Friends, there is nothing subtle about the Gospel of Matthew. In his account Easter Sunday morning begins with an earthquake. And an angel‘s appearance is “like lightning.” The big, tough guards shook in fear and passed out.
The angel tells Mary Magdalene and the otherMary, Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. They run to tell the disciples and they meet the Risen Jesus on that run. And Jesus himself tells them he is going to Galilee.
We should pay attention to everything in the gospels but we should pay extra attention when something is said twice. The writer really wants us to get it. Why Galilee? Galilee is where the disciples live. They are just visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus will meet them where they live. Jesus will meet us where we live. So that his story becomes our story.The famous preacher Phillips Brooks says it powerfully.
“Let everyone count themselves immortal. Let us catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let us say not merely‘Christ is risen’ but ‘I shall rise’.”
An example of Jesus meeting us where we live comes from one of my favorite spiritual writers, Thomas Merton. Merton had this experience on the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville Kentucky.
“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. I have the immense joy of being a person, a member of a creation in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this. But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are walking around shining like the sun.”
If you visit Louisville, there is a plaque on the corner of Fourth and Walnut with those words.
That is Galilee. That is Jesus meeting us where we are. But we forget that. Even the saint Thomas Merton could not keep that vision ever before him. A year later he was back in Louisville and he wrote this:
“Was in Louisville Thursday. Hated the town. It was hot and stupid. Hated all the advertisements, the interminable attempts to sell you something, the unbearable excess of articles and commodities.Everywhere the world oppresses me with a sense of infinite clutter and confusion. Too much of everything.”
Yes, it is not easy staying with the power of the Resurrection. It is why we need constant reminders. Maybe that is what church is for. Jesus meets us In Galilee. Where we live now. We gather onSunday— the Lord’s Day—for a weekly reminder that we are all “shining like the sun” because Alleluia!Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Photo: Noli me tangere, fresco by Fra Angelico PUBLIC DOMAIN