375. The Sabbath of the Unleavened Bread.
4th February 1946.
Many disciples, both men and women, have taken leave and have gone back to the houses where they are guests, or have set out for home again.
On this wonderful afternoon in late April only the true and proper disciples, and particularly those more devoted to preaching, have remained in Lazarus' house. That is, the shepherds, Hermas and Stephen, John the priest, Timoneus, Ermasteus, Joseph of Emmaus, Solomon, Abel of Bethlehem in Galilee, Samuel and Abel of Korazim, Agapo, Aser and Ishmael of Nazareth, Elias of Korazim, Philip of Arbela, Joseph the boatman from Tiberias, John of Ephesus, Nicolaus of Antioch. Besides the well-known women disciples, also Annaleah, Dorcas, Judas' mother, Myrtha, Anastasica and Philip's daughters have remained. I do not see Mirjiam of Jairus any longer or Jairus himself. Perhaps they have gone back to the house that offered them hospitality.
They are walking slowly in the courtyards, or on the terrace of the house, while almost all the women and all the old women disciples are around Jesus, Who is sitting near Lazarus' little bed. They are listening to Jesus Who is speaking to Lazarus, describing the villages they have been through during the last weeks before their Passover trip.
"You arrived just in time to save the little one" remarks Lazarus after hearing the story of the castle of Caesarea Philippi, pointing at the baby who is sleeping peacefully in his mother's arms. And Lazarus adds: "He is a lovely boy!
Woman, will you let me see him here, near me?"
Dorcas stands up and silently but triumphantly she offers her child to the admiration of the sick man.
"A lovely boy! Really lovely! May the Lord protect him and make him grow healthy and holy."
"And faithful to his Saviour. I would rather see him dead now, than know that he is not faithful to Him. I can stand anything, but I could not bear my son to be ungrateful to the Lord Who saved him" says Dorcas resolutely, going back to her seat.
"The Lord always arrives in time to save" says Myrtha, the mother of Abel from Bethlehem. "My son was just as close to death, and what a death!, as Dorcas' baby. But He came... and He saved. What a frightful moment!..." The very memory makes Myrtha go pale.
"So You will come in time also for me, will You not? To give me peace..." says Lazarus, caressing Jesus' hand.
"But are you not feeling a little better, brother?" asks Martha. "As from yesterday you look somewhat relieved..."
"Yes, I do. And I am surprised myself. Perhaps Jesus..."
"No, My dear friend. The fact is that I instill My peace into you. Your soul is sated with it and that dulls the pain of your body. It is God's decree that you must suffer."
"And die. You may as well say so. Well... may His will be done, as You teach us. From now on I will not ask to be cured or relieved. I have received so much from God (and he unintentionally looks at Mary, his sister) that it is just that I should repay for what I had with my submission... ."
"Do more than that, My dear friend. It is a great thing to be resigned and bear sorrow. But you can give it greater value."
"Which, my Lord?"
"Offer it for the redemption of men."
"I am a poor man myself, Master. I cannot aspire to be a redeemer."
"You say so, but you are wrong. God became Man to help men. But men can help God. The deeds of the just will be united to Mine in the hour of Redemption. Of the just who died ages ago, who are still alive, or will live in future. Add yours, as from now. It is so beautiful to merge with the infinite Bounty by adding to it what we can give of our limited bounty and say: “I am cooperating too, Father, to the welfare of my brothers.” There can be no greater love for the Lord and for our neighbour, than this ability to suffer and die to give glory to the Lord and eternal salvation to our brothers. To save ourselves for our own sake? It is very little. It is the “least” degree of holiness. It is beautiful to save other people, by sacrificing ourselves, to love to such an extent as to become a sacrificing fire to save our neighbour. Love is then perfect. And great will be the holiness of such generous souls."
"How beautiful that is, isn't it, sisters?" exclaims Lazarus with a dreamy smile on his thin face.
Martha, deeply moved, nods assent.
Mary, who is sat on a cushion at Jesus' feet, in her usual posture of humble ardent worshipper, says: "Am. I perhaps costing my brother such suffering? Tell me, Lord, that my anguish may be complete!..."
Lazarus exclaims: "No, Mary, no... I was to die of this. Do not pierce your heart."
But Jesus, Who is sincere to the utmost, says: "Yes, Mary, you most certainly are! I heard the prayers and the heart-throbs of your good brother. But this must not cause a dull anguish to you, on the contrary it must urge your will to become perfect, for what you cost. And rejoice! Rejoice because Lazarus, for snatching you from the demon..."
