Scripture: Luke 23.43, 45
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
…And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Reflection: Sewing Up the Veil
By John Tillman
One week ago, as Christ was dying on the cross, the scriptures tell us three times—in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—that the veil of the temple was torn in two. Mark and Matthew add the helpful detail that it tore “From top to bottom” implying heavenly agency in its destruction.
According to the Talmud and other sources, the veil was quite large and heavy—requiring 300 priests to move when it needed to be cleaned. It is not hard to imagine them now, a week later, hundreds of them, working to repair it.
It would be easy for us to smugly shake our heads at those priests. Couldn’t they understand the meaning? Couldn’t they let go of their rituals? Why set back up the barrier that God tore through?
But are we so different?
We don’t have a literal Temple veil, but we each stitch up a veil of our own cultural assumptions, religious rituals, and precious objects. These form our ideas about what it takes to approach God.
When we come to God, we must bring nothing but Christ with us. Any ingredients, or any previous qualifications of our own, will poison and corrupt faith. — Thomas Wilcox
Anything that we think we can’t be a Christian without, is a stitch in the veil.
“You can’t be a Christian without supporting _________.”
“You can’t be a Christian without abstaining from __________”
“You can’t be a Christian without __________.”
We’ve all got something in the blanks.
Whenever I’m tempted to put something in those blanks, I try to turn my mind to the thief on the cross. I think of the criminal who watched Jesus die, got his legs broken to hasten his suffocation, and whose body was—more than likely—dumped, naked, in a mass grave.
Anything we put in those blanks should disqualify that thief on the cross. But there is no one, in all of scripture that has a more direct and unambiguous promise of being resurrected to live with Christ in Heaven than this criminal who did nothing—nothing but believe.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about how the Jews carried a veil over their minds that kept them from the truth of the Gospel. We are subject to the same tendency and only in Christ is this veil removed.
May we resist our tendency to repair the veil Christ removed, while looking with grace and compassion on those who labor, stitching up their veils.
May we unveil our faces and turn to Christ—like the thief—with our hands empty and incapable.
May our unveiled faces shine on others, that they can see, not our great works or piety, but God’s grace to us.
Prayer: The Request for Presence
I have said to the Lord, “You are my God; listen, O Lord, to my supplication.” — Psalm 140.6
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.