Love shows itself by great deeds. The love of Jesus for us was without measure, for "when we were as yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.5:9). Because we sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, He taught us the truth. He founded the Church, the Ark of Salvation, so that we could escape the flood of sin in the world. He gave us His own Body and Blood as our Heavenly banquet. After He suffered and rose from the dead He went to prepare a place for us. And so that we would not be left defenseless orphans, He sent us the Holy Ghost as our Advocate. We await His coming on the clouds of Heaven to judge the living and the dead.
But love also shows itself in lesser things. Jesus blessed the little children. He raised the daughter of Jairus, telling her parents to give her something to eat. He cured Peter's mother-in-law of a fever. He cured the man born blind at the pool of Siloe. And He still goes in search of the lost sheep, as St. Peter tells us: "For you were as sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls" (1Pet.2:25).
One of the signs of His love, which is especially important for us in this age of unbelief, is the image He left us of His Body, and of His Holy Face, in the Holy Shroud of Turin. There we can see for ourselves, recorded on His burial cloth, all the marks of His Passion. This should have special meaning for us at St. Jude's Shrine, for according to tradition, the Shroud, or Sindone as it is called, was entrusted to the care of St. Jude, who brought it with him to the city of Edessa near Antioch, Turkey. This is why the statue of St. Jude is usually represented wearing a medal, or scapular showing the Face of Jesus. Some historians say that St. Jude took the precious relic away from Jerusalem to prevent it from being destroyed by the Church's enemies. In Edessa, folded in such a way as to show only the Holy Face, it came to be called the "Mandylion". It was exposed for public veneration in the Church of St. Helena in Constantinople.
The Holy Shroud, the greatest of all relics of our Savior, is now enshrined in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. Its authenticity is supported by scientific evidence that is absolutely convincing, except to those scoffers, of whom it could be said as Jesus said of the unbelievers of His time: "They will not believe even if someone rises from the dead" (Lk.16:31).
Many scientists and archaeologists come to study the Shroud as skeptics, and leave as believers. It is well known that it has actual blood stains, and pollen and plant imprints that could only have come from the area where Christ died. And now a new witness testifies to the authenticity of the Shroud. Textile expert Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg says that the stitching on the Shroud could have been created only during or just before the lifetime of Jesus, which excludes the possibility of a later forgery. According to the London Daily Mirror Dr. Flury-Lemberg asserts: "There have been attempts to date the shroud from looking at the age of the material, but the style of sewing is the biggest clue. It belongs firmly to a style seen in the first century AD or before" (Michael Brown, New Finding, Spiritdaily.com, April 5, 2004).
The same article reports another piece of remarkable evidence: "Marc Goscin, author of Burial Cloths of Christ, believes the most compelling evidence for the shroud's authenticity comes from a small, blood-soaked cloth kept in a cathedral in Oviedo, northern Spain. The Sudarium is believed to have been used to cover Jesus' head after he died and, unlike the shroud, its history has been traced back to the first century. It contains blood from the rare AB group found on the shroud. Mark says: 'Laboratory tests have shown that these two cloths were used on the same body.'"
Capitalizing on the success of the movie, 'The Passion of the Christ,' Peter Jennings of the ABC network presented last Monday night (April 5) a three-hour documentary entitled 'Jesus and Paul.' If you were able to struggle through it, and to endure the atrocious background music, which seemed calculated to destroy any sense of the sacred that might accidentally seep through, you saw Jennings' usual cast of liberal scripture scholars, including Paula Fredricksen, ex-priest John Dominic Crossan and Bishop Spong of the Episcopalians, scuttle what we thought was left of Christianity after their previous attacks on the Gospels.
Don't be shocked at some of the gems they came up with, some of them blasphemous: we have only "fragmentary windows" into the real story of Jesus Christ; Jesus was one of John the Baptist's disciples before starting out on His own; the Romans executed Jesus without a trial because He was a public nuisance; Jesus wasn't buried at all but was left as carrion for the crows; if it were not for St. Paul, Christianity would have remained a small sect within Judaism; Jesus was probably a little over five feet tall.
Thank God that believers have the evidence of the Gospels, inspired by the Holy Spirit and guaranteed by the Church, which was there as a witness to all that Jesus Christ taught and did. Thank God for the evidence of the Holy Shroud, ignored by the scoffers, from which we have a true picture of Our Lord as a strong and well-built man, little short of six feet tall, bearing the marks of the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails in His hands and feet, and the spear in His side, in complete conformity with the Gospels. And thank God for those who throughout the centuries have expressed their faith in great works of Christian art, including the enormously successful new movie, 'The Passion of the Christ,' in which we can see a truly realistic portrayal of Jesus Christ:
"…Who though He was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross" (Phil.2:6-8).
For the Good Friday Mass of the Catechumens, Solemn Prayer, Adoration of the Cross and Mass of the Presanctified, see Good Friday