Bill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder and award-winning former faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the daily "Faith Matters" blog for the Star‘s website and a monthly column for The Presbyterian Outlook. He calls himself a small catholic and his work appears in the National Catholic Reporter, this time with a column entitled, Relics mean something, but they don’t mean everything:
What the whole of Christianity depends on is not whether the Shroud of Turin is the real burial cloth of Jesus but whether Jesus, in fact, was resurrected.
And yet there’s something about the human condition that makes it easier for us if we can hold onto something solid, something verifiably original and authentic.
So our hearts long for the Shroud of Turin eventually to be validated as the true burial cloth of Jesus. And we want to know that this or that particular cup is the one Jesus used at the Last Supper. And that someone saved the ax George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree and, while they were at it, also preserved his wooden teeth. (Good luck with both of those myths.)
I’m happy for Pope Francis to visit the Shroud of Turin just as I’m happy for Protestant tourists to stop at the front doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral. (The original wooden doors were destroyed in a fire and have been replaced with bronze doors.)
I just hope the pontiff’s trip won’t lead people to imagine that it ultimately matters whether what he sees there is Jesus’ burial cloth. That would focus on a dead man. By stark contrast, Christianity is about the living Christ and our commitment to follow where his Spirit leads.