24th January 1946.
I do not see food being distributed to the lepers of Hinnom, I only hear the apostles speak of them. But I do not think that any miracle has been worked among them, because Simon Peter says: « Cruel solitude has prevented them from believing and realising where Health is.»
They then enter the town through the Gate leading to the noisy populated suburb of Ophel.
After a few steps, Annaleah runs out joyfully from a half-open door and venerates the Master saying: « My mother has given me permission to stay with You, Lord, until evening.»
« Will Samuel not be disappointed?»
« There is no Samuel in my life any longer, Lord. And may the Most High be thanked for that. May He grant me, however, that Samuel may not leave You, my God, as he left me.» A smile appears heroically on her young lips, while tears shine in her chaste eyes.
Jesus looks steadily at her and as a reply, He simply says: « Join the women disciples» and He resumes walking.
But Annaleah's old mother, who is older more because of her sorrows than because of her age, approaches Jesus too, stooping in a venerable but dispirited salutation, and she says: « Peace to You, Master. When can I speak to You? I am so worried!...»
« At once, woman.» And addressing those who are with Him, He says: « Remain here outside. I am going into this house for a moment» and He is about to follow the woman.
But Annaleah calls Him from the group of the women disciples, with one word only: « Master!», but how meaningful it is! And in uttering it she joins her hands, as if she were imploring...
« Be not afraid. Be in peace. Your case is in My hands and so is your secret» replies Jesus reassuringly. He then goes in quickly through the half-open door.
Outside both men and women comment curiously on the event, as they are all anxious to know...
Inside Jesus is listening to the old woman. Leaning with His back against the door, which He Himself has closed after entering, with arms folded on His chest, He is listening to the weeping mother, who informs Him of the inconstancy of her daughter's fiance, who has seized an opportunity to release himself completely from his bond... « So that Annaleah is as good as repudiated, and she will never get married now, because she stated that You do not approve of people getting married after being repudiated. But it is not so. She is still a girl! She is not giving herself to another man, because she has not been of any man. And he is guilty of cruelty. And even more. Because he wants to get married to another woman and my daughter will be considered the guilty one and the world will laugh at her. See to it, Lord, because all this is happening because of You.»
« Because of Me, woman? In what have I sinned?»
« Oh! You have not sinned. But he says that Annaleah is in love with You. And he feigns jealousy. He came here last night, but she was with You. He flew into a passion and swore that he would not marry her any more and Annaleah who arrived just then, replied to him: “You are doing the right thing. I am only sorry that you are clothing the truth with falsehood and slander. You know that one loves Jesus only with one's soul. But it is your soul that is now corrupt and is leaving the Light to follow the flesh, whilst I am leaving the flesh to follow the Light. We can no longer be of one mind as a married couple ought to be. You may go then, and may God watch over you.” She did not shed one tear, see? Nothing that would touch the man's heart! My expectations are disappointed! She... is causing her own ruin, through frivolity. Call her, Lord and speak to her. Make her reason. Look for Samuel. He is staying with Abraham, his relative, at the third house after the Fountain of the fig-tree. Help me! But speak to her first, just now...»
« As far as speaking is concerned, I will speak to her. But you ought to thank the Lord Who is undoing a human tie, which was not promising anything good. The man is inconstant and unjust towards God and towards his woman...»
« Yes, but it is dreadful that the world should consider her guilty and You as well, only because she is Your disciple.»
« The world accuses and then forgets. Heaven instead is eternal. Your daughter will be a flower of Heaven.»
« Why did You make her live then? She would have been a flower without being lashed with slander. Oh! As You are God, call her, make her reason and then make Samuel consider...»
« Remember, woman, that not even God can crush the will and freedom of man. Samuel and your daughter are entitled to follow what they feel is good for them. Annaleah in particular is entitled...»
« Because she is loved by God more than Samuel is. Because she loves God more than she loves Samuel. Your daughter belongs to God!»
