FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
IT CAN ONLY BE GOD!
Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter. This Sunday is also called Good Shepherd/Vocations Sunday. Every year, the gospel passage for this Sunday is taken from a portion of the gospel according to John chapter 10. For this year, I will be reflecting on a portion of the liturgy of the word that we rarely hear about in homilies, it is the responsorial psalm.
The Responsorial Psalm comes right after the first reading, it is usually chanted. The GIRM recommends that even when the entire responsorial psalm is not chanted, the parts of the response meant for the congregation should be chanted. Usually, the responsorial psalm is taken from the Book of Psalms. Occasionally, however, it also comes from other books of the Bible. It is called Responsorial Psalm, not because there is a response from the congregation, but because the entire Responsorial Psalm is a response to the first reading. Liturgy is a dialogue, it is not a monologue; it is a communication between God and His people. God speaks, His people listen, His people speak, and God listens. In the first reading, God speaks to his people while they listen. Having listened to God, the people reflect on what God has said, they process their thoughts and respond to God in the Responsorial Psalm.
I encourage you to start paying attention to the relationship between the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm at Mass if you have not been doing so. You will realize that in the first reading, a point is made by God, then in the responsorial psalm, the people respond. For example, in the first reading, when we hear about how good God is to us, in the responsorial psalm, we respond in thanksgiving. Other times, in the first reading, God calls our attention to how we have sinned, we then respond in the responsorial psalm in penitence, for example, we say, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness, in your compassion, blot out my offense” (cf. Psalm 51). In today’s first reading, God, speaking through Saint Peter, draws our attention to the powerful work of God, the goodness of God to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus was rejected by the elders, but God raised him up, and in the name of Jesus, the followers of Jesus are now performing miracles. Peter then compares Jesus to a rejected stone that has become the cornerstone.
After listening to the goodness of God through the mouth of St Peter in the first reading, we then respond to God in the responsorial psalm. Today’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 118, which is classified as a Psalm of thanksgiving. The first verse of Psalm 118 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his love endures forever.” and the very last verse of the same Psalm says, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his love endures forever.” In the body of the Psalm, you will then see an enumeration of the various instances where God delivered his beloved from danger, and it is in response to these great works of God that we are invited to give thanks to God.
In verse 22, the Psalm says, “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” This is a common proverb and it comes from the way the Israelites built their houses and structures of stone. The builders usually pick out some stones that they judge to be out of shape and worthless, and they keep them aside. The proverb says that God picked such a rejected stone, and returned it to the structure, and makes it the cornerstone. The cornerstone, the foundation stone, or the capstone is a very crucial part of a house built of stones. The cornerstone is the first to be placed on the ground, it carries the weight of the remaining stones, it gives shape to the house, it gives stability to the house, and it makes the house a perfect square. This stone is irreplaceable. The application here is that when human beings decide to reject another human being, God is able to bring that rejected human being back into the structure, and is able to give that rejected human being an irreplaceable role in the scheme of affairs.
Originally, this proverb is a reflection on the relationship between God and the children of Israel. Israel was enslaved in Egypt, but God visited the Israelites in Egypt and made a great nation out of Israel. This proverb is also a reflection on the lives of individuals, for example, Joseph the son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was imprisoned in Egypt, but God brought him out of prison and he became a governor in a foreign land, where he saved the lives of the Egyptians and those of his brothers from hunger. He saved the same brothers who sold him into slavery. The first part of Psalm 118, focuses on the instances of the great things that God has done in the past, for which reason we are grateful to God. The second part of Psalm 118 then tells us that based on what God has done in the past, we need to have hope and faith in God for the future.
My dearly beloved in Christ, do not place your hope in human beings, instead, place your hope in God who is ever faithful. Human beings can sing “Hosanna!” today, but tomorrow, they may shout, “Crucify him!” No human being can secure our security, no human being can guarantee our safety as God does. My dearly beloved in Christ, what are you going through today? Are you a victim of rejection? Have you been abandoned by those you trust the most? Has your family written you off as a “no good?” Are you the last person to be consulted in your office because they believe that you have nothing to offer? Has your teacher told you directly or indirectly that you are too stupid to be in school? Remember, you are a bundle of possibilities, no one can limit you except you yourself, and ultimately God. Pick yourself up and recover/regain your self-confidence and your God-confidence. Get yourself out of the limitations that human beings have placed around you. Remember, sometimes it is when people abandon us, it is when people reject us that we are able to realize our true strengths and our true resilience. Remember, sometimes God allows the world to abandon/reject us so that when we bounce back, it will be clear to everyone that it is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our sight. Amen.