significant find in the ruins of a church that had been built in the year 660 in present-day Turkey: a small stone coffin containing a wood fragment that was in the past venerated as coming from the cross of Jesus Christ.
That such an object was so venerated is not unusual; fragments that supposedly come from Jesus’ cross are still around today, including at the Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson, Texas. According to legend, in the fourth century Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, traveled to Jerusalem, located the cross of Jesus, and had pieces of it kept in Jerusalem and distributed to Constantinople and Rome. Fragments then made their way to locations throughout the world.
There is no way to know whether the fragment found in Turkey, or any of the other fragments or any other relic—think of the Shroud of Turin--for that matter, are in fact what some of the faithful believe them to be.
Abby from NCIS deal with it—checking the fragment to see if it contained some of Jesus’ DNA. The problem would be that we don’t have any known examples of Jesus’ DNA or any known physical descendants of Jesus—Dan Brown’s entertaining fantasy in The Da Vinci Code notwithstanding—to which the experts could compare what they found on the cross fragments.
When you stop and think about it, though, Jesus does have close kin who are alive right here and right now; that would be you and me and all others who are his sisters and brothers. We share his spiritual DNA—we are members of his family and he of ours; God dwells in the Church and the Church dwells in God.
Here’s the hard question: if Abby from NCIS could conduct a test on us to determine how close kin to Jesus we really are, what would it show? How many markers—how much love, how much mercy, how much grace, how much forgiveness, how much service, how much sacrifice, how much humility, for examples—would we share in common with Jesus? The good news is that by the grace of God, by the work of the Spirit, and by the practice of Christian disciplines like worship, solitude, prayer, and study we can continuously grow in those characteristics that define a brother or sister of Jesus.
Physical DNA test results are what they are; spiritual ones can improve.
Thanks be to God!