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Life is Not Always As It Appears

May 19, 2013

220px-Zheny_mironosicy_u_Groba_GospodnjaFor Christians, the title of this post speaks to divine faith and the spiritual realm, which is just as real as the empirical world, although not as readily evident for those who rely solely on their physical senses and whose spiritual senses are so dulled that their noetic eyes cannot see by the light of faith and the light of Christ.  This may be seen in today’s Gospel concerning the Myrrh-Bearing Women.  They were relying on more than their senses in the midst of unspeakable grief. Their Beloved Master whom they had followed and on whom they had set all their hopes had been crucified and put to a cruel death. Such death, such cruelty, such despondency lead many into inactivity, but faith in the Truth of everything Christ said and love that can never die made them not only active, but divinely bold. And so they rose early, before dawn, the Evangelist tells us, in order to anoint the body which they thought would have begun decomposing in the tomb. Yet, what they expected was not to be.  The tomb was empty.  The pious women were told that the one for whom they sought is not here.  Saint Mark recounts that the women fled from the tomb.

One can only imagine the anguish the women must have felt as they made their way to the tomb to anoint the Lord.  One can only imagine the thoughts racing through their minds. On the one hand, there could have been natural thoughts such as “What do we do now?  We had committed our lives and our hopes in Jesus and he has been crucified and laid in a tomb.” On the other hand, there could also have been the remembrance of His words, which endure forever and which continue to give hope in something they can’t fully understand. In their grief, it would have been a still, small voice, but powerful enough to lead the spiritually sensitive out of themselves and towards Christ.  And when they were confronted by the young man and the opened tomb, they listened, obeyed, and fled.  They listened to the words of the strange young man who told them, “Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”  They obeyed and immediately fled not only from the physical place of the tomb, but also from all their earthly thoughts of death and despair. The spiritual senses of the heart that Christ had cultivated in them became dominant. There was no need to hesitate. Looking around for empirical evidence of the miraculous resurrection was not necessary. They knew with their hearts. And so, they believed and fled their former place and their former dark thoughts.

How often are we confronted with similar seemingly desperate and gloomy situations like that of the Myrrh-bearing women?  How often do the events of our own lives and our perceptions thereof drive us to dark places where God is not to be found?  How often do we measure our lives by earthly, empirical evidence that discards the possibility of the spiritual and God’s healing grace?  How often do we hear the world tell us “God is not here” and fall into despair and sinful behavior?  Yet, just because God is not where we expect Him to be may we conclude that He has abandoned us?  Just as the Myrrh-bearing women listened, obeyed, and fled, we too must listen to that soft voice within that beckons us to believe in the power of the Resurrection in our own lives.  If we do not find God present in our thoughts, the problem lies with our thoughts and not with God.  God is always present calling us to be mindful of His love that has conquered death.

In a previous post, I wrote about the potential cognitive pitfalls concerning meaning assignment, “the fathers were quite mindful of the overall importance and etiological significance of meaning assignment for successful human functioning and the virtuous life.  They recognized that our perceptions are channeled through our interpretations of our situation, interpretations that are often influenced more by imagination than by objectively measurable external reality.  Interpretations in the form of thoughts and images shape our views of others and ourselves.  Good thoughts bring us joy, increased insight, and wisdom, whereas bad thoughts can throw us into a state of melancholy, confusion, or even folly.  According to the fathers, thoughts not only give rise to emotional reactions, but also coalesce over time into character traits.”

Whether it be medicine or therapy, a good diagnosis is the beginning of good treatment. Becoming aware of one’s idiosyncratic meaning assignment and that it may not really coincide with the whole of reality, physical and spiritual, is the first step. Exploring and weighing other possible interpretations is the second step. Choosing the interpretation that leads to adaptive functioning is the final step. At each of these points, deep Christian teachings on humility, love, and forgiveness can bolster these steps and take a person beyond adaptive functioning to another sphere of holiness, in which every interaction, regardless of whether it is initially interpreted as good or bad, can be seen with the eyes of the heart as a blessing from a loving God through which we can grow into children who clearly reflect the goodness of His image and likeness.

Because the hearts of the myrrh-bearing women were illumined through the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were able to behold the initial signs of the Resurrection and believe.  They fled the tomb of ignorance, despair, thoughts, and death in order to seek Christ their Resurrected Lord.  So too in our own lives, we must flee those harmful interpretations of thoughts and events in order to behold the Resurrected Christ who is always calling us to seek Him so that we might find Him, not in an empty tomb, but in a heart full of His mercy and love.

  1. I have always found great hope in this gospel of the Myrrh-bearing Women. How I pray to have their faith…to be able to let go of those thoughts of confusion and negativity!

    Your book has brought so much to light and now I have several pages with post-it flags that I need to go over again in regards to combating negative thoughts. Some thoughts I have seem, at first, to be just indifferent, neither bad nor good. But then I realize I have a reaction to these thoughts or I find myself in an agitated state when thinking of them. I may even obsess over thoughts that have to do with a particular situation. I guess that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thought but it’s my reaction to it that needs to be modified.

    Just rambling. Thank you again for a hopeful post and for sharing your wisdom.

  2. I am so glad, Theresa, that you are finding help from my book. Pointing others toward inspired sources for such help is the reason I wrote it! May Christ, our true anchor of hope, always keep us in His calm and safe harbor. Thank you again for your kind comments.

  3. I might add something that was overlooked in this article. The epistle reading for the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women eloquently portrays the creation of the diaconate as the message of the Gospel, indeed the Church, expanded and grew faster than the apostles could rightly administer. We all must assist to the needs of the Church in our own capacity; help share the good news in a desperate world starving for hope.

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