“He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” These are words from St Peter in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. How did we get here? Today’s first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12. To get a clearer picture of what is happening here, let us go back to chapter 3. Paul and John were going to the Temple to pray in the afternoon. A man, crippled from birth, saw them and began to beg for money. Peter looked at him and said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” The man was immediately healed. He began to jump up and down, praising God. People started to gather in amazement at what had happened. Peter explained that he performed the miracle in the name of Jesus Christ, the one they crucified.

The priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees rushed in to prevent the Apostles from teaching the people about Jesus. They arrested Peter and John. The next morning, they summoned them before their leaders, elders, scribes, Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all of the high priestly class. Hoping they could intimidate the apostles, they questioned them, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Without mincing words, Peter said, “If you are referring to the man who was crippled from birth and is now walking, I just want you to know that it is by the power of the same Jesus Christ that you crucified that this man is able to walk now.” He added that “[Jesus Christ] is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” In other words, you rejected Jesus Christ, but he is now the solution to all our problems.

What does Peter mean by referring to Jesus Christ as the rejected stone that has become the cornerstone? There is much debate among scholars about the origin of this proverb that Peter used here. But we can confidently say the meaning was clear to his original audience. Some scholars explain that the Israelites used stones in building their houses. The builders would select stones with the best shapes in the building process. From time to time, they would judge some stones to be worthless and useless for the building and throw them aside. After assembling all the stones, the builders later realize there is a need for a unique stone, like a special key from which others will take shape. Then, they return to discover that the stone thrown aside is the only stone that fits the purpose. So, the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone or the keystone.

Peter used this proverb to remind the people that they had rejected Jesus and chosen Barabbas a few days earlier, however, now, the Jesus they rejected is the one providing solutions for their problems. In other words, whom God has blessed, no one can curse.

This proverb about the rejected stone that has become the cornerstone is very inspirational. I imagine how the stone would have felt after being thrown aside for its awkward shape. I imagine how the other good-shaped stones, picked at the first round must have ridiculed the rejected stone. I imagine how they must have felt when the builder could not lay the stones because the most crucial stone was missing. Imagine how they must have buried their head in shame when they realized that the rejected stone had the key to the success of the building.

My dear friends, each one of us is a stone. No one of us is a mistake; no one is an afterthought. Everyone created by God has a unique purpose to fulfill and a unique role to play. Each of us is an answer to a unique question and a solution to a unique problem. No one else can and will do what God created only you to do. You are irreplaceable. Unfortunately, many of us spend our lifetime looking into other people’s pots. At the same time, ours is getting burnt on the fire, just like the religious leaders of the Jews abandoned their roles and continued to fight Jesus Christ even after his death and resurrection.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also Vocations Sunday. As leaders and shepherds in various capacities, we must never think of anyone entrusted to our care as worthless, useless, or a rejected stone. As leaders in various capacities, we must encourage those under our care to discover their unique callings and vocations and encourage them to be their best selves. That is the only way the world will be a better place for all of us.

According to Blessed Carlo Acutis, “All are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.” My dearly beloved in Christ, you are irreplaceable. You are useful. It does not matter how many times you have been rejected; discover and remain your authentic self, for you are irreplaceable. When the right time comes, the same builders who rejected you will come back for you.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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  • This is a masterpiece. It’s such a beautiful and amazing homily. Thank you Fr for this thoughtful reflection which has reminded me that I am original and useful regardless of what my situation may say differently now. With focus and commitment to purpose, my originality would not be lost.