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Living Stones: Weekly Message for 6-27-17
Dear Friends in Christ,
I’ve lived in Rome off and on since 1999, and after attending the Holy Father’s Christmas Urbi et Orbi message in St. Peter’s Square for the first time I learned two lessons. First, if you want to leave the Square quickly when it is crowded, get behind a group of nuns, because they close ranks and bulldozer through with an effectiveness that would make Alexander the Great jealous.
Second, when you’re in a crowd in St. Peters, you have to be on watch for the “nudge and crush”: when people nudge you, the natural thing is to move, but in a packed Square that’s followed by a crush. If you were to turn and ask the person crushing you why they were crushing you, they’d say someone nudged them, and that someone had been nudged, and that someone had been nudged. The only way to avoid the nudge and crush is to stand firm. This week we’ll be celebrating living stones who stood firm: Saints Peter and Paul.
St. Peter encouraged believers under fire to “Come to [Jesus] that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s mind chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus gave Peter a special mission: to be the rock on which he would build his Church. He was a living stone who put out the nets for a catch after a long fishless night. He was the first one to tell Christ he didn’t know what he was getting into by inviting him to follow him (“Depart from me”), but Christ promised he’d be a fisher of men. If you want to meditate on his spiritual legacy you might want to consider the Retreat Guide Built to Last this month.
St. Paul was so in awe of Peter’s special mission in the Church that he called him Kephas (Aramaic for Rock), and told the Christians to build on that foundation: “you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple of the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-22). At first Saul was a living stone persecuting the Christians, but he was set on the wrong foundation and the topple was not long in coming. When he stopped kicking at Christ’s goad, putting all his talents at the service of the special mission that Christ gave him, he laid the foundation for generations of Christians, even to this day. The passage from Saul to Paul was a project of mercy, spiritually narrated in the Retreat Guide Messenger of Mercy.
We are called to be those living stones who build upon the bedrock of the Church, to form that spiritual edifice, to upbuild the Church. If we go back to St. Peter’s Square, to that nudge and crush, we can each ask ourselves, am I standing firm? Am I a dead weight that just takes one nudge to be carried along by feelings, opinions, the fashionable thing?
Nobody says it will be easy. It won’t. Peter told Jesus “depart from me;” he did not feel up to the task, but Jesus said, “I have prayed for you, and when you come back to yourself, strengthen your brethren.” Paul told the Christians at Corinth that it was with “fear and trembling” that he preached the Gospel to them, but he also reminded Timothy that “the Lord stood by me and gave me power.”
The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, we are just the instruments. He’ll transform us into living stones, if we let him.
May the Holy Spirit help you stand firm.