Do not be afraid. Go tell my Brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:
The Easter Season in the liturgical life of the Church is my favorite. The post resurrection readings help me renew my relationship with Christ even more so than those in Lent. These same readings also help me deepen my understanding of the risen Christ while reminding me that I will never fully grasp the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection.
Last year in my letter after Easter I referred to Gustavo Gutierrez’s understanding of Galilee. Gutierrez sees Galilee as the metaphor for our mission and ministries among the poor and marginalized. When Jesus carries out his liberating mission, it is in Galilee. He does so by personally responding to the poor, the outcasts, the widows and orphans, the lepers and others on the periphery. It is in Galilee that he breaks with exclusivity of the cultural and religious practices of the day including the place and role of women in the society.
Returning to Galilee, however, involves a personal response. Am I aware and open to encountering the living Christ or am I all caught up in my preoccupations, worries, feelings and thoughts? In short-in my own agenda? In his The Joy of Discipleship, Pope Francis points to the very human responses of Jesus’ disciples to the risen Christ. These are our responses also.
Thomas could not believe the word of his community of brothers. He wanted proof. He needed to see the wounds and to put his finger into the nail marks and his hand into Jesus’ side or “I will not believe.” (Jn 21: 25) Thomas’ response was one of doubt.
The disciples on the Road to Emmaus, also distraught, were blind to the risen Christ. They heard his wonderful explanation of the Scriptures which they had heard before. It wasn’t until they shared in the blessing and breaking of bread that they realized their encounter with the risen Christ.
Mary Magdalen was looking for the Lord. She did not let grief or fear prevent her from seeking Jesus. Weeping when she found the tomb empty, Mary was astonished when she heard the angels ask why she was weeping. Then another man asked her same question. She turned around to answer, thinking she was talking to the gardener. She asked where they had taken Jesus’ body. When the stranger said with the same tone of love, “Mary!” she recognized the risen Jesus and responded with affection, “Rabboni.” (Jn 20:17) Mary recognizes the risen Lord by listening to Him.
Doubt, deep sorrow, and blindness-these three experiences held the disciples back initially from encountering the risen Lord. But eventually, something Jesus had said or done while with them in life helped them to recognize Him.
I know I have doubted. I have experienced deep sorrow. I have lacked an open mind and heart to Jesus’ word. I want to share one event that stands out for me. I had just returned from a student retreat. I was living with a community of Brothers who were involved with student formation programs. After this retreat, I was on fire with the Spirit. It was easy to believe, to love and to be open to others and to see the risen Lord in the community we just shared on retreat. Everything was wonderful.
So I thought. At 11:00 PM that evening we received a phone call. The Brother who answered shouted with grief in his voice, “Oh God no!” Two dear friends, Rick and Ursula Hoffmann had been killed returning from a restaurant earlier in the evening. A drunk driver who was speeding failed to stop for the light and hit them broadside. They were dead at the scene. Their 8-year-old son would be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.
That evening, like Thomas, I doubted. With deep grief I really struggled. At that moment I could not meet the risen Lord. While in the protective environment of the retreat, it was so easy to experience the risen Christ. Now I was troubled and confused. A few hours earlier everything had been fine. Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, I was stuck in my logic and hurting so much that my mind and heart were closed and I could not encounter Christ.
A couple of days later, friends got together at our house. I discovered that my own vulnerability was preventing me from recognizing the risen Christ. We spent the afternoon supporting each other, praying from the heart, sharing stories of Rick and Ursula, both crying and laughing. We pledged support of Tony, their son. Returning to that ill-fated weekend, I realize today that, like Mary, I encountered the risen Christ in the silence, in prayer of the heart, in the love and support of the people who came together as a community. That was Galilee for me.
Brothers, you are called to follow in Christ’s footsteps and minister God’s healing touch of love (mercy) Through word and deed to all whom you meet In your journey of life. (FP)
Returning to Galilee takes place in the here and now of life. Returning to Galilee is about prayer that comes from the heart. It is about caring for each other and being in communion with each other, and it is about helping the stranger in need.
We return to Galilee when we visit and pray for our infirmed Brothers-for Bede, Peter Donohue, Bob Houlihan, Nivard, Dan O’Brien, Bonaventure, Bill Cushing in Nairobi, our infirmed Brothers in Bruges and in other parts of the Congregation. What inspiring examples of living the charism each one is for us. I know that I know that I am not alone in saying I have met the risen Lord in their faith, cheerfulness, longsuffering and prayerfulness. I hope we are also people in whom these Brothers find the risen Lord. I am quite sure that today Dan Lynch understands that the Rehab Center is his Galilee where he experiences the risen Christ in the care and companionship of the Brothers from his own community, as well as those who have taken special care of him in the region.
Returning to Galilee can be very unexpected. I am sure that Paul Murray would agree. Galilee was not on his itinerary. Paul shared that he felt very touched and supported by the email messages and the prayers the community is offering. These are wonderful examples of what Jesus shared with us in last Sunday’s gospel. “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34) I meet the risen Christ in the Galilee of the Xaverian family.
My prayer for the Xaverian family, Brothers, Associates and Collaborators is that in your here and now, you find the solitude and silence needed to discover anew the ways in which the risen Lord is appearing to you. I close with the exhortation from our Fundamental Principles.
Remember, Jesus, our brother has walked this path before us. In us, as risen Lord, He wants to walk this path again. And his Spirit, the Spirit of God now guides us. (FP)
The teachings about life and the examples Jesus has given us are very clear. Pope Francis reminds us during this Jubilee year of the very simple works of mercy, which are so easy to practice when we are mindful of others. I pray that we let the Spirit lead us where He will, knowing that Jesus gave us a command to go to all ends of the earth to spread this good news.
I hope to see you in Galilee.
In the risen Lord,