by Sister Karen M. Cavanagh, C.S.J.
We are “living stones” building upon an everlasting and living foundation…
The Easter season and today’s fifth Sunday invite us to an ongoing reflection and response to the call of God’s Spirit in our everyday lives and actions. As I read this Sunday’s Scriptures, I was brought back to a memory of more than 30 years. I was the principal of Blessed Sacrament School in Cypress Hills, and each Monday the classes came to the auditorium to pray at the start of a new week. We called it “round-up” as they gathered and listened to God’s Word.
Today’s reading from Peter was the image presented one Monday morning. I gave a reflection, and we prayed. Several weeks later, in our second-grade religion class, one little boy, Robert, raised his hand during the discussion and reminded his teacher and his classmates saying, “Don’t you remember? Sister Karen said that we are ‘living stones’ for God.” Robert left that “round-up” with a lasting image. The memory still reminds me to see him as my young teacher and to realize that lesson in my life.
We might say, “out of the mouths of babes…” as we think of this memory. I found myself thinking about the post-Easter days after the Resurrection and how the Christian community was newly born, yet growing. Peter was speaking and proclaiming like a “born again” strong evangelist. The “rock” which had crumbled inside the garden and outside the courthouse was born again and filled with the promised Spirit of Jesus. He’s now like the healed persons of the Gospels who know God’s life, acting and speaking through them. A hard and stubborn “rock” allows God to form him into a building block. He calls us with himself to be built into a spiritual structure – a Church, the Body of Christ – alive today.
With the psalmist, he reminds us that as “living stones” we have an intimate and lasting relationship with the Risen Christ who is the “chosen and precious cornerstone” of the Church.
Vulnerability, Faith, Courage
Peter asks us to recall that this Cornerstone with Whom we build the Church was rejected by the people but lifted high by God as precious and holy. The foundation of God’s dwelling is the Christ – Jesus in Whom our salvation is found. There is no other. We’re further taught that we must “build a spiritual house, be a holy priesthood and offer acceptable sacrifices to God through Christ Jesus.” This requires a total gift of self in the building, a vulnerability that can be molded, faith that withstands rejection and courage as we move from “darkness into wonderful light.” When it is Eastertide in our lives and hearts, our “Yes” comes easily.
The first reading this Sunday shows us how easily tensions, complaints and dissensions arise, especially over levels or kinds of service and even over degrees of spirituality. Doesn’t that happen today as well in our communities and work places? In the Gospel, Jesus assures all of us of God’s ever-present and all-inclusive care for us. He also shows us how intimate His relationship is with God and how that relationship is nurtured and grows.
Many Titles, One Purpose
Jesus is not only the foundation and capstone of the People of God but also the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Bread, the Light, the Shepherd, the Living Water, the Cup poured out, the Anointed and Chosen, the Teacher and Rabboni, and the Resurrection. All these titles, all these images which John gives us, are held together in one description as Jesus says, “I am among you as One who serves … as I have done so you must do.”
So like the earliest Church, birthed from the Cross, we are challenged to live in the light and be aware always of our call to service, to place our lives upon the Foundation of Jesus Christ and to “do as He did.” We can only have the strength to pick up “the basin and towel” in caring for our brothers, sisters and all God’s creation when we’re faithful to our relationship with God. It is God Who works in us – it is Christ Jesus Who shows us the way to God.
When it’s Easter time in our lives, the yeses seem easier, but we, and most assuredly our more vulnerable members in this human and Church family, have been and are living Good Fridays, Gethsemane anguish, callings out for food, healing, forgiveness, acceptance, safety and God’s touch. Our “yes” tires, our vision blurs and our hearing fails. We become tempted to the desires to build the dwellings of our own lives, to be our own way or to expect another to do the work.
Without that oneness with our God, without our fidelity to living in, with and for God, we can easily move from the light and grope in the darkness. We could possibly become a “stone that could make another stumble or a rock that could make a sister or brother fall.”
Let us let a child, the Word of God and the tender embrace and promise of Jesus increase our faith, strengthen our courage and allow God to work through each and every one of us. We are the “living stones!”
God, keep us strong![hr]
Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 6: 1-7
Psalm 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Peter 2: 4-9
John 14: 1-12[hr]
Sister Karen M. Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.