Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Easter Greetings and blessings to all.
This year, many of our congregations will hear the Easter account from Matthew’s Gospel—Matthew 28:1–10. In this, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” go to see the tomb and are encountered by an angel who announces the Easter message to them. “Do not be afraid,” the angel says to the women, “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. This is my message for you.’”
Following this comes an even more shocking encounter: Jesus meets the women along the way—“Greetings!” Talk about understated! There is nothing understated in the response of the women, however. Matthew tells us, “…they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.” “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’” It is the second time the instruction is given, Tell them to go to Galilee. It is not only an instruction, however, there is assurance as well: There they will see me. And they went and did as instructed. There, in Galilee, the eleven, following the message of Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” encountered and experienced the resurrected Jesus.
This inspires me to ask a question of you: Where is your Galilee? Where have you experienced the risen Christ in your life? Where have you experienced the risen Jesus calling you to his love, calling you to his service? I suggest that where and when this occurs, you have found your Galilee.
For each of us, Galilee is the place where we encounter, and are encountered, by the risen Christ, where our lives are changed, transformed, or fully realized or actualized, by his resurrection power. It is the place where we are called by the grace and power of Christ’s resurrection to new life that is courageous, selfless—filled with light and love whose only source can be God in Christ, light and love that overcomes all the forces of sin and death at work in our lives and in our world.
It is the light and love of the risen Christ who goes ahead of us to our Galilees wherever they may be, whenever they may occur. Christ who is with us always, even to the end of the ages, drawing us into his very heart. This is what our Easter celebration is about.
May the risen Christ bless you and yours this Easter and always.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Right Rev. William H. (Chip) Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey