Cornerstones are the foundation, the groundwork that we build everything else in our lives upon. Many of us inherit our cornerstone(s). For some of us, Jesus may be the cornerstone of our faith. We hear in scripture that Jesus was the cornerstone, and that he was rejected. The reasons? He was rejected because he failed to match the expected image of the Messiah when he had no interest in military or political power. He was rejected when he challenged cultural standards governing social structures and the interpretation of the law. He put love and healing above all else. People were more important than policies. He built relationships with outsiders and challenged their image or experience of God.
Is Jesus, the cornerstone, rejected today? If we believe, as St Benedict did 1500+ years ago, that every person we encounter is the face of Christ, then Christ walks beside us each day and the rejection happens subtly in our words and actions: we reject the poor… or the rich, women or men, the ill, the aging or the young, the ordained or the lay, those of different cultural heritage and anyone who doesn’t meet our criteria as normal – those who appear so alien to us that we cannot and do not approach. It can be frightening to encounter someone we believe is so different from us. How challenging that is to our way of life! Maybe they will exhaust us with their needs? Maybe they will challenge us? We are always thinking of ourselves as host and these others as guests. It’s a comfortable but not truthful stance.
Christ dwells within us each day as well. And yet, just as we go about judging the value of others in our lives, we just as readily reject those parts of ourselves that don’t measure up, covering them up in an effort at masking who we really are. When we diminish the Christ within us, we move one step toward justifying this behavior toward others. Our faith, our scriptures, our tradition, our Church, should and does teach that every person deserves to be treated with dignity. Sometimes we justify our rejections in unjustifiable ways; deeming these actions insignificant if only we pray,attend Mass or service on Sundays, or tithe. However, it just might be that what we reject might be a crucial piece of our foundation – it might be the cornerstone we are chipping away at. It might be the thing to ground us and to strengthen us in our lives. In my own life I have had to learn to pay attention to those things I angrily reject out of hand. The issues they point to have a way of returning to me until I deal with them. I project them out into the world where I can look at them from a safe distance. Usually after many visits with the issue, I \ give up fighting and face it and in doing so, I finally meet Christ, and I renew and broaden my understanding of who God is and what it means to be created in God’s image and likeness. I return to my own limitations in a kinder, more compassionate fashion. It is really this internal process of rejecting God within me, that damages the cornerstone of faith that’s been built. It is really here within myself that the work is to be done so I can see Christ in the world around me more clearly.
As seekers we don’t always know what is best for us. Things that we reject as useless or less than perfect sometimes are the most important of all. They are the very foundational pieces that we need for our journey. I invite you to consider the part of yourself you most condemn or dismiss, and to take it to pray. Peace.