Sun 15 December 2019
Matthew 11: 2-11

Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.

Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

From The Gospel as Revealed to Me by Maria Valtorta (Chapter 266.3-10):

[…] «Three times holy Master, may I greet You?» asks one of the three men who have just arrived and have stopped respectfully behind Jesus, waiting for Him to dismiss the woman, and have thus heard Jesus’ promise. The man who has greeted Jesus is Manaen.

Jesus turns around and smiling says: «Peace to you, Manaen! So you remember Me?»

«Always, Master. And I had planned to come to see You in Lazarus’ house or at the Garden of Gethsemane and stay with You. But the Baptist was captured before Passover. He was recaptured by treachery and I was afraid that Herodias might order the holy man to be killed during the absence of Herod, who had come to Jerusalem for Passover. She refused to go to Zion for the Festivity saying that she was not well. It is true, she was ill… of hatred and lust… I was at Machaerus to control the situation and check the wicked woman who is capable of killing with her own hand… And she does not do so because she is afraid of losing Herod’s favour who… either because he is afraid or he is convinced, defends John, confining his action to keeping him in prison. Herodias has now escaped from the oppressing heat at Machaerus and she has gone to a castle of her own property. So I came with these friends of mine and disciples of John. He sent them that they may ask You some questions. And I joined them.»

When the crowd heard the man speak of Herod and they understand who is speaking, they press curiously around the little group of Jesus and the three men.

«What did you want to ask Me?» asks Jesus after exchanging greetings with the two austere individuals.

«You had better speak, Manaen, since you know everything and you are more friendly» says one of the two.

«Well, Master. You must be indulgent if out of excess of love these disciples look suspiciously at Him Whom they believe to be the antagonist or the supplanter of their master. Your disciples do so as well as John’s. It is an understandable jealousy that proves all the love of the disciples for their masters… I am… impartial, and these who are with me can confirm it, because I know You and John and I love you both with justice, so much so that, although I love You for what You are, I preferred to sacrifice myself and stay with John, because I respect him as well for what he is, and at the present moment, because he is in greater danger than You are. Now, because of their love, the Pharisees are adding fuel to the fire with their hatred, they have come to doubt that You are the Messiah. And they told John thinking that they would fill him with joy by saying: “As far as we are concerned you are the Messiah. There cannot be anyone holier than you are”. But John reproached them calling them first of all blasphemers, and then, after rebuking them, he more kindly explained the various facts that prove that You are the true Messiah. Finally, when he realised that they were still not convinced, he took two of them, these ones here, and said: “Go to Him and say to Him in my name: ‘Are You the One Who is to come, or shall we wait for another one?’ “. He did not send the shepherd disciples, because they believe and it would have been of no avail to send them. But he chose amongst those who are doubtful to let them approach You, so that their word may dispel the doubts of their companions. I brought them here so that I could see You as well. That is all. I beg You to dispel their doubt.»

«But do not think that we are hostile to You, Master! Manaen’s words might make You think so. We… We have known the Baptist for years and we have always seen him to be holy, penitent, inspired. You… we know You only through the words of other people. And You know what the words of man are worth… They build up and destroy fame and praises in the contrast between those who exalt and those who demolish, as a cloud is formed and dissolved by contrasting winds.»

«I know. I read in your souls and your eyes can read the truth in what surrounds you, just as your ears heard My conversation with the widow. That should be enough to convince you. But I say to you: look at those who are around Me. There are no rich, or jolly or scandalous people here; but only poor, sick, honest Israelites who are anxious to know the Word of God. Nothing else. This man, that one, this woman, and that little girl, that old man, were ill when they came here, and now they are sound and healthy. Ask them and they will tell you what was wrong with them, how I cured them and how they are feeling now. Do so. And in the meantime I will speak to Manaen» and Jesus is about to withdraw.

«No, Master. We do not doubt Your words. Just give us a reply to take back to John, that he may know that we came here, and on the strength of it he may convince our companions.»

«Go and report this to John: “The deaf hear; this girl was deaf and dumb. The dumb speak; and that man was dumb since his birth. The blind see”. Man, come here. Tell these men what was wrong with you» says Jesus taking a miraculously cured man by the arm.

The man says: «I am a mason and a pail full of quicklime fell on my face. It burnt my eyes. I was in the dark four years. The Messiah wetted my dry eyes with His saliva and they have become fresher than when I was twenty years old. May He be blessed for it.»

Jesus resumes: «And with the blind, the deaf, the dumb who have been cured, the lame walk straight, the crippled run. Over there is that old man, a short while ago he was contracted, now he is as straight as a palm tree in the desert, and as agile as a gazelle. The most serious diseases are cured. Woman, what was the matter with you?»

«I had trouble with my breast for giving too much milk to voracious mouths. And my illness ate not only into my breast but also into my life. Look now» and opening her dress she shows her wholesome breasts and adds: «They were one big sore, as you can see from my tunic which is still soaked with pus. I am now going home to put on a clean dress and I feel strong and am happy. Whilst only yesterday I was dying and I was brought here by compassionate friends, and I was so unhappy… because of my children who were about to be left motherless. Eternal praise to the Saviour!»

