May 8, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Jesus reassures troubled hearts in uncertain times

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (1 Pt 2:7).

The Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter has a comforting message for us during these uncertain times: “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1), Jesus tells his disciples who, like many of us today, are anxious and afraid.

It’s an indication of their human weakness that these witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, who have seen with their own eyes the power of God to overcome death, are still troubled. Jesus has to reassure them saying, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn 14:1).

“Christ the Cornerstone” is my episcopal motto. It’s also the title of this weekly column in The Criterion. St. Peter uses this expression, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” ( 1 Pt 2:7), in this Sunday’s second reading from his first letter to the Gentile converts in Asia Minor. He is quoting Psalm 118, verse 22. “The stone which the builders rejected,” which may originally have meant the foundation stone or capstone of the Temple, signifies that what is insignificant to human beings has become great through divine election.

St. Peter and other New Testament writers interpreted this verse as referring to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who was rejected by the political and religious leaders of his time but is now the foundation on which our lives are built.

Jesus admonishes his disciples, and all of us, to have faith in him. He has returned to his heavenly homeland to prepare a place for us. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:2), Jesus says.

“If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that

where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way” (Jn 14:2-4). What are we worried about? Jesus cares about us. He will take care of us—no matter what our troubles may be.

These are comforting words at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty in our daily lives. Because we are human, we worry about many things—our health, our economic security, family members and friends who are suffering and, above all, our fear of the unknown.

Jesus tells us that “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:2). That’s not simply a description of what heaven is like. It’s Jesus’ way of letting us know that the place he has prepared for us will take care of our individual needs. We shouldn’t worry. If we place our trust in Christ the Cornerstone, he will become the foundation for full and happy lives—both now and in eternity.

St. Thomas, the disciple who always gives voice to his doubts, says to Jesus, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5) And Jesus’ response is vitally important to Thomas and to each of us. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:6-7).

To the extent that we know Jesus, and are close to him, we “have seen the Father” and have no reason to be afraid of anything.

Pope Francis tells us that Jesus is the face of the Father. When we encounter the risen Christ, we see God. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1), Jesus tells us. We are in God’s hands, and there is a place for each and every one of us in God’s house.

Once again, because of our human weakness, we are slow to believe. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

(Jn 14:10) Jesus asks us. “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14:10-12 ).

Jesus reassures our troubled hearts. If we stay close to him, and do the good works that he asks us to do, there will be no room for doubt or fear. Christ the Cornerstone is our firm foundation, the reason for our Easter joy. †

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