« No. That does not apply in Israel. A woman must get married... She is my daughter... Her wedding was giving me peace for the future...»
« Your daughter would have been in her grave for one year if I had not cured her. Who am I, according to you?»
« The Master and God.»
« And as God and Master I tell you that the Most High is entitled to His children more than anybody else, and that much is about to change in Religion and that from now on it will be possible for virgins to remain such forever, out of love for God. Do not weep, mother. Leave your house and come with us, today. Come! My Mother is out there with other heroic mothers who have given their children to the Lord. Join them...»
« Speak to Annaleah... Try, Lord!» moans the woman sobbing.
« All right. I will do as you wish» says Jesus. And He opens the door and calls: « Mother, come in with Annaleah.»
They go in at once.
« My child, your mother wants Me to tell you to reconsider the matter. She wants Me to speak to Samuel. What shall I do? What is your opinion?»
« You may speak to Samuel. Nay, I implore You to do so. But only because I would like him to become just upon hearing You. As far as I am concerned, You know. I beg You to give my mother the most truthful reply.»
« Have you heard, woman?»
« So which is the reply?» asks in a broken voice the old woman, who at the first words of her daughter had hoped in her repentance, but then she realised that that was not the case.
« The reply is that for one year your daughter has belonged to God and her vow will last as long as her life.»
« Oh! poor me! Which mother is more unhappy than I am?!»
Mary lets go the hand of the girl to take the woman in Her arms saying to her kindly: « Do not sin with your thought and Your tongue. It is not unhappiness, but great glory to give a child to God. You told Me one day that you were sorry that you had but one daughter, because you would have loved to have a son sacred to the Lord. You do not have a son, but an angel who will precede the Saviour in His triumph. And you say that you are unhappy? My mother spontaneously consecrated Me to the Lord from the first moment she perceived Me in her womb, having conceived Me at an old age. And she had Me for three years only. And I had her but in My heart. And yet it gave her peace, at the moment of her death, that she had given Me to the Lord... Be good now... come to the Temple to sing the praise of Him Who loves you so much as to choose your daughter as His bride. Let your heart be really wise. And true wisdom consists in putting no limitations to our generosity towards the Lord.»
The woman no longer weeps. She listens... She then makes up her mind. She takes her mantle and envelops herself in it. But passing in front of her daughter she says with a sigh: « First your disease, then the Lord... Ah! I was not to have you!...»
« No, mother. Don't say that! You never had me as you do now. Both you and God. God and you. You two only... till my death...» and she embraces her kindly saying: « Your blessing, mother! Your blessing... because I have suffered so much having to make you suffer. But God wanted me thus...»
They kiss each other, weeping. They then go out preceded by Jesus and Mary and they close the door and join the women disciples...
... « Why are we going in here, Lord? Was it not better to go in on the other side?» asks James of Zebedee.
« Because, on entering here, we shall pass in front of the Antonia.»
« And You hope... Be careful, Master!... The Sanhedrin is spying upon You» says Thomas.
« How do you know?» Bartholomew asks him.
« It is sufficient to consider how anxious the Pharisees are to understand. I am told that they come continuously with many pretexts to watch what we do!... Why, if not to find fault with the Master?»
« You are right. So don't let us pass by the Antonia, Master. If the Romans do not see You, so much the better.»
« And the reason for that is not so much your concern for Me as your disgust for them, is that right, Bartolomai? How wise you would be if you removed such meanness from your heart!» replies Jesus, Who, however, proceeds on His way, without listening to anybody.
To go to the Antonia, they must pass through the Sixtus where the buildings of Johanna and Herod are, one close to the other. And Jonathan is at the door of Chuza's building and as soon as he sees Jesus, he informs the people in the house. Chuza comes out at once and bows to Jesus. Johanna follows him, and she is ready to join the group of the women disciples.
Chuza says: « I heard that You will be staying with us today. Grant Your servant to have You as his guest at a dinner-party.»
