Posted on: 2014-04-22

Hurry to Galilee

Easter Monday celebration generates a lot of excitement among Christians. Rightly so! Easter Monday is the “Go Ye”, day of empowerment for believers in the resurrection. On Easter Monday, Galilee Day, Christians fittingly gather in obedience to the command of the angel who appeared to the women at the tomb of Jesus. He said to them: “Do not be afraid for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified, He is not here for he is risen as he said…go at once and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. This is my message for you” (Matt 28:5-7).  As the women left in fear and joy to break the news Jesus met them to confirm the message. “Rejoice”, he said to them. “Do not be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to set out for Galilee where they will see me” (Matt 28: 9-10). Jesus himself later confirmed this command in almost the same words as the angel.

The great mandate

The eleven disciples of Jesus obeyed his command. St. Matthew clearly records that they met Jesus in Galilee, clearly implying that Judas was missing. There Jesus gave them the mandate which today is extended to all Christians to fulfill: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you always even to the end of the world”. Matthew records no other follower of Jesus at the event of Galilee, except the eleven, not even the women who heralded the message to the disciples. One can safely say that the Galilee mandate was given to the apostles of Jesus who were with him at the table of the breaking of bread, the last supper. This connection of the Eucharist and the mandate of Jesus at Galilee should never escape the attention of serious Christians.

A tale of two cities

In reading any of the four gospels, it is important to keep the other three in mind in order to have a complete picture. After the death of Jesus, the gospel of St Luke records two of Jesus disciples who set out on the road to Emmaus on the same day the women from the tomb gave them news of the Lord’s resurrection. Luke does not mention any invitation to Galilee. This is the way St Luke records the trip of the two disciples: “That same day, two followers of Jesus were going to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem, and they talked about what had happened. While they were talking and arguing what had happened, Jesus came up and walked with them, but their eyes were not able to recognize him” (Lk. 24;13-14). Jesus had a long discussion with them at the end of which he made to go on. The disciples invited him to stay the night with them. He did and an extraordinary thing happened. “When they were at table, he took the bread, said a blessing, broke it, and gave each a piece. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; but he vanished out of their sight” (Lk. 24:20-21). It was these two who went to confirm to the eleven the resurrection of Jesus. As they were talking Jesus came among them and showed them his wounds. He then re-confirmed his resurrection by sharing in food. He then gave them the task to be witnesses “to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24: 47).

The central place of the Eucharist

The post-resurrection accounts of the Gospels show how intricately the events after Jesus death are interwoven.  There is no doubt however that all the details recorded by them all are to be taken seriously. It is for this reason that Easter Monday Eucharistic celebration, which Catholics also call “Mass” (from the Latin “Missa” meaning dis-missal, the send-forth at the end of worship) must not be stepped down simply to facilitate a more convenient gathering of Christians. If anything, it ought to be solemnly incorporated in the events of that day for it was in it that Jesus is recognized.  The sacrifice of Calvary is the very same one already realized in a non-bloody way by Jesus at the table of the last supper. The last testament of Jesus before he went to his crucifixion was precisely his self-giving. “This is my body… do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22). At Calvary Jesus said \"It is finished\". At the last supper he said \"Do this in memory of me\"; the former not to be repeated, the latter, to be done in his memory. The gospel of John stamped this self-giving sacrifice in a different way by recording the extraordinary action by Jesus of the washing of the feet of the disciples.

The will of the Master

Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection hardly ever happened without the Eucharist (Jn. 21:1-29, Mk. 16:14, Lk. 24, Acts 1: 4-5). The Acts of the Apostles gives a strong testimony of life in the early Church. “They were faithful to the teaching of the apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread and the prayers\" (Acts 2:42). It is only to be expected that the authentic Church of today take the Eucharist just as seriously, even on Easter Monday. The Mass, food of love and unity, celebrated with the mind of Jesus can only enhance not jeopardize Christian unity and celebrations.