Cornerstones and Good Shepherds

Father Bob Laferrera


My brothers and sisters in Christ,

In this Sunday’s readings, we hear Christ presented to us through two very different images: that of the cornerstone and that of the Good Shepherd.  A look at both of these images gives us a clear idea as to how they reflect who Jesus is for those who profess belief in him.

    For some of us in 2015, the cornerstone of a building, including our own church building, is perhaps more symbolic than functional.  The cornerstone today often indicates the date when the construction of a building was begun, or completed, and contains perhaps other pertinent information.  However, in its original meaning, the concept of a cornerstone, or a foundation stone as it is also called, is derived from the fact that it is the first stone set in the construction of a building’s foundation.  This is important since all the other stones will be set in reference to this single stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.  It established, if you will, the whole design of the building.  

    It is easy to see how this image was used for the Lord Jesus.  He is the first stone in the building which is the Church.  Here, I don’t mean the building but rather the people who are the Church.  It is Christ who has set and continues to set the direction that the Church takes.  This is done through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  Every stone put into place after Christ, namely every person baptized into the People of God since the Church was established, looks to Christ for the direction their lives will take.  He is the one who is the pattern for our lives as Christians.

    Although a different stone, certain translations of the Gospels also refer to Christ as the capstone.  When you look at an arch in any form of architecture, the capstone is the center stone as the very top of the arch.  It was the Romans that perfected the arch and used it in many of their buildings.  As an arch is constructed within a wooden framework, the capstone is the final and topmost stone out into place.  When the framework is removed, the arch stays in place because all the weight of the arch rests on the cap-stone.  Were it to be removed, the arch would collapse.  Christ is our capstone – the one that keeps all the other stones in place and prevents us all from falling, from collapsing. 

    Jesus today calls himself the Good Shepherd, a very familiar image to all of us.  Shepherds are extremely protective of their flocks of sheep since they, the sheep, have essentially no defenses.  They rely almost entirely on the shepherds for their care and protection against predators.  Using this image, Christ reminds us that he is the one who protects us against that which would harm us, namely, the forces of evil.  Christ is the one who cares for us and calls us by name, so much does he love us.  Just as the sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd above that of other shepherds calling for their sheep, we are called to listen to the voice of the Lord among many other “voices” that seek to move us in different directions.

    Cornerstone – Capstone – Shepherd – all images that remind us of the care, the concern, and the power of Christ in our lives.

             Love and Peace,    

             Fr. Bob