"Not I! You did, Master."
"... for snatching you from the demon, has deserved from God a future reward, whereby peoples and angels will speak of him. And as for Lazarus, they will speak of other people, and particularly of other women, who through their heroism have snatched the prey from Satan."
"Who are they?" ask the women curiously, each hoping to be one.
Mary of Judas does not speak. But she looks at the Master... Jesus also looks at her. He could beguile her, but He does not. He does not mortify her, but He does not deceive her. He replies to them: "You will know in Heaven."
Judas' mother, who is still full of anguish asks: "And if she should not succeed, although she is willing, what will her destiny be?"
"As her good soul deserves."
"Heaven? But, Lord, a wife, a sister, or a mother who should fail in saving those whom she loves and should see that they are damned, could she enjoy Paradise, even if she were in Paradise? Do You not think that she will never be able to rejoice because... the flesh of her flesh and the blood of her blood have deserved eternal damnation? I think that she will not be able to rejoice seeing her beloved ones in dreadful pain..."
"You are wrong, Mary. The vision of God, the possession of God are the sources of such infinite beatitude that no grief can exist for the blessed souls. While they are active and diligent in helping those who can be saved, they no longer suffer for those who are separated from God, and consequently from themselves who are in God. The Communion of saints is for the saints."
"But if they help those who can still be saved, it means that those who are helped are not yet saints" objects Peter.
"But they have a will, at least a passive will, to be saints. The saints of God help also in material needs, to make them pass from a passive to an active will. Do you understand Me?"
"I do and I don't. For instance, supposing I were in Heaven and I saw, let us say, a fleeting kind attitude in... Eli, the Pharisee, what would I do?"
"You would find all the means to increase his kind attitude."
"And if it did not help in any way? Then?"
"Then, when he were damned, you would be unconcerned about him."
"And if he deserved to be damned, as he does now, but he were dear to me − which will never be the case − what should I do?"
"First of all, you had better know that you are in danger of being damned by saying that he is not dear to you and never will be; secondly you must know that, if you were in Heaven, you would pray for him and for his salvation, until the moment of his judgement. There will be souls that will be saved at the last moment, after a whole life of prayer for them."
A servant comes in saying: "Manaen has come. He wishes to see the Master."
"Let him come. He certainly wishes to speak of some grave matter."
The women withdraw discreetly, followed by the men. But Jesus calls back Isaac, John the priest, Stephen and Hermas, Matthias and Joseph, who are all shepherd-disciples. "It is better for you to be informed as well, since you are disciples" He explains.
Manaen enters and bows to Jesus.
"Peace to you" greets Jesus.
"Peace to You, Master. The sun is setting. My first step after the Sabbath is for You, my Lord."
"Did you have a good Passover?"
"Good!! There can be no good where there is Herod and Herodias! I hope it was the last time that I ate the lamb with them. At the cost of my life I will not stay any longer with them!"
"I think you are making a mistake. You can serve the Master by remaining..." objects the Iscariot.
"That is true. And that is what has kept me there so far. But how nauseating! Chuza could replace me..."
Bartholomew points out to him: "Chuza is not Manaen... He wangles. He would never denounce his master. You are more sincere."
"That is true. And what you say is true. Chuza is a courtier. He is spellbound by royalty... Royalty! What am I saying!? By the mud of royalty! But he thinks that he is a king, by being with the king... And he is terrified of royal disfavour. The other evening he looked crestfallen, when he almost crept before Herod who had sent for him after he had heard the complaints of Salome, whom You had chased away. Chuza was in dire difficulty. His desire to get out of trouble, at all costs, even by accusing You, stating that You were wrong, was clearly visible on his face. But Herod... wanted only to laugh at the girl behind her back, as he loathes her, now, as he loathes her mother. And he laughed like a madman on hearing Chuza repeat Your words. He kept saying: “Such words are by far too kind for that young... (and he uttered such an obscene word that I will not repeat it to You). He should have trodden on her lustful breast... But He would have become contaminated!” and he laughed. Then he became grave and said: “But... the insult deserved by the woman cannot be allowed with regard to the crown. I am generous (it is his fixed idea that he is, and as nobody tells him, he does so himself) and I will forgive the Rabbi, also because He told Salome the truth. But I want Him to come to Court so that I may forgive Him completely. I want to see Him, hear Him and make Him work miracles. Let Him come and I will be His protector.” That is what he said the other evening. And Chuza did not know what to say. He did not want to say no to the monarch and he could not say yes. Because You certainly cannot yield to Herod's whims. Today he said to me: “You are certainly going to see Him... Tell Him what I want.” I have told You but I already know the answer. However, tell me, so that I may refer to him."
