|The Shroud of Turin|
When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre. (Matthew 27:57-60)
St. Matthew tells us that the linen shroud was clean and the tomb was new. These are signs of love for Jesus, aren't they? An executed man could not be placed in a tomb where a righteous man was already buried. So the tomb being new emphasizes that Jesus was executed.
Some Christians have settled for a very polite, sanitized, restful religion. They've lost the sense of outrage which is at the heart of Christianity: God's edgy choice in becoming human and winding up executed. Once you get that - everything is different, even one's understanding of what religion is about.
That Jesus was executed, we might think Christians would have a particular sensitivity towards the imprisoned and especially those on death row. One could ask how a Christian can be a defender of executing people. To execute someone means we have given up on those persons and all possibility of their conversion or change of heart. Conversion begins with God's grace; conversion is God's business.
Some people determine that certain offenders are beyond conversion. It might seem that way. But if God can effect the parting of a sea, raining bread from heaven, changing water into wine, even resurrecting from the dead - how can I say anyone is beyond God's reach to the turning of his or her heart?
We might finally note that as Jesus was buried, a great stone was rolled in front of the tomb, to make sure Jesus was sealed in good and tight. But a great stone can be rolled over the doorway to the human heart too - keeping that heart sealed up, protected, safe and undisturbed:
- A great stone of hate.
- A great stone of pious indignation.
- A great stone of stubborn pride.
- A great stone of protected ignorance.
- A great stone of indifference.
- A great stone of self-serving religion.
- A great stone of self pre-occupation.
- A great stone of ...