Going back to the tomb of Jesus

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark 15:43-16:8  Image

One of the most amazing aspects of the gospel are some of the details that we regularly glance over. This is true in nearly every passage throughout the Church year. It is also true today. We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council called the Sanhedrin, took courage and went to Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of the Lord Jesus, who had died on the cross that day.

After the Lord had been laid in a new tomb, a large stone was rolled to close the tomb. Now this brings us to our focus for today. We are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body of the Lord Jesus had been placed.

We are told that after the Sabbath was passed these women travelled to the tomb of Our Lord. This is also important. Please notice that although the women perceived that they had something important to do, there was a respect and obedience to the Sabbath day of rest. This day of rest was instituted by God and since Apostolic times this day has been transferred to the day of the Resurrection (Sunday). I mention this tiny detail because it says so much to us about priorities, and obedience, love and commitment to God.

Our inability to have one day dedicated to God alone is a sign that we are compromised and our message as Christians is compromised to the rest of the world. One of the effects of the popular Saturday evening Mass in Roman Catholic churches, is all manner of activities including sports and school related functions continue to be held even on this sacred day. By the grace of God I am tasked with the duty to tell you the truth and the cold hard truth is that it is very likely that many of your children and especially their children will not be Orthodox Christians, if they are Christians at all. Even some of our most faithful families regularly skip the Holy Liturgy for events that they perceive to be of greater importance. If you make it acceptable to dishonor the Lord’s day and skip services once or twice a month, imagine what your children will do with their children!

Again, these things aren’t said to cause a feeling of guilt (though some of us need guilt to spurn us to repentance). However, my true focus in this passage is the level of commitment and love shown by the Myrrh bearing women. On the morning of the third day, we are told that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus. Have we ever once thought through that statement?

These women loved Jesus Christ so much that they were willing to go back to the tomb of a man who was a convicted criminal. While the disciples hid, and thought only of themselves, the women rose to serve. While the disciples thought of their lives, the women thought of their Master.

At this point the women knew Jesus to be dead for nearly 3 days. His body would have been a terrible sight to witness. He would still have his scars, his wounds, the signs of His Passion and what’s more…..He would be decomposing. I can’t think of many examples of this level of love and commitment in the Bible. What kind of love gives such women courage and strength to do something so difficult?

In the life of the Church we all claim to love God and we say that we love serving the Church and others. I wonder if our actions reflect this reality? Do we really love God for His sake and the sake of His Church or do we love God with conditions? Do I love God when it is profitable, when it makes me feel good? Or do I love God when I am asked to do things I would rather not do? Do I still have a heart to serve when serving means that my hands might get dirty? Do I love to serve Christ when He appears in the form of someone who is crazy or loud or rude or poor? Do I love serving when things don’t go exactly the way I expect them to go? Do I love serving when I am forced to be an indian instead of a chief? In the case of the Myrrh bearing women, it is crystal clear that they love Jesus with all their heart. They don’t wait for someone else to do the work, they do it themselves. They don’t consider themselves above such a dirty task, they consider it a great honor to do such a task in the name of Christ and His body the Church.

Before I was ordained my spiritual father would often tell me that a priest is a glorified janitor. For the last several years I’ve found those words to be true. Of course I love to teach and lead activities and pray liturgies but there are many other things that also have to be done when no one is paying attention. Those things are not pretty, or glamorous or clean…but sometimes I wonder if they are not as precious in the sight of the Lord. Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’ Can each of us find some of these small things to do with great love in our daily lives and here in the Church of God? I thank God for the wonderful examples of love and devotion we see in the Myrrh-bearing women.

May God give us hearts to love and serve Him with complete devotion through the prayers of these saintly and pure women. Glory be to God forever AMEN.

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