Mark 8: 27-35
From The Gospel as Revealed to Me by Maria Valtorta, chapters 343.4-6; 346.5-9
[Jesus is with His disciples going towards Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asks His disciples]
« But the people you approach in a simple friendly way, more than I do, without making them feel uneasy, as I may do, who do they say that I am? And who do they say the Son of Man is? »
« Some say that You are Jesus, that is the Christ, and they are the best. Some say that You are a Prophet, some only a Rabbi, others, and You know, say that You are mad and possessed. »
« But some call You by the same name that You use and they say: “Son of man”. »
« And some say that that is not possible, because the Son of man is a different thing. But that is not always a denial. Because in actual fact they acknowledge that You are more than the Son of man: You are the Son of God. Others instead say that You are not even the Son of man, but a poor man agitated by Satan or deranged by madness. You can thus see that there are many different opinions » says Bartholomew.
« What is the Son of man, therefore, according to the people? »
« He is a man in whom there are all the most beautiful virtues of men, a man gifted with all the requisites of intelligence, wisdom, grace, which we think were in Adam, to which some add the gift of not having to die. You know that there is already a rumour that John the Baptist is not dead. They say that he was only carried elsewhere by angels and that Herod, and above all, Herodias, to prevent people from saying that they had been defeated by God, killed a servant, had him beheaded and then showed his mutilated body saying it was the corpse of the Baptist. People say so many things! So many think that the Son of man is either Jeremiah, or Elijah, or one of the Prophets, or the Baptist, who was gifted with grace and wisdom and said that he was the Precursor of the Christ. Christ: the Anointed of God. The Son of man: a great man, born of man. Some cannot admit, or do not want to admit, that God has sent His Son to the earth. You said so yesterday: “Only those will believe, who are convinced of the infinite goodness of God”. Israel believes more in God’s severity than in His goodness… » says Bartholomew again.
« Yes. They feel so undeserving that they consider it impossible that God has been so good as to send His Word to save them. The degraded state of their souls is a hindrance to their believing that » confirms the Zealot. And he adds: « You say that You are the Son of God and of man. In fact in You there is all grace and wisdom as man. And I really think that he who was born of Adam in the state of grace, would have been like You in beauty and intelligence and all virtues. The power of God shines in You. But who can believe that, among those who consider themselves gods and judge God by their standards in their infinite pride? Cruel, hateful, greedy, impure as they are, they cannot possibly think that God has gone to such an extreme of kindness as to give Himself to redeem them, His love to save them, His generosity to be at their mercy, His purity to sacrifice His life among men. Since they are so inflexible and captious in looking for faults and punishing them, they cannot believe that. »
« And who do you say that I am? Tell Me your own personal opinion, without taking into account My words or the words of other people. If you were compelled to judge Me, who would you say that I am? »
« You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God » exclaims Peter, kneeling down with his arms stretched upwards, towards Jesus, Who looks at him with His face bright with love and Who bends to raise and embrace him, saying:
« Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not the flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but My Father in Heaven. Since the first day you came with Me, you have been asking yourself that question, and because you are simple and honest, you have been able to understand and accept the reply that came to you from Heaven. You did not see supernatural manifestations as your brother, John and James did. You did not know My holiness as son, workman, citizen, as My brothers Judas and James did. You did not receive any miracle neither did you see Me work any; I showed no sign of power to you as I did with Philip, Nathanael, Simon Cananean, Thomas and Judas, who saw them. You were not subdued by My will, as Levi the publican was. And yet you exclaimed: “He is the Christ!”. You believed since the first moment you saw Me, and your faith was never shaken. That is why I called you Cephas. And that is why on you, Peter, I will build My Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven. And whatever you loose on the earth shall be loosed also in Heaven, o prudent faithful man, whose heart I have been able to test. And now, from this moment you are the head, to whom obedience and respect are due as to another Myself. And I proclaim him such before all of you. »
If Jesus had crushed Peter under a hailstorm of reproaches, Peter would not have wept so copiously. He is weeping and is shaken by sobs, with his face on Jesus’ chest. His weeping can be compared only to the tears he will shed in his grief for denying Jesus. He now weeps for many good humble feelings… A little of the old Simon – the fisherman of Bethsaida who had laughed incredulously and facetiously at his brother’s first announcement saying: « Of course, the Messiah would appear just to you!… » – a good little of the old Simon crumbles under those tears, and from his vanishing frail human nature, Peter appears, more and more clearly, the Pontiff of the Church of Christ.
