by Fr. Tommy Lane
In 1998 I was privileged to see the Shroud of Turin because it is displayed only two or three times every century. You might say to me that the 1998 Carbon-14 testing carried out on the Shroud shows that it did not come from the time of Christ. It was later discovered that there were many reasons why the results of that test were inaccurate. It is not an article of faith that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus and it continues to remain under investigation but as Pope John Paul II stated in 1998 it helps us to better understand the mystery of God’s love for us. (Refutation of 1998 Carbon-14 test Details half-ways down that page. Also www.shroud.com/pdfs/rogers2.pdf).
The Shroud is 14½ feet long by 3½ feet wide and bears the image of a crucified man. It contains both the front and rear image of the man since it was placed under him during burial and then pulled over his head and down over his body. Most of those who have studied the Shroud are convinced that it is the burial cloth of Jesus. If you accept that it is the Shroud of Jesus, as we approach Holy Week I thought it might be good to see what the Shroud tells us about the sufferings of Jesus.
The marks of the scourging at the pillar are clearly visible on the crucified man. Scourging at that time was carried out by a thongs which had two balls of lead at the end. The wounds are scattered over the whole body from the shoulders down to the lower part of the legs. Most of them are on the back showing that Jesus was facing the column while being scourged. There are no marks on the forearms indicating that Jesus’ arms were tied above him. There are also some marks on the chest. There are wounds are all over the pelvic region showing that Jesus was naked during the scourging. About 60 strokes from scourging (120 wounds) can be seen on the Shroud.
The marks from the crown of thorns are clearly visible on the Shroud. From art we are used to crowns of thorns that have a hole in the middle, somewhat like a halo. But the crown of thorns had no hole in the centre, it was like a cap that covered the entire head. Its thorns were long and would have caused intense pain and much bleeding. It is obvious that it was held in place by a band of rushes going around the head because the flows of blood come to an end at a line further down the head.
In the Stations of the Cross we venerate Jesus falling three times before reaching Calvary. The right knee shows a number of wounds and there are two wounds above the right knee. The left knee is also wounded but not as much as the right knee. On the right shoulder there is a wound about 10 x 9 cm. Carrying the cross could have caused a wound of this type but it was not a smooth cross. You can see that it bruised, re-opened and widened the wounds of the scourging. Further down the back on the left side there is a wound with a diameter of about 5 inches, indicating that the weight of the cross tore through the clothes there causing a further wound.
The wounds caused by the nails at the crucifixion are clearly visible. Judging by the Shroud three nails were used, one for each hand and one nail for both feet. The wounds in the Shroud indicate that the nails were driven through the wrists and not through the palms of the hand. You might say ‘What about stigmatists who have the wounds on their palms?’ Their wounds are mystical and are not intended to be an exact replica; for example St. Francis had the 5th wound, the wound in the side, on his right side, while stigmatists since then have had it on their left side. The Romans were experts at crucifixion and knew that if somebody was crucified through his palms the nails would tear through the flesh and the hands would be freed from the cross. They crucified through the wrists because there is a space in the wrists calls Destot’s space through which the nails would pass. When the nails pass through this point they injure the nerves for the thumb causing the thumb to bend back into the palm and remain in that position until death. That explains why only four fingers in each hand and not the thumb are visible on the Shroud.
There is a large wound on the right side of the chest caused by a soldier piercing the side of Jesus after death. John 19:34 tells us that blood and water flowed out. When a person dies the right auricle of their heart fills with blood but not left side of the heart. From John 19:34 we therefore understand that the soldier pierced the heart of Jesus with his lance from the right side although the heart is on the left side. If he had pierced Jesus from the left side no blood would have flowed out.
What I have recounted here is only a fraction of the information available from the Shroud about the suffering of Jesus. Has anyone ever suffered like this for you? No. Has anyone died for you? No. Jesus is the only one to have suffered like this for you and to have died for you. Do you appreciate what Jesus did for you? Are you grateful to Jesus for suffering and dying for you? In John’s Gospel Jesus says
“When I am lifted up from the
When Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit to Turin in 1998 he said the Shroud helps us to understand the mystery of God’s love for us and invites us to pattern our lives on Jesus who sacrificed himself for us.
...the Shroud, the precious Linen that can help us
better to understand the mystery of the love of God’s Son for us. Before the
Shroud, the intense and agonizing image of an unspeakable torment, I wish to
thank the Lord for this unique gift, which asks for the believer’s loving
attention and complete willingness to follow the Lord
For the believer, what counts above all is that the
Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. In fact, if we reflect on the sacred Linen, we
cannot escape the idea that the image it presents has such a profound
relationship with what the Gospels tell of Jesus’ passion and death, that every
sensitive person feels inwardly touched and moved at beholding it. Whoever
approaches it is also aware that the Shroud does not hold people’s hearts to
itself, but turns them to him, at whose service the Father’s loving providence
has put it. Therefore, it is right to foster an awareness of the precious value
of this image, which everyone sees and no one at present can explain. For every
thoughtful person it is a reason for deep reflection, which can even involve
one’s life. The Shroud is thus a truly unique sign that points to Jesus, the
true Word of the Father, and invites us to pattern our lives on the life of the
One who gave himself for us.
Go to the cross of Jesus to thank him for what he had done for you. Jesus was lifted up on the cross to draw you to him. Hear his cry thirsting for you to draw near to him. If we really knew the love of Jesus for us on the cross we would, as Paul said, consider everything else as rubbish (Phil 3:8). For the remainder of Lent and Holy Week, let us go to the cross of Jesus.
“When I am lifted up from the
More Homilies on the Suffering of Jesus
Related Homilies: Largest Known Relic of the True Cross in Santo Toribio, Spain
Love of God for us 2009
my meditation on The Seven Last Words of Jesus in Let’s Talk to Jesus