407. In the House of Joseph of Arimathea on a Sabbath. John, a Member of the Sanhedrin.
2nd April 1946.
Joseph of Arimathea is resting in a half-lit room, because all the curtains have been lowered as a protection from the sun. There is deathlike silence in the entire house. Joseph is dozing in a low seat covered with mats... A servant enters, he goes towards his master and touches him to wake him. Joseph opens his sleepy eyes and looks at the servant inquisitively.
"Master, your friend John is here..."
"My friend John?! How is he here if the Sabbath is not yet over?!"
Joseph has woken up with a start, surprised at the visit of a member of the Sanhedrin on a Sabbath. And he orders: "Let him come in at once."
The servant goes out and, while waiting, Joseph walks pensively up and down the semi-dark cool room...
"May God be with you, Joseph!" says John, the member of the Sanhedrin we already saw at the first banquet offered to Jesus at Arimathea, and also in Lazarus' house at last Passover, always as a person not hostile to Jesus, although not a disciple.
"And with you, John! But... as I know that you are just, I am astonished at seeing you before sunset..."
"That's true. I have infringed the Sabbatic law. And I sinned knowing that I was sinning. So, grave is my sin... And great will be the sacrifice that I will consume to be forgiven. And momentous is the reason that instigated my commission of this sin... Jehovah, Who is just, will be indulgent to His guilty servant in view of the important motive that drove me to sin..."
"Once you did not speak like that. The Most High was only rigid severity as far as you were concerned. And you were perfect because you feared Him as an inexorable God..."
"Oh! perfect!... Joseph, I have never confessed my secret faults to you... But it is true. I did judge God inexorable. Like many in Israel. We were taught to consider Him thus: the God of vengeance..."
"And you have continued to believe so even after the Rabbi came to let His people know the true Face of God, His true Heart... The Face, the Heart of a Father..."
"It's true. But... I had never heard Him speak for any length of time... But... you will remember, since the first time I saw Him at the banquet in your house, I assumed an attitude of... respect, if not of love for the Rabbi."
"That is true... But for the love I have for you I would like you to pass on to an attitude of love for Him. Respect is too little..."
"You love Him, don't you, Joseph?"
"Yes, I do. And I am telling you, although I know that the Chief Priests hate those who love the Rabbi. But you are not capable of delation..."
"No. I am not... And I would like to be like you. But shall I ever succeed?"
"I will pray that you may succeed. It would be your eternal salvation, my dear friend..."
Silence follows full of reflections...
Then Joseph asks: "You told me that a grave motive drove you to infringe the Sabbath. Which? Can I ask you without being too indiscreet? I think that you have come to have help from your friend... And I must know, in order to help you..."
John rubs his forehead with his hand, he presses his broad forehead, which is beginning to go bald, as is typical of men in full virility, he mechanically caresses his grizzly hair, his thick squarecut beard... He then raises his head, stares at Joseph saying: "Yes. An important reason. And a painful one. And... a great hope..."
"Joseph, can you believe that my house is like hell and will soon no longer be a home... as it will soon be devastated, dispersed, destroyed, crushed?"
"What? What are you saying? Are you raving?"
"No, I am not... My wife wants to leave me... Are you surprised?"
"... Yes... I am... because I have always known her to be good... and because your family seemed to be a model one... you all kindness... she all virtue..."
John sits down holding his head in his hands...
Joseph goes on: "Now... this... decision... I... Well... I cannot believe that Anne has done anything wrong... or that you have... But I believe even less with regard to her... entirely devoted to her home and children... No!... There can be no fault in her!..."
"Are you sure? Really sure?"
"Oh! my poor friend! I have not the eye of God. But as far as I can judge, that is what I think..."
"Do you not think that Anne is... unfaithful ...?"
"Anne?! But, my friend! Has the summer sun injured your brain? Unfaithful with whom? She never leaves the house, she prefers the country to town. She works as the best of her servants, she is nothing but humble, modest, active, loving with you and the children. A light woman does not love such things. Believe me. Oh! John, on what do you ground your suspicion? Since when?"
"I have always suspected."
"Always? Well, yours is a disease!..."
"Yes. And... Joseph, I have many faults. But I do not want to confess them to you only. The day before yesterday some disciples and poor people passed by my house. They said that the Rabbi was on His way to your house. And yesterday... yesterday was a very stormy day for my house... so much so that Anne took the decision I told you... During the night - and what a night - I have pondered very much... And I came to the conclusion that only He, the perfect Rabbi..."
