Friday, May 1, is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. It is fitting that the month dedicated to Mary begins with a feast for the man whose dedicated life of work made her vocation possible. Today, give thanks for work if you have employment — and pray for those who do not.
Acts 4:8-12; Psalms 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 21, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
Today’s Mass sums up Jesus in a very relevant way. In the first reading and Psalm, he is “the stone rejected by … the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”
This very much describes Jesus in our time.
He is the cornerstone of Western society. Think of his influence:
The certainty that faith gave us that we live in an ordered cosmos created by a Creator led to the development of science, and with it, modern medicine and technological improvements bless almost every facet of society.
The sure hope that Jesus provided us allowed an unequaled flowering of the arts; Christianity in the West oversaw tremendous developments in painting, music, drama, poetry, the novel and even filmmaking.
And the charity that Jesus taught us led Christians to establish the first schools, which still give young people the opportunity to learn and better themselves, hospitals that serve the sick and dying and government of the people and for the people.
Jesus truly is the cornerstone of our culture — a cornerstone that we are in the process of rejecting.
First, we live in an age of relativism, which rejects truth.
Second, society rejects Jesus in our conception of beauty. The Western world has embraced a far lower standard in the arts lately, and we tend to look to history, not the future, as the high point of music and literature.
Third, we are rejecting Jesus by rejecting goodness. Our schools have turned into places that teach against Jesus and what he gave the culture; our hospitals no longer merely cure, but also offer abortion and euthanasia; and our government is increasingly choosing sides against religious liberty.
But a building cannot stand without its cornerstone.
As today’s first reading puts it: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
Without Jesus, we will find ourselves in a world of hurt.
When we put our allegiance elsewhere, we find ourselves in the position of the sheep in today’s Gospel. “A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.”
The two images of Jesus in today’s readings — Jesus as the cornerstone and Jesus as the Good Shepherd — are related. The cornerstone holds a building up; it is hidden away, but it makes the rest of the building possible. A shepherd makes a flock stick together, and without him, the result is scattered sheep at the mercy of the wilds.
We can be grateful that Jesus will not leave his flock alone, even if we reject him. If we listen to his voice, he will gather us, bless us and build us back up again.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.