Mount Tabor in the hills of Galilee. Photo: Michelle Tan

Michelle Tan

During this COVID situation, the struggles we face are compounded and the crosses we have to bear seem heavier than ever be it in our homes or at the workplace.

The first disciples too, had a similar moment of darkness after the crucifixion of Jesus.

In his Easter Vigil 2020 homily, Pope Francis shared that the Risen Lord told the women who went to the empty tomb not to be afraid. Instead, they were told to “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10) Also, this angel had told the same women earlier: “Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him.” (Matthew 28:5; Mark 16:6-7)

So Jesus had suffered, died and risen in Jerusalem, why did he choose to reveal His glorified self to the disciples in Galilee that was some 126km or a week’s journey away?

Pope Francis shared the reasons why it was crucial for Jesus’ disciples – and similarly for us today, to re-encounter Him in Galilee:

Galilee – the place of encounter

Galilee was significant as it was where Jesus first called his disciples to follow Him. It was their “place of remembrance” as much as it is ours. Returning to Galilee means to remember that “we have been loved and called by God”.

It was at Mount Tabor in the hills of Galilee where, during His public ministry, Jesus showed His transfigured and glorified self to them. Yet, returning there after his crucifixion in obedience to His command, while many of the disciples fell down and worshipped Him, some disciples still doubted. (Matthew 28:16)

So, when Jesus took them back to the Sea of Galilee, it was there where He unequivocally dispelled their disbelief by effecting the miraculous catch of fish on the lake and preparing breakfast for them at dawn on the lake shore. (John 21:1-12)

Galilee – place of everyday living

We, too, are no different from the first disciples when we focus only on our past failures and present shortcomings. Or, we could also be like Peter, who wanted to stay on the mountain top at the Transfiguration. This is like us wanting to remain in the high of our first personal encounter with Christ or the Holy Spirit.

But Jesus wants us to come back to the reality of our daily living. As Pope Francis explained, Galilee was also where the disciples lived, worked and went about their daily routines. “Jesus wants to bring [Easter] hope there, to our everyday life.”  So, we need not fear nor be discouraged, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Galilee – the mission field

Galilee was a pagan area far from the Holy City of Jerusalem where people of different religions lived. Pope Francis emphasised that Jesus asked His disciples to “start again from there” because His message of hope was not to be confined to sacred places but instead was meant to be brought to everyone.

For us today, this is a reminder that Galilee is not just in our memories, nor in our comfort zones. Neither is it only in our faith communities. Instead it is in the world. It is out there that Jesus wants us to proclaim His message of hope, courage and love.

Rediscovering our own Galilee

Pope Francis concluded: “Each one of us has our own Galilee. We need to resume the journey [of life], reminding ourselves that we are born and reborn thanks to an invitation given gratuitously to us out of love, there, in my own Galilee.” The Pope also reminded us that this ought to be the point “from which we can set out anew, especially in times of crisis and trial. With the memory of my own Galilee.”

So, during this time of crisis and trials, let us make an inner pilgrimage to revisit our personal Galilee of remembrance and reconnection with Christ. The Risen Lord is waiting for us. It is when we are empowered with renewed faith and strength, that we are able to go forth on our mission to be His witnesses by helping others rediscover their own Galilee.