"Divine, John, divine!"
"... As you wish... That He only can cure me and repair... rebuild my house, giving Anne... my children... everything back to me..." The man is weeping and while shedding tears he continues:
"Because He only sees and speaks the truth... and I will believe Him... Joseph, my friend, let me stay here and wait for Him..."
"The Master is here. He will leave after sunset. I will go and call Him for you" and Joseph goes out...
After a few minutes the curtain is drawn again to let Jesus pass... John stands up and bows respectfully.
"Peace to you, John. Why have you been looking for Me?"
"That You may help me to see... and You may save me. I am very unhappy. I have sinned against God and against my wife. And from one sin to another I have come to the point of infringing the Sabbatic law. Absolve me, Master." "The Sabbatic law! A great holy law! And far be it from Me the idea of considering it of no importance and old-fashioned. But why do you put it before the first commandment? What? You ask Me to absolve you for infringing the Sabbath and you do not ask absolution for lacking charity and torturing an innocent soul, driving to despair and to the threshold of sin the soul of your wife? You ought to be distressed about that more than anything else! About calumniating her..."
"Lord, I have only spoken to Joseph about it, a short time ago. I have not mentioned it to anybody else, believe me. I kept my grief so secret that my good friend Joseph was not aware of anything, and he was amazed when I told him. He has now told You, in order to help me. Joseph is a just man and he will not talk to anybody about it."
"He has not mentioned it to Me. He only told Me that you wanted Me."
"Oh! How do You know then?"
"How do I know? As God knows the secrets of hearts. Shall I tell you the state of your heart?"...
Joseph is about to withdraw discreetly. But John himself stops him saying: "Oh! Stay. You are my friend! Since you were groomsman at my wedding, you can help me with the Rabbi!..." and Joseph remains.
"Shall I tell you? Do you want Me to help you to know yourself? Oh! be not afraid! I do not have a cruel hand. I can uncover wounds but I do not make them bleed to cure them. I can understand and be indulgent. And I know how to cure and heal, provided one wants to be cured. And you do want it. So much so that you have looked for Me. Sit here, beside Me, between Joseph and Me. He was your groomsman at your earthly wedding. I would like to be the best man of your spiritual wedding... "Oh! I would love that!... Now, listen to Me carefully. And answer all My questions frankly. What do you think of the action of God Who created man and woman, so that they should be united? Was it a good or a bad thing?"
"A good one, Lord. Like all the things made by God."
"You are right. Now tell Me: if the action was good, what were to be its consequences?"
"Equally good, Lord. And they were good, although Satan came to upset them, because Adam was always comforted by Eve, and Eve by Adam. And their consolation was more deeply felt when alone, exiles on the Earth, they supported each other. Also material consequences were good, that is, their children, through whom mankind propagated, and the power and goodness of God shone."
"Why? Which power and goodness?"
"Well... the one carried out in favour of men. If we look back... yes... there are just punishments, but there are many, more numerous good deeds... And the Covenant made with Abraham and renewed with Jacob is infinite goodness... and up to the present day. And repeated by truthful lips: the prophets... up to John..."
"And by the Rabbi, John" interrupts Joseph.
"Those are not the lips of a prophet... or the lips of a Master... They are... much more."
Jesus smiles lightly at the... still restricted profession of faith of the member of the Sanhedrin, who does not go to the extent of saying: "They are divine lips" although he already thinks so.
"So God did the right thing in joining man and woman together. Agreed. But how did He want man and woman to be?" asks Jesus.
"One body only."
"All right. Now, can the body hate itself?"
"Can one member hate another member?"
"Can one member separate from another?"
"No. Gangrene only, or leprosy or an accident can amputate a member from the rest of the body."
"Very well. Therefore only a sorrowful or wicked thing can separate what by God's will is one unit only?"
"It is so, Master."
"Well, then, although you are convinced of such things, why do you not love your body, and you hate it so much, that you get gangrene to grow between one member and another, whereby the weaker member, the mortified one, separates and leaves you all alone?"
