By Father Casey
After Jesus was raised from the dead, after he had been confused by Mary for the gardener, after he had walked unrecognized on the road to Emmaus, after he had startled the disciples in the locked upper room, after Thomas received a second chance, after who knows what else happened in and around Jerusalem in those tumultuous and transformative days, a few of the disciples went home to Galilee.
We get the gift of hindsight and the ability to read the whole Passion and Resurrection story together in one long arc, but they were trying to understand it in real-time. We have 2,000 years of tradition and theology to help us comprehend what Christ was doing, but they were barely able to hold in their minds the truth that he was raised, let alone figure out what he might be up to next.
Is he back to restart his ministry? Well, no.
Is he going to make any public appearances or drop in on Pilate? Doesn’t seem so.
Does he seem interested in revenge? Whew, thankfully not.
He was alive, but he was not the same. He was still Jesus, but he was different. And he wasn’t even always there. Sometimes he was with them intensely and without warning, and sometimes he was absent without explanation. Which is an important reminder that we don’t always know what God is up to, and just because we may spend a lot of time at church or in prayer, we should not presume to know with perfect clarity what God is doing. God is full of surprises.
So, in those early days, without knowing what else to do, a bunch of the disciples did the only thing that made much sense: they went home.
That’s where we’ll pick up this weekend in the gospel lesson. Peter and a few others have gone back to Capernaum, to small town life on tranquil shores, where things made sense and everything was predictable and they could take a few deep breaths. I’ve strolled the shore of the Sea of Galilee at dawn in springtime, and let me tell you, it makes a whole lot of sense why they went back. The intensity of life can become too much at times, even when that intensity is tinged with joy, and we need to retreat to a place and a pace that allows us to put the pieces of our lives back together.
This is one of my favorite stories to pray with, especially in the last two years. I can find myself in this story. I understand what it feels like to be so saturated by the flood of life that you can’t take one more thing in. I know the weight of soul-fatigue, when the only thing you’re able to do is gaze at a body of water or watch the breeze ripple through the trees. I wonder if you know that feeling, too? It doesn’t mean you are weak or faithless or defeated. Even the disciples needed to retreat to a place of serenity before carrying on.
Eventually, Jesus shows up. Eventually, Jesus always shows up. He shows up, as he always does, with words of peace and love, and with an invitation – “feed my sheep.” We may pause for a time to wring out our flooded minds and hearts, we may take a break to allow our souls to catch up with our bodies, but eventually, the great calling on our lives must once again be answered. We are called to love – to love our God with all we have and all we are, and to love our neighbors like Jesus.
So take the time you need, friends, to replenish. Stare out at a lake. Watch the bees in the flowers or the wind in the leaves. Toss a line in the water or plunge your hands in the soil. Do whatever you need to rediscover the peace of God within.
And then, be on the lookout for Jesus. For he strolls the shores of our hearts, ready to call us back to the work of love.