In the Name of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Ghost.
We keep today the feast of a number of the
followers of Christ of whom we think seldom, because they are
mentioned very little in the Scriptures. And each of them could
be a lesson for us.
St. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who
listened to Christ with an open mind and did not commit himself.
Neither did Nicodemus, but Nicodemus was a learned man, part of
the Sanhedrin. He had been listening to Christ, he had been
asking questions from Him, he wanted to understand, he wanted to
be sure. But neither of them had committed themselves to follow
Christ, to declare themselves as His disciples.
And yet, when Christ in the eyes of everyone
was defeated, when victory had come to His enemies, when He was
dead, about to be buried, their faithfulness to Him who had
taught them words of life came to the fore. And they joined the
Mother of God to bring down the body of Christ and to bury him.
Daringly they went to Pontius Pilate and asked for this body so
that they could bury Him with veneration. In the course of
Christ’s life they had been listening to Him with a hesitant yet
open mind. When death came their faithfulness sprang to the
fore. And seeing the pain of the Mother of God and St. John the
Apostle there was no doubt left in them: they must declare
themselves, because they could not accept that He should be
rejected through defeat after having been their teacher, their
guide and their friend.
And then there is another group of people,
the myrrh-bearing women, a group of women who had been following
Christ and supporting Him and His disciples in their need. When
Christ was crucified all the apostles fled, with the exception
of St. John and with the exception of these women. It was not an
intellectual conviction that held them as disciples of Christ.
It was something which perhaps could be defined in the words of
the pilgrims to Emmaus: 'was not our heart burning within us
when He was speaking to us on the way'. All the way from Galilee
to Jerusalem, from the peace of the land to the tragedy of
Jerusalem, all this time they had been listening and their
hearts had come to life - not with personal love but with a deep
sense of life eternal. These are the words which also St. Peter
had said earlier, when most people who surrounded them had left,
and Christ turned to his disciples and said: are you also going
to go? And Peter said: where should we go? You have the words of
eternal life. And these words were not simply syllogisms, or
proofs, or ways of conveying things. When Christ spoke it was
life eternal that was awoken in them - the door into eternal
life that came to life. And they knew that these words were true
because there was new life in them. And so was it also for these
So today we keep the feast of people who
proved faithful, the ones who in their frailty had not fled, and
the ones who in the face of defeat and tragedy had suddenly
become disciples and faithful. Let us remember them, not only
seeing their glory as we have done today in the service, but
also asking ourselves: do we belong, to any extent, to the
example given by one or another of them? Can we say that in the
face of the defeat of Christ we would come out and say: I am one
of His disciples, although in the time when there was no danger
around I kept out, hesitant, unsure, asking myself questions,
indeed asking Him questions? Is any one of us Joseph of
Arimathea, is any one Nicodemus, and can we say that we are like
these myrrh-bearing women, whom neither the needs nor the defeat
nor the death of Christ had been able to alienate from Him?
None of us is any of it to the full, but let
us learn from them and try to grow into that faithfulness which
they have shown, - the ones throughout the life of Christ, and
the other ones in the face of His defeat. Amen.