Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reflections on Joseph of Arimathea and the Myrrh Bearing Women

Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women/Joseph of Arimathea

Acts 6:1-7

Mark 15:43;16:8

Today's Scripture readings in the Orthodox Church Lectionary present us with the stories of several people, Joseph of Arimathea, the Myrrh Bearing Women, and the first Deacons of the Church. And the common denominator between all of them is that these are people who couldn't do it all, but they did what they could. And when they did what they could, they became partakers in the Story of Salvation.

Joseph of Arimathea, we are told, was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and quite sympathetic to the teachings of Jesus. Even so, he couldn't do it all. He couldn't stop the crucifixion of Jesus. But he did what he could, and sought an audience with Pontius Pilate. Now, a Roman Procurator did not exactly grant an audience to every random person that knocked on his door. And the fact that Joseph of Arimathea even got in to see Pontius Pilate is strong evidence that Joseph was a well-known person. And so Joseph used his connections and personal wealth to give our Lord a proper burial.

The Myrrh Bearing Women set out that early Sunday morning to do what they could. They couldn't do it all. In fact, they began to discuss the fact that they could not roll the stone aside when they arrived. But upon their arrival, finding the stone rolled aside, they received the privilege of being the first witnesses to the fact of the Resurrection. And, according to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene became the first witness of our Risen Lord himself.

In the Book of Acts, we learn that the Apostles were trying to do it all. And it wasn't working! Their attempt to pray, attend to the preaching of the Word, and perform the daily distribution of bread to the widows was apparently not succeeding. The Greeks in the Church felt they were being neglected. The Apostles meant no harm, they were just trying to do too much. And they came up with a decent solution. Delegating the food distribution to trusted and ordained helpers (Deacons) allowed them more time to devote themselves to prayer and the preaching of the Word.

And so the ultimate message for all of us today is that none of us can do it all. But we are called to do what we can. And the fact that it was Prayer that the Apostles refocused on, with the help of the Deacons, shows us that even if all you do is come to Divine Liturgy and pray for the welfare of the Church, it may be that your prayer gives strength to some missionary on the other side of the planet. And your simple prayer will bring forth fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. 

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