"No!" A thundering no.
"Will You not make him a powerful enemy against You?" asks Thomas.
"He may become My executioner. But I can only reply: “no”."
"He will persecute us..."
"Oh! In three days' time he will have forgotten all about it" says Manaen shrugging his shoulders. And he adds: "They have promised him... some pantomime dancers... They are arriving tomorrow... And he will forget everything!..."
The servant comes back: "Nicodemus, Joseph, Eleazar and other Pharisees and leaders of the Sanhedrin are here, Master. They wish to greet You."
Lazarus looks at Jesus inquiringly. Jesus understands: "Let them come! I will be happy to greet them."
Joseph comes in shortly afterwards with Nicodemus, Eleazar (the just man at Ishmael's banquet), John (the guest at the remote banquet of Joseph of Arimathea), another man whose name I hear is Joshua, a Philip, a Judas and lastly a Joachim. They seem to go on greeting forever. The room is fortunately a large one, otherwise there would be no room for so much bowing, embracing and rich vestments. But although it is so large, it becomes so full that the disciples clear out. Only Lazarus remains with Jesus. The disciples perhaps can hardly believe that they are not being looked up and down by the eyes of so many members of the Sanhedrin!
"We heard that you were in Jerusalem, Lazarus. And we came" says the one whose name is Joachim.
"I am amazed and happy. I had almost forgotten what your face looks like..." replies Lazarus somewhat ironically.
"Well... you know... We always wanted to come. But... You disappeared..."
"And you could not believe that it was true! It is in fact rather difficult to visit an unhappy fellow!"
"No! Don't say that. We... respected your desire. But now that... now that... is that right Nicodemus?"
"Yes, Lazarus. Old friends come back. Also to hear your good news and venerate the Rabbi."
"What news have you brought me?"
"H'm... Well... The usual things... The world... Of course..." they cast sidelong glances at Jesus, Who is sitting erect on His seat, rather engrossed in thought.
"How come you are all together today, when the Sabbath is just over?"
"We had a special meeting."
"Today?! What was so urgent?..."
The visitors look at Jesus furtively and significantly. But He is engrossed...
"There were many reasons..." they eventually reply.
"And do any concern the Rabbi?"
"Yes, Lazarus. Him as well. But we also passed judgement on a grave fact, while we were all gathered in town for the festivity..." explains Joseph of Arimathea.
"A grave fact? Which?"
"An... error of youth... H'm. Of course! A nasty discussion because... Rabbi, listen to us. You are among honest people. Although we are not Your disciples, we are not Your enemies. In the house of Ishmael You told me that I am not far from justice" says Eleazar.
"That is true. I confirm it."
"And I defended you against Felix at Joseph's banquet" says John.
"That is also true."
"And these people are of the same opinion as we are. Today we were summoned to decide... and we are not happy about the decision. Because we were defeated by a majority verdict. As You are wiser than Solomon, we ask You to listen to us and let us have Your opinion." Jesus pierces them with a deep glance. He then says: "Speak."
"Are we sure that no one can hear us? Because it is... a dreadful thing..." says the man whose name is Judas.
"Close the door and draw the curtain, and we will be in a grave" replies Lazarus.
"Master, yesterday morning You told Eleazar of Annas that for no reason whatsoever he was to become contaminated. Why did You tell him?" asks Philip.
"Because it was to be said. He does become contaminated. I do not. The holy books tell us."
"That is true. But how do You know that he is contaminated? Did the girl perhaps speak to You before she died?" asks Eleazar.
"The girl who died after she was raped and her mother died with her, and it is not known whether grief killed them, or they committed suicide, or they were poisoned to prevent them from speaking."
"I know nothing about that. I saw the corrupt soul of Annas' son. I smelt the stench of him. I spoke. I did not know or see anything else."
"But what happened?" asks Lazarus with deep concern.
