The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark 15:43-16:8
In today’s gospel passage we recognize and celebrate the virtues of the Myrrh bearing women. They are known for their dedication and service and these are truly important attributes that everyone can learn from and imitate. But what is not thought about often is the exceeding strength and courage required of them.
While the disciples huddled together for fear of the Jews, these dedicated women risk everything that they have including their lives as they make their way towards the tomb of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the hopes of showing their love and devotion to Him by anointing His body. Were they afraid at what the Roman soldiers might think? Were they afraid that they might be handed to the authorities and labeled as sympathizers of the rebel named Jesus? Whatever fear they once had vanished at the thought of their dear teacher and master.
We are living in a world that wants us to be afraid as Christians. We are commanded to be silent in the face of godless teaching and godless, immoral laws, rules and regulations. Don’t speak out about homosexuality, don’t speak out about the transgender movement. More importantly, don’t live according to your Christian principles or you will be silenced and punished. If you are living what is termed an “alternative lifestyle” it is expected that everyone in society should simply and quietly accept your “alternative” reality as the new normal.
We are encouraged to keep our beliefs to ourselves but in Christianity, and in Orthodox Christianity more specifically, we realize that our beliefs cannot be hidden from the world because our faith, our beliefs and our actions make for one unified whole. If you are an individual who owns a bakery and you choose not to bake a cake for someone because you do not approve of their lifestyle, that is your choice because men were created to be free and given freedom from their Creator and not by the power of the government. When someone punishes or threatens to punish you because you choose not to bake a cake or choose not to participate or be an accessory to immorality, that is not simply a violation of your constitutional right to exercise your religion as you see fit, it is a violation of the freedom granted to humanity by God Himself.
I think that it is no stretch to say that we are becoming quite like the 11 disciples who quietly hid for fear of what the authorities would do to them. We are afraid to stand for the teachings of Jesus Christ. Some Christians go so far as to say “we show the love of Jesus by accepting people where they are.” Accept them and love them Yes. Absolutely. God’s love for all people is boundless. But God does not love all our behaviors and choices. The love of Jesus was demonstrated through many avenues including teaching and sometimes even harsh correction! In Orthodox theology it is not a stretch to also say that even the Judgment of God is an act of His love since God is love and He cannot be anything that is contrary to His essence. But as we study the scriptures and the New Testament we come to realize that God’s love often looks quite different than what we imagine in our minds.
We say that we live in the light of the resurrection and yet we are all put to shame by the myrrh bearing women. Dedication and love of Jesus Christ trumped everything else for them. Are we as courageous as these women? Are we dedicated to Christ? Are we prepared to lose everything including jobs, careers, and social standing to stand up for Christ and His teachings? Let us not be put to shame but inspired by the devotion and adoration that these saintly women offered when they had nothing else to offer to their beloved Lord.
The myrrh bearing women deserve to be commended and celebrated because they demonstrated faith and a warrior-like courage and determination when they did not yet know about Christ’s resurrection from the dead. How much more faith should we be demonstrating daily since we are equipped with the full knowledge of the truth of His glorious resurrection? We have thousands of examples of how one ought to live and stand up for the truth. Our Church is filled with the stories and the icons of saintly men and women who gave up everything in their extreme love for Jesus Christ. In so many of the lives of the Holy martyrs we see men and women, and sometimes even children who openly declare war on their godless society through their faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. I am convinced that God is calling each of you to be warrior-like in your zeal for the truth and your love for Christ and His teachings. As St. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15 we have to be ready to “speak the truth in love”.
So we rejoice with the myrrh bearing women and we stand in awe and wonder and trembling and astonishment at the news that is brought before us…..Christ is Risen and fear must be put to death. Our whole reality must be enlivened, sanctified and enlightened by this glorious news. Christ Is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!