He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out quickly and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. “
Never fear people. Mortals can only kill our bodies, our flesh, but never our spirits. In this vein, we should be in fear and awe of only spiritual matters.
Ironically, and quite appropriately, the day before the terrorists’ attacks in Boston this past week, the above quote was part of the Sunday sermon that I heard at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Sunday’s Gospel was about the angel asking the holy myrrh-bearing women in front of Jesus’ empty tomb to go tell the disciples the news that they would meet the risen Lord in Galilee. Instead of obeying the angel’s command, the women flee from the tomb: “for trembling and astonishment had come upon them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
If we had a supernatural encounter with an angel, our response would probably parallel the myrrh-bearing women’s reaction of trembling (fear) and astonishment (total surprise). The priest expounded that we, though far removed from biblical times, still tend to heed to the physical law rather than the spiritual law. Instead, he said, our principles should be reversed.
Modern spirituality is centered on the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” For Christians this means things like a belief that there is everlasting life after physical death…however, how we navigate the road to the final destination is up to us. I do not want to get into a fire and brimstone discourse, but simply stated, there are spiritual laws to follow and that if these are broken, there are consequences—perhaps, not always apparent in this life, but certainly apparent in the next.
To me, my heavenly father, loving in all ways, is also a great teacher and disciplinarian; and I’m not talking about the penalty, punishment, and all that awful-sounding stuff that religious zealots shoved down our young minds for the littlest wrongdoing in order to scare us into submission as children. God is loving and also just. Here is how it is…and these days, in my fifth decade of life, what I have come to believe, people who rape, kill, and model other Hitler-kind-of-acts, whether you believe in hell or not, do not go to a place like heaven. (How exactly holy you need to be to get to heaven, I will leave for another discussion!)
In other words, as a God-fearing (as in reverent) adult following the Ten Commandments to the best of my ability, I have nothing to fear. The meaning, in fact of Sunday’s gospel is “Do Not be Afraid.” In the end, the myrrh-bearing women (and apostles) get beyond their emotions, and obey the angel’s command. That is the happy ending.
In turn, we too can depend on a happy ending in our lives. The bottom line is, if we try and live right, we should cast fear away from our house of faith. Even with earthly death, there is no fear for we are reborn into the spiritual for eternal life. Thinking about everyone affected by the violent acts in Boston, as much as we want to make sense out of the senseless, we must take comfort in the idea that evil never wins. Sure, the evildoers may rob our physical lives, our limbs and our bodies; however, they cannot kill our spirit. It lives forever in His unyielding love.
I pray we heal together, rise up and keep our faith, which will help us to prevail through this painful, senseless time.
As we say in Ukrainian,
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес!