The 5th Sunday of Easter ~ 7 May 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 6: 1-7; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: I Peter 2: 4-9; Gospel: John 14: 1-12
St. Peter teaches us today in our Epistle that our risen Lord, Jesus is ever gathering and working to fit together living stones the faithful into his church. It is in the Gospel for today, as Jesus speaks to his disciples but a short while before his passion, when he becomes The Stone rejected by the builders that we are taught he goes to prepare a place, a home for us. This fifth Sunday Easter we are given a powerful insight into the reality God has designed us for a living place in Him, in God’s Kingdom. It is a blessing to see beautiful and holy places for God. Whether they be immense and glorious cathedrals or small chapels and hidden churches.
The love, and longing of Jesus are evident that He longs to bring us each and bring us together into holy, living, and powerful places for us to grow in the glory and mercy of the risen Christ. To hear this message is blessed and easy. To believe and grow in the infinite and eternal Truth God would share is much more challenging. God would call us each to be and grow as His living stones.
We are given an historic glimpse into this design of God by the first reading from the Book of Acts. The church is young and growing. As it grew then it continues to grow now. Receiving the Word of God and being nurtured by the Eucharistic Feast it grew in and through the blessings and struggles of the people of God. As they grew it was evident there were divisions between the Hebrew believers and Gentile widows. The latter was not receiving the help and nurture needed for body and soul. The Holy Spirit responded by bringing forth the order of deacons. This would be one of many diverse and living stones as the church grew.
Then as now, a difficult challenge was being realized. It was rather easy for the big, important, beautiful living stones of God’s love and grace to. be recognized. The need for them, their place, and their purposes were easy to see and fit in the growing faith of the people of God. The merciful hands of God were very evident in the Apostles. The denial of Peter was being transformed by the Paraclete as he lived his yes to Jesus. James, John, and the others each followed the Savior into their places designed by God the Father. The women of the church whose love and faith opened the path to the empty tomb and Risen Christ also grew into their roles as women of God.
But there can be no doubt that among the early disciples and as it is among the disciple of Jesus now there were those odd stones. The ones for whom it was very difficult to know where and how they could belong. And if we could listen to the heart of Peter, John, and the others even they knew deeply and painfully the question: how, and where could God use them? No matter how odd the stone is, or may feel it is, in the pierced hands of God it is brought and fit where it is needed and belongs. It is with the gospel of creation that we learn some of the graces by which the hands of God work to bring us, the odd stones we may feel we are, where we need to be.
We can sense the intricate beauty and design of the places of God. Each stone fits. Special stones may be carved, polished, and placed to share their luster, shine, or powerful beauty reflecting and refracting the exquisite allure God seeks to reveal to us. But we must heed the lesson of those strong granites, marbles, gems, and crystals. For each stone, each of us must allow the hands of God to uncover our hidden riches. We must allow ourselves to be broken, sculpted, and polished to become the living stones worthy of our Creator.
It is a trait of our human nature to often judge what we see from those initial glimpses. Or if we are given something for a long while we will still often decide that the outward appearance of feeling, even of ourselves is often correct and complete. Much like the stones we see above we may see or feel that someone or ourselves are just another rock among many. Perhaps drab, unassuming, perhaps worthy to be shoved aside with others. We may honestly realize we are far too small in life to matter much, especially compared to the great and glorious God with whom we love. But then one day some angel picks us up and brings us to Jesus. Placing us in his pierced hands the angel will ask. “What about this one?” Jesus smiles and says “Yes!, It is exquisite for me.”
All the while we still only see a drab, brown, rather seemingly useless stone. But God sees what is hidden. What is hidden to use beneath the dirt and grist of this world is seen by God. What is a flaw in God’s mercy is broken open. What seems so ugly is pressed. Hard. For as long as is needed until the crystals of God’s holy Truth are formed. The healing mercies of Christ may be hidden from others. Or even from the living stone itself. But God is at work. Our true colors, strengths, and brokenness are to be discovered. In God’s hands. In God’s time. In God’s way. The deep pressures of spirit soul and even body will not destroy the design or longing of God. He sees, even hears that which is alive and hungering to be. The stones indeed may cry out. But as the Prophet Ezekiel saw hearts hardened by the world and sin would become alive by the Holy Spirit.
And so is our shared resurrection quest. The angels of God, with his saints, help us to know we are called. We belong to and with him, and each other. And it is as Jesus gathers us together that we find ourselves placed in his holy rock polisher called the church. We may grow irritated and weary as we are tossed and burnished against each other. The work of any church will often have calls and cries, grumblings, and frustrations, as did the church of the first deacons. But God is at work. From the polisher of many graces, God will take these living stones and sculpt, cut, and polish us to be who we are called by God to be and woven to fit into the fabric of living stones becoming His new Zion.
It is in those loving, infinite works of God, as the living stones we are that we experience that Jesus is, in deed and in Word the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ alone takes these odd stones that we are, flawed, marred by sin, and makes the Way to help us reveal Him. Christ is the Truth. It is in Him we discover who we are. Truly. Really. Eternally. And it is in Jesus we learn day by day to grow in the Life He is. We cannot dare to become locked and cast into our false selves or the edifices of past understandings. We must ever allow God’s Spirit to make our actions, our worship, and our service for God alive, and growing in the splendor of Truth that He is.