This past Sunday we commemorated the Myrrh-bearing women and Joseph of Arimathea. I’m struck by the fact that they were in the process of very specific tasks when Christ changed their plans drastically.
The Gospel reading on this day is from Mark, and concerns Joseph going to Pontius Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus. The Roman procurator grants the request and Christ’s body is prepared and laid in a newly-hewn rock tomb.
After the following Sabbath a group heads to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body according to Jewish custom, anointing His body with myrrh and other fragrant spices.
Mark recounts that when they arrive, the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb has been removed, and a young man inside the tomb tells them that He is risen.
There is so much to talk about in this passage. The Gospel accounts differ on the details of this story, which points to an oral tradition passed on by the witnesses of the Resurrection prior to any written accounts. The fact that a group of women were the first to see and believe that Christ was risen is a week’s worth of sermons. Theologically it is a rich passage that could be mined for days.
But the fact remains that the myrrh-bearing women had plans that Christ changed for them.
John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy contains the lyric, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.” Not an original thought, but a universal one. We all make plans. Our careers, our hobbies, our family situations are all subject to change at a moment’s notice. Sometimes the change is good, sometimes not.
But we don’t just wait for life to happen, either. Unlike the Apostles, the myrrh-bearing women did not sit around waiting for something to happen. They took care of business, going to Christ’s tomb to do the work of their faith. The interruption of their plans was in the execution, not the planning.
In all things we should prayerfully prepare and execute the plans of our lives, trusting God to help us. We should also be ready and willing like the myrrh-bearing women if those plans change.
The Epistle reading on Sunday was from Acts, and concerns the appointing of deacons to serve the people while the Apostles served the Liturgy. There is discussion to be had there about apostolic succession, but here again is a group whose lives and plans were changed because of Christ’s resurrection.
My wife and I were married and also received into the Orthodox Church on the day the Church commemorates St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and the first man named a deacon. Our lives and our plans have changed so much since then. We strive to prayerfully be ready when plans change.
Let us all be like the myrrh-bearing women and the first deacons, ready despite our best-laid plans to go where God directs us.