« Yes. Providing you will allow Me to make it a charity dinner-party for poor and unhappy people.»
« As You wish, my Lord. Give me Your orders and I will do what You wish.»
« Thank you. Peace be with you, Chuza.»
Johanna asks: « Have You any instructions for Jonathan? He is at Your disposal.»
« I will let him have them after I have been to the Temple. Let us go, because they are waiting for us.»
Shortly afterwards they pass by the beautiful palace of cruel Herod. But it is closed, as if no one lived in it. They pass near the Antonia. The soldiers watch the little procession of the Nazarene.
They go into the Temple; while the women stop in the lower part, the men proceed to the place allocated to them. They thus reach the place where children are presented and women are purified. There is a little group of people with a young mother, watching the ceremony of the rite.
« A little child sacred to the Lord, Master!» says Andrew watching the scene.
« If I am not mistaken, she is the woman from Caesarea Philippi, the woman of the castle. She passed in front of me while we were waiting for You at the Golden Gate» says James of Alphaeus.
« Yes. And her mother-in-law and Philip's superintendent are there, too. They did not see us. But we saw them» adds Thaddeus.
And Mattheus says: « Instead we saw Mary of Simon with an old man. But Judas was not there. The woman looked very sad. She looked around worriedly.»
« We will look for her later. Let us pray now. And you, Simon of Jonah, make the offer at the treasury on behalf of everybody.»
They pray for a long time, while people watch them and point the Master out to one another.
A short dispute, in which the shrill voice of a woman stands out, makes those who are not engrossed in prayer turn their heads round.
« If I came here to offer my son to God, I can remain a little longer to offer him to Him Who saved him for the Lord» says the shrill voice.
And nasal voices of men insist: « Women are not allowed to stop here after the rite. Go away.»
« I will, but after Him.»
« Call Him, then, and go away with Him.»
« Just a moment! Let the woman speak and explain how she can say that the Nazarene saved the child for God» says the drawling voice of a man.
« What does it matter, Jonathan of Uziel?»
« What does it matter!? There is certainly another sin here. Fresh evidence. Listen to me, woman. How did that man save your son? Will you tell us, the persevering seekers of truth?» asks mellifluously this Pharisee, who is not new to me.
« I certainly will, and with gratitude. I was in despair because the baby was born dead. I am a widow and this child is everything to me. He came and brought him back to life.»
« When? Where?»
« At Caesarea Philippi. I come from the castle of Caesarea.»
« Back to life! It was probably only a fainting-fit on the part of the child...»
« No. He was dead. My mother can tell you. And the superintendent of the castle can tell you as well. The Nazarene came and breathed into his mouth and the baby seethed and cried.»
« And where were you?»
« In bed, sir. I had just given birth to the child.»
« Oh, how horrible!»
« Ah! Anathema!»
« See? I was right in interrogating her.»
« You are wise, Jonathan of Uziel! How did you know?»
« I know the man. I saw Him desecrate the Sabbath in my property in the plain to satisfy His hunger...»
« Let us drive Him away from here!»
« Let us report the matter to the Princes of priests.»
« No, let us ask Him whether He has purified Himself. We cannot accuse without knowing...»
« Be quiet, Eleazar. Do not soil yourself with a silly defence.»
Young Dorcas, as she is caught in the middle of so much turmoil, bursts into tears and shouts: « Oh! do not injure Him because of me!»
But some hot-headed men have reached the Lord and they imperiously say to Him: « Come here and reply to us.»
The apostles and disciples are seized with anger and fear. Jesus follows calmly and solemnly those who have called Him.
« Do You recognise this woman?» they shout pushing Him into the middle of the circle which has formed round Dorcas and pointing at her as if she were a leper.
« Yes, I do. She is a young widow and mother from Caesarea Philippi. And that is her mother-in-law. And that is the superintendent of the castle. So?»
« She is accusing You of going into her room while she was still being delivered of her child.»
