4th Sunday of Easter B

The Stone Rejected

Michelangelo was perhaps the greatest sculptor the world has ever known. He had a masterly knowledge of marble, and seemed to possess “X-ray eyes” for discerning in a block of stone the image that he would bring out of it by his chisel.

One day a fellow-sculptor started to carve a block of white Carrara marble into a statue. Being a third-rate artist, he bungled the task and finally gave up. Furthermore, the carving that he had done had gouged out a deep hollow of the block of stone, and ruined it for further use; or at least it seemed that way.

Michelangelo did not agree. His sure eye told him that this mighty slab could be salvaged. Out of it he proceeded to carve one of his masterpieces, the colossal statue of young David, poised with his sling to attack Goliath. Only on the back of the figure are some marks left from the blundering chisel of the first sculptor.

Psalm 118 says prophetically, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus applied this prophecy to Himself. Though rejected by His people, he became the keystone of the Church. There are also many other people who have been at first rejected or ignored, only to achieve triumph later on, often thanks to the loving care of some “sculptor” who brought out their potentialities. The limping Lord Byron became a noted poet; the hunchbacked Charles Steinmetz became a top-flight scientist; Helen Keller, born blind and deaf became a great humanitarian leader. The same can be said even of those not gifted with genius. For example, society is inclined to reject retarded children; but how often have we heard a mother say of her “special child,” “I love Johnny best of all.”

… The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done. (Psalm 118, 22, 23. Today’s Mass-psalm).

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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B214: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Moslems all believe in one God. So why can’t we just live and let live, recognizing that even Vatican II said those in other religions can achieve eternal salvation?

The document you refer to is called Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which was issued in 1964 by the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II. In Chapter 2 it focuses on “The People of God.” The bishops insist that all people are called to belong to the new People of God, to a catholic unity (#13). The bishops recognized that there are non-Catholic Christians (#15), Jews, Moslems and even “heathens” who have never heard of Christ or God (#16). Yet, they are “related to the People of God in various ways,” and “those too may achieve eternal salvation” (#16) if they try to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience. But the bishops caution that often the Evil One will deceive people, who “become vain in their reasonings” and “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (#16).

In our gospel today Jesus says “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:11-18). This Good Shepherd gave his life for his sheep, working to achieve unity and extending “new life” to Gentiles.

We are all called to the fullness of Truth and the unity found only in the Roman Catholic Church. It is the sacramental life of the Church, God’s chosen way, that strengthens us on our spiritual journey. Together with the doctrinal safety provided by our Church’s official Magisterium (teaching office), we are enabled or empowered or offered the means to respond properly to our call to holiness. We are called to follow the Good Shepherd, and be united under the leadership of the Pope, who is the successor to St. Peter. So our Catholic task always remains the same: to spread the Good News by word and action, and do everything we can to work towards unity in the People of God under the leadership of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. Until there is unity, our mission work is not complete. We respect other people’s beliefs; but we always lovingly invite them to come into the embrace of “one flock under one shepherd.”

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Do you recognize the direct link between Christ and your Bishop? Christ chose the apostles, and continues to act through their direct and validly chosen successors (CCC #1575-6). After His resurrection, Christ entrusted to Peter the pastoral care of His church. The fullness of the means of salvation can be found only in the Catholic Church (CCC #816). What are you doing to help achieve this unity?

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Q. 370: Who are the “elders” and “leaders” that Peter is addressing in the First Reading (Acts 4:8-12), and why should they be so angry (vv. 2-3)?

The gathered leaders are the “heavyweights” in top positions of authority in the Temple and in the Jewish community, especially the Sadducees. A cripple has just been healed by the power of the name of Jesus, through the ministry of Peter and John. What really bugs the Sadducees is related to their non-belief in the resurrection of the body. So the healing of the man crippled from birth is not the point of contention at all. Rather, it is the fact that Peter and the other apostles are preaching that Jesus rose from the dead. Everything else gets lost in the stubbornness of the Sadducees about resurrection.

So when Peter calls for the conversion of his listeners to belief in the resurrection, pointing to the salvation available only through Jesus Christ, it brings immediate opposition from those with closed minds and closed hearts. Still, the leaders are bewildered by the eloquence of this simple fisherman called Simon Peter, who had none of the education in Torah to which the other rabbis and priests and scribes had been exposed. The reality of the crippled-but-now-healed man in front of the gathered community leaders spoke volumes in testimony about the “name” of Jesus and his power. So all that these leaders could do was threaten the apostles and warn them against continuing their preaching about the resurrection.

God always seems to prefer to use the “ordinary” things to demonstrate his mighty power – in this case, an “ordinary” fisherman. He uses the humble to confound the wise. In any event, the message is clear: when a Christian steps out in faith to proclaim the Good News, it can be expected that a possible consequence will be instant resistance and antagonism from the established culture.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The very name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son – it is that divine name that alone brings salvation (CCC #432). Without faith in Jesus no one will attain eternal life (CCC #161).

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I Know Mine and Mine Know Me

These are the words of the Good Shepherd, the shepherd who knows his sheep. But how does he know us? It is not the simple act of recognition. He knows us and we know him with the same kind of knowledge that the Father and the Son have of each other. This is the knowledge of intimate relationship, the knowledge that comes from unity and communion. It is because Jesus has such loving knowledge that we become children of God. By baptism we entered into that kind of relationship with Jesus and through him with the Father. But we are children of God and like children we must grow to maturity by nurturing that relationship through prayer, sacraments and a life of self-giving. As St. John puts it in today’s Epistle, “We are God’s children now, what we shall be has not yet been revealed, but we do know … we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Father, in the death and resurrection of your son, Jesus Christ, you have given us new life. May our sharing in this life grow strong within us and be expressed in the Christian dedication of our lives.

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