Wednesday, September 30, 2015



Jesus is the poor man, infinitely and rigorously poor. Poor with an absolute poverty! The prince of poverty! The Lord of Perfect Destitution! The poor man who lives with the poor, who has come for the poor, who speaks to the poor, who gives to the poor, who works for the poor! Poor among the poor, destitute among the destitute, beggar among the beggars! The poor man of a great and eternal poverty! The happy and rich poor man, who accepts poverty, who desires poverty, who weds himself to poverty, who sings of poverty! The beggar who gives gifts! The naked man who covers the naked! The hungry man who feeds others, the miraculous and supernat­ural, who changes the men owning false riches into poor men, and poor men into those with real wealth.

There are poor men who are poor because they were never capable of acquiring wealth. There are other poor men who are poor because they give away every evening what they earned that day; and the more they give the more they have (as Jesus taught). Their wealth, the wealth of this second class of poor men, grows greater in proportion as it is given away. It is a pile which becomes greater as more is taken away from it.  Jesus gave the perfect example by leaving the riches of heaven and becoming poor to reveal the pathway to real wealth.

Jesus was one of these poor men. Compared to one of them, men materially rich, rich as the world esteems wealth, rich with their chests of talents, mina, rupees, florins, shekels, crowns, francs, marks, and dollars, are only lamentable beg­gars. The money-changers of the forum, the great feasters of Jerusalem, the bankers of Florence and Frankfort, the lords of London, the multi-millionaires of New York, compared to these poor men are only unfortunate beggars, corrupted and needy; unpaid servants of a fierce master (Satan); condemned every day to assassinate their own souls. The wretchedness of such poverty is so terrible that they are reduced to pick up the stones that are found in the mud of the earth, and grope about in filth. Theirs is a poverty so repugnant that not even the poor succeed in bestowing on them the charity of a smile.

Read this carefully. Richness is a curse like work, but a harder and more shame­ful curse. He who is marked with the sign of wealth has com­mitted, perhaps unconsciously, an infamous crime, one of those mysterious and unimaginable crimes which are nameless in human language. The rich man is either under the burden of the vengeance of God, or God wishes to put him to the test to see if he can succeed in climbing up to divine poverty. For the rich man has committed the greatest sin, the most abomi­nable and unpardonable. The rich man is the man who has fallen because of an exchange: he could have had Heaven and he chose Earth. He could have lived in Paradise and he has chosen Hell. He could have kept his soul and he has exchanged it for material things. He could have loved and he has pre­ferred to be hated. He could have had happiness and he has desired power. No one can save him. Wealth in his hands is a coin and weight which buries him alive under its icy mass; it is the tumor which consumes him still alive in his corruption; it is the fire which burns him and reduces him to a terrible, black mummy, a blind paralytic, black mummy, a ghostly carrion which everlastingly holds out its empty hand in the cemeteries of the centuries, begging in vain for the alms of charitable remembrance.

For him there is only one salvation: to become a poor man, a true and humble poor man; to throw away the horrible desti­tution of wealth in order to enter again into poverty. (Matt. 19:21) But this resolution is the hardest that the rich man can take. The rich man by the very fact that he is sickened by wealth cannot even imagine that the entire renunciation of wealth would be the beginning of redemption, and because he cannot imagine such an abandonment, he cannot even deliberate on it, cannot weigh the alternatives. He is a prisoner in the impregnable prison of himself. To liberate himself he must first be free.

The rich man does not belong to himself, but belongs to in­animate things. He has not the time to think, to choose. Wealth is a pitiless master who allows no other masters near him. The rich man cannot think of his soul, bowed as he is under the care of his riches, under his thirst to increase his riches, under the fear of losing his riches, under the material joys which are offered to him by those pieces of matter which are called wealth. He cannot even imagine that his sick, suffo­cating, mutilated, worm-eaten soul needs to be cured. He has taken up his abode in that part of the world which, according to contracts and laws, he has the right to call his, and often he has not even the time, the wish, or the power to enjoy it. He must serve it and take care of it,—he cannot serve or take care of his own soul. All his power of love is absorbed by these material things, which order him about, which have taken the place of his soul, which have robbed him of all his liberty. The horrible fate of the rich man lies in this double absurdity: in order to have the power to command men he has become the slave of dead things; in order to acquire a part (and such a very small part!) he has lost the whole. (Luke 18:22; Matt. 16:26)

Nothing is ours as long as it is ours alone. Outside of him­self man can possess, actually own, nothing. The absolute se­cret of owning other things is to renounce them. Everything is given to him who has refused everything. But he who wishes to grasp for himself, for himself alone, a part of the goods of this world, loses both what he has acquired and everything else. And at the same moment he is incapable of knowing himself, or possessing himself, making himself greater. He has nothing more, not even the things which in appearance belong to him, but to which in reality he belongs; and he has never had his own soul, the one piece of property which is worth possessing. He is the most destitute and despoiled beggar of all the universe. He has nothing. How then can he love others, give to others himself and that which belongs to himself, exercise that loving charity which would conduct him so soon to the Kingdom? He is nothing and he has nothing. He who does not exist cannot change. He who does not possess cannot give. How then can the rich man, who is no longer his own, who has no longer a soul, transform a soul, the only possession of mankind, into something nobler and more precious?

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26; Mark 8:36) This question of Christ's, sim­ple like all revelations, expresses the exact meaning of the pro­phetic threat. The rich man not only loses eternity, but, pulled down by his wealth, loses his life here below, his present soul, the happiness of his present earthly life.

"Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13) The Spirit and gold (mammon) are two masters who will not tolerate any division or sharing. They are jealous; they insist on having the whole man. And even if he wishes, the man cannot divide himself in two. He must be all here, or all beyond worldly things. For the faith­ful servant of the spirit, gold is nothing; for him who serves gold, "spirit" is a word without meaning. He who chooses the spirit throws away gold and all the things bought by gold; he who desires gold puts an end to the spirit and renounces all the benefits of the spirit: peace, holiness, love, perfect joy. The first is a poor man who can never use up his infinite wealth; the other is a rich man who can never escape out of his infinite poverty. By the mysterious law of renunciation the poor man possesses even that which is not his—the entire uni­verse; through the hard law of perpetual desire, the rich man does not even possess that little which he believes to be his. God gives immensely more than the immensity which He has promised. Mammon takes away even that very little which he promises. He who renounces everything has everything given him; he who wishes a part for himself alone, finds him­self at the end with nothing. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19:23)

When the horrible mystery of wealth is deeply probed, it is easy to see why the masters of men have considered wealth the kingdom of the Demon himself. A thing which costs less than everything else is bought by everything else. A thing which is nothing, the actual value of which is nothing, is bought by giving up everything, is secured by exchanging for it the whole of the soul, the whole of life. The most precious thing is ex­changed for the most worthless.

And yet even this infernal absurdity has its reason for be­ing, in the economy of the spirit. Man is so universally and naturally drawn by that nothingness called wealth that he could only be deterred from his unconscious search for it by put­ting a price so great, so high, so out of all proportion that the very fact of paying it would be a valid proof of insanity and crime. But not even the conditions of the bargain, the eternal exchanged for the transient, power for servitude, sanctity for damnation, are enough to keep men away from the absurd bar­gain with the powers of evil. Poor people do not rejoice that they are poor. Their only regret is that they cannot be rich; their souls are contaminated and in peril like those of the wealthy. Almost all of them are involuntarily poor men, who have not known how to make money and yet have lost the spirit; they are only poverty-stricken rich people who have not as yet any cash.

