If you happen to go to Mass tomorrow or visit the daily readings section of www.usccb.org and click on Friday, April 29, 2011, you will run across one of my favorite verses in the Bible: “He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone’” (Acts 4:11). This verse in the Christian scriptures is a “flashback” reference to Psalm 118:11. And if you happen to miss it in Acts, you will hear it in Mark and in 1 Peter (Mark 12:10-11 and 1 Peter 2:6-8). I take this as a sign that it is not only my favorite, but also a favorite of the early Judeo-Christian community, something central to their understanding of the Jesus story and their lives of faith.
The first time I remember hearing this verse, I was in my pre-teen years at an all-school liturgy at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Milwaukee (Go Eagles!). What came to my mind were the kids who had been rejected by certain popular groups at my school and in my neighborhood. This verse told me that those who were rejected were going to be made the most important. In my middle school mind, I concluded that I shouldn’t make fun of other kids because one day things could turn around and they will be the most beautiful, the most popular or the richest of them all.
We all know those movies where the nerd turns super successful or the awkward girl who gets made fun of takes off her glasses, puts on a prom dress and shows them all! Pre-teen Erica, who had acne, braces and was always overweight, was convinced of that wisdom straight from the Bible itself.
Young adult Erica still believes in the power of acceptance and the truth of not rejecting any of God’s greatest works of art – humankind. In the corporate world, we “grown-ups” know not to burn bridges with anyone because that person could be your boss one day. However, I don’t know that respect of individuals and their diversity is the limit to this Scripture’s wisdom though, by all means, as a community we can start there.
This verse has an additional calling for our organizations, especially those with Christ-centered missions. As new markets are being created each day, let’s not forget the bricks that have been rejected by all the other builders. You know those needs of the community from which corporations know they can’t make money? Those are our cornerstones!
It is part of our long-standing tradition as followers of Jesus. When no one would care for orphans, educate immigrants or provide health care for the poor, the strongest of Catholic women and men took on the challenge. How did they do it? They had nothing and shared everything they had.
The Franciscans, the Dominicans and so many others identified those who were socially invisible and voiceless and decided to live with and serve them. And surprisingly enough, the money came to sustain their ministry. Their ministries were 100 percent supported by those inspired by their work in the community.
I know that to be able to continue their mission, it is essential for our Catholic parishes, schools, social service agencies and hospitals to remain financially solvent. We can’t ask everyone who works in ministry to go without as much as our serving sisters and brothers did. But, our Scripture verse is challenging our Catholic organizations to not reject the “bricks” that cost too much money if it is truly meeting the needs of the times and would address the visible or invisible poverty of the community.
Let’s make it our mission to search out the invisibles, to find those who have been rejected by our communities and build our ministries around them – knowing they will be unable to pay. I believe in the goodness of our Christian brothers and sisters to step forward and to make ends meet for the organizations that are making a difference in our community.
It is when our Catholic organizations start looking more like market-driven corporations or taxpayer-supported government agencies than spirit-driven ministries that it becomes confusing for us as donors. As Catholic organizations and as Catholic donors, let us all hear the great wisdom of the Jesus story and embrace as our mission what is unpopular, invisible and at the utmost center of human dignity. We will find God, his loving Son and the best of the Spirit there – as our cornerstone.
(Weber is the mother of two sons, and is a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on Milwaukee’s South Side.)