Pope Francis spoke about how Jesus told his disciples after his Resurrection to return to Galilee where they had first given their lives to him.
“To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.”
I look back to a Protestant youth retreat one spring when I was 15. One evening we gathered around the campfire we built up on the mountain. I can still smell the marshmallows melting into the fire. We sang camp songs and church songs. My favorite was the story of Jesus’ life sung to the music of “Danny Boy.” I still can sing most of the words and the haunting chorus, “The Savior, Savior, of the world has come.”
The wooden cross
I wandered near a wooden cross that stood as a sturdy signpost to me on that mountain. The youth minister was talking about committing our lives to Jesus. That was when I gave my almost-grown-up life to Jesus. That was my Galilee moment. That’s the moment! That’s where I can ”return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.”
Later, when the youth minister asked us to share about our experience of accepting Jesus, no one said a word — especially not shy me. It was our secret – me and Jesus! It became my security place when I needed to yell or cry or ask “why?” Somehow I thought the secret would be diluted and dispersed and disappear among people I told. This special relationship wouldn’t be so special any more if I shared it with the whole world.
Wrong! Sharing that Galilee moment surely would have encouraged my family and my teen friends in the next few years as I grew strong through several family upsets before and after my father’s death five years later.
Returning to Galilee
Pope Francis said that to “return to Galilee” also means renewing “the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. … It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”
Since my Galilee moment I’ve had exciting opportunities to renew my first experience of realizing that Jesus loves me — retreats, beach vacations, babies born, special sacramental and Eucharistic moments. All were mountaintop moments that touched back to the sturdy wooden cross and then carried me farther along my faith journey of sharing his mission.
One moment from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land stands out. We went to Mass one Sunday in Ibilin, Galilee, in a Greek Byzantine Rite Church. The music and native language (with English and French translations) was close to that of Jesus’ time—Aramaic and Arabic with a few Greek responses such as “Kyrie Elieson.”
The words of Jesus in Galilee
As Fr. Elius Chacor lifted the chalice and said the words of consecration, I closed my eyes and listened to the words of Jesus as his followers heard them at the first Eucharist during the Last Supper. Even then, there in Galilee, I was up on that mountain singing that ”Danny Boy” song and rediscovering Jesus’ love for me.
Wherever I am, God often fills my heart with his love. Sometimes it’s so strong that I cannot contain my joy. His love overwhelms me and overflows into the hurts and scars of those around me.
What brings me healing is not for me alone. What heals me heals those around me. That’s the mission Jesus shares with us at our first Galilee moment.
What is your Galilee moment where you first met Jesus? How can you share it?
(© 2015-16 Nancy Ward)