For poverty, voluntarily accepted, joyfully desired, is the only poverty which gives true wealth, spiritual wealth. Abso­lute poverty frees men for the conquest of the absolute. The Kingdom of Heaven does not promise poor people that they shall become rich, it promises rich people that they shall enter into it when they become freely poor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015



In their faithfulness to the sublime paradox of Him who sends them, the apostles bring peace and at the same time war! (Matt. 10:23) All men are not capable of conversion. In the same family, in the same house, there are some who will believe and others who will not. And there will spring up between them division and warfare, the hard price with which absolute and stable peace can be secured. If all men should listen at the same mo­ment to the voice, if all could be transformed on the same day, the Kingdom of Heaven would be founded in a twinkling of an eye, with no bloody preface of battles.

Furthermore those who do not wish to change themselves, because they do not understand the news, or believe themselves near or already perfect, and will attack the converters and accuse them be­fore courts. Representatives of wealth and of the old law will be cruel to the poor who are teaching the new law to the poor. The rich are not willing to concede that their wealth is dangerous poverty; the scribes are not willing to admit that their learning is only deadly ignorance. . . . "They will scourge you in their synagogues. . . . But when they deliver you up, take no thought of how or what ye shall speak." (Matt. 10:17) Jesus is sure that the poor fishermen, though they have never studied in the schools of eloquence, will find for themselves great words in their hour of accusation. One thought, when it is a great thought and profoundly fixed in the heart, engenders of itself all the underlying and additional thoughts, and with them per­fect form in which to express them. The arid-hearted man who has nothing in himself, who has faith in nothing, who does not feel, burn, and suffer, though he may have studied long with the doctrinaires of Athens and the rhetoricians of Rome, is incapable of improvising one of those powerful and illumi­nating answers which trouble the conscience of the hardest judges.

They are to speak therefore without fear and without hiding anything of what has been taught them. "What I tell you in darkness that seek ye in light, and what ye hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops." (Matt. 10:27) With these words Jesus does not ask his disciples to be more daring than he has been. He has spoken in the darkness that is obscurity; He has spoken to them, to His first faithful followers, but what He has said to them along deserted roads and in solitary rooms they are to repeat as He Himself has given them the example, on open squares of cities before crowds of people. He has whispered the truth into their ears, because the truth at first might alarm those not prepared for it, and because there were so few of the disciples that there was no need to cry aloud. But this truth must be cried out now from the heights, in order that all may hear it, in order that there may be no one to say on that Day that he has not heard it.

Men can kill the body of the man who spreads the truth abroad, but they cannot kill his soul; from the death of a single body thousands of new souls will be born into life. But not even your body will die, because there is One who protects it. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 29-31) The birds of the air who do not sow, do not die of hunger; you who do not carry even a staff shall not die at the hands of your enemies.

They have with them a secret so precious that the flesh which contains it will not be allowed to perish. Jesus is al­ways with them, even though from afar. What is done to them is done to Him. A mystic identity is created for all eternity between Him who sends them out and those disciples who are sent. "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward." (Matt. 10:12)

Jesus is the fountain of living water destined to quench the thirst of all the weary, and yet He will take account also of the cup of water which shall have quenched the thirst of the least among His friends. Those who carry with them the water of truth, which purifies and saves, may need some day a cup of the stagnant water buried at the bottom of village wells. Any person who will give them a little of this ordinary, ma­terial water will have in exchange a well-spring which intoxi­cates the soul more than the strongest wine.

The apostles who go about with one garment, with a single pair of sandals, without belts or wallets, poor as poverty, bare as truth, simple as joy, are, in spite of their apparent poverty, diverse forms of a king who has come to found a kingdom greater and happier than all kingdoms, to bring to poor people wealth which is worth more than all measurable riches, to offer to the unhappy a joy more profound than any fleshly pleasures. It suits this new King, as it did the kings of the Orient, to show Himself under many forms, to appear to men in diverse garments. But the disguises which He prefers even today are these three: Poet, Poor Man, and Apostle.

Monday, September 28, 2015



“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16)

Those whom Jesus sent out to the conquest of souls were rustic countrymen, but they could be mild as sheep, wary as serpents, simple as doves—sheep without cowardice, serpents without poison, doves without lustfulness. Wise meaning not sly. But quickness of thought, discerning, very cautious. The serpents’ wisdom ends when it becomes vicious. It is impossible to be harmless as a dove without the serpent for a dove's simplicity ends when it becomes careless.

To be stripped of everything was the first duty of such sol­diers. Seeking the poor, they should be poorer than the poor. And yet not beggars, for the laborer is worthy of his hire; the bread of life which they were to distribute to those hungering for justice deserved wheat bread in return. The laborers should set out on their wonderful work destitute of possessions, taking nothing for their journey save a staff only, no scrip, no bread, and no money in their purse. They should be shod with sandals, clad in a single garment. The metals are a burden which weighs down the soul. The sheen of gold makes men forget the sun's splendor; the sheen of silver makes them for­get the splendor of the stars; the sheen of copper makes them forget the splendor of fire. He who deals with metals weds himself to the earth and is bound fast to the earth. He does not know Heaven, and Heaven does not recognize him. (Matt. 10:10)

It is not enough to preach love of poverty to the poor, or to talk to them about the sumptuous beauty of poverty. The poor do not believe the words of the rich until the rich willingly be­come poor. The Disciples destined to preach the beauty of poverty to both poor and rich were to set an example of happy poverty to every man in every house on every day. They were to carry nothing with them except the clothes on their backs and the sandals on their feet. They were to accept nothing; only the small piece of daily bread which they would find on the tables of their hosts. The wandering priests of the goddess Siria and of other Oriental divinities carried with them, along with the sacred images, the wallet for offerings, the bag for alms, because common people do not value things which cost them nothing. The apostles of Jesus, on the contrary, were to refuse any gift or payment, "Freely ye have received, freely give." (Matt. 10:8) And as one of the disguises of wealth is merchandise, the messengers of the Kingdom were to renounce even a change of garments, sandals and staff; were to dispense with every­thing except the barest essentials.

They were to enter into the houses, open to all in a country where the locks and bolts of fear were not yet known, and which preserved some remembrance of nomad hospitality—they were to speak to the men and the women who lived there. Their duty was to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, to explain in what way the kingdom of earth could become the Kingdom of Heaven, and to explain the one condi­tion for this happy fulfilling of all the prophecies,—repentance, conversion, and transformation of the soul. As a proof that they were sent by One who had the authority to demand this change, they had power to heal the sick, to drive away with their words unclean spirits,—that is, the demons, and the vices which make men like demons. Their words were substantiated by their actions.

