Monday, April 4, 2016

Easter always hearkens us to go to Galilee

It never fails.  In the first week or so of Easter, I always seem to see Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as his invitation to me.  In so many post resurrection encounters with his disciples, Jesus tells them to go to Galilee and they will see him there. 

I used to wonder what all the fuss was about Galilee.  When I made my (so far) one and only pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I still couldn’t quite see the big deal about the place.  It was a small region, and like so many rural places in Israel, not developed, often dusty, and parts of it were by the edge of the lake or Sea of Galilee.  Capernaum is within this region, and this was where Jesus began calling his disciples. 

Many spiritual writers have pondered about Jesus’ post-resurrection instructions to his disciples.  Surely if it was expedient to do so, Jesus could have just give them his instructions to spread the Good News and begin the task of proclaiming the kerygma when he appeared to them, in whatever ‘form’ he did this.   So just as important for them was a certain going back, a return if you will, to a time and a place in their hearts as well.  Ever the master of the experience and the encounter, Jesus’ unspoken instruction was for them to recall with relish and delight the hope that they all had when their journey with Jesus began. 

Certainly, the occurrences of Good Friday and the fact that their beloved Lord and Master was so cruelly tried, tortured and brutally executed as a criminal seemed to bring the curtains down on their hopes that the Messiah would bring to the land the much needed disenfranchisement that they yearned for.  With dreams dashed and hopes crushed, Jesus’ instruction goes deep.  In order to reinstate hope and restart broken dreams, it wasn’t enough just to say ‘let’s move on’.  The heart is a complex thing, and to be taken to a new place, especially when it is broken and wounded, it has to first be reminded about the time when hope was new and promise was like a budding flower that was about to burst out and fill the world with its hitherto unseen beauty and splendor.

That was what Galilee was.  It was a time and a place where nets were filled to bursting because experienced fishermen listened to the promptings of a carpenter, and the result was nothing short of astonishing.  It was a hearkening back to a time when discipleship dreams were nascent.  And when broken dreams are given a ‘shot in the arm’, the reality and absolute newness and freshness of the resurrection would be understood no longer with downcast eyes and downtrodden spirits, but lives that dared to dream again.

In fact, as most of you would know, this going back to Galilee is a pressing need for each one of us who have had dreams crushed and hopes dashed in our lives.  And no one is spared this experience.  Married couples who have lost the dream and live instead the daily nightmares of anger, resentment and just being snarky to one another; members of the faithful who have been hurt by either fellow Christians or worse, members of the clergy; or maybe just Christians who, because the faith wasn’t really deep and meaningfully imparted, slowly drifted to become nominal in every sense of the word; or folk who have suffered failure and disappointment over and over again until they began feeling thoroughly bedraggled.  If you think this describes your life, and if you can identify with such sentiments of acedia and ennui, that call to go back to Galilee is one that Jesus is making to your heart.

Easter and its great promise of hope and new life is something that is real for every heart.  In Luke’s account of the Road to Emmaus, there is a phrase that he has Cleopas and his friend use in trying to convey their deepest sentiments as they walked with their faces downcast.  “We had hoped …” 

This phrase evokes a sense of despondency and of broken dreams, especially when they were once dreams of grandeur and magnificence.  To say that one ‘had hopes’ conveys sadness and sorrow.  When people fall in love, it is always the hope that this person would be THE one who would stay by one’s side through all circumstances in life, but then the acrimonious breakup happens and one is left with only one’s shattered dreams.  People take up new posts in their careers with great verve and zeal, and after some setbacks, these same hearts become cynical, critical and exude anything but a reaching for greatness.  Indeed, many of us can identify with the ‘had hopes’ phrase that Cleopas and company lamented audibly.

But Easter’s empty tomb and folded linen cloths tell us that we need to go back to our Galilees no matter how far we may find ourselves from them in our lives.  Rekindle the dream, and fill your hearts once more with hope.  Put past hurts and unforgiveness behind you, and dare to start again.  When we do this, Easter becomes real, and we will realise that the Lord had been walking beside us all this while. 

Galilee awaits – for each of us.  We only need to turn around and make the effort to try again. 


  1. Hi, Fr Luke,long time we haven't been here in this blog with you. When we were there in Galilee for our pilgrimage, the big question in mind was why Christ had to leave this place where his work was much appreciated and fruitful. Well reading this Easter blog entry reminds us we've this beautiful experience of being home in Galilee again because we've journeyed in Christ and know how much he is risen in us.

  2. Dear Fr Luke,
    Galilee awaits-for each of us. We only need to turn around and make the effort to try again. It is easy to say than to put into action. This turn around not for your salvation but for all mankind salvation. That way, many are called and few are answered.