But... she sees Jesus in the middle of the cheering crowd, and she understands... She drops to the floor moaning:"Have mercy, my Lord. Your servant did not recognise You and did not worship You!"
"No harm, woman. You did not recognise the man, but you believed in Him. That is what is required to be loved by God. Stand up and take Me to your masters."
The old woman obeys, trembling with respect. But she sees her masters, overwhelmed with respect, leaning against the wall at the end of the rather dark entrance-hall. She points at them: "There they are."
"Peace to you and to this house. May the Lord bless you for your faith in the Christ and for your charity to His disciples" says Jesus going towards the two old people, who are either husband and wife, or brother and sister.
They worship Him and then take Him to the wide verandah where several tables are laid under a heavy velarium. The view stretches over Caesarea as far as the mountains behind it and on its sides. Doves fly from the terrace to the garden full of trees in blossom.
While an old servant adds more places to the tables, Isaac explains: "Benjamin and Anne welcome not only us, but whoever comes looking for You. They do so in Your Name."
"May Heaven bless them every time they do so."
"Oh! We have means, but have no children. At the end of our days, we are adopting the poor of the Lord" says simply the old woman.
And Jesus lays His hand on her grey-haired head saying: "And that makes you mother more than if you had conceived seven times and seven times. But now allow Me to explain to these people what they wanted to know, so that we can then dismiss them and sit down to our meal."
The terrace is crammed with people and more continue to arrive taking up every possible bit of room. Jesus is surrounded by children who look at Him ecstatically with their large innocent eyes. His back is turned to the table and He smiles at the children even when talking of the important subject. He seems to be reading on their innocent faces the words of the requested truth.
"Listen. The sign of Jonah that I promised to the wicked, and I promise to you as well, not because you are wicked, on the contrary, that you may reach perfection in believing when you see that it is accomplished, is this. As Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and then was vomited on the shore to convert and save Nineveh, so it will happen to the Son of man. To calm the billows of a great satanic storm, the mighty ones in Israel will deem it necessary to sacrifice the Innocent. But they will only increase their dangers, because in addition to Satan who will perturb them, they will have God Who will punish them after the crime. They could defeat the storm by believing in Me. But they will not believe, because they see in Me the cause of their perturbation, of their fears, dangers and refutation of their false holiness. But when the hour comes, the insatiable monster, that is, the bowels of the earth, which swallow every man who dies, will open up to give the Light back to the world that denied it.
So as Jonah was a sign of the power and mercy of the Lord for the people of Nineveh, so the Son of man will be the sign for this generation. With the difference that Nineveh was converted whereas Jerusalem will not be converted, because it is full of the wicked generation of which I spoke. So the Queen of the South will rise on Doomsday against the men of this generation and will condemn them. Because she came, in her days, from the end of the world to listen to Solomon's wisdom, whilst this generation, which has Me with them, will not listen to Me and they persecute and drive Me away as if I were a leper and a sinner, and yet I am much greater than Solomon. Also the people of Nineveh will rise on Doomsday against the wicked generation that will not turn to the Lord its God, because they were converted by the preaching of a man. And I am greater than any man, be it Jonah or any other Prophet. I will therefore give the sign of Jonah to those who ask for a definitely unequivocal sign. I will give one and one sign to those who arrogantly refuse to bow to the proofs that I have already given them of people rising from death by My command. I will give all signs. The sign of a decomposed body that becomes alive and wholesome, and the sign of a Body that rises by Itself from death because Its Spirit is gifted with almighty power. But they will not be graces. They will not smooth the situation. Neither here, nor in the eternal books. What is written, is written. And proofs will pile up, like stones for a lapidation. They will pile up against Me, to harm Me, but unsuccessfully. And against them to crush them forever by the sentence of God reserved for the wicked incredulous.
That is the sign of Jonah of which I spoke. Have you any more questions to ask Me?
"No, Master. We will inform our head of the synagogue, who was very close to the truth when considering the promised sign."
"Matthias is a just man. And the Truth is revealed to the just as it is revealed to these innocent children who know Who I am, better than anybody else. Before I dismiss you, let Me hear these angels of the earth praise the mercy of God. Come here, children."
The children who have been quiet with some difficulty so far, run towards Him.
"Tell Me, children without malice, which is My sign for you?"
"That You are good."
"That You cured my mother by means of Your Name."
"That You love everybody."
"That You are so handsome as no other man can be."
"That You make bad people become good, as You did with my father."
Each child announces a loving distinctive feature of Jesus, or recollects sufferings that Jesus has changed into smiles.
But the dearest of them all is a lively little child, about four years old, who climbs up on Jesus' lap and clasps His neck saying: "Your sign is that You love all children, and children love You. A love big like that..." and he opens his little plump arms wide, and laughs, and he then embraces Jesus' neck once again, rubbing his childish cheek against Jesus', Who kisses him asking: "But why do you love Me if you have never seen Me before?"
"Because You look like the angel of the Lord."
"But you have not seen him, My dear little fellow..." says Jesus tempting him and smiling.
The child remains dumbfounded for a moment. He then smiles displaying all his little teeth and he says: "But my soul did see him! Mummy says that I have it, and it's here, and God sees it, and my soul has seen God and the angels, and sees them. And my soul knows You, because You are the Lord."
Jesus kisses his forehead saying: "May this kiss increase in you the light of your intellect" and He puts him down. The child runs to his father, holding a hand on his forehead where it was kissed, and he shouts: "To mummy, to mummy! So that she may kiss here, where the Lord kissed, and her voice will come back to her and she will not weep any more."
They explain to Jesus that the child's mother suffers from throat trouble and was very anxious to receive a miracle; but the disciples were unable to cure her disease as it was too deep and untouchable.
"The youngest disciple, her little boy, will cure her. Go in peace, man. And have faith... like your son" He says dismissing the child's father.
He then kisses the other children who are anxious to have the same kiss on their foreheads and He dismisses the citizens. Only His disciples, the people from Kedesh and the other places remain with Him.
While waiting for the meal to be served, Jesus organises the departure of the following day of all the disciples, who will precede Him to Capernaum, where they will join the others who will have gone there from other places. "You will then take with you Salome, the wives and daughters of Nathanael and Philip, Johanna and Susanna, as you proceed towards Nazareth. You will get My Mother there, and the mother of My brothers and you will take them to Bethany, to the house in which Joseph lives, in Lazarus' property. We will come through the Decapolis."
"And what about Marjiam?" asks Peter.
"I said: “you will precede Me to Capernaum.” I did not say: go. But from Capernaum you will be able to inform the women of our arrival, so that they may be ready, when we go towards Jerusalem via the Decapolis. Marjiam, who is now a young man, will go with the disciples escorting the women..."
"The fact is... that I wanted to take also my wife, poor woman, to Jerusalem. She has always wanted to go, but she never came, because I did not want any trouble. But I would like to make her happy this year. She is so good!"
"Of course, Simon. That is another reason for sending Marjiam with her. We shall travel very slowly and we shall all meet there..."
The old landlord says: "Such a short time with me?"
"Father, I have still so much to do. I want to be in Jerusalem at least eight days before Passover. Remember that the first phase of the moon of Adar is already over..."
"That is true. But I longed so much for You!... I seem to be in the light of Heaven with You here... and that the light will go out as soon as You go away."
"No, father. I will leave it in your heart. I will leave it also to your wife and to everybody in this hospitable house."
They sit at the tables and Jesus offers and blesses the food, which a servant passes to the various tables.