Recently I read a story about The Shroud of Turin that got my attention. After a five year study, Italian scientists have confirmed that the Shroud is not some product of trickery, created during the Middle Ages by someone who wanted to fool the public. After all the testing and experiments, they have said that the Shroud is an authentic artifact. But they have gone even further, claiming that “The implications are… that the image was formed by a burst of UV energy so intense it could only have been supernatural.”
This is a stunning announcement given that it is coming from people of science. They went on to note that with our modern technology (using present day linen and lasers) the image was impossible to recreate because the “degree of power cannot be reproduced by any normal UV source built to date.”
Little of what we think about in life is based on belief; we tend to want most things to be based on fact. Sports fans tend to gravitate toward statistics, assuming that numbers do not lie; however, sometimes great teams on paper never function on the field. The late great Tug McGraw of the New York Mets coined the term “Ya gotta believe,” and that worked well for fans of the struggling team over the years, even when they impossibly challenged some of the best teams on paper for an inconceivable shot at the championship. The Mets should not have been in the 1973 World Series, but they were.
In John’s Gospel we read about Doubting Thomas, the Apostle who had to see the risen Jesus for himself before he could believe. The story goes that when Jesus appeared to Thomas that he made the doubtful man put his fingers in the wounds on his body suffered during his crucifixion in order for Thomas to feel the truth. Thomas then professes his faith, but Christ tells him that the most blessed are the ones who have not seen for themselves but still believe.
Many of us were aware of the Shroud and probably have been skeptical about it. As a Catholic, I have always been fascinated by it but have remained uncertain because of conflicting reports of the authenticity of the artifact. I am sure that even with this report there will still be some people who view it as questionable, but I feel more convinced by this finding and think about it as a court case where new evidence has been submitted and changes everything.
Think about how many people have been cleared in recent years by DNA evidence. This is something that did not exist years ago, and many innocent people ended up in jail for years because of it. Of course, skeptics may have questioned the legitimacy of the DNA results at first, but now they offer the most highly respected way to determine paternity, criminal guilt, and identity. No one in the first century could have ever imagined such technology, just as they could not have possibly known or understood the UV energy necessary to create the image on the Shroud.
For those who may still be skeptical, a different piece of “evidence” may shake things up a bit. The image on the Shroud actually has precedence in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. As Jesus struggles to drag the heavy cross to Golgotha where he will be crucified, a woman named Veronica stops to wipe his face with a towel, and she discovers that Christ has left an imprint of his face on the cloth. This amazing little anecdote from the Passion of Christ should no longer be viewed as an anomaly, but rather as a foreshadowing of the larger image to be left on the Shroud.
For some this will be seen as part of a concocted story and perhaps all the evidence in the world will not be enough, and I respect these people and their opinions. Still, as I view this new report and think about my faith, the realization of things unseen but believed and then those hard forensic findings coalesce and strengthen my belief. If the image is supernatural as the scientists noted, it is because it comes from an evanescent nature of things that has not been able to be explained before this moment.
The case for the authenticity of the Shroud seems stronger than ever now, but I know some will be like Doubting Thomas. Even if they see the evidence, they still may never believe. This is understandable and perhaps is an integral part of the mystery the Shroud itself, making even scientific findings doubted, yet for some people the story corroborates what they already know. For them this story takes belief and elucidates a new reality that is unshakable. Ya gotta believe indeed!
Photo Cedit: National Geographic.com