‘That bed is mine! I sold You the servant, not the bed.’ Jesus throws the purse at his feet without saying a word.
Doras picks up the purse and empties it. ’Forty coins and five didrachmas. It’s too little!‘
Jesus looks the greedy revolting torturer up and down but gives no reply.
‘At least tell me that You are withdrawing the anathema!‘
But with a glare and a few words, Jesus crushes him once again; ‘I entrust you to the God of Sinai’ and walks past, upright, beside the rustic litter, that Peter and Andrew are carrying most cautiously.
When Doras sees that it is all to no good, that the punishment is certain, he shouts: ‘We will meet again, Jesus! I will have You in my clutches again! I will fight You to death. You can take that worn out man. I no longer need him. I will save his burial money. Go, go away, cursed Satan! I will set the whole Sanhedrin on You. Satan! Satan!‘
Jesus feigns that He does not hear but the disciples are dismayed. Attending only to Jonah, Jesus looks for the smoothest and the most sheltered paths until they reach a crossroad near Jonathan’s field.
The four peasants run to say goodbye to their friend who is leaving and to Jesus Who is blessing.
But the road from Esdraelon to Nazareth is long and their speed slow because of their pitiful load. Along the main road, there is neither wagon nor cart and they proceed in silence, with Jonah seemingly asleep but also holding on to the hand of Jesus.
As evening falls, it starts to and a covered Roman military wagon with two or three soldiers, catches up with them.
‘In the name of God, stop’ says Jesus lifting His arm.
The soldiers stop and a pompous looking non-commissioned officer peeps out from underneath the cover.
‘What do You want?’ he asks Jesus.
‘I have a dying friend. I ask you to take him into the wagon.
‘We are not allowed… but… get on. We are not dogs either.‘
They lift the litter into the wagon.
‘Your friend? Who are You?‘
‘Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth.‘
‘You? Oh!…’The non-commissioned officer looks at Him curiously.
‘If it is You, then… get on as many as you can. But don’t let anyone see you… It is an order… but above orders there is also humanity, isn’t there? You are good, I know. Eh! We soldiers know everything… How do I know? Even stones speak well or evil and we have ears to listen to them in order to serve Caesar. You are not a false Christ like the others before You, who were agitators and rebels. You are good. Rome knows. This man… is very ill.‘
‘That is why I am taking him to My Mother.‘
‘Hum! She won’t cure him for long! Give him some wine. It’s in that canteen. Aquila, whip the horses. Quintus, give me the ration of honey and butter. It’s mine. It will do him good; he has a cough and honey will help.‘
‘You are good.‘
‘No. Not quite so bad as many. And I am happy to have You here with me. Remember Publius Quintilianus of the Italica legion. I stay at Caesarea. But I am now going to Ptolomais. Inspection order.‘
‘You are not My enemy.‘
‘I? I am an enemy of bad people. Never of good people. And I would like to be good, too. Tell me: What doctrine do You preach for us, military people?‘
‘The doctrine is one only for everybody. Justice, honesty, continence, compassion. One must do one’s duty without any abuses. Also in the hard necessities of the army, one must be human. And one must endeavour to know the Truth, that is; God, one and eternal, without which knowledge every action is deprived of grace and consequently of eternal reward.‘
‘But when I am dead, what will I do with the good I have done?‘
‘Who comes to the true God will find that good in the next life.‘
‘Am I going to be born again? Will I become a tribune or even an emperor? ‘
‘No. You will become like God, being united to His eternal beatitude in Heaven.’
‘What? Me in Olympus? Amongst the gods? ‘
‘There are no gods. There is the true God. The One I preach. The One Who hears you and notes your goodness and your desire to know the Good.‘
‘I like that! I did not know that God could be concerned with a poor heathen soldier.‘
‘He created you, Publius. He therefore loves you and would like to have you with Himself.’
‘Eh!… why not? But… no one ever speaks to us of God.‘
‘I will come to Caesarea and you will hear Me.‘
‘Oh! Yes. I will come to hear You. There is Nazareth. I would like to serve You further. But if they see me… ‘
‘I will get off and I bless you for your kindness.‘
‘Hail, Master.‘
‘May the Lord show Himself to you, soldiers. Goodbye.’
They get off and resume walking.
‘In a short while you will be able to rest, Jonah’ says Jesus encouragingly.
Jonah smiles. As night falls, he grows calmer and calmer now that he is sure that he is far from Doras. John and his brother run ahead to inform Mary. When the little procession arrives in Nazareth, now almost deserted in the late evening, Mary is already at the door awaiting Her Son.
‘Mother, here is Jonah. He is taking shelter under Your kindness to begin enjoying his Paradise. Are you happy, Jonah? ‘
‘Happy! Happy!’ whispers the exhausted man as one who is in ecstasy. They take him into the little room where Joseph died.
‘You are in My father’s bed. And here is My Mother and I am here. See? Nazareth becomes Bethlehem and you are now the little Jesus between two people who love you. And these are the ones who venerate you as the faithful servant. You cannot see the angels but they are waving their bright wings above you and singing the words of the Christmas psalm…‘
Jesus pours all His kindness on poor Jonah who is deteriorating from one second to the next. He seems to have resisted so far in order to die here… but he is happy. He smiles and tries to kiss Jesus’ hand and Mary’s, and to say… but his anguish interrupts his words. Mary comforts him like a mother. And he repeats:
‘Yes… yes’ with a blissful smile on his emaciated face.
The disciples, standing at the kitchen garden entranced, are silent and watch, deeply moved.
‘God has listened to your long desire. The Star of your long night is now becoming the Star of your eternal Morning. You know its name’ says Jesus.
‘Jesus, Yours! Oh! Jesus! The angels… Who will sing the angelical hymn for me? My soul can hear it… but also my ears wish to hear it… Who?… to make me sleep happy… I am so sleepy! So much work I have done! So many tears… So many insults… Doras… I forgive him… but I do not want to hear his voice and I hear it. It is like the voice of Satan near me, who am dying. Who will cover that voice for me with the words that came from Heaven?‘
It is Mary Who on the same tune as Her lullaby sings softly: ‘Glory to God in the Highest Heaven and peace to men down here.’ And She repeats it two or three times because She sees that Jonah calms down on hearing it.
‘Doras does not speak any more’ Jonah says after some time. ’Only the angels… It was a Child… in a manger… between an ox and a donkey… and it was the Messiah… And I adored Him… and with Him there was Joseph and Mary…’His voice fades away in a short gurgle and then there is silence.
‘Peace in Heaven to the man of good will! He is dead. We shall bury him in our poor sepulchre. He deserves to await the resurrection of the dead near My just father’ says Jesus just as Mary of Alphaeus comes in.