My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Several Sundays ago, the Gospel portrayed for us the Greeks who went to Phillip and asked the question, “We want to see Jesus.” This question has been repeated millions of time during the two millennium since the death and Resurrection of Jesus. People want to meet Jesus. They want to meet Him in the flesh, but also, more importantly, they want to meet Him spiritually.
Recently, in an unlikely place, CNN aired an original series entitled, “Finding Jesus: Fact, Faith and Forgery.” It is interesting that the series is based on a book co-authored by Michael McKinley and David Gibson, who is a longtime friend of mine as well as a member of our Diocese. The series contained something for everyone; the faithful, the skeptic, the archeologist, the historian. It became clear that the finding of Jesus is not something of the past, but more something of the present.
One of the first topics the series concentrated on was the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. While carbon dating seems not to authenticate the historical origin of the Shroud, its composition is more of a mystery than of fact. One fact is that the image on the Shroud is a negative which, although the series tried to intimate that someone invented a camera in the 13th century, is possibly an image that was more properly implanted on the Shroud by a cosmic Resurrection of Jesus. Even if we had a motion picture of the Resurrection, however, it would not prove it because our faith in the Resurrection is just that, faith. It does not mean that it is myth, it does not mean that it does not have historical basis. When all is said and done, our encounter with Jesus Christ, our finding of Him, is a matter of faith.
Other parts of the six-part series dealt with two of the Apocryphal Gospels, that of Judas and Mary Magdalene. They spark interest in little known facts, however, the Apocryphal Gospels are just that, they were never accepted by the Church as being true Gospel accounts. Another series dealt with the “Secret Brother of Jesus, James,” concentrating on an ossuary found with the inscription, James, Son of Joseph and brother of Jesus, which eventually was found to be a forgery. The program on the True Cross investigated one of the many claims of relics of the True Cross. The one that was investigated was proven by carbon dating not to be of first-century origin.
It is always possible to question, especially the peripheral evidence recording of the life of Jesus and His death. However, it is certainly not essential to our faith.
The first Christians had the unique experience of either seeing the risen Christ or being told by first-hand witnesses that Jesus was resurrected. It was more important to them to share this revelation of the risen Christ than to gather the artifacts surrounding His death, such as the True Cross or the burial shroud. It was certainly secondary and should be, although in time, the cult of relics takes on greater attention. It is comparable today when we see untimely deaths. People create shrines with candles and flowers and balloons as if the place of the person’s death on the road or on a street corner, is more important somehow than the person. As we understand the mysteries of our faith, we at times may call into question things that are taken for granted, while at the same time it does not diminish our faith.
Before Easter this year, I took to the airwaves and invited people to come home for Easter to one of our churches, a list of which could be found on our Diocesan website (www.dioceseofbrooklyn.org). There is a certain truth in saying that if you want to find Jesus you must come to the place where He can be found. Go to the people who know Him. As the Greeks went to Phillip, so too we must go to those who worship Jesus, to those who have faith in Him, to those who can point out His workings in the world today.
Many people over the centuries have put out into the deep, trying to find the facts of the Resurrection or claiming that it was some type of hoax or forgery. But it is only in faith that we can find our relationship to the Risen Lord, available to us in the sacramental life of the Church. Share your faith, bring someone to Church for Easter.