Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
After going through a long and arduous journey through Great Lent, we are often so exhausted and tired from the grind of the spiritual boot camp that we had just been through, that we forget (or do not pay as much attention to) the 40-day celebration and reward for our efforts! Just as we had Sundays during Lent, where we were inspired by figures like St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Mary of Egypt, we have these same celebratory Sundays which always follow Great and Holy Pascha!
Today, we have the Church’s version of “Mother’s Day”, as we learn from the incredible example of the Myrrh bearing Women. This is the Sunday where the Church shouts from the rooftops after experiencing the Resurrection, what it means to have “Christian Courage” in life.
St. Mary Magdalene our Patroness, the Theotokos, Joanna, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha of Bethany…unlike Joseph of Arimathea who we also commemorate today, there was no “secret discipleship” for them! They publically cared for Christ, they cared for the disciples, and they all had a deep devotion to our Lord. And when the hard times came, when Christ ran into trouble with the civil authorities…these women didn’t abandon Christ. Even when his closest friends abandoned Him, denied Him, betrayed Him, and left Him alone to suffer and die…the Myrrh Bearers stayed by His side. Their love for Christ was so great. Their devotion was unmatched, and their desire to remain in contact with Him remained so strong…that not even the power of the Roman empire, the soldiers, nor the Jewish leaders, could intimidate them.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, it takes courage to love like this. This is something that is desperately lacking in each and every one of our lives today. To have Christian courage means to be able to walk through life with COMPLETE CONFIDENCE in Who Christ is and what He has done for us. This is what those Myrrh bearing women did! They walked through the dangers of the world with perfect freedom! They were afraid of no one! They were intimidated by no one! There was no place that they could not go, and there was nothing that they could not do!
Complete and perfect Freedom from the cares of this world, and living constantly in the love of Christ…this is what it means to have Christian Courage in our lives.
How many of us can say that we have perfect freedom from the cares of this world, because of our love for Christ? Have we ever been worried about something in our lives? Have we ever had fear? When someone we love ends up diagnosed with a critical illness…do our hearts sink and stay sunk? When we lose our income or our jobs…when we don’t get the promotion that we want…when tragedy strikes in our lives…do we find ourselves blaming God or getting angry when things do not go our way?
When we put all of our trust in only the things that we can see, touch, taste, and smell in this world, and refuse to put our faith in God,above the things of this world…can we say that we are living lives with Christian Courage?
I came across some scary numbers this week, when thinking about this lack of courage that we have in our day and age. 18% of the American population…one out of every 5 people that you see in the streets…suffers from anxiety. That number, unfortunately, only accounts for adults over the age of 18! What will really make your hearts break this morning, is the conversation I had with a parishioner of ours who works as an RN for a pediatrics office near here. Part of her job is doing phone triage, and she told me that almost HALF…of the phone calls that she receives for children (mostly in the age of 10-13) whether it be for refills on medication or referrals, have to do with anxiety.
Lord have mercy! These are CHILDREN! 12 and 13-year-old innocent children who are already being bombarded with the cares and pressures of society. In many cases, these innocent youths have to confront these cares with no hope…no light…and, in many households, no chance to live a life of Christian courage….No chance to live a free life in the love of God!
I read an article entitled: “For 80 years, Americans have been getting more anxious and depressed…and no one is quite sure why.” The Church, in the examples that she gives us today…answers part of that question of “why” for us this morning.
In life, each and every one of us, whether diagnosed with anxiety or not, fail to have the courage that is necessary to see that it is our Lord who has his hands in EVERYTHING that is going on in our lives. This “trust in God” mentality is vanishing from the world that we live in…and it is destroying our lives. When we fully believe that Our Lord is watching over us…when we allow that reality to inform every decision and thought that comes into our hearts… only then we are able to move freely through life without all of the earthly baggage…just as the Myrrh bearing women who we celebrate today.
What is Christian Courage? What is True Happiness?
For centuries, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, the Church has been telling us the answers to these two precious questions! Every time we come to Divine Liturgy, through the words and actions of our worship to God, we can hear the echoes of the Holy Fathers who teach us that true happiness is kept…not in the secular joys of life which can disappear in a flash…but in the love towards God which transfigures and transforms the world around us.
May the freedom that our Lord offers us from the bonds of the fallen world, inform the way that we live out our lives throughout all eternity!