They commanded men to renew their souls and at once with all the power which had been given them they aided them to commence this renovation (Luke 9:1). They did not leave them alone with this command, so difficult to execute. After the prophetic word, "The Kingdom is at hand," they began their labors; they worked to restore, to cleanse, and to make over these souls which had been abandoned by their rightful shepherds. They ex­plained what it was necessary to do to be worthy of the new Heaven on earth and they lent a hand at once to the work. In short, to complete the paradox they assassinated and brought to life. They killed the old Adam in every convert, but their words were the baptism of the second birth. Pilgrims without purses or bundles, they carried with them truth and life,—peace.

"And when ye come into a house salute it," and this was the salutation, "Peace be with you." (Matt. 12:12) Those who received them gained peace, those who rejected them continued their bitter warfare. Coming away from the house or from the city which had not received them, they were to shake the dust from their feet, not because the dust of the houses and of the cities of those who were not willing to hear them was contaminated, but because shaking it from their feet is a symbolic answer to their deafness and close-fistedness of soul. You have refused all, and we will not accept anything from you, not even the dust which clings to our sandals. Because you, made of dust and fated to return to dust as you are, will not give a moment of your time, nor a piece of your bread, we leave behind us the dust of your streets, down to the least grain. (Matt. 12:14)

Sunday, September 27, 2015



Thomas owes his popularity to the quality which should be his shame. Thomas, the twin, is the guardian of modernity, as Thomas Aquinas is the oracle of medieval life. He is the true patron saint of Spinoza and of all the other deniers of the resurrection, the man who is not satisfied even with the testi­mony of his eyes, but wishes that of his hands as well. And yet his love for Jesus makes him pardonable. When they came to the Master to say that Lazarus was dead, and the disciples hesitated before going into Judea among their enemies, it was Thomas alone who said: "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16) The martyrdom which he did not find then came to him in India, after Christ's death.

Matthew is the dearest of all the Twelve. He was a tax-gatherer, a sort of under-publican, and probably had more education than his companions. He followed Jesus as readily as the fishermen. "And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house." (Luke 5:27-29) It was not a heap of torn nets which Matthew left, but a position, a wage, secure and increasing earnings. Giving up riches is easy for a man who has almost nothing. Among the Twelve Matthew was certainly the richest before his conversion. Of no other is it told that he could offer a great feast, and this means that he made a greater and more meritorious sacrifice by his rising at the first call from the seat where he was accumulating money.

Matthew and Judas were perhaps the only ones of the Disciples who knew how to write, and to Matthew we owe the first collection of Logia or memorable sayings of Jesus, if the testimony of Papia is true. In the Gospel which is called by his name, we find the most complete text of the Sermon on the Mount. Our debt to the poor excise-man is heavy: without him many words of Jesus, and the most beautiful, might have been lost. This handler of drachma, shekels and talents, whom his despised trade must have predisposed to greed, has laid up for us a treasure worth more than all the money coined on the earth before and after his time.

Philip of Bethsaida also knew how to count. When the famished multitude pressed about Him, Jesus turned to him to ask what it would cost to buy bread for all those people. Philip answered Him: "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them." (John 6:7) He was later to become a proclaimer of his Master's fame. He it was who announced to Nathaniel the coming of Jesus, and it was to him that the Greeks of Jerusalem turned when they wished to speak to the new Prophet.

Nathaniel answered Philip's announcement with sarcasm: "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46) But Philip succeeded in bringing him to Jesus, who as soon as He saw him, exclaimed, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathaniel saith unto him, whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathaniel answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these." (John 1:47-50)

Less enthusiastic and inflammable was Nicodemus, who, as a matter of fact, never wished to be known as a disciple of Jesus. Nicodemus was old, had been to school to the Rabbis, was a friend of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, but the stories of the mira­cles had shaken him, and he went by night to Jesus to tell Him that he believed that He was sent by God. Jesus answered him, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Nicodemus did not understand these words, or perhaps they startled him. He had come to see a miracle worker and had found a Sybil, and with the homely good sense of the man who wishes to avoid being taken in by a fraud he said, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his moth­er's womb and be born?" (Vs. 4) Jesus answers with words of profound meaning, "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (Vs. 5)

But Nicodemus still did not understand. "How can these things be?" Jesus answered, "Art thou THE master of Israel and knowest not these things?" (John 1:10 NASB)

Nicodemus always respected the young Galilean, but his sympathy was as circumspect as his visit. Once when the leaders of the priests and the Pharisees were contemplating how to capture Jesus, Nicodemus ventured a defense: "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:51) He took his stand on a point of law. He spoke in the name of "our" law, not at all in the name of the new man. Nicodemus is always the old man, law-respecting, the prudent friend of the letter of the law. A few words of reproof were enough to silence him. "They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet!" (Vs. 52) He belonged by right to the Sanhedrin, but there is no record that he raised his voice in favor of the ac­cused when He was conducted to Caiaphas. The trial was at night and probably to avoid the contempt of his colleagues and his own remorse for the legal assassination, Nicodemus re­mained in his bed. When he awoke Jesus was dead, and then, forgetting his greed, he bought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to embalm the body.

There is an old tradition that he was baptized by Peter and put to death for having believed in Him.

See Blog Article “NICODEMUS”

Saturday, September 26, 2015



"And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder."  Mark 3:17

The two fishermen, the brothers James and John, who had left their boat and their nets on the shore at Capernaum in or­der to go with Jesus, form together with Peter a sort of favorite threesome. They are the only ones who accompany Jesus into the house of Jairus, and on the Mount of Transfiguration, and they are the ones whom He takes with Him on the night of Gethsemane. But in spite of their long intimacy with the Master, they never acquired sufficient humility. Jesus gave them the surname of "Boanerges—Sons of Thunder," an ironic surname, alluding perhaps to their fiery, hot-tempered character.

When they all started together towards Jerusalem. Jesus sent some of them ahead to make ready for Him. They were cross­ing Samaria and were badly received in a village. "And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples, James and John, saw this, they said: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? But he turned, and rebuked them." (Luke 9:53-54) For them, Galileans, faithful to Jerusa­lem, the Samaritans were always enemies. In vain had they heard the Sermon on the Mount: "Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and perse­cute you." (Matt. 5:44) In vain had they received instructions for their mission among the peoples: "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet." (Matt. 10:14) Angry at an disrespect to Jesus they presumed to be able to command fire from Heaven. It seemed to them a work of righteous justice to re­duce to ashes the village guilty of inhospitality. And yet far as they were from that loving rebirth of the soul which alone constitutes the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, these men had the pretension to claim the first places on the day of triumph.

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him, saying: Master, we would that thou should do for us what­soever we should desire. And he said unto them: What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him: Grant unto us that we may sit one on thy right hand and one on thy left hand in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them: Ye know not what ye ask. And when the ten heard it they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Him and saith unto them: Whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister; and whosoever will be the chief among you, let him be your servant, for even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister.” (Mark 10:35-45)

Christ, the over turner of the old order, took this occasion to repeat the master word to which all worthy souls re­spond. Only the useless, the petty, the parasites, wish to be served, even by their inferiors (if anyone in the absolute mean­ing of the word can be inferior to them), but any superior be­ing is always at the service of lesser souls precisely because he is superior.* He wants not leaders but servants. (Matt. 23:10-11 NASB)

This miraculous paradox is the proof of the fire of genius. It is offensive to the egotism of the self-centered, to the pre­tensions of would-be supermen, and to the poverty of the greedy because the little that they have is not even enough for themselves. He who cannot or will not serve shows that he has nothing to give, is a weakling, impotent, imperfect, and empty. But the genius is no true genius if he does not energetically benefit his inferiors. To serve is not always the same as to obey. A people can be served better sometimes by a man who puts himself at their head to force them to be saved even if they do not wish it. There is nothing subservient in serving.

