Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Myrrh-Bearing Women

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

Christ is Risen!

Today we commemorate the Myrrh-Bearing Women, those brave disciples of Christ who defied all danger, coming to His tomb to anoint His precious body for burial according to the custom of the Jews. On this day we also remember Ss. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who also showed great courage in asking Pilate for the body of Christ, that they might take Him down, wrap Him in linen place Him in the tomb. The actions of all these people were taken at great personal risk to themselves, as the enemies of God still burned in their hatred of Jesus Christ and would have gladly killed any of His followers. But these actions were motivated by love and the desire to do what was right for the Lord. And such love conquers all.

A cynical person might have wondered, “What is the use of taking such a foolish risk? Jesus is dead, the situation is hopeless; why risk facing death yourself?” The devil often tempts us to look upon situations as being without hope of redemption, and our actions as being fruitless and lacking purpose. When faced with difficult or dismal situations in our own lives, we are often tempted to think that things will never get any better, that all hope is dead and gone, and that perhaps the very best thing that we can do is to cut our losses and bail out. How easily we forget that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! Where there is life, and especially the resurrection life of Christ, there is always hope, and nothing is beyond redemption.

This is the lesson that the Myrrh-Bearing Women learned when they came to Christ’s empty tomb very early in the morning on the first day of the week. They were filled with sorrow, but motivated by love. Then they beheld the angel sitting in the tomb who said to them “…You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” What a joyous message! And at that moment the world changed forever! Never again would anyone be entirely without hope, no matter what the situation or what the devil might say otherwise. Christ is risen, and those who were dead in the tombs are set free! Christ is risen, and the power of the devil is destroyed! Christ is risen, and never again can anyone say “I am hopeless”. For Christ is risen to grant newness of life and the hope of resurrection to glory.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

There is even more here to give us hope. We note that the angel said to the women, “Go, tell His disciples—and Peter [that Christ is risen from the dead].” He mentioned Peter separately and not as one of the Lord’s disciples because Peter had hotly denied knowing Christ and refused to be associated with Him. And then the rooster crowed and he remembered Christ’s words, “Before the cock crows, you shall deny Me three times” and Peter went out and wept bitterly. We can hardly imagine the depths of sorrow that Peter felt at that hour, and the crushing burden of guilt that he felt. Though perhaps we can. Perhaps we have had such dark hours in our own lives and know something of what he went through. The loneliness of a sinner who feels cut off from God is unbearable. But the wonderful news here is that Christ did not leave him in that terrible state, utterly without hope. The angel came with a divine message of love and redemption: “Go and tell Peter that Christ will meet him as He said”. Peter’s tears of repentance did not go unnoticed by the God of love, and when Jesus met him, three times he asked him, “Peter, do you love Me?” Three times Peter replied, “Lord, You know that I love You.” And thus his thrice-denial was washed away by his thrice-affirmation of love, and the infinite mercy of Jesus Christ. What a beautiful and intimate story, and how encouraging it is to us who perhaps have also denied Christ or felt distant from Him in those darker moments of our own lives. Earth has no sorrow that heaven can not heal, and no situation of ours is beyond redemption if we put our trust in God.

Let us contrast this story with one of another former disciple, Judas Iscariot. Judas also turned away from Christ, betraying Him for thirty pieces of silver. He did not know that his betrayal would result in the death of Jesus, and we he found out what the Jews intended to do, he went back to return the silver and try to make it right. But it was too late. The Jews told him to take care of the problem himself. And so he went out and hanged himself.

I floated this idea once before--it’s kind of interesting to think about--that what if, instead of listening to the voice of the devil who prompted him to commit suicide, miserable Judas had crawled back a few days later to throw himself at the feet of the risen Jesus. Dare we imagine that Christ would have forgiven him as He forgave Peter, and—as strange as it may sound to our ears—that today we would speak of a “St. Judas” as the one who betrayed Him but was later restored in mercy? It’s just speculation and therefore of little value. But we can say for certain that that by taking matters into his own hands, by acting so severely out of anger and hopelessness, that Judas removed himself from all possibility of redemption and left us with a very sad tale to contrast with Peter’s beautiful story.

There is a lesson in here for us. Be very careful which voice you listen to, and who you allow to be your guide in times of sorrow. The voice which says to you “Not even God can help you now” prompting you to take desperate actions, is not the voice you should listen to. It is the voice of the devil, full of hatred and venom, He wants you to forget of the love and power of Christ, and turn away from Him that you might share the devil’s own fate. Instead, we must always listen to the angelic voice of sweetness which says, “Christ is risen! Go and meet Him and fall down before Him. He will grant you redemption and healing, and ease your terrible burden.”

My brothers and sisters, Christ is risen and we must never forget this, or allow this glorious message to be taken from us. We have hope, a hope that will not disappoint, a hope that brings light and life and the promise of all things being made new. Let us love one another and allow that love to conquer all and motivate us in every action toward one another and all those around us.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Let us adore His third-day resurrection!

+To the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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