“Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Words from our second reading today from the second chapter St. Peter’s First Letter – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
A traveler went to Chartres in France to see the great cathedral that was being built there. He arrived at the site just as the workmen were leaving for home. He asked a man, covered with dust, what he did there. The man replied that he was a stonemason. He said, “I am working on making the arches.” Another man, when asked, said he was a glassblower, who made slabs of colored glass for the windows. Another said he was a blacksmith who pounded iron. “I am making the doors,” he said. Wandering inside the unfinished structure, the traveler came upon an older woman, armed with a broom, sweeping up the stone chips, wood shavings and glass shards from the day’s work. “What are you doing?” he asked. The woman leaned on her broom, looked toward the high arches and replied, “Me? I’m building a cathedral for the glory of God.”
Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives. Yes, this stone was rejected by the world, he was crucified, died, and was buried, and the same is true today as people disassociate with religion and the person of Christ, but the good news of Easter promises that in spite of it all, he has been raised up, that he conquers sin and death, and that through him we find true fulfillment and peace. Jesus reveals that he is the way, the truth, and the life, or put another way, Jesus is the authentic (truth) vision (way) of existence (life) [[2x]]. As such, he is the cornerstone on which we build our lives. Our scripture reading implores us, “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Faith in Jesus makes believers living stones, which God builds into a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Our task, with each of us playing our own respective part, is to build a cathedral for the glory of God. We are to become Living Stones. One of the best eulogies I had ever heard at a funeral was over in our Chapel a couple of years ago when we were burying one of the members of our generational families, and the son was addressing his family, reminding them of their legacy - that his grandfather, your great-grandfather, helped build the chapel next door, and was literally tasked in the 1860’s with putting brick upon brick to build up the church. And then he talked of how his deceased father then for years went into that church, and how God was building up his spiritual life, brick by brick, as he went to Mass every day and let the word of God and the homilies, and the prayers, and the eucharist nourish him and build him up into the person they came to celebrate in that funeral Mass. And, the son, now an old man himself, he exhorted his family and the whole congregation declaring that the legacy of brick building is now passed along to you – the living stones of the Church. I couldn’t have said it better, and my attempt to share this with you falls short of his inspiring words.
Indeed, the edifice of the Church is not yet completed. It has been a work in progress from the beginning of time. In the days of the early Church, there were poor widows who were being neglected in the contributions. We heard in the first reading how a ministry was thus built to respond to the needs of God’s people so as to make room for them in God’s house. The Church has since grown and spread to the corners of the earth, and cathedrals were erected to the glory of God like the grandiose one in Chartes that took 126 years to build or the one in Cologne Germany that took 600 years to build, along with the great ministry and history attached to such places besides. In our corner of the world, for 174 years and more, our parish has grown and evolved from celebrating Mass in the farmhouse of German immigrants, to the building of a school and convent, to the construction of the church we sit in today. And we know that this parish is more than simply these physical buildings. They are but a reflection of how we have responded over the years to the many needs of God’s people ourselves, as people received their sacraments, became disciples and were formed in faith, where tens of thousands have received an education, where we have served the poor and made a difference in the world, even supporting an entire mission in India, where we’ve come together as a community, raised our families here, buried our families here, and journeyed on this earth towards heaven together - all for the glory of God. St. Mary’s is not just a house of God but our spiritual home on earth. Part of the reason that there are so many good things happening here and that this is such a vibrant place is because of you. Father can’t do it all alone. Deacon can’t do it all alone. Through the years, people like yourselves have responded to the needs of God’s people and have done their part to build up God’s Church.
What does it mean in the 21st century to become living stones, and let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ? That is something that each of us must answer for ourselves. All of us has been blessed with time, talent, and treasure enough to offer up in response to the many needs of our Church in our world in our day. Something is missing when you are not here. Whether you are an ironworker, mason, glassblower, or even a janitor, you are the living stones of today’s Church with an important role to play. The legacy of building a cathedral for the glory of God now falls to you, falls to us all.
Sunday Readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/050723.cfm