By Bishop Vincke
“When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place (Jn 20:6-7).”
A little more than two hours from Rome in the Abruzzo region of Italy is a small town called Manoppello. In the Catholic Church there is what many believe the burial cloth that covered Jesus’ face in the tomb. On the cloth is an imprint of Jesus’ face. This image is not a reflection of a dead Jesus, but is instead what many believe to be a reflection of what Jesus’ face resembled the moment he rose from the dead. It’s an amazing image of the face of Christ. The material is made of sea silk, only found in the Holy Land. It’s impossible to dye or paint. This living image of the face of Christ matches identically to the burial cloth of the Shroud of Turin.
When I visited there, this image gave me so much hope. Jesus is God. Jesus is alive. Jesus is with us!!! A religious sister who has served there for decades and has meditated on this image often said that she believes Jesus’ first words when he rose were “Abba” (Father). What is fascinating is that Pope Benedict XVI’s first pastoral visit as pope was to see the image of the face of God in Manoppello. He was seeking the face of God. Psalm 27:8 tells us:“ ‘Come,’ says my heart, “see his face.” Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
While we don’t have to see the veil in order to believe and have faith, it offers us hope that we, too, will see Jesus face to face for all eternity. Our hope rests in that, what happened to Jesus will happen to us — that we will inevitably die, but rise from the dead and see the face of God.
Easter represents the fulfillment of God’s promises and the triumph of good over sin and evil. He desires to be in eternal communion with each person he has created. Love awaits us.
Obviously, many people struggle with illnesses and other hardships. As we carry our crosses, we can feel like Jesus did, “My God, why have you abandoned me.” God has a plan that is better than we can ever imagine. St. Paul tells us that the sufferings of this world are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us. St. John Paul II once said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
There are times in our life, too, when we don’t feel loveable, that God couldn’t possibly forgive us for the mistakes that we have made. One of my favorite Scripture passages comes from Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John. We find Peter fishing with other disciples. The resurrected Jesus appears on the shore and tells them to cast their nets onto the right side of the boat and sure enough they catch so many fish that they are unable to haul all of them in. When Jesus invites them for breakfast on the shore, he is cooking fish on a charcoal fire. Why is this significant? Because the only other time in Scripture where a charcoal fire is mentioned is the time when Peter was warming himself by the fire as he denied knowing Jesus. Jesus was redeeming Peter’s denial at the charcoal fire, a place that surely Peter remembered with much pain and sorrow. And yet, Jesus doesn’t condemn him but invites him to love him. Jesus is the great redeemer. We surrender to Jesus all the things in our life that weigh us down trusting that he will redeem all things in his time.
Many blessings to you and your families as we celebrate with joy the 50 days of Easter!