James and John understood this stimulating saying of Jesus. We find one of them, John, among the nearest and most lov­ing of the disciples. At the Last Supper be leans his head on Jesus' breast; and from the height of the cross, Jesus, crucified, confides the Virgin to him that he should be a son to her.

Thursday, September 24, 2015



Peter before the Resurrection is like a body beside a spirit, like a material voice which accompanies the rerouting of the soul. He is the earth which believes in Heaven but remains earthy. In his rough man's imagination, the Kingdom of Heaven still resembles rather too closely the Kingdom of the Prophets' Messiah.

When Jesus pronounced the famous words: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," (Matt. 19:24) Peter thought this sweeping condemnation of wealth very harsh. "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and fol­lowed thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt. 19:27) He acts like a money lender inquiring what interest he can expect. And Jesus, to console him, promises him that he will sit upon a. throne to judge one of the tribes of Israel, that the other eleven will judge the other eleven tribes, and adds that everyone shall have a hundred times what he has given up.

Again Peter does not understand what Christ means when He asserts that only what comes from man himself can defile men. "Peter then answered and said unto him: Declare unto us this parable, and Jesus said: Are ye also without under­standing? Do ye not yet understand?" (Matt. 15:15-16) Among the disciples so slow to understand, Peter is one of the slowest. His sur­name "Cefa-petros," stone, piece of rock, was not given him only *for the firmness of his faith, but for the hardness of his head.

He was not an alert spirit in either the literal or the figura­tive meaning of the word. He easily fell asleep even at the most important moments. He fell asleep on the Mount of the Transfiguration. He fell asleep on the night at Gethsemane, after the last supper, where Jesus had uttered the saying which would have kept even a Scribe everlastingly from sleep. And yet his boldness was great. When Jesus that last evening an­nounced that He was to suffer and die, Peter burst out: "Lord, I am ready to go with thee both, into prison, and to death. Al­though all shall be offended, yet will not I. If I should die with thee, I will not deny Thee in any wise." (Mark 14:31) Jesus answered him: "Verily I say unto thee that this night before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Vs. 29)

Jesus knew him better than Peter knew himself. When he stood in the courtyard of Caiaphas, warming himself at the fire while the priests were questioning and insulting his God, lie denied three times that he was one of His fol­lowers.

At the moment of the arrest he had made, against the teach­ing of Jesus, an appearance of resistance: he had cut off the ear of Malthus. (John 18:10) He had not yet understood after years of daily comradeship with Christ that any form of material violence was repulsive to Jesus. He had not understood that if Jesus had wished to save Himself, He could have hidden in the wilderness unknown to all, or escaped out of the hands of the soldiers as He had done that first time at Nazareth. So little did Jesus value this act, contrary to His teaching, that he healed the wound at once and reproved His untimely avenger.

That was not the first time that Peter showed himself un­equal to great events. He had like all crude personalities a tendency to see the material trash in spiritual manifestations, the low in the lofty, and the commonplace in the tragic. On the mountain of the transfiguration, when he was awakened and saw Jesus shining with white light, speaking with two others, with two spirits, with two prophets, the first thought which came to him, instead of worshiping and keeping silence, was to build a tabernacle for these great personages. "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." Luke, the wise man, adds to excuse him, "not knowing what he said." (Luke 9:33)

When he saw Jesus walking in all security on the lake, the idea came to him to do the same thing. "And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind active, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me" (Matt. 14:30) And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Vs. 31) Because he was familiar with the lake and with Jesus, the good fisherman thought he could do as his master did, and did not know that the storm could be mastered only by a Soul infinitely greater, a faith infinitely more potent than his.

His great love for Christ, which makes up for all his weak­ness, led him one day almost to rebuke Him. Jesus had told His disciples how He must suffer and be killed. "Then Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou desire not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matt. 16:22-23) No one ever pronounced such a terrible judgment on Simon, called Peter. He was called to work for the Kingdom of God, and he thought as men do. His mind, still occupied with the rough idea of the tri­umphant Messiah, refused to conceive of a persecuted Messiah condemned and executed. His soul had not yet kindled to the idea of divine compensation, the idea that salvation cannot be secured without an offering of suffering and blood, and that the great should sacrifice His body to the cruelty of mean men in order that the mean, after being enlightened by that life, may be saved from that death. He loved Jesus, but although his love was warm and potent, it still had something earthy in it, and he grew angry at the thought that his king should be re­viled, that his God should die. And yet be was the first to rec­ognize Jesus as the Christ; and this primacy is so great that nothing has been able to cancel it.



Fate knows no better way to punish the great for their great­ness than by sending them disciples. Every disciple, just because he is a disciple, cannot understand all that his master says, but at very best only half, and that according to the kind of mind he has. Thus without wishing to falsify the teaching of his master, he deforms it, vulgarizes it, belittles it, and corrupts it.

The disciple nearly always has companions and is jealous of them; he would like to be at least first among those who are second; and accordingly he maligns and plots against his fel­lows; and each one believes that he is, or at least wishes others to believe that he is, the only perfect interpreter of the master.

The disciple knows that he is a disciple and sometimes it shames him to be one who eats at another's table. Then he twists and turns the master's thought to make it seem that he has a thought of his own, different and original. Or else, and this is the most graceless and servile manner of being a disciple, he teaches exactly the opposite of what he was taught.

In every disciple, even in those who seem most loyal, there is the seed of a Judas. A disciple is a parasite, a middleman who robs the seller and tricks the buyer; a dependent who, in­vited to dine, nibbles at the hors d'oeuvres, licks the sauces, picks at the fruit, but does not attack the bones because he has no teeth, or only milk teeth, to crack them and suck out the meaty marrow. The disciple paraphrases sentences, ob­scures mysteries, complicates what is clear, multiplies diffi­culties, comments on syllables, charades principles, clouds evi­dence, magnifies non-essentials, weakens the essential, dilutes the strong wine, and retails this hodgepodge as tonic distilled and ideal. Instead of a torch which gives light and fire, he is a smoky wick giving no light even to himself. (The News Media today as they attempt to understand Christ or even His disciples)

And yet no one has been able to dispense with these pupils and followers, nor even to wish to. For the great man is so foreign to the multitude, so distant, so alone, that he needs to feel some one near him. He cannot teach without the illusion that some one understands his words, receives his ideas, and trans­mits them to others far away before his death and after his death. This wanderer who has no home of his own needs a friendly home. To this uprooted man who cannot have a family of his own flesh and blood, the children of his spirit are dear. The prophet is a captain whose soldiers’ spring up only after his blood has soaked into the ground, and yet he longs to feel a little army about him during his life-time. Here is one of the most tragic elements in all greatness: disciples are offensive and dangerous, but disciples, even false ones, cannot be dispensed with. Prophets suffer if they do not find them; they suffer, perhaps more, when they have found them.

