2014.05.04 sermon by Father Jonah
Mark 15:43-47; 16:1-8 At that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has 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 to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
[First five minutes of transmission is missing] That is the first thing, and the second thing is that these women were not afraid of anything. Actually, they are afraid, but there is something bigger: there is a deep love driving them. Who would dare, first of all, to go to a cemetery when it was still not light. Secondly, they were women and they knew there were Roman soldiers watching the grave, so it was dangerous since the soldiers could rape them or kill them. Imagine, today, even I – would you? – dare to go into a situation like this? And this helps us to understand, what they were to do.
Finally, their teacher, their beloved person, had died. They were not expecting some special thing to happen at this time. But they had something more precious than the perfumes and the spices that they were expecting to put on the dead body of Jesus Christ. This more precious thing was their love. This love made them go beyond their fears with only one hesitation, that fact that the grave was covered by a very big stone, and they were women who had little strength. So they were saying. “We will go, but who could move the stone?” So, we see, first of all, this love that is without any typical human logic. They did not say, “Don’t go since we are women and can’t move the stone; we must find somebody to help us.” But that would have been impossible since the Disciples were all hiding.
This reminds us of many things, of the many big stones in our hearts that are impossible, from the human point of view and from many points of view, to remove from the heart, stones such as my selfishness or my weakness, which don’t allow us to see the body of Jesus Christ. When the women arrived there, they were amazed because the stone had been removed. This should be a reminder to us in our lives that if we shouldn’t follow the typical human logic and say, “This is impossible for me. I am just made like this. I cannot do this.” This is wrong; we can do everything. Or somebody will do it for us. God is always moving the stones.
But it is not the stone; it is the question of what is the real faith. These women, did they have faith or not? Of course they had, but what was this faith based on?
Because Jesus died without showing any miracle as he had done in so many miracles before. Now all their hopes were lost. And yet still they believed. This brings to us a very deep and important thing about what is faith. First we love; then we believe, which is a very different from the way that the West later saw faith. In the Latin West, they say, “How can we believe in somebody who we don’t know?” So they say that first we know, and then we believe. We see this in the thought of Augustine.
But you see these women here, these women loved no matter what, against all the proofs and all the human logic. And this love is a dangerous love. We must understand that love is not an easy thing. Love is a very dangerous thing because we put our lives into it, and this is the real love, and this love gave to them the real faith.
Why did Jesus appear first to these women? It was because they loved Him and their love was their faith. And when we love Jesus, then He appears in different ways. This love, which is the acceptance of God, moves, suddenly this dangerous love lets us see the Resurrection. The women entered into the tomb and the soldiers all around had fallen down because of the light of the Resurrection. The tomb inside was empty.
Now when they saw the miracle, they saw the angel, who was sitting there full of light. It is very important that nobody saw the moment of Resurrection, just as when Jesus entered into the Holy Mother by the Holy Spirit and we do not know the exact time that it happened. In the same way, beyond any human understanding, He was resurrected
This is why the women at the beginning did not see Jesus himself, but they saw the empty tomb and the wrappings of the dead body very carefully put in one place. This was an indication that the body of Jesus had not been stolen since the clothes that had wrapped the dead body according to Jewish custom were covered with something so it would have been impossible to remove the sticky cloth from the body.
The women were very afraid, and you should understand that this fear of God is different from the fear of danger or how many people in Taiwan are afraid of ghosts. Because this is fear only on the outside, but on the inside of the heart there is something very sweet, something very warm. So Jesus appears to us, from his absence, when He is not there. The absence of God is a very deep presence.
But because of human nature, the poor women were afraid. They wanted to be happy because various things had happened, such as the stone being moved and the angel sitting there. And he said to them, “Jesus is not here.” And the angel actually sends the women to preach to the apostles. What should they preach? The message of Christianity is life, is resurrection. So the first apostles were these women. Between them, of course, is the Holy Mother. And the Gospel, not the part that we read, but we will see, when they go, as St. Gregory Palmas and the traditions of the Church say, Jesus appeared to his mother first. That is not in the Gospel, but the Gospel says that He appeared. The women coming back saw him and they kissed his feet and worshipped him.
Because the Evangelists are different people, so they give their reports of the Resurrection and the women from different points of view. This is why some of the Evangelists say one thing and some say something that is similar. This is why we see what Mary Magdalene did, because she loved Jesus Christ very deeply, like her son and because she was cured by Him. We see that she is alone, crying because she could not believe, on one hand, the deep love -which is the real faith. And on the other hand, she could not believe.
Then Jesus appears to her. Still because of her human emotions, she cannot believe that it is Him. She thinks that He is the gardener for that place. But Jesus calls her, “Mary,” and she understands at once and she calls him as she used to, Rabbi, my teacher. She wants to fall at his feet and to kiss his feet, but Jesus said, “Don’t touch me.” Why did Jesus say to her not to touch him, when He had allowed the other women to touch his feet? It is because Mary Magdalene is so emotional and she wants to hold Jesus and grasp him, to see Him here and now. It is different from last Sunday, when we saw that he told Thomas, “Touch me, put your hand here.”
So, we must understand about absence as we think of it as absence, because is Jesus here? Where? Where? Do you see Him? It is the presence, the real presence of God. This absence, which is presence, is everywhere, which is why Jesus says to Mary, “Don’t touch me.”
So, we know God from our love first of all. He is here in the Liturgy and most of you took him in your body [in the form of the Holy Communion]. And the others did so because you participated in the Liturgy with your body present here. And we know that to see the Resurrection, we must have love. And when we have this, there is no stone, no problem that cannot be thrown away from us. So live all this period, especially the ladies, who never betrayed Jesus, live this presence of Jesus Christ everywhere in our lives.
May the Holy Trinity protect all of us, Amen. and to Johannah say “Xronia Polla” since it is her name day today.