The risk of love.

Homily 261 – Third Sunday of Pascha (Myrrhbearers)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 30, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!

The Myrrhbearing Women had been with Christ virtually since the beginning of his ministry. The Mother of St. James and St. John, the Sons of Zebedee and Sons of Thunder, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, Joanna the wife of the steward of Herod Antipas. Just to name a few of them.

We understand why they were there. Here was a person that they loved – adored – even worshiped. And he needed to be given a proper burial, not the fast burial that resulted from the impending Sabbath.

What is perhaps more difficult is the role played by the Myrrhbearing Men.

Perhaps you’ve not heard of them referred to in this way – but certainly, they were.

Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus. Joseph of Arimathea owned the tomb in which our Lord was placed. Nicodemus provided the rather expensive spices used in that day to anoint the body.

Both were members of the Sanhedrin who participated in the trial. We are told that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, as he feared the Jews.

Nicodemus as well came to Christ to ask questions. St. John tells us in his Gospel that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and who came to Jesus at night.

Both were afraid. Afraid of losing his wealth, his position, his status – his power.

Nicodemus did speak up at Christ’s appearance before the Sanhedrin, reminded them that the Law required the accused to be heard.

And St. Mark tells us that St. Joseph of Arimathea went boldly before Pilate. Boldly.

St. Nicodemus gave the burial spices – 100 Roman pounds, or about 75 of our pounds. A huge quantity – very expensive. Enough to bury a king.

Tradition holds that St. Nicodemus was one of the early martyrs. St. Joseph is said to have existed in isolation for six months, then became one of the Disciples. It is said that he was sent to Britain, and founded the abbey at Glastonbury.

We don’t know a lot about them afterward. But we do know them before – afraid. These were not risk takers.

And yet – they took the risk. They couldn’t remain silent in the face of the condemnation of our Lord.

He deserved – they owed Him – a proper burial. They took the risk.

And this was before the resurrection – there was no hope.

They took the risk anyway.

We live in a world of risk and reward. We evaluate the reward before taking risks. At least, that is what society does.

But they didn’t. Their motivation was different. Their motivation was love.

Is our motivation like the myrrhbearers? Or like society? Are we looking for the reward?

Or are we motivated by love?

Obviously, we want to be motivated by love. That is Christian, and that leads us to salvation.

But we do need to be real with ourselves – be honest with ourselves. That is difficult. There are no shortcuts.

The path to eliminating the motivation of reward is to deny ourselves the rewards we seek. Let me repeat that.

The path to eliminating the motivation of reward is to deny ourselves the rewards we seek.

By following the fasting rules of the Church – the ascetical practices of fasting, and of prayer, and of almsgiving – we are denying ourselves reward.

We focus on others – as St. Joseph and St. Nicodemus focused on Christ, and His burial.

And in so doing, we build capacity in ourselves to love. To love others is the exact same thing as loving Christ. We do to Christ when we do to others, particularly those others who cannot hope to repay us or benefit us in any way.

That is what Christ did, and does, and will do, for us. We cannot offer Him anything He doesn’t already have. He created it all – it all belongs to Him.

Except love. The one thing – the only thing – we can offer to Christ that He doesn’t already have is our love.

And by offering love, we offer everything.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!