8th August 1945.
« Where shall we stop, my Lord? » asks James of Zebedee, while they are walking through a gorge between two hills, the sides of which are cultivated and green from foot to top.
« At Bethlehem in Galilee. But during the warm hours we shall stop on the mountain overlooking Meraba. So your brother will be delighted once again seeing the sea » and Jesus smiles. He then concludes: « We men could have gone farther, but we have the women disciples following us, and although they never complain, we must not tire them excessively. »
« They never complain. That is true. We are more inclined to complain » agrees Bartholomew.
« And yet they are less accustomed to this life...» says Peter.
« Perhaps that is why they live it willingly » says Thomas.
« No, Thomas. They do it willingly out of love. You may be sure that neither My Mother nor the other housewives, such as Mary of Alphaeus, Salome and Susanna leave their homes willingly to come along the roads of the world and among people. And Martha and Johanna, when also the latter will come, not being accustomed to such fatigue, would not do it willingly if they were not urged by love. With regard to Mary of Magdala only a mighty love can give her the strength to undergo this torture » says Jesus.
« Why did You order her to come, then, if You know it is a torture? » asks the Iscariot. « It does no good to her or to us. »
« Nothing but the clear unquestionable demonstration of her change could persuade the world. And Mary wants to persuade the world of that. Her separation from the past has been complete. »
« That is still to be seen. It is early to say so. When one gets used to a certain kind of life, it is difficult to part with it. Friendships and nostalgia take us back to it » says the Iscariot.
« Are you feeling nostalgia, then, for your previous life? » asks Matthew.
« I... no. I was just saying. I am I... a man, I love the Master and... in short, I have within me the elements that help me to be steadfast in my purpose. But she is a woman, and what a woman! And even if she were very firm, it is never very pleasant to have her with us. Should we meet some rabbis, priests or important Pharisees, you may rest assured that their comments might not be pleasing. When I think of it, I blush in advance. »
« Do not contradict yourself, Judas. If you have really broken off with your past, as you say, why do you regret so much that a poor soul should follow us to complete her conversion to Good? »
« Out of love, Master. I do everything out of love, too: for You. »
« Improve your love, then. Love, to be really such, must not be exclusive. When one can love only one object, and cannot love anything else, even if one is loved by what one loves, it is clear that that is not true love. Perfect love loves, with due gradation, all mankind and also animals and vegetables, stars and water, because it sees everything in God. One loves God, as is proper, and one loves everything in God. Be careful: exclusive love is often selfishness. Endeavour therefore to love everybody else out of love. »
« Yes, Master. »
The subject of the discussion is in the meantime proceeding beside Mary with the other women, and she is unaware of being the cause of so much talk.
They reach and go through the village of Japhia, but none of its citizens shows any desire to follow the Master or detain Him. So they proceed and as the apostles appear to be worried about the apathy of the place, Jesus endeavours to calm them.
The valley runs in a westward direction and another village can be seen lying at the foot of another mountain. This village, which I hear being called Meraba, is also unconcerned. Only some children approach the apostles while they are drawing water from a clear fountain leaning against a house. Jesus caresses them and asks their names, and the children ask His, who He is and where He is going. Also an old, bent, almost blind man approaches them and stretches out his hand to receive alms, which is in fact given to him.
They take to the road again, climbing a hill, the one lying across the valley, into which flow its little rivers, now reduced to a trickle of water or to stones parched by the sun. But the road is good and runs through olive-groves first and then through other trees, which intertwine their branches and form a green gallery over the road. They reach the top, which is crowned with a forest of rustling ash-trees, if I am not mistaken. And they sit down there to have a rest and some food. And while eating and resting, they enjoy a delightful sight, because the view is beautiful, with the Mount Carmel chain on their left, to the west. It is a very green mountainous chain, in which all the most beautiful shades of green are present. And where the mountain ends, there is the sea, a shining, open, endless sea, stretching with its surface lightly rippled by little waves towards the north, washing the shores, which from the promontory formed by the last ramifications of Mount Carmel extend towards Ptolemais and other towns and then fade away in the mist near the Syro-Phoenician coast. It is not possible to see the sea south of the Carmel promontory, because it is hidden by the chain of mountains, which is higher than the hill where the apostolic group is gathered.
Hours go by in the shade of the airy rustling wood. Some sleep, some speak in a low voice, some watch. John leaves his companions and climbs up as high as possible to have a better view. Jesus retires to a thicket to meditate and pray. The women have withdrawn behind a hedge of honeysuckle in bloom and have refreshed themselves at a tiny spring, which is reduced to a trickle and forms a pool on the ground, as the water is so scarce that it cannot flow away. The elder women, being tired, have fallen asleep, while the Blessed Virgin, Martha and Susanna talk of their far away homes and Mary says that She would like to have the beautiful shrub in bloom to adorn Her little grotto.
The Magdalene, who had let her hair down, as she could not stand its weight, puts it up again and says: « I am going to John, now that he is with Simon, to look at the sea with them. »
« I am coming, too » replies the Blessed Virgin.
Martha and Susanna remain with their sleeping companions.