When he raises his shy embarrassed face, he can make only one gesture to say everything, to promise everything, to strengthen himself completely for his new ministry: he throws his arms round Jesus’ neck, compelling Him to bend and kiss him, mingling his somewhat bristly grizzled hair and beard with the soft golden hair and beard of Jesus. And he looks at Jesus with his large, loving, imploring and adoring eyes, still shining and red with tears, holding the Master’s ascetic face, bent over his own, in his rough large stumpy hands, as if it were a vase from which a vital liquid flowed… and he drinks kindness, grace, confidence and strength from Jesus’ face, eyes and smile…
[Jesus, with His Apostles, are traveling toward Lake Merom. During a break, He foretells His Passion for the first time]
[…] Jesus has been listening to them, looking at each while he was speaking, with His arms folded on His chest. He now makes a gesture that He wants to speak and He says: « The Son of man will be handed over into the power of men because He is the Son of God, but He is also the Redeemer of man. And there is no redemption without suffering. My body, flesh and blood will suffer, to make amends for the sins of the flesh and of the blood. I will suffer morally to make amends for the sins of intentions and passions. And I will suffer spiritually for the sins of souls. My suffering will be complete. Therefore at the appointed time I will be captured in Jerusalem and after suffering grievously at the hands of the Elders and High Pontiffs, of the scribes and Pharisees, I will be sentenced to disgraceful death. And God will let them do so, because it must be so, as I am the Lamb Who is to expiate the sins of the whole world. And in deepest anguish, which My Mother and few more people will share with Me, I will die on the scaffold, and three days later, exclusively through My own divine will, I will rise again to eternal glorious life as Man and once again I will be God in Heaven with the Father and the Spirit. But I must first suffer all infamy and My heart is to be pierced by Falsehood and Hatred. »
A chorus of scandalised shouts spreads through the warm scented springtime air.
Peter, who is also daunted and scandalised, takes Jesus by the arm and pulls Him aside and whispers in His ear: « Oh! Lord! Don’t say that. It’s not right. See? They are scandalised. You lose their esteem. On no account You must allow that; in any case such a thing will never happen. So why speak of it as something real? You must rise higher and higher in the eyes of men, if You want to assert Your authority, and eventually end by working a last miracle, such as crushing Your enemies. But You must never lower Yourself to the level of a punished criminal. » And Peter looks like a master or a sorrowful father kindly reproaching a son who has said something silly.
Jesus, Who was lightly bent to hear Peter’s whispering, straightens Himself up and with a severe countenance and eyes blazing with anger, He shouts so that everybody may hear Him and learn the lesson: « Go away from Me, as you are now Satan advising Me to disobey My Father! But that is why I came! Not to be honoured! By advising Me to be proud, disobedient and uncharitably severe, you are spurring Me to evil things. Go away! You are scandalising Me! Do you not understand that greatness does not lie in honours, but in sacrifice and that it is of no importance to be considered worms by men, if God considers us angels? You, foolish man, understand neither God’s greatness nor His reasons, and you see, judge, feel and speak according to what is purely human. »
Poor Peter is crushed by the severe reproach and feeling humiliated he moves aside and weeps… But his tears are not the tears of joy of a few days ago. He weeps his heart out because he realises that he has sinned and has grieved the person whom he loves. And Jesus lets him weep. He takes off His sandals, pulls His clothes up and wades the stream.
The others follow Him silently. No one dare say a word. Poor Peter is the last in the group and in vain Isaac and the Zealot endeavour to console him.
Andrew turns round several times to look at him and then whispers something to John, who is utterly depressed. But John shakes his head in denial. Andrew then makes up his mind. He runs forward and reaches Jesus. He calls Him in a low trembling voice: « Master! Master!… »
Jesus lets him call several times. At last He turns round and with a severe countenance He asks: « What do you want? »
« Master, my brother is distressed… he is weeping… »
« He deserved it. »
« That is true, Master. But he is a man… One can make mistakes when speaking. »
« In fact what he said today was quite wrong » replies Jesus. But He is not quite so severe now and the sparkle of a smile mitigates His divine eyes.
Andrew takes heart again and redoubles his efforts in favour of his brother. « But You are just and You know that he erred through his love for You… »
« Love must be light, not darkness. He turned it into darkness and bandaged his soul with it. »
« That is true, Lord. But bandages can be removed if one wants. It is not as if the spirit itself were in darkness. Bandages are the outside. The spirit is the inside, the living nucleus… The inside of my brother is good. »
« Well, let him remove the bandages that he put on it. »
« He will certainly do so, Lord! He is already doing it. If You turn round You will see how disfigured his face is by tears, which You are not comforting. Why are You so severe with him? »
« Because it is his duty to be the “first”, as I gave him the honour to be so. He who received much, must give much… »
« Oh! Lord! Yes, that is true. But do You not remember Mary of Lazarus? Or John of Endor? Or Aglae? Or the Beautiful woman of Korazim? Or Levi? You gave them everything and they had only shown You their intention of being redeemed Lord!… You heard my entreaties on behalf of the Beautiful woman of Korazim and of Aglae… Would You not listen to my entreaties on behalf of Your Simon and mine, who erred through his love for You? »
Jesus looks at His mild apostle who has become bold and insistent in favour of his brother, as he was silently insistent for the Beautiful woman of Korazim and Aglae, and His face shines brightly: « Go and call your brother » He says « and bring him here. »
« Oh! Thank You, my Lord! I will go at once… » and he runs away as swiftly as a swallow.
