Homily 497 – 2nd Pascha
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 8, 2022
Epistle: (16) Acts 6:1-7 and (68-b) 1 John 1:1-7 (St. John)
Gospel: (69) Mark 15:43-16:8 and (61) John 19:25-27; 21:24-25 (St. John)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen! Christos Voskrese! Christos Anesthi!
Today, in a bit of serendipity, we remember the people who stayed with Christ throughout the passion, death, and resurrection.
The myrrh-bearing women, as we hear in the gospel reading today, were at the site of the crucifixion. St. John, also commemorated today, was there as well.
Tying all this to the Epistle reading also, the selection of the first Deacons, there is a striking connection.
All of them are servants. All of them are serving. At great personal risk, we should note. They all did what Christ wanted of them – serving.
The myrrh-bearing women, the noble Joseph of Aramathea, and Nicodemus who followed Christ a bit distantly – served Christ directly, taking care of his body and his burial.
St. John was tasked with taking care of the Theotokos. And the disciples were tasked with addressing the physical needs of the faithful – the Church, the body of Christ.
Now when Christ was alive, there were expectations about what He was doing, and what their reward might be. Remember that the mother of James and John asked that her sons be enthroned at the right hand and left hand of Christ in His Kingdom.
But those expectations evaporated when Christ ascended the Cross. They all – to a person – thought it was over. The great prophet had failed. The one in which they had placed their faith, their hope for the future, everything – was dead.
St. Peter perhaps summed it up best when asked if he and the other disciples would be leaving Christ also – he said “Where else would we go?”
That question was likely foremost in their minds about now, before the revelation of the empty tomb, before the appearance to the Apostles and Disciples, before the Ascension.
What are we going to do? Where will we go? What is next for us? It isn’t that unusual of a thought to have. If we lose a job, if a relationship ends, if someone close to us dies – really, anytime we experience loss, that question arises – what’s next?
The women, the myrrh-bearers, give us that answer. They demonstrate that answer for us. They are faithful in what needs to be done. Joseph and Nicodemus demonstrate that answer. They are faithful in what needs to be done. St. John demonstrated that answer. He is faithful in what needs to be done.
None of them had any idea of what would happen. Maybe they should have – Christ left hints, and tried to tell them that He would rise again. But they didn’t understand it at the time. They didn’t have ears to hear or eyes to see at that point.
In hindsight, they saw it all very clearly. Kind of like the two on the road to Emmaus, who encountered Christ, but they didn’t recognize Him until the breaking of bread, and then He disappeared from sight.
It is probably safe to assume that nobody was going around to the Apostles and Disciples and women saying “Hey, don’t worry! Chin up! He said He would rise!”
And yet – they remained faithful. They were faithful to the moment, and the needs of the moment, and the needs of those around them. They might have wondered at times what the future might hold for them, but at that specific moment, there was no answer for that question.
Their attention was focused on the immediate moment. There was a body to anoint and bury, and the time was short. They would have to make do, then return later to finish. They didn’t even think about what later would be at that moment.
It wasn’t until they returned to the tomb that they began to realize, “Oh, yeah, by the way, who will roll the stone back that we may embalm our Lord?”
They were that focused on the moment.
That is the moment that we are supposed to live in – this moment, right here, right now. We don’t live in memories of the past, nor hopes for the future – those are not accessible for our living.
They exist – for certain! But we don’t live there. We live here, and now, and we determine what is right and what is wrong and what is asked of us in this moment.
We don’t try to look down the road to what we think the outcome might be or should be – our course of action doesn’t depend on that. One of the lessons of the prophet Jonah is that we just obey, and leave the outcome to God.
That is God’s way. It was that way for Noah, and Abraham, and Joseph, and Moses. We simply don’t know what the future holds or what God plans to do.
The only thing left is to serve, as Christ served, in the moment. That’s it. There isn’t any more to the Christian life.
We serve – because He serves. We love – because He loves. We give – because He gives.
In those moments – serving, loving, giving – we become like Him and we do His will for our lives.
And we become human, as He became human.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!