To reach the two apostles they have to pass near the thicket where Jesus has retired to pray. « Prayer is My Son's rest » whispers Mary.
The Magdalene replies to Her: « I think that it is also essential for Him to be alone in order to keep His wonderful control, which the world puts to hard tests. Do You know, Mother? I have done what You told me. Every night I seclude myself for a more or less long time to restore within me the calm, which many things upset. And I feel much stronger afterwards. »
« At present you feel strong, later you will feel happy. Believe Me, Mary, both in peace and in struggle, in joy and in sorrow, our spirit needs to dive into the ocean of meditation to rebuild what the world and events demolish and to achieve fresh strength to climb higher and higher. In Israel we use and misuse vocal prayer. I do not mean that it is useless or displeasing to God. But I say that meditation, mental elevation to God is always much more useful to the soul, because by contemplating His divine perfection and our misery, or the misery of so many poor souls, not to criticise them but to be indulgent to them and understand them, and to be grateful to God Who has supported us keeping us away from sin, or has forgiven us, so that we would not be left in sin, by meditating thus, we are really successful in praying, that is in loving. Because prayer, to be really such, must be love. Otherwise it is mumbling of lips from which the soul is absent. »
« But is it lawful to speak to God when one's lips are still dirty with so many profane words? In my hours of meditation, which I do as You, my most sweet apostle, taught me, I do violence to my heart, which would like to say to God: “I love You.”.. »
« No! Why? »
« Because I feel I would be making a sacrilegious offer by offering my heart...»
« Do not do that, My dear daughter. First of all, your heart has been reconsecrated by the Son's forgiveness, and the Father sees only that forgiveness. But even if Jesus had not yet forgiven you, and in an ignored solitude, which could be both material and moral, you should shout to God: “I love You. Father, forgive me my miseries. I am sorry for them because they grieve You”, believe Me, Mary, God the Father would absolve you Himself and your cry of love would be dear to Him. Give yourself up to love. Do not do violence to it. Nay, let it become as violent as a blaze. A fire consumes everything that is material, but it does not destroy one molecule of air. Because air is incorporeal. On the contrary it purifies it from the tiny debris blown by winds and makes it lighter. Love does the same to souls. It may consume man's matter quicker, if God allows that, but it will not destroy his spirit. It will, instead, increase its vitality and will make it pure and agile to be able to ascend to God. See John over there? He is only a boy. And yet he is an eagle. He is the strongest of all the apostles. Because he has understood the secret of strength, of spiritual formation: loving meditation. »
« But he is pure. I... He is a boy. I...»
« Look at the Zealot, then. He is not a boy. He has lived, struggled, hated. He admits it frankly. But he has learned to meditate. And he, too, believe Me, is well high up. See? They look for each other, those two. Because they feel they are alike. They have reached the same perfect age of the spirit and by the same means: mental prayer. Through it the boy has become virile in his spirit and the man, already old and tired, has recovered a strong virility. And do you know another one, who without being an apostle will make much progress, nay, has already made much progress, because of his natural inclination to meditation, which has become a spiritual necessity for him, since he is a friend of Jesus'? Your brother. »
« My Lazarus?... Oh! Mother! Since You know so many things because God shows them to You, tell me, how will Lazarus treat me, the first time we meet? Before he was disdainfully silent. But he did it because I would not bear being criticised. I have been very cruel to my brother and sister... I now realise it. Now that he knows that he can speak, what will he say to me? I am afraid of his frank reproach. Oh! he will certainly remind me of all the grief of which I was the cause. I would like to fly to Lazarus. But I am afraid of him. I used to go there, and not even the memories of my dead mother, her tears, which were still warm on the things she had used, tears she had shed for me, through my fault, would upset me. My heart was cynical, shameless, deaf to every voice, except to “evil.” But now I no longer have the wicked strength of Evil and I tremble... What will Lazarus do to me? »
« He will open his arms to you and will call you, more with his heart than with his lips “my darling sister.” He is so formed in God that he can but behave thus. Be not afraid. He will not say one word about your past. It is just as if I could see him, he is there at Bethany and his days of waiting are very long for him. He is waiting for you, to clasp you to his heart, to sate his brotherly love. All you have to do is love him as he loves you to enjoy the happiness of being born of the same womb. »
« I would love him even if he reproached me, I deserve it. »
« But he will love you only. Nothing else. »
They have joined John and Simon who are talking of their future trips and stand up reverently when the Mother of the Lord arrives.
« We have come too, to praise the Lord for the beautiful works of His creation. »
« Have you ever seen the sea, Mother? »
« Oh! I have. And although it was then stormy, it was less agitated than My heart, and less bitter than My tears, when I was fleeing along the coast from Gaza towards the Red Sea, with My Child in My arms, and the fear of Herod behind My back. And I saw it on our way back. And then it was springtime both on the earth and in My heart. The spring season of our return home. And Jesus clapped His little hands, happy as He was seeing new things... And Joseph and I were also happy, notwithstanding that the kindness of the Lord had made our exile at Matarea less hard, in a thousand ways. »
And their conversation goes on whilst I can no longer see or hear.