Myrrh Bearing Women

A Homily given by Fr. Michael Smolinski, C.Ss.R. on the 3rd Sunday of Easter

(Mk. 15:43-16:8) In many parishes during the month of December, we hand out calendars for the new year. Most people only use them to see if they get to eat meat on a particular Friday (Ukrainian Catholics abstain from meat on most Fridays of the whole year). Of course, there’s more information on the calendars. We also find the saint or saints of the day listed. The vast majority of these saints on our church calendars are men. This Sunday is a celebration of women, the myrrh-bearing women. We discover the names of the myrrh-bearing women in the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. They include Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary (Joseph’s sister), Salome, Martha and Mary whose brother was Lazarus, and Mary the Mother of God. Jesus gave these women a more exalted role than most women in 1 st century Palestinian society. Sure, there were no women apostles, but to Jesus, women were not second-class citizens. Jesus was faithful to them and they were faithful to Jesus. They loved him. They stayed with him all the way to the cross when most of the men took off.

What the myrrh-bearing women did for Jesus, they did out of love. They saw the burial place where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus placed Jesus’ body hastily because of the impending sabbath. After the sabbath, on the first day of the week, the women came to anoint the body of Jesus. Thus, they became the first witnesses of the Resurrection. They did something. They did the right thing.
What they did out of love for Jesus was an expensive thing. Only one of the women was rich, but they spent a lot of money to buy huge amounts of oil, perfumes, and ointments. Ointments were used to dry the body and perfumes and oils were used to honour the body. They used up their rainy-day funds for Jesus, because He was priceless to them. For Jesus, they spared no expense.
What they did out of love for Jesus was a dangerous thing. Jerusalem was a walled city and rightly so. Outside the walls were wild animals and thugs. The tomb was outside the walls. So, the women made themselves vulnerable in going to the tomb. Because they did what they did, the women were the first to ever hear the greeting, “Christ is risen!”
We can fail to act like the myrrh-bearing women when we act out of fear. St. John
tells us, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” We fail to do what is expensive, because we don’t want to give up the cost of our time or freedom. We fail to do what is dangerous, because we don’t take risks. We fail to do what is foolish, because we live more by the world’s values.

When the myrrh-bearing women arrive at the tomb, they found the stone already rolled away so they were not foolish. The young man who greets them gives them three commands: Do not be afraid. Go and tell the
disciples. Go to Galilee. By telling the women to go to Galilee, the angel is telling them go back and start again. The women are commissioned. But, the Gospel ends with the statement, “they said nothing to anyone.” Really. Is that the end? How are we even here celebrating Easter? And who is “anyone”?
Storyteller Megan McKenna explores that question of who “anyone” is in her book, And Morning Came. McKenna says the anyone to whom the good news was not shared includes the following: anyone who had not been with the group since Galilee, anyone who betrayed Jesus, anyone who killed Him, or anyone who
was part of the crowd.

So, the women shared the good news with the group of Jesus’ followers who were frightened and fearful, scattered and shattered. The women shared the good news and gathered the community for the journey to Galilee. The journey was 90 miles long over rough terrain. The group included the 11, the women, and many
of the 72, so about 100 people. On the way to Galilee, they walked it off. They walked that fear off. They shared stories of their encounters with Jesus. They retold the parables. They talked about those who were healed and forgiven by Jesus. They shared their memories. And their hopes rose. The women led the way in sharing the joy of the Resurrection. They build community. They had a voice and used that voice to preach Good News.

The mission of the myrrh-bearing women kept going after Galilee until their deaths. Mary Magdalene traveled the world preaching the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of the women died as martyrs.
Some died peacefully. Let us be like the myrrh-bearing women, preaching Good News and gathering community. In the days of physical distancing, we cannot gather as community, but we can still be community. We are bound together as
the Church of Christ by the Good News. Let us continue to connect with one another, care for one another, and help one another. We are bound together and sent as one to share the word and faith in our risen Lord.

Below is a picture from a t-shirt designed and worn by women and their friends.  All of whom are creating community by remaining united in faith during the pandemic.


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