A man's thought is bound with a thousand threads to his soul even more closely than a child to a parent's heart. It is infinitely precious, delicate, fragile, and the newer it is, the harder it is for other men to understand. It is a tremendous responsibility, a continued torture and suffering to confide it to another, to graft it on another's thought, to give it into the hands of the man incapable of respecting it, this gift so rare, a thought new in human life. And yet every great man longs to share with all men what he has received; and to achieve this sharing with humanity is more than he can do single-handed. Then, too, pride alludes itself even in noble breasts: and vanity needs caressing words, needs praise, even offensive, praise, needs assent, even verbal, consecration even from the mediocre, victories even if they are only apparent.

Christ has none of this smallness of the great, and yet in or­der to share all the burdens of mankind, He accepted with the other trials of earthly life the burden of disciples. Before be­ing tormented by His enemies, He gave himself over to be tor­mented by His friends. The priests killed him, once and once only; the disciples made Him suffer every day of their life with Him. The anguish of His passion would not have been completely intolerable if it had not included the deser­tion of the Apostles in addition to the Sadducees, the guards, the Romans, the crowd.

We know who the Apostles were. A Galilean, He chose them from among the Galileans. A poor man, He chose them from among the poor; a simple man, but of a divine sim­plicity transcending all philosophies, He called simple men whose simplicity kept them like lumps. He did not wish to choose them from among the rich, because He had come to combat the rich; nor among the scribes and doctors, because He had come to overturn their law; nor among the philoso­phers, because there were no philosophers living in Palestine, and had there been, they would have tried to extinguish His supernatural mysticism under the opposition’s bushel.

He knew that these souls were rough but had integrity, were ignorant but passionate, and that He could in the end mold them according to His desire, bring them up to His level, fash­ion them like clay from the river, which is only mud, and yet when modeled and baked in the kiln, becomes eternal beauty. But flame from the Holy Ghost was needed for that trans­formation; until the day of the Pentecost their imperfect na­ture had too often the upper hand. To the Twelve much should be pardoned because almost always they had faith in Him; because they tried to love Him as He wished to be loved; and, above all, because after having deserted Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they never forgot Him and left to all eternity the memory of His word and of His life.

And yet our hearts ache if we look at them closely in the Gospels, those disciples of whom we have some knowledge. They were not always worthy of their unique and highest contentment, those men who were so inestimably fortunate as to live with Christ, to walk, to eat with Him, to sleep in the same room, to look into His face, to touch His hand, to kiss Him, to hear His words from His very mouth; those twelve fortunate men, whom throughout the centuries millions of souls have se­cretly envied. And of these twelve eleven had wives with which they would share their learnings from their Teacher.

We see them, hard of head and of heart, not able to under­stand the clearest parables of the Master; not always capable of understanding, even after His death, who Jesus had been and what sort of a new Kingdom was proclaimed by Him; often lacking in faith, in love, in brotherly affection; eager for pay; envying each other; impatient for the revenge which would repay them for their long wait; intolerant of those who were not one with them; vindictive towards those who would not receive them, lethargic, doubtful, materialistic, greedy, cowardly.

One of them denies Him three times; one of them delays giving Him due reverence until He is in the sepulcher; one does not believe in His mission because He comes from Naza­reth; one is not willing to admit His resurrection; one sells Him to His enemies, and gives Him over with His last kiss to those who come to arrest Him. Others, when Christ's teach­ings were on a too-lofty level, "went back and walked no more with Him." (John 6:66)

Many times Jesus was forced to reprove them for their slow­ness of mind. He told them the parable of the sower, and they did not understand its meaning. "Know ye not this parable, and how then will ye know all parables?" (Mark 4:13) He warns them against the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and they think that He is speaking of material bread. (Matt 16:6) "Why reason ye because ye have no bread, perceive ye not yet, neither under­stand? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes see ye not, and having ears hear ye not?" (Vs. 9) Like the common people they constantly feel that Jesus should be the worldly Messiah, political, warlike, come to restore the temporal throne of David. Even when He is about to ascend into Heaven they continue to ask Him: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6) And after the resurrection, the two disciples of Emmaus say: "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." (Luke 24:21)

They disputed among themselves to know who should have the chief place in the new Kingdom and Jesus reproved them: "What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?" (Mark 9:33) But they held their peace, for by the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. (*The church today is looking for leadership in their bodies when Christ is looking for servants – at the complete opposite from the churches today) And He sat down and called the Twelve and saith unto them: "If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35) Jealous of their privileges they denounced to Jesus one who was casting out devils in His name: "Forbid him not," answered Jesus, "for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9:39-40) After a talk at Capernaum many murmured at his words and said: "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6:60) and they left Him.

And yet Jesus spared no warnings to those who wished to follow Him. A Scribe said to Him that he would follow Him everywhere. "And Jesus saith unto him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay his head." (Matt. 8:20) Another who was a disciple wished first to bury his father, "But Jesus said unto him, Fol­low me; and let the dead bury their dead." (Matt. 8:22) And still an­other, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:61-62)

A rich young man came to Him who observed all the Com­mandments. "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, one thing thou lack: go thy way, sell whatso­ever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treas­ure in heaven: and come take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." (Matt. 19:21-22)

To be with Him, a man must desire to leave his home, his dead, his family, his money,—all the ordinary loves, all the ordinary good things of life. What is given in exchange is so great that it will repay every renunciation. But few are capable of this renunciation, and some after they have believed, falter.

Renunciation was easier for the Twelve, almost all poor men, yet even they did not always succeed in being as Jesus wished them.

"Simon, Simon," He said one day to Peter, "behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." (Luke 22:31) In spite of the sorting of Christ, some evil seeds remained among his grain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Forgiveness creates an obligation for which there are no exceptions allowed. Love is a fire which goes out if it does not kindle others. Thou hast burned with joy; kindle him who comes near you if thou wilt not become like stone, smoky but cold. He who has received must give; it is better to give much, but it is essential to give a part at least.

A king one day wanted a reckoning with his servants and one by one he called them before him. Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand talents, but as he had not anything to pay this, the king commanded that he should be sold and his wife and his children and all that he had, in payment of a part of the debt. The servant in despair threw himself at the feet of the king. He seemed a mere bundle of garments crying out sobs and promises. "Have patience with me, wait a little longer and I will pay you all, but do not have my wife and my children separated from me, sent away like cattle, no one knows where."

The king was moved with compassion—he also had little children—and he sent him away free and forgave him that great debt. The servant went out and seemed another man; but his heart, even after so much mercy shown to him, was the same as before. And he met one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred pence, a small thing compared with ten thousand talents, and he sprang on him and took him by the throat. "Pay me what thou owest and at once, or I will have thee bound by the guards." The unlucky man assaulted in this way did what his persecutor had done a little while before in the presence of the king. He fell down at his feet and besought him and wept and swore that he would pay him in a few days and kissed the hem of his garment, and recalled to him their old comradeship and begged him to wait in the name of the children who were waiting for him in his home.

