Pope: Easter invites return to our first encounter with Jesus
In his homily for the Easter Vigil Pope Francis encouraged those present to remember the moment they first felt the love of God, saying that Jesus' resurrection is a time to relive this experience anew.
“Returning to Galilee 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,” the pontiff said during the April 19 evening vigil, held every year the night before Easter as as a commemoration of Jesus' resurrection.
“It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”
Beginning his reflections, Pope Francis recounted the events of the Gospel, recalling how when the women come to the tomb and found it empty an angel told them to go to Galilee and tell the disciples what they saw.
He added that on their way they met Jesus, who told them to do the same and that there, “they will see me...Don't be afraid.”
Observing how “the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died” after Jesus' death, the Pope explained that the women's message, “incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness.”
After the women's testimony “The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said,” the Pope stated, drawing attention to Jesus' command for the women to return to Galilee. He noted that they “had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: 'Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me.'”
“Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called,” he observed.
“Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him.”
Returning to Galilee, the pontiff continued, “means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory without fear.”
“To re-read everything – Jesus' preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.”
For each of us as well “there is a 'Galilee' at the origin of our journey with Jesus,” the Pope went on to say, expressing that this return is a beautiful rediscovery of our baptism which helps us to draw a new energy from the sources of our faith.
Returning to Galilee, he noted, “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,” the Pope said, highlighting how “that flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.”
Pope Francis then explained that there is “a more existential 'Galilee'” in the life of every Christian after baptism, which is “the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission.”
Addressing those in attendance, the Roman Pontiff encouraged each to ask themselves: “What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Did it go away or I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it?”
“Lord,” he prayed, “help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.”
Emphasizing how the Easter Gospel reading is “very clear,” the Pope said that “we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection.”
“This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia,” the pontiff clarified, but rather “it is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.”
“'Galilee of the Gentiles!'” he concluded, “Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter…Let us be on our way!”