« Come, Simon. The Master is no longer angry with you. Come, because He wants to tell you. »
« No. I am ashamed… He rebuked me only a little while ago… He wants me to reproach me again… »
« How little you know Him! Come on! Do you think that I would take you to Him to make you suffer again? I would not insist if I were not sure that a great joy is expecting you there. Come. »
« But what shall I tell Him? » Peter asks, setting out somewhat reluctantly: he is restrained by his human nature, but at the same time he is urged by his soul that cannot bear to be without Jesus’ condescension and love. « What shall I say to Him? » he continues to ask.
« Nothing! Show Him your face and that will be sufficient » his brother says encouraging him.
All the disciples, as the two brothers overtake them, look at them smiling, as they understand what is happening.
They arrive where is Jesus. But at the last moment Peter stops. Andrew wastes no time. With a strong push, as he is wont to do when driving his boat into the lake, he hurls him forward. Jesus stops Peter raises his face… Jesus lowers His… They look at each other Two large tears stream down Peter’s flushed cheeks…
« Come here, My big rash boy, that I may act as a father and wipe your tears » says Jesus, and He raises the hand on which the scar made by the stone at Giscala is still visible and with His fingers He wipes the two tears.
« Oh! Lord! Have You forgiven me? » asks Peter in a trembling voice, taking Jesus’ hand in his own and looking at Him with loving imploring eyes, as a faithful dog that wants to be forgiven by its angry master.
« I never condemned you… »
« But before… »
« I loved you. It is love not to allow deviations of sentiments and wisdom to strike root in you. You must be the first in everything, Simon Peter. »
« So… so, You still love me? You still want me with You? Not because I want to be the first, You know. I am happy to be even the last one, providing I am with You, at Your service… and I die at Your service, Lord, my God! »
Jesus puts His hand round Peter’s shoulders and draws him close to Himself.
And Peter, who has been holding the other hand of Jesus all the time, smothers it with kisses… He is happy and whispers: « How much I suffered!… Thank You, Jesus. »
« You had better thank your brother. And in future make sure you carry your burden with justice and heroism. Let us wait for the others. Where are they? »
They are standing where they were when Peter reached Jesus, to leave the Master free to speak to His mortified apostle. Jesus beckons them to come forward. With them there is a little group of peasants, who had left the work in the fields to come and speak to the disciples.
Jesus, still resting His hand on Peter’s shoulder, says:
« After what has happened, you have understood that it is a grave matter to be at My service. I reproached him. But My reproach applies to all of you. Because the same thoughts were in most of your hearts, either fully developed or in germ. I have thus demolished them for you, and he who still cherishes them proves that he does not understand My Doctrine, My Mission or My Person.
I have come to be Way, Truth and Life. I give you the Truth through My teaching. I mark out the road, I point it out and level it for you through My sacrifice. But I give Life to you through My Death. And remember that whoever answers My call and follows Me to cooperate in the redemption of the world must be prepared to die to give Life to other people. Thus, whoever wants to follow Me must be prepared to deny himself, his old self with its passions, inclinations, customs, traditions and thoughts, and follow Me with his new self.
Let every man take his cross, as I will take Mine. He must take it even if it looks too defamatory to him. He must let the weight of his cross crush his human self to free his spiritual self, which the cross does not fill with horror, on the contrary it is a support and an object of veneration because the spirit knows and remembers. And let him follow Me with his cross. And at the end of his life will an ignominious death be waiting for him, as it is waiting for Me? It does not matter. He must not grieve over that, on the contrary let him rejoice, because the ignominy of the earth will change into a great glory in Heaven, whereas it will be dishonourable to behave in a cowardly way in front of spiritual heroism.
You always state that you are prepared to follow Me and face death with Me. Follow Me, then, and I will lead you to the Kingdom along a hard but holy glorious road, at the end of which you will attain the immutable Life for ever. That is “to live”. To follow, instead, the ways of the world and of the flesh is “to die”. So he who wants to save his life on the earth will lose it, whereas he who loses his life on the earth for My sake and for the sake of My Gospel, will save it. But remember: of what avail will it be to man to conquer the whole world, if he loses his soul?
And be very careful, both now and in future, not to be ashamed of My words and My deeds. To do so, would be “to die” as well. Because he who is ashamed of Me and of My words among this stupid, adulterous, sinful generation, of which I spoke to you, and in the hope of gaining protection and profit flatters it denying Me and My Doctrine and throwing My words to the foul mouths of pigs and dogs – the recompense of which will be excrement and not money – will be judged by the Son of Man, when He comes in the glory of His Father with angels and saints to judge the world. He will then be ashamed of those adulterers and fornicators, of those cowards and usurers and will expel them from His Kingdom, because in the celestial Jerusalem there is no room for adulterers, cowards, fornicators, blasphemers and thieves. And I solemnly tell you that some of those who are now present among My disciples and women disciples will not savour death before seeing the Kingdom of God being established and its King crowned and anointed. »