Our annual celebration of Easter can bring with it many references to stones. This year is no different. In fact, there is more rock-talk being tossed about these days, not less. And some of it is raising eyebrows, especially for teachers and parents. But, let's begin by reviewing the Easter Sunday liturgy itself.
The Responsorial Psalm Capstone
During the responsorial psalm we see that Jesus is compared to a rejected stone, which eventually becomes nothing less than a capstone. We usually see these decorative centerpieces at the highest point of a masonry archway. But they are far more vital than mere ornamental displays.
Structural engineers regard the capstone as a key element in constructions like bridges and walls. By analogy, many academic disciplines use the phrase capstone courses to identify those core classes which students must successfully complete to graduate in their chosen major.
Unlike a cornerstone, which merely marks the date when a foundation was built, the capstone is also known as a coping stone. Why? Because it prevents weather damage, keeps the edifice from collapsing, and is regarded as the crowning achievement of the entire endeavor. Christ, like the discarded stone, whom we rejected because of our wounded nature, became God's capstone and crowning achievement as well as our coping stone by bringing salvation to a fallen creation.
The Gospel Sepulcher Stone
In the Easter gospel we read how the women were wondering who was going to roll back the huge stone that was blocking the entrance to the crypt where Jesus had been buried. They needed contact with the body to finish the embalming process, which had been rushed on Good Friday because of the rapidly approaching Sabbath hour. To their amazement they discovered that the rock, which kept Christ separated from the living, was gone, no longer preventing their access, or ours, to God's merciful redemption.
The stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Therefore, death was empty. Christ had risen and conquered the sting of death. Death lost its grip. Death became meaningless and eternal life became meaningful. There was no more fear about our mortal ending but only joy about our immortal beginning in glory and the promise of reunion with those who have gone before us.
Sticks and Stones for Breaking Bones
Last month, the superintendent of a school district located in the Delaware Valley decided that every classroom must have a five-gallon bucket filled with hand-sized chunks of river gravel. If a shooter entered their school, teachers were to give these rocks to the children to throw at the armed intruder. Most instructors and parents did not believe that stoning terrorists was such a great idea.
I can testify that St. John's University in New York City now requires all faculty members to complete a seminar called “Active Shooter Preparedness Training Safety Tips.” The session I attended was taught by a member of the NYPD who advised us to hide behind any barrier we could find, a door, a desk, even the curb of a driveway if we happen to be outside when a campus lockdown occurs. But the officer warned us not to confront gunmen directly let alone throw things at them.
Rather than casting rocks at anyone, Easter is an opportunity for Catholics to remove the stones in our lives, which are acting as barriers to God or neighbor and to mold ourselves into the capstones we were created to be.
For Holy Homework: In keeping with the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the grave, let's cover a clean, small stone in plastic wrap and place it as a new centerpiece on our kitchen table during the 50 days of the Easter season. Whenever we look at it, let's remember that Catholics are called, not to stone others with destructive thoughts, words or deeds, but to roll away the boulders that keep Christ's love and our charity buried alive.
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