“Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He has been raised.” The death of Jesus had shaken the faith of the apostles; everything seemed over, all their expectations had crumbled, and their hopes had died. However, in the gloom of darkness and in the midst of uncertainty, something happened that changed their lives and their understanding of Jesus and His mission. Yes, the tomb was empty, not because the body had been stolen, but because Jesus had risen from the dead. The disciples encountered the Risen Lord, not as a spirit, but as a Living Person that they had known and shared fellowship with in the weeks and years before the events of Good Friday. Their encounter with the Risen Lord became stronger when the women received a command to go to Galilee and tell the disciples what they had seen and witnessed: that Jesus had suffered and died and had risen.
Galilee is an important place in the Gospels. Galilee is the place where the apostles were first called, where everything began. The apostles walked around and worked on the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus first called them, they left everything and to follow Him. Galilee is where Jesus asked His disciples to return to when He rose from the dead. To “return to Galilee” means to reread everything on the basis of the cross and victory, to reread everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, which resulted from this supreme act of love.
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. “Returning to Galilee” means understanding and experiencing the Risen Lord in our hearts and bearing witness to Him. It also means to rekindle the fire we received in baptism and to grow in a deeper relationship with Him.
The apostles, having encountered the Risen Lord in Galilee, shared that experience with courage and hope. They preached a message of hope to people who had lost all hope with the death of Jesus. They told all who would listen to them: “Your sins are forgiven by Jesus who is alive and with you. Your hearts are comforted by the love of Jesus who is alive and with you. Your minds are enlightened by Jesus who is alive and with you. Your struggles with yourself are no longer yours alone, but you have Jesus alive and with you.”
This message of hope has been passed down to us in the teachings of the Church and in the written words of Scripture. When Paul wrote his first letter, and when Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote their Gospels many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, this message of hope was central to their writings and teachings. They wrote not as reporters intent on getting the facts straight, but as believers burning to share the Good News so that we can live in hope.
When we examine our lives, families, and communities, we may encounter many heart-breaking incidents. When husbands and wives, children and parents no longer communicate, we cry out, “Where is it all going, and when is it all going to end?” When we come into contact with people living in poverty, homelessness, with physical and mental illnesses, sin, and addiction, not just around us but also in our own homes and personal lives, we may feel that the forces of evil must be winning. When we reflect on all that is happening in our lives and around us, we may be tempted to feel the despair of the apostles in the pre-dawn hours of that first Easter. We may feel like giving up, running away. Do not give up. In such situations, the Lord tells us, “Do not be afraid; return to Galilee.” Our hope in the face of problems, such as death, weakness, crime, suffering, war and terrorism lies in hearing, accepting, living and proclaiming that same message, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
During these wonderful days of joy, grace and blessings, I want to take this opportunity to wish you, my beloved parishioners, a Happy and Blessed Easter. May the Risen Lord fill your hearts and your homes and families with joy, hope, and peace. I also wish to express my profound gratitude to all who helped make our Holy Week liturgies such wonderful celebrations of faith; our altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, ministers of hospitality, liturgical musicians, Suzanne and her team and those who helped with the church environment such as Rosemary Wellington, Grace Garmo, Jim Kenny, and many others. May the Risen Lord continue to bless us, our homes and our parish community, and may we grow in faith and share our faith with courage as the apostles did. God bless!