But the fool, who was a servant and not a king, had no compassion. He took his debtor by the arm and had him cast into prison. The news spread abroad among the other servants of the palace. They were full of compassion, and it came quickly to the ears of the king, who called that pitiless man and delivered him to the tormentors: "I forgave you that great debt, shouldst thou not have had compassion on thy brother, for his debt was so much smaller? I had pity on thee, ought thou not to have had pity on him?"

Sinners when they recognize the evil which is in their hearts and abjure it with true humility are nearer to the Kingdom than pious men who daub themselves with the praise of their own piety.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, the other a Publican. The Pharisee, with his phylacteries hanging upon his forehead and on his left arm, with the long, glittering fringes on his cloak, erect like a man who feels himself in his own house, prayed thus: "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess."

But the Publican did not have the courage even to lift his eyes and seemed ashamed to appear before his Lord. He sighed and smote on his breast and said only these words: "God be merciful to me a sinner."

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

A lawyer asked Jesus who is one's neighbor, and Jesus told this story: "A man, a Jew, went down from Jerusalem to Jericho through the mountain passes. Thieves fell upon him, and after they had wounded him and taken away his clothes, they left him upon the road half dead. A priest passed that way, one of those who go to all the feasts and meetings, and boast that they know the will of God from beginning to end. He saw the unfortunate man stretched out but he did not stop, and to avoid touching something unclean he passed by on the other side of the road. A little after came a Levite. He also was among the most accredited of the zealots, knew every detail of all the holy ceremonies, and seemed more than a sacristan, seemed one of the masters of the Temple. He looked at the bloody body and went on his way. And finally came a Samaritan. To the Jews the Samaritans were faithless, traitors, only slightly less detestable than the Gentiles, because they would not sacrifice at Jerusalem and accept the reform of Nehemiah. The Samaritan, however, did not wait to see if the unfortunate man thrown among the stones of the street were circumcised or uncircumcised, were a Jew or a Samaritan. He came up close to him, and seeing him in such an evil pass, he was quickly moved to pity, took down his flasks from his saddle and poured upon his wounds a little oil, a little wine, bound them up as well as he could with a handkerchief, put the stranger across his donkey and brought him to an inn, had him put to bed, tried to restore him, giving him something hot to drink, and did not leave him until he saw him come to himself and able to speak and eat. The next day he called the host apart and gave him two pence: 'Take care of him, do the best thou canst and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.'

"The neighbor, then, is he who suffers, he who needs help, whoever he is, of whatever nation or religion he may be; even thine enemy, if he needs thee, even if he does not ask help, is the first of 'thy neighbors.' " (Luke 10:29-35)

Charity is the most valid title for admission to the Kingdom. The wealthy glutton knew this, he who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. At the gate of his palace there was Lazarus, a poor man, hungry, covered with sores, who would have been glad to have the crumbs and the bones which fell from the rich man's table. The dogs took pity on Lazarus and on his wretchedness, and did for him all they could, which was to lick his sores. And he caressed these gentle, loving animals with his thin hands. But the rich man had no pity on Lazarus. It never once came into his head to call him to his table, and he never sent him a piece of bread or the leftovers of the kitchen destined for the refuse heap, which even the kitchen help refused to eat. It happened that both of them, the poor man and the rich man, died, and the poor man was welcomed into Abraham's bosom, and the rich man was cast into the fire to suffer. From afar off he saw Lazarus, who was banqueting with the patriarchs, and from the midst of the fire he cried: "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." (Luke 16:24)

He had not given Lazarus even a tiny morsel of food when he was alive, and now he did not ask to be let out of the fire, nor a cup of water, nor even a draught, nor even a drop, but he was content with a little dampness which would cling on the tip of a finger, of the smallest finger of the poor man. But Abraham answered: "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented." (Vs. 25) If thou hadst given the smallest part of thy dinner to him, when thou knewest he was hungered and was crouched at thy door in worse plight than a dog, and even the dogs had more pity than thou, if thou hadst given him a mouthful of bread only once, thou wouldst not need now to ask the tip of his finger dipped in water.

The rich man delights in his property and it grieves him to have to give away even the smallest part of it because he thinks that this life will never end and that the future will be like the past. But death comes to him also, and when he expects it least. There was once a landed proprietor who had an especially profitable year in all his possessions. He had fantastic imaginings about his new riches, and he said: "I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods, the wheat, the barley and the other grains, and I will make other barns for the hay and the straw and other stables for the oxen that I will buy, and still another stable where I can put all my sheep and goats, and I will say to my soul: Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." (Luke 12:18-19)

And the idea did not come to him even for a moment that from this largesse of the earth he could have put aside a portion to comfort the poor of his country. But on that very night when he had imagined so many improvements in his property, the rich man died, and the day after, he was buried naked and alone, under the earth, and there was no one to intercede for him in Heaven.

He who does not make friends among the poor, who does not use wealth to comfort poverty, must not think of entering into the Kingdom. Sometimes the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, understand the management of their earthly affairs better than the children of light understand their heavenly life. Like that steward who was out of favor with his master and was obliged to leave his position. He called one by one his lord's debtors to him, and canceled a part of the debt of everyone, so that when he was sent away he had made here and there with his fraudulent ploy so many friends that they did not let him die of hunger. He had benefited himself and the others by cheating and robbing his master. He was a thief, but a shrewd thief. If men would use for the salvation of the spirit the shrewdness which this man used for his bodily comfort, how many more would be converted to faith in the Kingdom!

He who is not converted in time will be cut down like the unfruitful fig-tree. And the conversion must be final, for falling from grace injures a man's soul a great deal more than repentance helps him. A man had an unclean spirit in him and succeeded in driving it away. The demon walked through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, be said: "I will return into my house whence I came out." It happens that this house, the soul of that man, is empty, swept and garnished so that it is hard to recognize it. Then the demon takes to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself and at the head of the band he enters into his house so that the last state of that man was worse than the first. (Luke 11:26)

In the day of triumph laments and excuses will count less than the whispering of the wind among the rushes. Then will be made the last and irrevocable choice, like that of the fisherman who, after having pulled up from the sea his net full of fish, sits down on the beach and puts those fit for food into his baskets and throws away the others. A long truce is given to sinners, that they may have all the time necessary to change their hearts, but when that day has come he who has not arrived at the door, or is not worthy, will remain eternally outside.

A good husbandman sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat. When the blade was sprung up, the servants of the household saw the tares and came and told their master of it.

"Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?" But he said, "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." (Matt. 13:29-30)

Thus like a good husbandman Jesus waits for the day of the harvest. One day an immense multitude was about Him to listen to Him, and seeing all these men and these women who were hungering after righteousness and thirsting after love, He was moved with compassion and said to His disciples: "The harvest truly is plenteous but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into this harvest." (Matt. 9:37-38)

             His voice does not carry everywhere, not even the Twelve are enough: others are necessary to proclaim the good news, that it may be carried to all those who suffer and who await it.

Monday, September 21, 2015


A man had two sons. His wife was dead, but he still had these two sons, only two. But two are always better than one. If the first is away from home, the second is still there; if the younger fall ill, the older works for two; if one should die . . . even children die, even the young die, and sometimes before the old . . . if one of the two should die, there is at least one left who will care for the poor father.

