Monday, May 16, 2016

Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women 2016

It is somewhat fitting here, I think, that our Spring Dinner falls on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women, since we're starting service 45 minutes early, that we have to arrive early at dawn in order to come and be with God. It is good to see everyone here. It is also a very interesting juxtaposition of texts, I think, in this morning, especially the epistle reading, as we read, if you will check your weekly email in the Wisdom from the Church Fathers sections, selections from St. Ireneaus of Lyons, Against the Heresies. Because in this morning's epistle reading, we hear the names of seven people who were full of faith and who were chosen to be deacons, to serve the people. And we're given the names, and the last name on that list is Nicholas. And we can think, "Okay, these are wonderful people. They're mentioned in the New Testament as being full of faith. They must all be saints of our Church." But that's not actually the case.

We learn from St. Irenaeus of Lyons, from his Against the Heresies, that there is a sect called the Nicolaitans, who followed this last person who was mentioned among these seven, this Nicholas, who even though he was holy when the record was kept, when we are told in the Book of Acts that he was full of faith, he went off of the narrow path of salvation. He fell away from the Church. He created a sect that St. Irenaeus mentions as being immoral. So he shows what that sect teaches and shows and contrasts that with the teachings of the Church. So one thing that tells each and every one of us is that we cannot rest and be assured of our salvation. Yes, we are in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We are in the Church that Christ founded, but that by itself is not a guarantee of salvation. We have this warning sign of this Nicholas, who was full of faith and full of grace, and yet he fell away from the Church and from salvation.

And if we contrast that, we also have this morning the people we commemorate as saints: Joseph of Arimathea; Nicodemus, the disciple by night; and the holy myrrh-bearing women, who dared, in one way or another, to make themselves known as disciples even when that was not the safest thing for them to do. Joseph took down the body of Christ and buried it. The women woke up early in the morning, when logic would have said that there was no reason for them to do so, when the other disciples were dejected because they had seen the Lord crucified and dead on the cross; they, out of their love, went. They didn't know what would happen. They expected the stone to still be there and they expected to need to be helped to get into the tomb to anoint the body. And that faith, that continual remaining faithful, remaining loving towards the Christ was what brought them to the tomb very early in the morning. And we know that they continued their ministry throughout their lives. We have the story of St. Mary Magdalene. We know the story of several of these myrrh-bearing women who are celebrated as saints in our Church, how these remained faithful to Christ, remained faithful to the Church.

I cannot help but think that this waking up early in the morning, being dedicated and willing to fulfill what they felt their duty, to the person they loved, during the midst of what seemed like a hopeless situation, is what allowed them to remain faithful when others, full of faith and love at one time, fell away. So let us, in our own lives, look at the myrrh-bearing women; wake up early in the morning, that we may spend time in prayer and with God before we go on with whatever the rest of the day brings to us. Let us come here and be nourished by the prayers of the liturgy, and most of all by the holy body and blood of Christ, that we may avoid the fate of a Nicholas or, if we want another example, of a Judas. We are in the body of the Church. We have everything we need in the Church for our salvation. Let us take hold of it. Let us hold onto it with our whole mind and heart and soul and with all the strength that we have. For we need that in order to remain in the fold of Christ's Church, in order to be transformed, in order to become holy. We need to put in that time and that effort to say, "Yes, Lord. Here I am," when God in His grace knocks on the doors of our hearts.

May we always have this strength. May we always have this willingness to do the things that may at times seem strange, that may be not according to the wisdom of the world, as the myrrh-bearing women did things not according to the wisdom of the world, so that we may hear with the good servant the voice of the Lord saying, "Enter into the joy of your kingdom," and so with all the saints may we always give glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.



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