Ever wonder why the cloth placed over Jesus’ face while buried in the tomb was found rolled up on Easter Morning? John was first to enter the empty tomb, and when he did, he saw the face cloth was neatly folded and placed separate from the other burial cloths. Then Peter went in and saw the same thing. (John 20:1-9). So, why did Jesus fold the cloth?
To understand the significance of the folded cloth, we need to know a little bit about Jewish tradition. It had to do with the master and servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition at the time. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating. The servant would not dare touch the table until the master was finished. When the master was finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth, clean his beard, wad up his napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. The wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished.” But if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”
Did Jesus fold the cloth and set it aside so his disciples would KNOW He was coming back? That He was not dead? That He is ALIVE! Jesus was not finished. He will return.
While purifying the sacred vessels at the end of Mass, the last thing I do is neatly fold the corporal (the cloth placed under the vessels that acts as a sort of ‘placemat’) and place it on the chalice. When I do, I think of the folded napkin – that, although the Mass is coming to an end, it is not finished. Jesus is coming back. He has not abandoned us. He will return someday and take us to our eternal home. Until then, our job is to continue bringing Jesus to the world.
The Mass calls us out of our busy world every Sunday to worship God and be empowered by His Spirit to bring people to Christ – the same Christ we just encountered in the Eucharist. May we pray that “folding the napkin” at the end of Mass reminds us that He WILL return, of what Jesus did for us, and how we can do the same for others.
Adapted from Forums.Catholic.com