The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (15:43-16:8)
Christ is risen! Today in the life of the Holy Church we are reminded of some truly courageous acts of love. Each and every day for the last few weeks, I am reminded that people are afraid, but the Lord keeps reminding us that we have nothing to fear as His children. Some are afraid of getting sick. Others are afraid of being judged because they aren’t wearing masks or taking the same precautions as some deem necessary. Some are afraid that the authorities will use this sickness to clamp down on religious practice in this country. Some are afraid that we won’t get back to normal life anytime soon. We do have some reasons to fear, there can be no doubt about that. But we also have reasons to take courage, to be brave.
Our gospel reading today shows us the example of some very courageous people. People who were pious and loved God so much that they went out of their way and took risks, took chances and ultimately they were rewarded for their actions even in the darkest of times. They were rewarded for their faith. One of these courageous people was Joseph of Arimathaea. He was a prominent religious leader and the truth is that he stood to lose everything for showing sympathy for Jesus. Yet we are told that he “took courage” and went to Pilate. Why it is even possible that Pilate could have seen him as a sympathizer and had him punished or even crucified! Yet Joseph took courage and asked for the body of the Lord Jesus. And what courage and faithfulness he had. He not only went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body, but he went to the foot of the cross, to a scene that would be quite difficult to behold. He, along with Nicodemus, took down the bloodied, lifeless body of our Lord Jesus Christ. They handled His body with reverence and care and love. They showed great respect and honor to Christ. They did much more than the 12 disciples according to the gospel text. The disciples were paralyzed with fear yet these men, acted boldly, with love. It is a testament to their true faith and dedication to Jesus Christ.
The myrrh bearing women also showed similar boldness. They went to the tomb to anoint the body of the Lord. They did not worry about how they might be viewed by others, even the soldiers who were to guard the tomb. They did not give a thought to the fact that the Lord would be decomposing in the tomb. The women, like the men we just mentioned used different ways to show the same love for the Lord Jesus. In the life of the Church (which is the body of Christ) we also find different ways to show our love for Christ. We are called to do this even when the work is not glamorous. Actually the usual work of loving others and serving in the life of the Church is not glamorous work at all. It is dirty, difficult and often thankless. Each one does this work in different ways. One by offering comforting words, another by giving a hug, another by preparing food, another by cleaning, yet another by baking bread or by trimming the candle wicks. One by teaching, another by listening patiently. All of them serving and loving the same Lord, even through different kinds of actions. Each act might even carry a different sort of reward, yet all the rewards come from the Lord.
These women went out early on Sunday morning and the Lord rewarded their faithfulness and love by making them the first witnesses to the miraculous and life changing event of the resurrection. What an honor! Can you imagine? Even they could not comprehend it and we are told that “they went away and fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had come upon them.”
Right now we are in a situation that is difficult, there has been a sense that we’ve been waiting for the Sun to rise after a long cold night. Take courage! The Sun will rise again. Look to the bright spots in your life. You have your life, you have another day to learn to pray, to learn to love, to learn to repent. We have much to be thankful for. But I want to say to you, take courage! Joseph and Nicodemus and the Myrrh bearing women all had courage….and we can be like them. Actually I want to tell you that your courage must exceed their courage by far. How can I possibly say such a thing? Because they had this otherworldly courage after the crucifixion but before they knew a thing about the resurrection. My brothers and sisters, we have the good news of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! So we must have courage that is above and beyond anything that even these saintly people possessed. We are called to reorient our lives and our way of thinking. This reminds me of that very nice quote “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell thestorm how big your God is.”
Isn’t this how we should approach every difficulty and challenge in this life? Reminding ourselves that God is much bigger than the trials and tribulations of life. Some of the parents who are listening today have been privileged enough to hear the famous VeggieTales song “God is bigger than the boogie man.” In fact God is bigger and greater than everything including evil and sin and death! So we are not going to walk around in fear of the future because the future belongs to the Lord as did the past and the present. We also belong to the Lord. We are His children through our baptism. What He has, He is sharing with us. His defeat of sin and evil, it our defeat of sin and evil. His defeat of death, is our defeat of death. His glorious resurrection, is indeed our glorious resurrection. There is literally NOTHING to fear when you are a child of God. Only one thing do we really fear…to fall away from God, to be outside God, because that is true sickness that leads to true death. I want to leave you with a beautiful quote by St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and SanFrancisco. He said
“Now the Church consists of both her earthly and heavenly parts, for the Son of God came to earth and became man that He might lead man into heaven and make him once again a citizen of Paradise, returning to him his original state of sinlessness and wholeness and uniting him unto Himself.
This is accomplished by the action of Divine grace grated through the Church, but man’s effort is also required. God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary; without it he cannot by saved. Striving towards God and cleaving unto the Lord by its humble love, the human soul obtains power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to complete victory over sin.”
His complete victory will be our complete victory, so stop worrying and take courage! Christ is risen!