Monday, May 08, 2006

Are You Seeking the Body of Christ?

(Third Sunday of Pascha: The Myrrh-Bearing Women) (Mark 15:43-16:8)

Christ is risen!

In the reading today from the holy Gospel according to St. Mark, we find two different times when the faithful came seeking the Body of Christ. Nicodemus came seeking the Body of Christ, that he might give the body an honorable burial. The myrrh-bearing women came to the tomb, seeking the Body of Christ, so that they could anoint it according to the burial customs. Nicodemus obtained what he sought; the myrrh-bearing women did not. Instead, they were asked by the angel, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen, as He foretold. Go and tell of His Resurrection to the disciples.”

Why have you come today? Have you come seeking the Body of Christ? If you have come to honor in worship the risen Lord, that is good. If you have come to be transformed, so that His image can be seen more clearly in you, that is good. If you have come so that you can bear His image into the world for others to see, and so know where they can find the Body of Christ, which is His Church, that is good. If you have come for these reasons, you will find, as did Nicodemus, the One you seek.

Have you come seeking the Body of Christ? There is another way we can understand this. Christ is present in our midst; and we have, through the Mystery of Holy Communion, His Body and His Blood here for our benefit. Yet how may will come today and partake of the mystical Supper which He has prepared for His people? How many of the faithful, who have been baptized into Christ’s death and raised to new life in Him Who has trampled down death by death – how many of the faithful will come to Him to be fed and nourished in that new life He has given?

And how much we resemble the myrrh-bearing women! Given the good news of His resurrection, charged by the angel to go and tell of the empty tomb, we find instead that they said nothing to anyone, out of fear. How like them we are! Have you greeted anyone – apart from at church – with the proclamation, “Christ is risen?” It’s easy to say; and who knows? Maybe the person to whom you say this, at work, or at school, or while shopping, will be curious about what you mean, and ask you to say more. But we don’t do it. Like the myrrh-bearing women, we are afraid. We fear what others may think of us; we fear that others may laugh at us, or ridicule us, or reject us, or persecute us.

How amazing! We fear others, but we do not fear God. If we truly feared God, we would do everything in our power to depart from our sins. If we truly believed that Christ is risen from the dead, and has granted us eternal life, we would turn our backs on this world, and all it values, and all the ways of satisfying ourselves with worldly praises and pleasures, and live for God, and God alone. If we took even a few steps in that direction, our lives would be so transformed that we wouldn’t need to say anything at all like, “Christ is risen” to family and friends and neighbors and colleagues. Our lives would speak for themselves; the light of the glory of God would shine from us to those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, drawing them to seek Him; and we could help them find Him.

Brothers and sisters: Christ is risen! Let us therefore keep the feast. Let us prepare ourselves by confession and prayer to receive His precious and holy Body and Blood, that He may evermore dwell in us, and we in Him. Let us seek Him, and make Him the Lord of our lives, and seek to dwell in His presence, rather than in this world. Let us not fear those who may ridicule or reject or even kill us, whether literally or metaphorically; but let us seek Him, and seek to bear Him into the world, so that the world will learn from us the good news: that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and bestowing upon us all eternal life; to the glory of God, and the salvation of souls.

Christ is risen!