Today’s readings present us with some very real problems that we can probably all relate to.  In the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we have the age-old problem of prejudice.  The Hellenists are all Jews, but they’re not Jews who grew up in Israel; they were born elsewhere in the Greek speaking world.  However, they all seem to be resident in Jerusalem now, but the Jews of Israel aren’t treating the Hellenist poor in the way that they are treating their own: an all too familiar problem.   And, in the Gospel, Thomas and Philip are both being a bit dim, and Jesus is having to explain ‘again’ what he’s been trying to teach them all along.  In many senses it’s clear that the early Church wasn’t that different to our own.  We envisage it full of fervour and unity, but there were similar doubts and tension.

In our own time, as we struggle through this pandemic, similar tensions and doubts are emerging.  There are different political views as to how to deal with the situation, some animosity with those taking it less seriously that others, and doubts of faith emerging: ‘where is God in all this’.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I remember a volunteer doctor with ‘Medecins Sans Frontieres’ being asked where God was in the war torn areas that he worked in, and he answered that God was present in those who ministered to the victims, and who sought to bring peace, and he hoped that that included himself.  Similar questions are emerging now: where is God; why doesn’t he put an end to it?

It’s hard to take at times but, as people of faith, we are invited to trust in God, even when we don’t understand what’s going on.  Jesus never promised that the world would become perfect – in fact that’s what appealed to many who joined the early Church; there is perfection to aspire to beyond what we experience in the here and now – but that he would give us the strength, in the power of his Holy Spirit, to get through the battles and challenges of life.  As our lives have brokenness in them, because of the sinfulness of our world and of ourselves, so the world has a brokenness too, because it has been corrupted by humanity’s sin as well.  What affects us affects the creation that we were given stewardship over.  Hence, the need for repentance that I reflected on last week.

However, today’s Second Reading from St Peter gives us an image of how to trust, but we need to use our imaginations.  Imagine an ancient walled city.  The walls are high and thick, built on strong foundations that go deep into the earth.  To gain access to the city any new person arriving has to go through an arch.  This whole structure is a parable of the Church.

The foundations that go deep, are the apostles.  Their faith in Jesus is what supports and strengthens the whole city.  For there to be an arch in the wall, however, allowing people to enter the city – the city of God – one stone is needed, of a particular shape, that allows entry without the whole structure collapsing: the cornerstone.  It takes centre place at the top of the arch, and all the other stones of the arch, stacked one on top of the other, must ‘lean into it’ for the arch not to collapse.  In fact, if you think about it, all the other stones in the wall are held in place by the cornerstone if the arch is to exist.  St Peter tells us that the cornerstone is ‘the’ living stone, Jesus, and that we are all living stones, key parts of the structure that is the city of God, the Church.  Whether we are in the wall as part of the visible sign to the wider world and providing security for those who enter, or part of the arch by which they gain access, we play a prominent and significant role.  But, wherever we find ourselves, we must ‘lean into Jesus’.  St Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah when he writes: “See how I lay in Sion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed”.  Leaning into Jesus means this ‘resting our trust on him’, even – or maybe particularly – when we don’t understand what’s going on…like now.

So, what is God saying and doing in this present crisis?  He’s asking us to trust him – and this is hard!!! – whether that means we live or we die, because ultimately all will be well in the heavenly city of God.

With every blessing.

Fr Simon