This man loved his sons, not only because they were of his blood but because he had a loving heart. He loved them both, the older and the younger; perhaps the younger a little more than the older, but so little that he did not realize it himself. Fathers and mothers often have a weakness for the youngest because he is the smallest, he is the sweetest, he is the last baby, and after his birth there was never another one, so that his boyhood, still so recent, so prolonged, stretches out to the sill of his young manhood like a lingering halo of tenderness. It seems only yesterday that he was a baby at the breast, that he took his first stumbling steps, that he sprang up to embrace his father, or sat astride his knees.

But this man was not partial. He loved his sons like his two eyes and his two hands, equally dear, one at the left, one at the right, and he saw to it that both were happy. Noth­ing lacked for either one.

And yet, even in the case of sons of one father, it almost never happens that two brothers have the same tastes or even similar tastes. The older was a serious-minded young man, sedate, settled, who seemed already grown up and mature, a husband, the head of a family. He respected his father, but more as master than as father, without any impulsive show of affection. He worked faithfully, but he was hard and cap­tious with the servants; he went through all the religious forms, but did not let the poor come about him. Although the house was full of all possible good things, yet for them there was never anything. He pretended to love his brother, but his heart was full of the poison of envy. When people say "to love like a brother" they say the contrary of what ought to be said. Brothers very rarely love each other. Jew­ish history, not to speak of any other, begins with Cain, goes on with Jacob's cheating Esau, with Joseph sold by his brothers, with Absalom, who killed Amon, with Solomon who had Adonijah killed: a long bloody road of jealousy, opposi­tion and betrayal. It would be more correct to say "a father's love," rather than a brother's.

The second son seemed of another race. He was younger and was not ashamed to be young. He splashed about and made merry in his youth as in a warm lake. He had all the desires, the graces, and the defects of his age. He was fitful with his father. One day he hurt him, the next, put him into the seventh heaven; he was capable of not saying a word for weeks together and then suddenly throwing himself on his father's neck in the highest spirits. Good times with his friends were more to his taste than work. He refused no invitations to drink, stared at women and dressed better than other people. But he was warmhearted; he gave money to the needy, was charitable without boasting of it, and never sent away any one unhappy. He was seldom seen at the synagogue, and for this and for other reasons the middle-class people of the neighborhood, timid, colorless people, religious and self-seeking, did not think well of him and advised their sons to have nothing to do with him. So much the more be­cause the young man wanted to spend more than his father's resources allowed him—a good man, they said, but weak and blinded—and because he talked recklessly and said things which were not fitting for the son of a good family brought up as he ought to be. The little life of that little country hole was repugnant to him; he said it was better to look for ad­venture in rich countries, populous, far away, beyond the mountains and the sea, where the big, luxurious cities are, with marble buildings and the best wines and shops full of silk and silver, and women dressed in fine clothes like queens fresh from aromatic baths who lightly give themselves for a piece of gold.

There in the country you had to obey orders and work hard, and there was no outlet for gypsy-like and nomadic tastes. His father, although he was rich, although he was good, measured out the drachma as if they were talents. His brother was vexed if he bought a new tunic or came home a little tipsy; in the family all they knew was the field, the furrow, the pas­ture, the stock; a life that was not a life but one long effort.

And one day (he had thought of it many times before, but had never had the courage to say it) he hardened his heart and his face and said to his father, "Father, give me the por­tion of goods that falleth to me, and I will ask nothing more of thee." (Luke 15:12)

When the old man heard this, he was deeply hurt, but he made no answer, and went away into his room that his tears should not be seen, and for a while neither of them spoke any more of this matter. But the son suffered, was brooding, and lost all his fervor and liveliness even to the fresh color of his face. And the father, seeing his son suffer, suffered himself, and yet suffered more at the thought of losing him. But fi­nally paternal love conquered self-love. The estimations and valuations of the property were made, and the father gave to both his sons their rightful part and kept the rest for himself. The young man lost no time; he sold what he could not carry away, gathered together a goodly sum, and one evening, with­out saying anything to anyone, mounted his fine horse and went away. The older brother was rather pleased by his de­parture; the younger would never have the courage to come back; so now he was the only son, first in command, and no one would take away the rest of his inheritance from him.

But the father secretly wept many tears, all the tears of his old wrinkled eyelids. Every line of his old face was washed with tears; his aged cheeks were soaked with his grieving. His son was gone and he needed all the love of the remaining son to make up for the sorrow of the separation.

But he had a hunch that perhaps he had not lost his son forever, his second-born, that before his death he would have the happiness to kiss him again; and this idea helped him to endure the loneliness.

In the meantime the young man drew rapidly near to the rich city of revels where he meant to live. At every turning of the road he felt of the money-bags which hung at either side of his saddle. He soon arrived at the city of his desire and began his feasting. It seemed to him that those thousands of coins would last forever. He rented a fine house, bought five or six slaves, dressed like a prince, and soon had men and- women friends who were guests at his table, and who drank his wine till their stomachs could hold no more. He did not economize with women and chose the most beautiful the city contained, those who knew how to dance and sing and dress with magnificence, and undress with grace. No presents seemed too fine or too rich to please those bodies which aban­doned themselves with such voluptuous softness, and which gave him the wildest, most torturing pleasure. The little pro­vincial lord from the dull country, repressed in the most sensual period of his life, now vented his voluptuousness, his love of luxury, in this dangerous life.

Such a life could not go on forever: the money bags of the prodigal son were not bottomless—no money bags are—and there came a day when there was neither gold nor silver, and not even copper, but only empty bags of canvas and leather lying limp and flabby on the brick floor of his room. His friends disappeared, the women disappeared, and slaves, beds and dining-tables were sold. With the proceeds he had enough to buy food, but only for a short time. To complete his misfor­tune, a famine came on the country and the prodigal son found himself hungering in the midst of a famine-stricken people. The women had gone off to other cities where the situation was better; the friends of his drunken night-revels had hard work to look out for themselves.

The unfortunate man, stripped and destitute, left the city; traveling with a lord who was going to the country where he had a fine estate. He begged him for work, till the lord hired him as swine-herd because he was young and strong and hardly any one was willing to be a swine-herd. For a Jew nothing could be a greater affliction than this. Even in Egypt, although animals were adored there, the only people forbidden to enter the temples were swine-herds. No father would have given his daughter to wife to a swine-herd and no man for all the gold in the world would have married the daughter of a swine-herd.

But the prodigal son had no choice and was forced to lead the herd of swine out to the pasture. He was given no pay and very little to eat, because there was only a little for any one; but there was no famine for the hogs, because they could eat anything. There were plenty of carob beans and they gorged themselves on those. Their hungry attendant enviously watched the pink and black animals rooting in the earth, chew­ing beans and roots, and longed to fill his stomach with the same stuff and wept, remembering the abundance of his own home and his festivals in the great city. Sometimes overcome with hunger he took one of the black bean-husks, from under the grunting snouts of the pigs, tempering the bitterness of his suffering with that bland and woody food. And woe to him if his employer had seen him!

His dress was a dirty slave's smock which smelt of manure, his foot-gear a pair of worn-out sandals scarcely held together with rushes; on his head a faded hood. His fair young face, tanned by the sun of the hills, was thin and long, and had taken a sickly color between gray and brown.

