On to Galilee

The other day I met a parent of one of my former students. We got to reminiscing. She asked me if I remembered John (not his real name). What came to my mind was the vision of a very angry and inconsolable John sitting across from me in the guidance department. She told me that he is now in medical school. I smiled as I realized he was back to enjoying his studies. 

Later that morning, I reflected upon my memories of John. As a junior, he had taken an advanced placement science class. Though he doubted his abilities as he struggled with the material, John chose to remain in the class. Not surprisingly, as the year progressed, he became more and more discouraged. Even with my extra tutoring, John remained borderline passing. Eventually, a defeated John stopped working. His parents’ request that he drop the class was refused. After all the administrative meetings were over, John was alone at that table in guidance. I was asked to speak with him.

John was respectful, but very angry. He candidly told me he knew he was going to fail and that failure would ruin the rest of his life. In John’s eyes, there was no way past that failure. 

This week as we journey with Christ, we will travel a similar odyssey. It is an amazing journey as we begin our walk with Jesus during His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Yet, even as we receive the gift of the Eucharist in the Last Supper, doubts begin to enter our minds. What did Jesus mean by His words, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until I drink it with you in the Kingdom of my Father” (Mt 25:29)? They seem to foreshadow death and seem so out of place. Discouragement tugs at our heart with the arrest of Jesus. In defeat and fear, so many disciples fled. As Jesus suffered and died on the cross, Mary His mother, Mary Magdalene, some other women of Jerusalem along with one or two male disciples remained with Him. Even for those brave enough to remain, there eventually came the realization that there is no human way past the failure of death on the cross. 

In the face of such earthly defeats, the student John, the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, and each one of us stumbles along believing ourselves alone. What we do not realize is the precious gift of God’s love hidden beneath what to us seems like defeat. God’s plan utilizes setbacks in order to bring us the gift of Resurrection Sunday. The gifts of the Resurrection include: we are forgiven sinners; everything we choose to do for Jesus with our lives matters deeply; and those who have fallen asleep are alive (1 Cor 15:12-20).

At the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were greeted by an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was going ahead of them to Galilee. As they went to share the good news with the disciples, Jesus met them and said, “Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10). Galilee was where the disciples first recognized Jesus’ call. Pope Francis describes these words of Jesus as an invitation to go back and re-examine things in light of Jesus’ supreme act of love. It is a new beginning with the peace of understanding. 

The invitation from Jesus to return to Galilee wasn’t only for the terrified disciples, it was also for each and every one of us. How do we find Galilee? Pope Francis says, “Galilee is the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ Who called me to follow Him and to share in His mission. In this sense, 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. To return there means reviving the memory of that moment when His eyes met mine, the moment when He made me realize that He loved me.” In essence, we are to return to that Sacred space where we experience Jesus’ presence. From there, after we are ready, Jesus will send us forth. 

John has mastered the science. Soon he will use his knowledge to help others. Similarly, in our lives, we each go through many cycles of defeat and rebirth. With each cycle we grow closer to finding and being the person God instilled in us the moment of our creation. In addition, this process allows us to discern, or if we have strayed return to, the path that in His infinite love God has chosen for us. Let this Easter Sunday find each of us ready and willing to go meet Jesus in Galilee. 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River. biochemwz@hotmail.com.

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