Friday, April 5, 2024

“ The Stone Rejected By the Builders”

By Father Kevin M Cusick

Jesus said to them: ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes.’” (Matthew 21, 42)

Through the paschal mystery we celebrate in this Easter season the meaning of these words of our Lord is fully revealed. The risen Lord is the source and summit of the Church in thesacrament His Body and Blood of the Eucharist. Thus truly present, from Him flows all that saves us and toward Him is drawn the whole world. Lifted up on the Cross and, risen, now at the right hand of the Father. He is the foundation, the indispensable cornerstone without which the entire structure of His Mystical Body would fall in ruin.

Time and time again, in connection with Vatican II, we hear the cry for removal of any least obstacle to Protestants. As matter of fact, Protestants were invited to be present at the Council which led to the new Rite.

The problem with this approach however, is the words of Christ Himself. It turns out the perfect revelation of God in Christ Jesus is by necessity a stumbling stone, rejected even by the “builders. This means that even those who have no role in construction will also, in some measure, reject Him as a scandal. But, also, that even this rejection is part of God’s mysterious plan of salvation.

Scandal, or stumbling stone, must be understood in two senses.One is scandal in the negative, or evil, sense, as in the case of Peter who, himself scandalized by the Lord’s prediction of His own suffering, attempts to turn Christ away from the will of the Father and the Sacrifice of the Cross.

"Who turning, said to Peter: Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.’”
Matthew 16:23)

Our Lord here distinguishes between those stones which make souls stumble on their path to God over against the stone which He will become through His suffering and death on the Cross.This, of course, is scandal in its positive sense. Seeing and judging from the perspective of God, seeing all of reality in light of the Father and His will, is the standard for that which conforms to Christ. On the other hand, seeing things only from man’s limited and faulty perspective, skewed by the blindness resulting from original sin, is the kernel of all that frustrates and rejects the Father’s plan.

“And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me.(Matthew 11, 6) All the words and works of Christ, revealed by means of Scripture and Tradition, must be handed on, lest we find ourselves guilty of the sin of scandal against Christ, that scandal which he condemned in Peter. The rejection of suffering made necessary by obedience is diabolic, divides man from God who seeks to unite Himself with man once again in Christ. The suffering Servant, lifted up on the Cross, draws all men to Himself. (John 12, 32).

The Father and Christ are One. Christ’s oneness with the Father is reflected in His obedience, particularly through His death on the Cross. Perfectly united to the will of the Father, Christ promises to restore our identity as children of God if we unite ourselves, through obedience, with Him. This is one aspect of the command and promise that we cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we convert and become like little children.(Matthew 18,3)

Children readily obey all that their parents command in order to receive all the good things that can come only through those who love them most in the world.

“For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.  He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.  For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth…” (Philippians 2, 5-10)

The self-emptying of Christ repulses human nature as a kind of annihilation, the opposite of the instinct to preserve and protect life. But it is the only way to make the full journey to the Resurrection, which brings the fulfillment of all human desire.

Risen and victorious, Christ is the keystone of the whole structure which is His Body, the Church. All that is truth and that can save souls is to be built upon Him. The lies of the Evil One are a mockery and counterfeit of Christ. This is the essence of the scandal in the pejorative sense.

Back to the intentions of some prelates present at the Second Vatican Council. Was their intention to remove what Protestants consider an obstacle to becoming Catholic a good or even necessary agenda? It resulted in the New Mass. That which had been handed down was subject to surgery, a good bit of amputation, and some transplants.

How, a reasonable person may ask, does taking out elements that have always made prayers Catholic encourage someone who is not Catholic to become so? Did allowing those who do not share our Faith to stand in judgment over it come from a proper sense of “scandal”, or not?

Is the attempt to remove all which is judged to be scandal for those outside the Church a reflection of Peter or Judas in the Church today? Who decides what is a scandal to be removed?

History repeats itself. The “builders who reject the cornerstone today are the new pharisees, those who decide which parts of the Catholic Faith and life need to be lopped off for the false irenicism of never offending anyone. One of the ways in which Christ describes Himself is precisely that: offensive to unbelievers. His grace is what they need to overcome this proper and salutary sense of scandal resulting from an encounter with truth.

The seeming good of removing scandal, in the hands of scholars or committees, can go astray. It is as well a potential stumbling block for those outside the Church. All that Christ gave the Church for our salvation must be preserved and handed on. We do not stand as judges over God and His plan, lest we fall into the sin of Peter, condemned by Our Lord.

In the past we turned to popes who filled in the vacuums or ambiguities which were claimed to be part of the ecclesial innovation of a “pastoral” council. That period of assurance is now over. Now we have changes to practice spelled out in documents issued from the top together with assurance that teaching is unaffected. But what does teaching, rooted in truth, mean if it does not command obedience? It is a dead letter.

Again, Christ gives us the answer. Faith and obedience is the vision which we need. The scandal which needs removing is the sin of hypocrisy:

“Or how canst thou say to thy brother: ‘Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye?’ Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thy own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to take out the mote from thy brother's eye.” (Luke 6, 42).

Perhaps the hypocrisy we ought to fight in the Church today is that which says we can be Catholic while reserving to ourselves the decision as to which elements of the Faith we will accept or not. In such a case one is not obeying God but rather men, an inversion of the idea of Faith.

"But Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God, rather than men.
(Acts of Apostles 5:29)

Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.



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