Who was wearing now the spotless home-spun clothes, which he had left in his brother's chests? Where now were the fair silken tunics dyed purple which he had sold for so little? His father's hired servants were better dressed than he, and they fared better than he.

Returned to his senses, he said to himself, "How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" Until now he had brushed away the idea of going home as soon as it had appeared. How could he bear to go back in this condition and give in to his brother after having despised his home, after having made his father weep? To return without a garment, unshod, without a penny, without the ring—the sign of liberty—uncomely, disfigured by this famished slavery, stinking and contaminated by this abominable trade, to show that the wise old neighbors were right, that his serious-minded brother was right, to bow himself at the knee of the old man whom he had left without a greeting, to return with disapproval as a ragged fellow to the spot from which he had departed as a king! To come back to the soup-plate into which he had spit—into a house which contained nothing of his!

No, there was something of his always in his home, his father! If he belonged to his father, his father belonged also to him. He was his creation, made of his flesh, issued from his seed in a moment of love. Though hurt, his father would never drive away his own flesh and blood. If he would not take him back as son, at least he would take him back as a hired servant, as he would any stranger, like a man born of another father. "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." (Luke 15:18) I do not come back as son but as servant, as a worker, and I do not ask love from you, for I have no more right to that, but only a little bread from your kitchen.

And the young man gave back the hogs to his master, and went towards his own land. He begged a piece of bread from the country people, and wept salt tears as he ate this bread of pity and charity in the shadow of the sycamores. His sore and blistered feet could scarcely carry him. He was barefoot now, but his faith in forgiveness led him homeward step by step.

And finally one day at noon he arrived in sight of his father's house; but he did not dare to knock, or to call any one, or to go in. He hung around outside to see if anyone would come out. And behold, his father appeared on the threshold. His son was no longer the same, was changed, but the eyes of a father even dimmed by weeping could not fail to recognize him. He ran towards him and caught him to his breast, and kissed him and kissed him again, and could not stop from pressing his pale, old lips on that ravaged face, on those eyes whose expression was altered but still beautiful, on that hair, dusty but still waving and soft, on that flesh that was his own.

The son, covered with confusion and deeply moved, did not know how to respond to these kisses, and as soon as he could free himself from his father's arms he threw himself on the ground and repeated tremulously the speech he had prepared. "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." (Vs. 21)

But if the young man had brought himself to the point of refusing the name of son, the old man never felt himself more father than at this moment; he seemed to become a father for a second time, and without even answering, with his eyes still clouded and soft, but with the ringing voice of his best days, he called to the servants:

"Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." (Vs. 22)

The son of the master should not return home wretchedly dressed like a beggar. The finest garment should be given him, new shoes, a ring on his finger, and the servants must wait on him because he, too, is a master.

"And bring hither the fatted calf; and kill it, and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." (Vs. 23)

The fatted calf was kept in reserve for great feast days: but what festival can be greater for me than this one? I had wept for my son as dead and here he is alive with me. I had lost him in the world and the world has delivered him back to me. He was far away and now is with me, he was a beggar at the doors of strange houses, and now is master in his own house; he was famished and, now he shall be served with a ban­quet at his own table.

And the servants obeyed him and the calf was killed, skinned, cut up and put to cook. The oldest wine was taken from the wine-cellar, and the finest room was prepared for the dinner in celebration of the return. Servants went to call his father's friends and others went to summon musicians, that there should be music. And when everything was ready, when the son had been bathed, and his father had kissed him many times more—almost as if to assure himself with his lips that his true son was there with him and it was not the vision of a dream—they commenced the banquet, the wines were mixed and the musicians accompanied the songs of joy.

The older son was in the field, working, and in the evening when he came back and was near to the house he heard shouts and stampings and clapping of hands, and the footsteps of dancers. And he could not understand. "Whatever can have happened? Perhaps my father has gone crazy or perhaps a wedding procession has arrived unexpectedly at our house."

Disliking noise and new faces, he would not enter and see for himself what it was. But he called to a boy coming out of the house and asked him what all that clatter was.

"Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound." (Vs. 27)

These words were like a thrust at his heart. He turned pale, not with pleasure, but with rage and jealousy. The old envy boiled up inside. It seemed to him that he had all the right on his side, and he would not go into the house, but stayed out­side, angry.

Then his father went out and entreated him: "Come, for your brother has come back and has asked after you, and will be glad to see you, and we will feast together."

But the serious-minded young man could not contain himself, and for the first time in his life ventured to reprove his father to his face.

"Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; yet thou never gayest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf." (Vs. 29)

With these few words he discloses all the shame of his soul hidden until then under the Pharisaical cloak of good behavior. He reproaches his father with his own obedience; he reproaches him with his greed. "You have never given me even a kid"—and he reproaches him, he, a loveless son, for being a too-loving father. "This thy son." He does not say "brother." His father may recognize him as son, but he will not recognize him as brother. "He hath devoured thy living with harlots. Money that was not his, with women that were not his; while I stayed with thee sweating on thy fields with no recompense."

But his father pardoned this son, as he did the other son. "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

The father is sure that these words will be enough to silence the other. "He was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found. What other reasons can be needed and what other reasons can be better than these—grant that he has done what he has done, that he has spent my money on women; he has dissipated as much as he could; he left me without a greeting; he left me to weep. He could have done worse than that and still would have been my son. He could have stolen on the streets, could have murdered the guiltless, he could have offended me even more, but I never could forget that he is my son, my own blood. He was gone and has returned, was disappeared and has reappeared, was lost and is found, was dead and is alive again. This is enough for me and to celebrate this miracle a fatted calf seems little to me. Thou hast never left me, I always enjoyed thee, and all my kids are thine if thou asketh for them; thou hast eaten every day at my table; but he was gone for so many days and weeks and months! I saw him only in my dreams; he has not eaten a single piece of bread with me in all that time. Have I not the right to triumph at least this day?"

Jesus stopped here; He did not go on with His story. There was no need of that, the meaning of the parable is clear with no additions. But no story—after that of Joseph—that ever came from human lips is more beautiful than this one or ever touched more deeply the hearts of men. Interpreters are free to comment and explain that the prodigal son is the new man purified by the experience of grief, and the older son, the Pharisee who observes the old law but does not know love. Or else that the older son is the Jewish people who do not understand the love of the Father welcoming the pagan, although he had wallowed in the foul loves of paganism and had lived in the company of swine.

Jesus was no maker of riddles. He Himself says expressly that the meaning of this and similar parables is: "More joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over all the righteous" who vaunt themselves in their false righteousness; than for all the pure who are proud of their external purity; than for all the zealots who hide the aridity of their hearts by their apparent respect for the law.

The truly righteous will be received in the Kingdom, but no one ever doubted them, they have made no one tremble and suffer and there is no need to rejoice; but for him who has been near perdition, which has gone through deep sufferings to make himself a new soul, to overcome his bestiality, who merits his place in the Kingdom the more because he has had to deny all his past to obtain it, for him songs of triumph shall arise.

"What man of you having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." (Luke 15:4)

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, "Re­joice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost."

And what is a sheep compared to a son returned to life, to a man saved? And of what value is a piece of silver compared to one astray, who finds holiness again?