"Eleazar, the son of Annas, saw a girl, the daughter of a widow and... he called her saying that he had some work to give her, because they earned their living doing needlework, and... he seduced her. The girl died three days later, and her mother died, too. But before dying they told their only relative everything, notwithstanding that they had been threatened not to... And their relative went to Annas, to accuse his son, and as he was not satisfied, he told Joseph, me and other people... Annas had him arrested and put into prison. From there he will be taken to the scaffold or he will never be free again. Today Annas wanted to have our opinion on the matter" says Nicodemus.
"He would not have asked us, if he had not known that we were already aware of the fact" grumbles Joseph between his teeth.
"Of course not... Well, with sham voting and counterfeited justice, judgement was passed on the honour and life of three unhappy people and on the punishment for the culprit" concludes Nicodemus.
"So! It is obvious. We, who had voted for the freedom of the man and punishment for Eleazar, were threatened and expelled as being unjust. What do You say?"
"That I am horrified at Jerusalem and that the Temple is the most fetid bubo there is in Jerusalem" says Jesus slowly and fearfully. And He concludes: "And you may relate that to those of the Temple."
"And what did Gamaliel do?" asks Lazarus.
"As soon as he heard of the fact, he covered his face and went out saying: “May the new Samson come soon to crush corrupt Philistines.”"
"He was right. And he will soon come." There is silence.
"And was no mention made of Him?" asks Lazarus pointing at Jesus.
"Yes. Before everything else. Someone reported that You had said that the kingdom of Israel is “Mean”. So they said that You are a blasphemer, nay, a sacrilegious person. Because the kingdom of Israel comes from God."
"Did they? And what did the Pontiff say the seducer of a virgin is? He who disgraces his ministry? Tell Me!" asks Jesus.
"He is the son of the High Pontiff. Because Annas is the real king in there" says Joachim, who is frightened by the stateliness of Jesus, Who is standing in front of him, with His arm stretched out...
"Yes. The king of corruption. And shall I not call “mean” a Country in which we have a filthy and murderous Tetrarch, a High Pontiff who is the accomplice of a seducer and murderer?..."
"Perhaps the girl committed suicide or died of grief" whispers Eleazar.
"Still murdered by her seducer... And are they not preparing now the third victim in the relative who has been imprisoned so that he may not speak? And is the altar not being desecrated by those who approach it with so many crimes? And is justice not being hushed up by enjoining silence on the too rare just members of the Sanhedrin? Yes, let the new Samson come and destroy this desecrated place, let him exterminate in order to reform!... As this wretched Country makes Me feel sick, I not only say that it is mean, but I am going away from its corrupt heart, full of nameless crimes... the very den of Satan... I am going away. Not because I am afraid of death. I will prove to you that I am not afraid. I am going away because My hour has not yet come and I do not give pearls to the swine of Israel, but I will take them to the humble people scattered in hovels, in the mountains and valleys of poor villages, where they still know how to believe and to love, if there is someone to teach them, where under coarse garments there are souls, whilst here sacred vestments and even more so the Ephod and the Pectoral cover up filthy carrions and conceal murderous weapons. Tell them that in the name of the True God I consecrate them to their condemnation and as a new Michael I drive them out of Paradise. forever. As they wanted to be gods, whereas they are demons. It is not necessary for them to die to be judged. They are already judged. With no forgiveness."
The imposing members of the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees seem to become smaller, and in fact they cower before the dreadful wrath of the Christ, Who, on the contrary, seems to become a giant, so dazzling is His appearance and so domineering His attitude.
Lazarus moans: "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!"
Jesus hears him and changing His tone and appearance He asks: "What is the matter, My dear friend?"
"Oh! Be not so terrible! It's no longer You! How can one hope in mercy, if You appear so dreadful?"
"And yet I will be thus, and even more, when I judge the twelve tribes of Israel. But cheer up, Lazarus. He who believes in the Christ is already judged..." And He sits down once again.
There is silence.
At last John asks: "As we preferred to be insulted rather than make a false statement against justice, how will we be judged?"
"With justice. Persevere and you will reach the place where Lazarus already is: God's friendship."
They stand up. "Master, we are going. Peace to You. And to you, Lazarus." "Peace to you."
"What was said in here, is to remain here" some of them say imploringly. "Be not afraid! Go. May God always guide you." They go out. Jesus is left alone with Lazarus. After a short while the latter says: "How horrible!"
"Yes. How horrible!... Lazarus, I am going to arrange our departure from Jerusalem. I will be your guest at Bethany until the end of the Unleavened Bread." And He goes out...