“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.”
This first sentence from today’s Gospel on the Feast of the Ascension serves as a bookend to the Easter pilgrimage we began seven weeks ago. The Gospel for the Easter Vigil recounts the first words of the Resurrected Christ: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Moments before His Ascension, Christ commands, “Go…and make disciples.” But the first command following the Resurrection is, “Go to Galilee.”
For it was Galilee where the stories began; where nets snapped and hearts leapt. It was Galilee where light danced over those crouched in darkness, where the poor were called happy, where leprosy fled at the touch of Love’s hand. In Galilee a gaggle of fishermen heard a carpenter’s voice; Satan has yet to recover.
Over the years, Pope Francis has exhorted the faithful to meditate upon the return to Galilee, on the Lord’s invitation to each of us to return to that place of first love and first encounter with the Beloved. The call to return to Galilee was palpable in my last few weeks in Rome. As beautiful as last semester was, it’s an experience so wild in splendor and struggle that you know it’s only intended for a brief season. When the “Romesickness”1 began to seep in before I had even left, I found such comfort in knowing that the return to the US was not the random result of the passage of time, but a divine invitation to share my deepened faith and joy with others back home.
After all, here in the US is the place of that first encounter with Love. Last weekend I was at a young adult conference for my diocese and the keynote speaker led a brief time of prayer in which we asked the Lord to reveal key moments of wonder before God’s beauty. One of the moments I wrote down was the Saturday night penance service on my first high school retreat. A matter of hours later I was asked to serve on a prayer team for that same Saturday night service! As I prayed with teens, worshipped our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and saw teary students surrender their sins and burdens to the Father’s mercy, the Lord drew me back to that moment of surrender all those years ago. That moment did not require a beautiful cathedral or landscape. It took place in a dark church in Carmel, Indiana. This is Galilee.
Galilee is not only the place where our stories began. Matthew is explicit that Nazareth, Christ’s childhood home, is in the region of Galilee. When Christ calls the disciples to go to Galilee, He calls them to His own home. We do not need to fear the darkness in Galilee, “the land overshadowed by death,” because our Galilee is Christ’s. Just as He goes before the disciples to meet them in Galilee after the Resurrection, He goes before us in the brokenness of our lives, saying, “Do not be afraid. Go.”
Our shared home with God Himself is the mystery of today’s feast. In Galilee, in Nazareth, the Word became flesh; in Galilee, on a mountain, flesh rose to heaven. Just as Christ goes before the disciples into His home in Galilee, He goes before them into His true home, and theirs.
Until that homecoming He Himself is our home. Every time we receive Communion, we personally experience the trustworthiness of Christ’s last words before His ascension: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Early in Matthew’s Gospel we learn that Jesus went from Galilee to John to be baptized. Now the disciples go from Galilee to Jerusalem to await their own baptism. Over these next days before Pentecost, the Church gives us a mini-Advent in this period of joyful and devout expectation of the coming of the Third Person of the Trinity. In this time of waiting and preparation, I encourage you to reflect on your own Galilee: that moment of first love, the grace which has sustained you, the crosses you have borne and continue to bear. Where is He calling you to go? Do you really believe that He is with you always?
Do not be afraid. Rediscover Galilee.
1- Or in the words of my oh-so-affectionate sister, “I miss not having to listen to you talk about how much you miss Rome.” She insisted she was joking, but I’d probably be annoyed with me at this point…
2 thoughts on “Advent in May: Rediscovering Galilee”
OK, reading this with very recent memories of physically visiting Galilee really hits different, but I love how you extrapolated the significance of it and made it relevant to everyone, no matter their location. ❤
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Thank you so much! I was definitely thinking of you while writing…
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