John lowers his head, becomes silent while fretting the fringes of his garment. "I will tell you why. Because Satan, the usual disturber, has come between you and your wife. Nay: he has come into you, with a disorderly love for your wife. And when love is disorderly, it becomes hatred, John. Satan has worked on your virile sensuality to get you to commit sin. Because that is where your sin began. From one disorder that has brought about new and much graver disorders. In your wife you have not seen only a good companion and the mother of your children, but also an object of pleasure, And that has made your eyes like those of an ox, which sees everything altered. You saw things as you were seeing them. That is how you saw your wife. An object of pleasure for you. You considered her such also for other people, whence your feverish jealousy, your irrational fear, your sinful arrogance, which made of her a frightened, imprisoned, tortured, slandered woman. What does it matter if you do not beat her, if you do not revile her in public? Your suspicion is a stick, your doubt is slander! You calumniate her thinking that she could go to the extent of being unfaithful to you. What does it matter if you treat her as your rank demands? In the privacy of your home she is worse than a slave for you, because of your beastlike lust, which degrades her beyond endurance, and which she has suffered silently and submissively, hoping to convince you, to calm you, to make you good, and which has only served to irritate you more and more, to the extent of turning your house into a hell, in which the demons of lust and jealousy are roaring. Jealousy! What can you think of more slanderous for a wife than jealousy? And what is a clearer indication of the state of a heart than jealousy? You may rest assured that wherever it nestles, foolish, irrational, groundless, offensive, obstinate as it is, there can be no love for one's neighbour or for God. But there is selfishness. You ought to be grieved over all that, not at infringing the close of the Sabbath! And to be forgiven you must repair the ruin caused by you..."
"But Anne wants to go away, by now... Come and convince her... You are the only one who can judge whether she is really innocent, after hearing her speak, and..."
"John!! You want to be cured and yet you do not want to believe what I say?"
"You are right, my Lord. Change my heart. It is true. I have no well-grounded reason to suspect. But I love her so much... lewdly, it is true... You have seen the real situation... Everything is shadowy to me..."
"Come into the Light. Come out of the burning confusion of sensuality, which is so fierce. It will cost you at first... But it would cost you much more to lose a good wife and deserve hell, expiating your sins of lack of love, slander and adultery, and hers as well, because I remind you that who drives a woman to divorce, places himself and her on the way to adultery. If you can resist your demon for one month, at least for one month, I promise you that your nightmare will come to an end. Will you promise Me?"
"Oh! Lord! Lord! I would like to... But it is a fire... Put it out, You are powerful!..." John has fallen on to his knees before Jesus and is weeping with his head in his hands as he kneels on the floor.
"And I will appease it. I will limit it. I will check and restrain this demon. But you have sinned much, John, and you must work by yourself at your revival. Those who have been converted by Me, came to Me willing to become new, free... They had already worked, with their own strength only, the beginning of their redemption. Such as Matthew, Mary of Lazarus and many more. You have come here only to find out whether she is guilty and to be helped by Me not to lose the fountain at which your pleasure drinks. I will limit the power of your demon for three months, not for one. During that time meditate and rise. Resolve to start a new life as a husband. The life of a man gifted with soul. Not the life of a brute as you have led so far. And fortified by prayer and by meditation, by the peace which I will give you as a gift for three months, learn to struggle and conquer eternal Life and win back the love and peace of your wife and of your home. Go."
"But what shall I tell Anne? I may find her ready to leave... Which words shall I speak after so many years of... insults, to persuade her that I love her and that I do not want to lose her? Please come with me..."
"I cannot. But it is so simple... Be humble. Call her to one side and confess your torment. Tell her that you came to Me because you want to be forgiven by God. And tell her to forgive you because God's forgiveness will be given to you only if she invokes it for you and she is the first to give you it... Oh! unhappy man! How much good, how much peace you have dissipated through your lust! How much evil is brought about by the unruliness of senses and by the disorder of affections! Rise and go away with a peaceful mind. Do you not understand that your wife, who is good and faithful to you, is more distressed than you are at the thought of having to leave you and is waiting only for one word from you so that she may say to you: “You have been forgiven everything”? You may go now, as the sun is already set. So you are not committing any sin in going back to your house... And the Saviour absolves you of the sin you committed in coming to Him. Go in peace. And sin no more."
"Oh! Master! Master!... I do not deserve such words!... Master... I... want to love You from now on..."
"Yes, of course. Go and do not delay. And remember this hour when I will be the slandered Innocent."
"What do You mean?"
"Nothing. Go. Goodbye" and Jesus withdraws leaving the two members of the Sanhedrin moved and excited in judging Him really holy and wise as only God can be.