[This is a homily I gave on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women in 2005. I edited it down from 3200 words to about 1900 so your eyes won’t burn out from being stuck to the screen so long. I sure was long-winded in those days!]
Christ is Risen!
We’re continuing today our celebration of the resurrection of Christ, celebrating today in a special way the holy myrrh-bearers. Now these women came out to anoint Jesus who had died and was buried. The Gospel says they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. They didn’t realize, however, that the Son of God had risen and He wasn’t even in the tomb. But they were seeking Jesus. I remember reading not long ago in the letter to the Hebrews where it gives the bottom line of what we have to do for salvation: “To please God you must have faith.” It says that means you have to believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
I had seen several things from Scripture here and there about seeking God, but it really doesn’t talk much about finding God. You know we’re told to seek Him, but we don’t have to find Him. Before you think that’s too weird, let me explain.
We have to seek God with the hope of really meeting Him, but it’s God who finds us. We don’t find God. And if we don’t happen to find God in all our seeking, we shouldn’t be discouraged either, because it’s not our job to find God. Our job is to seek God, and God’s job is to reveal Himself to us, to manifest Himself to us. This is what happened in the Gospel.
The women went to seek Jesus, and when they got to the tomb they found this angel who said, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth.” Correct. Well, He is not here. They didn’t find Him. So now what? The angel explained what happened, and whether or not they really got it I don’t know, because they were still petrified with fear and ran away. This Gospel that we read today [Mark 16:1-8] as an abrupt ending. But, if you attach Matthew’s Gospel onto this one, it picks up where that left off. Here it leaves off with them running away. In Matthew’s Gospel, as they’re running away, Jesus appears to them and they do find Him, or rather He finds them. They went looking for Him, didn’t find Him, got scared, took off, and He appeared to them, manifested Himself to them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then they recognized Him and worshipped Him and heard his word to go and tell the others, and the rest is salvation history.
One thing we have to realize is that our part is to seek God with all our hearts, but God’s part is to manifest Himself to us. The Lord says that in the Gospel of John. He says, “If you believe in me and you keep my word, I will manifest myself to you and my Father and I will come to you and make our home with you.” That’s what He wants to do. But it doesn’t mean that we’re let off the hook by saying, well, it’s his job to manifest Himself. The seeking of Him is a very serious work, and it’s something that demands a lot of effort and sacrifice on our part.
One of the things we see in the myrrh-bearing women, when they went to do this labor of love for Jesus—it’s only love that can propel you to do the impossible—is that what they were hoping to do was impossible. They were going to this tomb that had a huge stone stuck in front of it, and a detachment of soldiers stuck in front of that, to make sure that nobody would move the stone even if they could.
The women are coming to this tomb saying, who’s going to roll the stone away for us? Well, if anybody tried to roll the stone away they’d get a lance through the chest and that would have been it. So they were trying to do something that was really impossible but, they could not not do it, because they loved Jesus so much and nothing was going to stop them from at least going there and putting up a good fight. You know how the old babas are good at getting their way. If they brought their umbrellas or rolling pins they could at least try to smack the guards over the head.
In any case, they were ready to get to Jesus to perform this labor of love. We have to realize too, that in our seeking of Jesus, there are going to be obstacles. And maybe there are going to be situations that make it look like it’s impossible to find Jesus, to meet Him, to enter into communion with Him, and even to live in the way that He asks us to live. But we have to focus not on the impossible, not on the obstacle, the stone that’s in the way, but to focus on the One whom we seek, and just go out of love, trusting that, as they say, love will find a way. Love for Jesus will find a way to do his will in this world.
We have to realize that Jesus may not be where we’re looking. Don’t be complacent about what you think or where you know you’re going to find Jesus, because these women had good reason to be absolutely sure that Jesus was right where they thought He was. He was dead after all, and they laid Him in a tomb and placed a stone over it. So that’s where He was, and they were absolutely sure that’s where He was. Guess what, He wasn’t there!
God is sovereign, He is the Lord. He is not bound by our ideas and conceptions and fantasies and even hopes and dreams. He is the Lord, and He will manifest Himself as He sees fit. As I said in the beginning, our job is to seek Him but not to have any preconceived plan of just how to seek Him or just where we’re going to find Him. We have to be pilgrims. We’re always on the move. We have to always be open, always be ready for God to do something new. Ready for God to speak the word to us and for us to get up and do it, whatever it is, even if it doesn’t fit our preconceived notion of how our life ought to be. God is going to manifest himself to us in his way. We may seek Jesus in our own way and find out He is not here. Let’s be open to see where He really is.
I just read a book recently about seeking God in the wrong places. This was a testimony of a woman who was born Catholic but who went off into this New Age and occult stuff. She was really deep into it and was a master practitioner of various New Age things, and she would even do séances and such, trying to call up the dead. At a certain moment—and this is how her conversion happened—she was performing this séance with all these people and they put their hands on the table and all these things started flying around the room and the demons were posing as dead relatives who manifest themselves. Well, suddenly she was unable to put her hands on the table. They seemed to be bound to her side. She couldn’t move, and she didn’t know what was happening, but she heard this beautiful voice say, “I am the Queen of Peace.” She thought, wow, what is that? Then she realized it was the Blessed Mother who was calling her out of there. And the first thing that she said was—because she knew something of God was happening—“I will never do this again.” So she didn’t, although it took her a while to pull away from all of the other stuff that she was involved in, but that was the turning point of her conversion.
A lot of these people, unless they just crass mercenaries or actual satanists, are just deluded, deceived people who are trying to find God or some sense of the spiritual world, but are doing it in the wrong way—so what she was doing was looking for God in the wrong place. Therefore Our Lady had to say to her, like the angel at the tomb, He is not here! You have to look for him where He is. So Mary came and brought this woman out of the darkness of the tomb. In binding her arms she was freeing her soul. Really, the woman was seeking the living among the dead. This séance business is necromancy. Mary could have said also with the angel, why seek the living among the dead? This is something that we have to remember in our spiritual life, to seek Jesus with an honest and open heart, and trust that He is going to manifest Himself to us, and to follow the leads that we receive.
You know, we can’t pre-plan our whole life, our spiritual life. It doesn’t work that way. We’re in a relationship with someone, with God, and relationships are dynamic and they change and they grow and they adapt to new circumstances. We can’t think of God as merely a person like us. But we can’t treat Him as if He were less than that. He’s more than that. We have to be open, listening, seeking Him with love, and that’s the testimony of the myrrh-bearing women.
Mary Magdalene especially is mentioned here. She is one who is like an icon of love in the Scriptures and through the whole Church tradition. She’s a forgiven sinner who loved much, as Jesus said in Luke, and who loved Him with her whole heart and followed Him to the Cross, and went to do the impossible at the sealed tomb—and became, as we say, an apostle to the apostles, received that message to go and tell the others that Jesus is risen.
The Lord rewards those who seek Him, as it says in Hebrews, one way or another. He may not just appear to us and allow us to embrace his feet and worship Him as the women did, but He will reward those who seek Him sincerely, consistently, faithfully, lovingly, being willing to bear the cross, realizing that we are seeking the crucified as well as the risen Lord.
So let us follow the example of the myrrh-bearing women, and we will then hear that same message of the angel: “You seek Jesus…” Wouldn’t it be a great thing for someone to acknowledge that, for Heaven to acknowledge that. “Oh yes, we know you, you’re one that seeks Jesus.” That in itself, what a great honor it must have been just to hear those words from the heavenly angel! You seek Jesus, this is the good news. So let us hear the good news, and go out to others as the women did, saying: Christ is risen!