God must find us very tedious at times! Yesterday I overheard a media report speculating whether an image reflected in a rain drop was truly an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Oh, for God’s sake – literally! I also find pious fascination, bordering on obsession, with items such as the Shroud of Turin to be a distraction and pointless. All we are given in Scripture is an empty tomb – no witnesses to the “big event”! We are given faith-filled encounters of people who experienced one who was dead to now be alive! That’s where we must look as well – to our own intimate encounter with the Risen One.
There is some buzz these days about the authenticity of a papyrus fragment suggesting that Jesus may have been married. The “evidence” comes from the discovery of a document from somewhere between the 4th and 8th centuries in which Jesus is quoted as referring to “my wife.” Oh, for God’s sake! Does it really matter? Preoccupation with such questions – important and necessary as they are from a scholarly perspective – is a distraction from what we really should be about during Holy Week. Ultimately, Jesus’ marital status doesn’t really matter to the faith we proclaim!
I am convinced that the overwhelming evidence combined with 2000 years of tradition and the near universal consensus of biblical scholars makes clear that Jesus was not married. Fr. James Martin, SJ offers a cogent defense for this position in the current issue of America magazine. I highly recommend it for its clarity, balance and brevity [link].
I hope never to be paranoid, often catch myself being cynical, but invite the charge of being skeptical. Do you see more than coincidence in the big media splash given to this “old news” – from at least 2012 – at the very beginning of Holy Week? I’m not suggesting anything sinister! It’s likely just good PR to hype the report when it will get the most coverage. Would you agree that this “news” would be received differently if it had been released during the week leading up to the Fourth of July!
Rather than pointing a finger at “faithless media” or blaming secularists waging “culture wars” we should really direct that finger at ourselves. Use the media report as an occasion to reflect upon and potentially deepen our faith — in what really matters! Especially this week… Where do we look for evidence of the resurrection? …to an empty tomb? …to the testimony of others? …to physical evidence? Do we look for it in the past? …in other people’s stories? If so, we are bound to be disappointed. We are so easily distracted by trivia and non-essentials.
Yes, we have the testimony of others. However, these are only intended to lead us to an immediate and intimate encounter with the Risen One precisely where we are most in need of a savior… here, now, today! Don’t be distracted.
The “big event” doesn’t happen in an empty tomb outside Jerusalem!