« That is not true, Lord! I did not say that. I said that You revived my son. And nothing else! I wanted to honour You, instead I am injuring You. Oh! Forgive me!»
Philip's superintendent intervenes to help her and he says: « It is not true. You are lying. The woman did not say that and I am witness to it, and I am ready to swear to it, and also that the Rabbi did not go into the room, but He worked the miracle standing at the door.»
« You be silent, you servant.»
« No. I will not. And I will tell Philip who respects the Rabbi more than you do, you false devotees of the Most High God.»
The subject of the dispute changes from the woman to politics and religion. Jesus is silent. Dorcas is weeping.
Eleazar, the honest guest at the banquet in the house of Ishmael, says: « I think that the doubt has been cleared and that the charge no longer stands, thus the Rabbi is free to go.»
« No. I want to know whether He has purified Himself after touching the corpse. Let Him swear to it on Jehovah!» shouts Jonathan of Uziel.
« I did not purify Myself because the child was not dead, it had difficulty only in breathing.»
« Ah! It now suits You to say that he was not revived, eh?» shouts another Pharisee.
« Why do You not boast about it as You did at Kedesh?» asks another one.
« Don't let us waste time! Let us drive Him away and take the new charge to the Sanhedrin. A bunch of charges!»
« Which are the others?» asks Jesus.
« Which? That You touched the woman-leper and did not purify Yourself. Can You deny it? That You swore at Capernaum, so much so that Your more honest disciples abandoned You. Can You deny it?»
« I deny nothing. But I am without sin, because you, Sadoc, who are now accusing Me, were told by Anastasica's husband that she is not a leper, and you know, you matchmaker of Samuel's adultery, and you lied before the world with him, to foster the lust of the filthy man, calling leprosy what was not such and condemning a woman to the torture of being called a “leper” in Israel, only because you are the accomplice of her guilty husband.»
Sadoc, the scribe, one of those who were at Giscala and later at Kedesh, is struck home by Jesus' statements and slips away without any further remark, while the crowds shout at him mockingly.
« Be silent! This place is sacred» says Jesus. And He says to the woman and to those who are with her: « Let us go. Come with Me where they are waiting for Me.» And He sets out gravely and stately, followed by His disciples.
The woman, who in the meantime is questioned by many people, tells her story, repeating each time: « My son belongs to Him and I will consecrate him to Him.»
The superintendent, instead, approaches Jesus and says: « Master, I informed Philip of the miracle. He sent me to inform You that he likes You. Bear it in mind with regard to the snares of Herod... and of other people. But he would like to hear You, too, and see You. Would You come to His house today? He would be happy to welcome You, also in the Tetrarchy.»
« I am neither a histrion nor a wizard. I am the Master of Truth. Let him come to the Truth and I will not reject him.»
They are in the Women's Court. « Here He is!» exclaim the women disciples informing Mary who is anxious about the delay.
They all gather together and Jesus would like to dismiss the people from Caesarea to go and look for Mary, Judas' mother, but Dorcas kneels down and says: « I have been looking for You before this woman, whom You want to find, and who is the mother of one of Your disciples. I was looking for You to say to You: “This son is Yours. He is my only son and I consecrate him to You. You are the Living God. Accept him as Your servant.”»
« Do you know what that means? It means that you are consecrating your son to sorrow, that you will lose him as a mother and you will gain him back as a martyr in Heaven. Do you feel you can be a martyr through your child?»
« Yes, my Lord. I would have been a martyr through his death, and I would have suffered the martyrdom of a poor mother. For Your sake I will be a more perfect martyr, pleasing to the Lord.»
« Let it be so!... Oh! Mary of Simon, when did you come?»
« Just now. With my relative Ananias... I was looking for You, too, Lord...»
« I know. I sent Judas to tell you to come. Did he not come?»
