‘Is pain not always evil? ‘
‘No, My friend. It is evil from a human point of view, but from a supernatural one it is good. It increases the merits of just people, who accept it without despairing or rebelling and they offer it, as they offer themselves with resignation, as a sacrifice to expiate their own imperfections and the faults of the world, and it is a redemption for those who are not good. ‘
‘It is so difficult to suffer! ‘ says the farmer, who has been joined by his relatives, about ten people in all, adults and children.
‘I know that man finds it difficult. And knowing that he would find it so difficult, the Father had not given His children any sorrow. It came with sin. But how long does sorrow last on the earth? in the life of a man? A short time. It is always short, even if it lasts a whole lifetime. Now I say: is it not better to suffer for a short time rather than forever? Is it not better to suffer here than in Purgatory? Consider that time there is multiplied a thousand times to one. Oh! I solemnly tell you: you ought not to curse pain, but bless it, and you should call it “grace” and “mercy”. ‘
‘Oh! Your words, Master! They are as pleasant to us as honeyed water from a cool amphora to a man parched with summer thirst. Are You really going away tomorrow, Master? ‘
‘Yes, I am going tomorrow. But I will come back again. To thank you for what you have done for Me and My friends, and to ask you for some more bread and a rest.‘
‘You will always find them here, Master. ‘
A man with a donkey laden with vegetables comes near.
‘Here I am, If your friend wishes to go… My son is going to Jerusalem for the big Parasceve market. ‘
‘Go, John. You know what you have to do. In four days’ time we will meet again. My peace be with you. ‘Jesus embraces and kisses John and Simon does the same.
‘Master ‘says Judas. ‘If You will allow me, I would like to go with John. I am anxious to see a friend of mine. He goes to Jerusalem every Sabbath. I would go with John as far as Bethphage and then proceed on my own… He is a friend of our family… You know… my mother told me… ‘
‘I have not asked you any question, My friend. ‘
‘It breaks my heart having to leave You. But in four days’ time I will be with You again. And I will be so faithful that I will even bore You. ‘
‘You may go. In four days’ time, at dawn, be at the Fish Gate. Goodbye and may God watch over you.‘
Judas kisses the Master and then goes near to the little donkey that has started to trot along the dusty road.
Evening falls and the country becomes silent. Jesus has not moved from where He was sitting when John and Judas departed. Simon watches the peasants irrigating their fields. Then Jesus gets up, goes round to the back of the house, and walks along the orchard. He wants to be alone. He goes as far as a thicket of huge pomegranate trees and low bushes that look like gooseberry bushes but have no berries on them. Jesus hides behind the thicket. He kneels down. He prays… and then He bows down with His face on the grass and He weeps. A disheartened crying; with deep interrupted sighs without sobs, but so sad.
Some time passes thus until twilight but not so dark as to prevent seeing. And in the faint light Simon’s disfigured but honest face suddenly appears above a bush. He looks round as one searching for something and sees the crouched figure of the Master, completely covered by His dark blue mantle that blends in with the dark ground confusing him. Only His fair hair and His hands joined in prayer, and protruding above His head which is resting on His wrists, catches Simon’s eye. Simon looks at Him with his large kind eyes and understands that Jesus is sad because of His sighing.
‘Master, ‘ calls Simon, with his thick almost purple lips.
Jesus looks up.
‘You are crying, Master? Why? May I come near You?‘ Simon’s expression is one of astonishment and sorrow. He is definitely not a handsome man and to add to his disfigured features and his dark olive complexion, he also bears the deep bluish scars from his disease. But his glance is so gentle that his ugliness disappears.
‘Come, Simon, My friend.‘
Jesus sits on the grass and Simon sits down beside Him.
‘Why are You sad, Master? I am not John and I am not capable of giving You what John gives you. But I would like to give You every possible comfort, and I am only sorry that I am not able to do so. Tell me. Have I displeased You these last few days to the extent that it depresses You to stay with me? ‘
‘No. My good friend. You have never displeased Me since the first moment I saw you. And I think you will never cause Me to shed tears. ‘
‘Well, then, Master? I am not worthy of Your confidence. But, on account of my age, I could be Your father and You know how anxious I have always been to have children… Allow me to caress You as if You were my son and let me be a father and mother to You in this hour of pain. It is Your Mother that You are in need of to forget so many things… ‘
‘Oh! Yes! It is My Mother! ‘
‘Well, while waiting to have comfort in Her, grant Your servant the joy of consoling You. You are crying, Master, because someone has displeased You. For several days Your face has been like the sun darkened by clouds. I have been watching You. Your goodness hides the wound, that we may not hate him who wounds You. But the wound is a painful and abhorrent one. But tell me, my Lord: why do You not remove the source of Your pain? ‘
‘Because it would be useless from a human point of view and it would not be charitable.‘
‘Ah! You are aware that I am speaking of Judas! It is because of him that You are suffering. How can You, the Truth, tolerate that liar? He lies shamelessly. He is more deceitful than a fox and more closed than a rock. He has now gone away. What for? How many friends has he got? I am sorry to leave You. But I would like to follow him and see… Oh! My Jesus! That man… send him away, my Lord.‘
‘It is useless. What is to be, will be. ‘
‘What do You mean? ‘
‘Nothing special. ‘
‘You allowed him to go with pleasure, because You were disgusted with his behaviour at Jericho. ‘
‘It is true, Simon. I tell you once again: what is to be, will be. And Judas is part of this future. He is to be there, too. ‘
‘But John told me that Simon Peter is very frank and full of ardour… Will he suffer Judas? ‘
‘He must stand him. Also Peter is destined for a part, and Judas is the canvas on which he must weave his part, or, if you prefer, Judas is the school where Peter will learn more than with anyone else. Also idiots are capable of being good with John and understanding souls like John’s. But it is difficult to be good with people like Judas, and to understand souls like Judas’ and to be a doctor and a priest for them. Judas is your living teaching. ‘
‘Yes. Yours. The Master will not be on the earth forever. He will leave after eating the hardest bread and drinking the sourest wine. But you will stay to continue Me… and you must know. Because the world does not end with the Master. It will last longer, until the final return of Christ and the final judgement of man. And I solemnly tell you that for every John, Peter, Simon, James, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, there are at least seven Judases. And many, many more!… ‘
Simon is thoughtful and silent. Then he says: ‘The shepherds are good. Judas scorns them. But I love them.‘
‘I love them and praise them.‘
‘They are simple souls, such as You like.‘
‘Judas has lived in town.‘
‘His only excuse. But there are many people who have lived in towns, and yet… When will You come to my friend? ‘
‘Tomorrow, Simon. And I will come with pleasure, because we are by our- selves, just you and I. I believe he is a learned and experienced man, like you.‘
‘And he suffers a lot… In his body and even more in his heart. Master… I would like to ask You a favour: if he does not speak to You of his grief, please do not ask him any question about his family.‘
‘I will not. I am on the side of those who suffer, but I do not force anybody’s confidence. Tears deserve respect.‘
‘And I did not respect them… But I felt so sorry for You… ‘
‘You are My friend and you have already given a name to My sorrow. I am an unknown Rabbi for your friend. When he knows Me… then… Let us go. It is dark. Do not let us keep our tired guests waiting. Tomorrow at dawn we will go to Bethany. ‘