“Apples! Apples! Beautiful red apples! Of every size, large, medium and small! Sweet and crisp! Beautiful red apples! Apples!” cried Lucas.
Poor fellow! He spoke of the beauty of his apples without ever having seen them, for he was blind from birth. Years ago, he had enjoyed the collaboration of his brothers in this humble occupation, since the orchard was part of the paternal inheritance. But each of them had eventually followed a different path in life, and now it was his wife and two sons who helped him.
The business was not very profitable, it is true, but it brought in enough for the family to live on. His sons, Ozias and Abiud, were sturdy young boys and willingly did their part. Naomi, the matron, who admired her husband’s character and virtue, shouldered as much as she could in the running of the household, and was an expert in making ends meet.
Theirs was a modest existence, but one rooted in a deep faith in the Lord God of Israel and in ardent hope for the coming of the Messiah.
* * *
Let us turn our attention to another family: a father, a Mother and little Child. They were fleeing from their homeland to Egypt, a long and arduous journey…
The route took them almost entirely through desert terrain. And that day, it was unbearably hot! But even worse, the scanty food reserves had been depleted, and the remaining water was hot and clouded with dust.
Joseph went ahead, leading the donkey, on which Mary sat, holding her Baby. No matter how She tried to soothe Him and protect Him from the sun, the Child would sooner or later begin to feel thirsty… And that is what happened. As time passed, little Jesus’ face became redder and redder, until finally He began to cry.
“Mary, how wish there was something I could do to remedy the situation…” lamented Joseph.
“My husband, do not be disheartened. If misfortune has befallen us, God knows our needs. Let us trust and He will help us!”
But the Child’s cries continued to pierce the couple’s hearts. On they went, praying to the Eternal Father.
Presently their surroundings began to change: greenery reappeared, a few flowers could be seen and, best of all, they found fresh water to drink. Their faith had not been disappointed, for God had delivered them from that affliction! But they still had a long way to go…
At dusk, Joseph said:
“My Spouse, we are not far from a village. Shall we stop there and ask some good people to give us lodging?”
When the question reached Mary’s ears, she felt in her Heart that it would be for the best, and she simply answered yes.
Entering the village, Joseph wanted nothing other than to be guided by the preference of his Most Holy Spouse. So what did he do? Coming to the first house, he looked at Mary, and She, by her gaze, discreetly indicated that it was not the right place.
After six attempts, She showed her approval. The last rays of the sun were just bidding farewell to the sky.
Tap-tap-tap! Joseph knocked at the door.
“Yes? How can I help?” asked the lady of the house.
“Excuse me, my good lady, for the unexpectedness of our visit. We are travelling from Israel to Egypt, and need a place to stay for the night. Would you be able to give us shelter?”
The woman was Naomi, whom we have already met. At first she hesitated, not out of lack of goodwill, but because of the meagre conditions of her household: she would have no bed to offer, nor even enough food. But before she could begin to explain her difficulties, she caught sight of the Child… and immediately changed her mind!
“O blessed couple! What a beautiful Son you have! We are very lacking indeed, but I will find a way to accommodate you. Please come in! Our house is yours. I will call my husband.”
“May the Lord reward you, good lady!” Mary thanked her with a sincere smile.
Soon Lucas, Ozias and Abiud came. Everyone immediately liked the Holy Family and joyfully welcomed them.
The father gave the orders: “Children, you will sleep with your parents tonight, leaving the rest of the house for our guests.” The six ate a delicious soup prepared by Naomi and Mary, and everyone slept soundly.
The next morning, Lucas and Naomi could not bear to part with such blessed company. At their entreaties, Mary asked Joseph to spend one more day there, to which he readily agreed.
The two little boys wanted to show the family orchard and the fine apples growing there. While St. Joseph conversed with the parents, Our Lady, carrying the Divine Child, followed Ozias and Abiud to the trees. The boys eagerly explained to Her the entire history of the orchard, and described every aspect of the cultivation and selling of the fruit.
Just then, the Baby Jesus stretched out His little hands: He wanted to pick an apple. The Blessed Virgin then said to the children:
“Would you kindly bring me a knife?”
“Yes, of course!” And they both ran to fetch one.
Mary cut and peeled a little piece of apple and gave it to her Son, who ate it with delight! At that moment, a cry was heard:
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Naomi dear, I can see! Blessed be God! Hosanna in the highest!”
The family of Lucas gathered around him, as he wept for joy. They wondering what could be the cause of such a miracle. Joseph and Mary smiled and said nothing, while the Child savoured another piece of apple…
Abiud then said:
“Mama, it was at the exact moment when Jesus tasted the apple that Papa began to shout that he could see.”
Lucas, deeply moved, knelt before the Child in His Mother’s arms. Seized by divine inspiration, he said with all the fervour of his soul:
“O Most High Lord, could it be that I am kneeling before the Messiah? Has the Desire of all Nations come to my humble home to visit my family? Has my sight been granted to me today so that I might contemplate Him with my own eyes?”
With these and other words, the cured man praised the King of the universe. He had acquired material vision, but his faith allowed him see even further and believe that the little Child before him was the promised Christ.
Seeing the boundless gratitude of the former blind man, the Child Jesus pointed to His Mother. With this He wanted to signify that the miracle had been worked through the discreet intercession of Our Lady, the treasurer of the gifts of Heaven, in whose mouth the “apple” of Adam never entered. ◊