Judas' mother lowers her head and whispers: « I left the house immediately after him and I went to Gethsemane. But You had already gone away from there!... I ran to the Temple... And now I have found You... In time to hear this girl, who is already a mother and so happy!... Oh! I wish I could speak to You as she did, Lord, of a newly-born Judas... so meek... like one of these little lambs...» and weeping she points at the bleating lambs that are going to be sacrificed. She envelops herself in her mantle to conceal her tears.
« Come with Me, mother. We will talk in Johanna's house. This is not the right place.»
The women disciples take Judas' mother into the middle of their group, while her relative Ananias mixes with the disciples. Dorcas and her mother-in-law also go with the women disciples, and Mary of Alphaeus and Salome are enraptured while fondling the child.
They go towards the exit. But before they arrive there, a Roman slave brings a waxed tablet to Johanna, who reads it and replies: « Say that it is all right. This afternoon in my house.»
Then it is the joyful cry of Jaia and his mother when they see the Saviour: « Here He is, here is the Giver of light! May You be blessed, Light of God!» and they prostrate themselves, beaming with happiness. People gather, wonder, understand, praise.
Then there is old Matthias, the man who gave Jesus and His disciples hospitality in the stormy night near Jabesh-Gilead, and he venerates and blesses the Master.
And there is Marjiam's grandfather and the other peasants, to whom Jesus says, after speaking to Johanna: « Come with Me» as He already said to Dorcas, Jaia and Matthias.
But near the Golden Gate they meet Mark of Josiah, the faithless disciple, who is speaking animatedly to Judas Iscariot. Judas sees the Master coming and he tells his companion, who turns round when Jesus is already behind him. Their eyes meet. What a glance Jesus casts at him! But he is now deaf to all holy power. In order to run away at once, he almost pushes Jesus against a column. And Jesus reacts only by saying: « Mark, stop. Have mercy on your soul and on your mother!»
« Satan!» shouts the other. And he goes away.
« How horrible!» shout the disciples. « Curse him, Lord!» and the Iscariot is the first to say so.
« No. I would no longer be Jesus, if I did... Let us go.»
« But how has he become like that? He was so good!» says Isaac, who is so depressed by Mark's change, that he looks as if he were pierced by an arrow.
« It's a mystery. It cannot be explained!» say many of them.
And Judas of Kerioth says: « I made him speak. Everything he said was heresy, but he said things in such a way that he almost convinced you. He was not so wise when he was a just man.»
« You should say that he was not so foolish when he was possessed near Gamala!» says James of Zebedee.
And John asks: « Why, Lord, did he not injure You so much when, he was possessed? Could You not cure him so that he may not injure You?»
« Because he has now accepted an intelligent demon in himself. Formerly he was the abode of a legion of demons, who had occupied it through violence. But he did not consent to having them. Now his intelligence wanted Satan and Satan has placed an intelligent demoniacal strength in him. And I can do nothing against this latter possession. I would have to do violence to the free will of man.»
« Does it grieve You, Master?!»
« Yes, it does. It is My anguish... My defeat... And it distresses Me, because such souls are lost. Only because of that. Not because of the harm they do Me.»
They are now all standing in one group, waiting for the road to be cleared of a jam of people and mounts. And Judas' mother looks at her son so intently that the latter asks her: « Well? What is the matter with you? Is it the first time you see my face? You are really ill and I must have you treated...»
« I am not ill, son! And it is not the first time that I see you!»
« So... nothing. I only wish you did not deserve such words of the Master.»
« I am not forsaking Him and I am not accusing Him. I am His apostle!»
They resume walking until Jesus stops to greet Johanna and the women disciples who are going to Johanna's house with her. All the men, instead, go to Gethsemane.
« We could have all gone there. I would have liked to hear what Eliza says.»
« You will see her. Because only today she will be told, and by Me, that I am entrusting Anastasica to her.»
« And is there a banquet this evening?»
« Yes, I told Johanna what to do.»
« What has she to do? When did You tell her?»
« You will see. I told her before she left us, while I was saying goodbye to her. Let us go quickly in order to be in Johanna's garden in good time.»