In his homily for the Easter Vigil this year, Pope Francis
focused on a post-resurrection directive from Jesus in the Gospel
of Matthew: "Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to
Galilee, and there they will see me" (Matthew 28:10). Galilee, of
course, is where it all started for Jesus and his disciples. It's
where he began his ministry, and where he called his disciples to
follow him. Galilee is where the disciples first encountered Jesus,
where they were drawn to him.
In those first frightening and confusing hours after the
resurrection - with the disciples disheartened by the events of
Good Friday and dazed by sketchy reports that Jesus was alive, not
sure what to believe - Jesus' words to the women at the tomb
amounted to more than simple consolation and the offer of wistful
Go back to Galilee, he was saying, where it all started, and
where I called you. Reflect on our journey together, all I said and
did, and consider it all in light of the past few days' events.
This is not the end, but the beginning. Do not be afraid. I am with
you to the end.
It seems to me that Jesus is expressing and extending utmost
compassion here. He knows his disciples are afraid, confused,
questioning. Who wouldn't be? He understands that they are lost and
don't know where to turn or what to do. So, he invites them back to
Galilee to retrace their steps, so to speak-to reflect on
everything that has happened in deeper fashion, to re-encounter him
in the light of the resurrection, to rediscover him, and to be
revitalized to carry on his mission.
Likewise, Jesus knows that each one of us - his followers today
who inherited and strive to carry forward that very same mission of
the first disciples - go through periods of fear, confusion, and
struggle with belief. He knows that our earthly trials - whatever
they may be - sometimes weigh us down and leave us feeling
spiritually bereft or abandoned. Sometimes we just don't understand
and feel lost. Hope seems just beyond our grasp.
Jesus' words to the women at the tomb, then, are every bit as
important for us today. They show us the way forward by leading us
back to where it all started for each one of us individually. As
Pope Francis said in his homily:
For each of us, too, there is a "Galilee" at the origin of our
journey with Jesus. "To go to Galilee" means something beautiful,
it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead,
drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian
experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that
blazing light with which God's grace touched me at the start of the
journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every
day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That
flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot
dismay - a good, gentle joy.
Pope Francis encourages us to ask ourselves: "What is my
Galilee?" In other words, consider your own personal call as a
Christian disciple, beloved by God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26).
"Returning to Galilee," the Pope says, "means treasuring in my
heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way,
gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. To return there
means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine,
the moment when he made me realize that he loved me."
Returning to Galilee - which is something different for each one
of us - means taking the time occasionally to rediscover who we are
in the light of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. It means that
in times of sorrow, confusion, and distress, we are to draw
strength, wisdom, and courage from that moment when we were first
We must remember (c.f. Deuteronomy 5:15; Luke 22:19; 2
Timothy 2:8), so that we may grow in faith and love as we take up
our cross daily and follow Jesus in the hope of our own
resurrection. Such memory gives the current moment and
circumstances - no matter how trying they may be - meaning and
As the Pope said, "reviving the memory" of our own Galilee helps
to sustain us in the present and to direct us for the future. It
involves fanning the flames of the Spirit in our hearts - the very
presence of God, who is always with us.
And, as signified by the lighting of candles near the beginning
of the Easter vigil, we are called to pass on that flame to others,
to be the light of Christ in the darkness that surrounds and fills
so many people in this world. We return to Galilee to rejuvenate
ourselves spiritually, and then lead others there to hear Jesus'
A fruitful meditation this Easter season is to recall your
Galilee, your initial call to follow Jesus. Place yourself in that
room with the fearful, confused disciples after Jesus'
resurrection. Acknowledge your fear, your struggles and lack of
understanding. Allow Jesus to enter the room and then listen to his
message of peace.
While he shows you his wounds, recall your Galilee - your
initial encounter with Jesus when you first experienced his
presence in your life. When was it? Where? What happened? What did
he say to your heart? What was your response? Reflect on your
journey thus far. Where have you been? What has happened along the
way? How was God's presence manifested during that time?
And now - now what? What is your reaction as you look
on the wounds of the resurrected Christ - which you share through
baptism - and hear his words, "As the Father has sent me, so I send
you"? What does the recollection of your own Galilee - your initial
call by Jesus - mean in light of the transfigured wounds of the
resurrected Christ now before you? Does this change your
perspective at all? How?
Can you hear Jesus' words to you - to all of us: "Do not be
unbelieving, but believe"? How do you respond? Are you able to move
forward from that locked, fear-filled room by going back in time to
recall your Galilee? Does this recollection provide hope, strength,
courage, joy, and newfound energy for the future? If so, to whom
shall you pass the flame?
As you ponder all that, recall Jesus' last words to his
disciples (and to us) in the Gospel of Matthew: "Go therefore, and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you
always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
So - now what?