“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” ( Psalm 118:22 (Easter Sunday)
On Easter Sunday, will we be ready to proclaim the words of this Psalm? Will we understand its radical implications for our everyday lives and for the way we organize our society?
This Psalm holds the key in understanding the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus made all those who had been rejected, excluded or ignored – sinners, widows, lepers, children, those who were hungry, thirsty or imprisoned – into the cornerstone of a new world.
They, the last of the earth, had the eyes to see and ears to hear His message of salvation in a way that others could not. They had the potential to transform themselves and transform the world around them. “The last shall be first.”
The radical nature of this message was too hard for many to hear. Are we ready to hear it now? COVID-19 has revealed the truth of Jesus’s message: the people who work in hospitals, warehouses and meat packing plants; temporary migrant farm workers and personal support workers; all those who are often rejected, denied job security, living wages, or full time work, are now considered to be “essential workers.”
People in the Global South who make personal protective equipment, work in mining companies, who produce our food, often in exploitative conditions, are key to our survival and the functioning of society. They are “the cornerstone.”
Perhaps the pandemic is the parable of our times through which we understand the message of Jesus. In the past, wealthy countries have ignored diseases like malaria, Ebola, tuberculosis or leprosy, which still claim millions of victims in the Global South.
We cannot afford to do so with COVID-19. Until we are all protected from this virus – rich and poor, north and south – no one is safe.
At Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) we draw our inspiration from the many people who work in Jesuit ministries and projects and among those who have been rejected by the builders of society: the poor, migrant workers, refugees, farmers, day labourers, children, human rights defenders.
In Honduras, the team at Radio Progreso-ERIC gives voice to human rights and land defenders who not only live in conditions of poverty, but also under the constant threat of violence, repression and sometimes death. This drives thousands of them to take the risky journey north in search of a better life, only to be rejected at the borders.
The director of Radio Progreso-ERIC, Fr Ismael Moreno said, “If you don’t see things from the viewpoint of the groups whose rights are being constantly violated and whose freedom of expression has been taken from them, then tell me: where is the Christian gospel?”
In Nepal, where tea estate workers live in extreme poverty, the Jesuit run Moran Memorial School has made a commitment to educate the children who would otherwise continue to live in the same conditions as their parents. The teachers believe that through education, the children may have a chance of becoming the cornerstone of a new society.
The people in Honduras, the children in Nepal and the thousands of people that you generously support have names and faces and personal histories of joys and sorrows. They work with courage for the good of their communities, even in the midst of their own suffering.
As Fr Jorge Cela SJ said, it is there, among the poor, that one finds commitment, generosity and tenderness. “To discover this gives us hope! It allows us to see reality not only in its misery, but also in its potential.” We discover that they are the cornerstone.
This Easter we ask you to support these initiatives, to make the words of the Psalm a reality.
As Pope Francis said in his last encyclical Fratelli Tutti: “Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”
To learn more about the work of Canadian Jesuits International and its Jesuit partners in the Global South, please visit: canadianjesuitsinternational.ca.