At the outset of this week’s reflection let us make a clear connection between words from TODAY’S PSALM [118 or 117] and SECOND READING [1 JOHN 3: 1 – 2].

In the Psalm we read “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Then, the second reading commences with the words, “see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”

There is a clear connection between our ongoing experience, as children, of the Father’s love and our acceptance that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone in, through and by which the Father cements and builds his day-by-day care and concern for each one of us. However what we often forget is the fact that we have to build WITH the Father. So often I bring my daily living to an abrupt halt by suddenly recognising that I have halted or at least hindered the process by rejecting the cornerstone. This rejection is never a conscious rejection of Jesus himself. Rather it has occurred by my adopting a line of action which is contrary to Gospel norms.

Often there is a tendency to downplay the significance and debilitating effects of so-called ‘little’ transgressions. Then it becomes easy to be satisfied with merely staying out of ‘big trouble’! This approach is similar to building contractors who use sub-standard concrete mixture. Often, there are disastrous consequences. The whole structure comes tumbling down.

No matter how little we may think it is, most of us achieved something positive during the Lenten Season. At least one liturgy of Holy Week will have engendered some sort of personal experience. It is of little lasting value if these achievements and experiences were simply taken down in shorthand – and now in this fourth Easter week we are unable to transcribe it into longhand. If this happens then we begin, in little things, to reject the cornerstone by standing in ignorance of or opposition to the call of the Good Shepherd as proclaimed by Jesus in TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 10: 11 – 18]. In these verses we hear the Lord giving the twofold assurance that “I know my own and my own know me.” Spend a few moments reflecting on that little word own. Do we who are his own, really own the reality of this twofold assurance?

We have to KNOW the cornerstone. We have to be certain of the fact that the Risen Lord knows us – and this knowledge must be engraved in our minds and on our hearts. Let words from TODAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 4: 8 – 12] become the foundation of what we have been hearing – “be it known to you all … by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth … this man is standing before you well. This is the stone … rejected by you the builders.”

We must learn to stand before him – and we “need to stand well,” This is what real knowledge and ownership entails.

I want to, as I did a few weeks back, quote thoughts from THIS TRANSFORMING WORD (page 91). “Jesus walks taller in John’s version … never wears swaddling clothes as a helpless babe in a manger … shows no agony, does not weep or sweat blood. From the cross he doesn’t cry out about abandonment. … Jesus agrees to enter into custody and marches to the cross in perfect freedom. …. He is not handed over like a prisoner.” Only the Synoptic versions record a very different approach. John’s Jesus walks taller.

It is in this way that Jesus showed his love not only for the Father but of each one of us. Real love is given freely. There is no element of coercion or of being a taken prisoner. Love liberates us. It sets us free. This is the manner of the Lord’s shepherding of us. This love, freely given, is the cornerstone. Jesus shows his love by freely laying down his life for the sheep. “If we are interested only in obeying a law, or do the minimum prescribed, we do not understand what real love is. … Coercion and fear never lead to affection.” {Celebrating the Word: Year B: Fernando Armellini: Page 99: Paulines.}

Sheep do no fear the shepherd. They are only really content when they know he is around to guard and guide. The shepherd knows, and the sheep know. They OWN EACH OTHER.

It is this mutual ownership which is the strength of the cornerstone. It holds the building together but it is there so that the building may grow and develop.

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