«Do you hear? And you can ask the head of the synagogue of this town with regard to the resurrection of his daughter, and on your way back to Jericho, go to Naim, and ask for the young man who rose again in the presence of the whole town when they were going to put him into his grave. You will thus be able to report that dead people rise again from the dead. You will be able to find out in many places in Israel that a large number of lepers have been cured, but if you wish to go to Sicaminon you will find many among the disciples, if you look for them. Tell John, therefore, that lepers are cleansed. And tell him, as you can see, that the Gospel is announced to the poor. And blessed are those who will not be scandalised in Me. Tell John that. And tell him that I bless him with all My love.»

«Thank You, Master. Bless us as well, before our departure.»

«You cannot leave in this warm hour. Stay here, therefore, as My guests, until evening. You will live for one day the life of this Master Who is not John, but loves John because He knows who he is. Come into the house. It is cool and it will restore you. Goodbye, My listeners. Peace be with you» and after dismissing the crowd He enters the house with the three guests…

… What they have said to one another during those sweltering hours I do not know. What I now see is the preparation for the departure to Jericho of the two disciples. Manaen is apparently staying, because they have not brought his horse with the two strong donkeys to the opening in the wall of the yard. The two messengers of John, after bowing several times to the Master and Manaen, mount their donkeys and look back saluting until they disappear round a corner.

Many people of Capernaum have gathered together to see the departure, because the news of the visit of John’s disciples and of Jesus’ reply to them had spread through the village and I think it reached nearby towns as well. I see people from Bethsaida and Korazim, who introduced themselves to John’s messengers, asking after him and to be remembered to him – they are perhaps ex-disciples of the Baptist – who are now chatting together with the people of Capernaum, making their comments. Jesus is about to enter the house while speaking to Manaen who is beside Him. But people press around Him, anxious to see Herod’s foster-brother and his respectful manners to Jesus, and to speak to Jesus at the same time.

There is also Jairus, the head of the synagogue. But, thanks be to God, there are no Pharisees. And it is Jairus who remarks: «John will be glad! You have sent him not only an exhaustive answer, but, by keeping them here, You have also been able to teach them and show them a miracle.»

«And it was not a little one, either!» exclaims a man.

«I deliberately brought my little daughter here today, that they might see her. She has never been so well and it is a great joy for her to come to the Master. And did you hear her reply? “I do not remember what death is. But I remember that an angel called me and he took me through a brighter and brighter light at the end of which there was Jesus. And I do not see him now as I saw Him then with my soul that was coming back to me. You and I now see the Man. But my soul saw the God Who is closed in the Man”. And how good she has become since then! She was good. But now she is a real angel. Ah! they can say what they like, but as far as I am concerned, no one is holy but You!»

«But John is holy, too» says a man of Bethsaida.

«Yes. But he is too severe.»

«Not more with others than he is with himself.»

«But he does not work miracles and they say that he fasts to be like a magician.»

«And yet he is a saint» and the petty quarrel spreads among the crowd.

Jesus raises His hand stretching it out in His usual gesture asking for silence and attention when He wants to speak. The crowd become silent at once.

Jesus says: «John is holy and great. Do not consider his way of behaving or the lack of miracles. I solemnly tell you: “He is a great one in the Kingdom of God”. He will appear there in all his grandeur.

Many complain that he was and still is so severe as to appear rude. I tell you solemnly that he has worked like a giant to prepare the ways of the Lord. And he who works like that has no time for softness. Did he not repeat, when he was along the Jordan, the words of Isaiah, by which he and the Messiah are prophesied: “Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley” in order to prepare the ways to the Lord and King? He really did more than the whole of Israel to prepare My way! And he who has to lay mountains low and fill in valleys and straighten roads and make ridges become plains can but work rudely, because he was the Precursor and he preceded Me by only a few months and everything was to be done before the Sun was high on the day of Redemption. And this is the time, the Sun is rising to shine on Zion and thence on the whole world. John has prepared the way as he had to do.

What did you go to see in the wilderness? A reed swaying in every direction in the breeze? But what did you go to see? A man clad in fine soft clothes? But those live in the palaces of kings, wearing fine clothes and respected by many servants and courtiers, and they are courtiers themselves of a poor man. There is one here. Ask him whether he is not disgusted with the life at Court and whether he admires the solitary rugged rock that is struck in vain by thunderbolts and scourged by hailstones, and against which silly winds struggle endeavouring to demolish it, while it stands firm, thrusting its whole being towards the sky, with its top proclaiming the joy of altitude, straight as it is and sharp like a rising flame. That is John. That is how Manaen sees him, because he has understood the truth of life and death and he can see grandeur where it really is, even if it be hidden under a wild appearance.

And what did you see in John when you went to see him? A prophet? A saint? I will tell you: He is more than a prophet. He is more than many saints, because he is the one of whom it is written: “Look, I am going to send my angel to prepare Your way before You”. […]