The Empty Tomb of Jesus, Photo Granary.

Click here to read today’s Sunday Mass Readings for Easter Day.

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.    John 20:8-9.

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The face on the Shroud of Turin, Holy Face Devotion.

For many people throughout the world and for most of the the past century, this image from the Shroud of Turin is the face of the crucified Jesus. The brutality it shows which was inflicted on this man corresponds exactly to the gospel accounts of what Jesus suffered. The blood stains are claimed to be group AB. The scourge marks correspond to the wounds which would have been inflicted by the Roman soldiers before any crucifixion. The wounds into the wrists and feet of the man strongly suggest brutal nailing of the man to a cross which he had dragged to the place of execution, seen from wounds on his shoulder. The blood stains on his head suggest he endured a total head covering of thorns, not a simple circlet as shown in countless paintings. The final brutal indignity to the body of the shroud shows a sword wound thrust into the left side of his body corresponding to the biblical account of the Roman soldier doing just that to the dead Christ (John 19:34). In addition to all this, how the image on the shroud was made remains a total mystery, The blood stains run through the material; the image does not. The image displays what we would now call a negative depiction, hence the first photograph, taken in the days of negative/positive photos, revealed the photograph negative picture for the first time, hence the “real”, or positive, picture of the man. That, of course, created a sensation.  The dating of the shroud made in 1988 showing its origin in the Middle Ages, has been strongly questioned for various reasons. The Shroud of Turin is apparently one of the most studied artifacts in history and continues to be the object of intense interest and fascination.

And all this centers on the simple yet stunning fact that Jesus returned to life after suffering a horrendous death at the hands of the Roman authorities intent on keeping the peace.  Jesus conquered death itself! It was the ultimate miracle, and one which he invites us to share with him no matter who or what we are. And note that all four gospels speak not one word as to what actually happened at that moment. Indeed, if authentic, the only witness to the resurrection is this Shroud itself! These three days, the Triduum, the Latin name for it, retrace that path Jesus took, from the table of the Last Supper to the cold stone tomb where his body was laid three days later. He was the only one who knew what was to happen. All this, even though he had told his followers several times that he was to be publicly humiliated, condemned and was going to be killed. They were incapable of believing him. No wonder! He had done nothing wrong, had performed incredible acts of healing and forgiveness, had accepted everyone he met, including Samaritans and Gentiles, setting an example of love and humility for all to imitate.

They didn’t know it at the time, but the Last Supper was his way of fulfilling his promise to be with them to the end of time, always present in the Eucharist. His incredible example of total faith in God and total commitment to the vocation God his Father had given him, to be the Messiah, set the example for us down to this day. He set the stage for his death when responding to the high priest’s question, “Are you the Son of God, the One who is to come?” Answering “No” would have betrayed his whole mission, his Father’s trust and his life work, even though it would have meant being spared the horror which was to come upon him. Answering “I don’t know” would have opened him to ridicule and laughter. Answering “Yes” would have meant death for blasphemy. He did not fit the popular image of the soldier-Messiah who was to reestablish the kingdom of David by fighting and conquering the Roman occupying forces, and that was the cause for his death. God’s Messiah was one who preached peace, forgiveness and love. And for that he was tortured and crucified. But it was peace, forgiveness and love which conquered death, the ultimate enemy itself. That is what we are remembering and celebrating in this ultimate, all-conquering event this weekend. It is the reason we are Christian. It is the reason we have hope, and it is the means whereby we make our way through life, inspired by the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. As our Greek Christian brothers and sisters say on Easter day, Χριστός ἀνέστη! Christos anestiChrist is risen!, and we reply Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! Alythōs anesti – He is truly risen! These days commemorate why we are Christian, why we forgive, why we love and why we embrace life with all it challenges plus all its beauty, as this all comes from the hand of God.

The Last Supper, Cocco n.d., Altus Fine Art.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

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  1. Thank you so much for your writings. I’ve always know about the Shroud of Turin but not as many details about it as you explained. This writing also reminded me about why we celebrate Easter and why we are Christians. Happy Easter!


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