April 29, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Awhile back I did some studies of the daily readings used on a couple of specific days in the Catholic Church.

There is no particular reason that these were chosen other than that they were Sundays following a Bible Study I was attending and we had decided to study the readings for the coming Sundays as a way to prepare for a full understanding of the liturgy.

The common theme of interest for us all is the fact that the widely diverse readings from various parts of the bible have been chosen for each day with prayerful intent and all relate to each other in various ways.

Please enjoy!

Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Cornerstone

In both the Old and the New Testament, Jesus (The coming Messiah and the Risen Messiah) are figuratively referred to as a “Stone”. The significance of this comparison needs to be considered from the point of view of the people at the time. A large stone in those days was an inconvenience that must be ignored or a great army of men was required to move it or otherwise manipulate it.

Great buildings of the day were built of stone and the effort required to move and shape stones was enormous so they were carefully considered for their part in the building. The cornerstones were generally the largest “anchors” of a building and a good deal of effort was made to select just the right stones, shape them properly and then move them into just the right position so that the rest of the building could be aligned and built from those important points.

Many stones were rejected by the builders as cornerstones as unworthy of fulfilling that purpose.

It was written in the Psalms, hundreds of years before Christ that the Messiah would be the stone rejected by the builder destined to become the cornerstone.

In the first reading, Acts 4:8-12, Peter is telling the elders that Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s new covenant and refers to the Psalms to fortify his position. That salvation is through no one else but Jesus, rejected by the people but risen from death by God to become the cornerstone.

The ancients understood that calling the Messiah a “cornerstone” was metaphorical, and that by the decree of God Almighty, the Messiah was to be the very foundation and cornerstone of God’s new creation.

Jesus is again referred to as the cornerstone in Isaiah, 28:16, So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

In Luke, Jesus asks the Pharisees what the meaning of the Psalm is, “The stone that the builder rejected has become the cornerstone” Then he added, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be shattered. And anyone upon whom it falls will be crushed.” That’s interesting because knowing what we know above about the size and inconvenience of cornerstones, how could it fall on someone?

Apparently there is some debate over the translations of the words used here and the original word for cornerstone is also the same word or very similar to the word used for capstone. The cornerstone being the first to be laid and the capstone to be the last. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

If Jesus is the first and beginning stone, he is the cornerstone, and if he is the last and end stone, he is the capstone. In truth, Jesus is both the very foundation of God’s work, and also the highly visible and beautiful capstone that will finish His creation.

In this Easter Season, we are reminded that God had a plan from the beginning. It is written in the Old Testament scriptures and clearly foretells the coming of the Messiah.

Other Flocks and The Cornerstone

In today’s readings, the relationship between the first reading in Acts and the Psalm is pretty obvious. The same words are spoken in both and the prophesy of the Psalm is clearly revealed in Acts. The second reading and the Gospel are a little less obvious but upon closer inspection the connection is revealed. There are two messages in these readings, the first and obvious is that Christ intended all of mankind to become the full body of his church. The second is a reinforcement of the Truth that He alone is the foundation of God’s new covenant that founded his church.

Before Christ, only the Hebrews were considered the people of God. But Christ declared that all people should be considered for the kingdom of God, not just the Hebrews. In 1st John, The apostle is teaching that everyone is a child of God.

Jesus sets the foundation for this in John 10:11-18 saying: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Here he reinforces the idea that there should be one unified church built upon his sacrifice of his own life. He also reinforces the Truth that no one on earth had power over him to take or spare his life. That he gave it up willingly because the Father asked him to and that very act gives him ultimate power over all of us and over all of His church.

Apparently early on there was some contention among the Apostles over who should be welcome in Christ’s church. Some felt that only Jews could become followers of Christ but John felt that everyone was welcome. He used Christ’s teachings in John 10 to support his position. Christ himself says “I have other sheep, not of this flock.” Clearly meaning not of the Hebrews.

He is telling the apostles to go and preach to the whole world and bring the gentiles into the kingdom of Heaven. He asserts that the whole of the world should be the whole of the one true church, led by the one Good Sheppard, Himself. Thus reinforcing the Truth that God has built His Church upon the unbreakable Cornerstone of Jesus Christ.