The Deacon's Bench

Over the past several days, two words sent alarm around the world: swine flu.

Just scroll through the articles about it online, and you see words like “pandemic,” “epidemic,” “outbreak,” “quarantine.” What cropped up unexpectedly in Mexico has now popped up in many corners of the world. You’ve seen the pictures of people wearing masks and heard the reports about some people avoiding public transportation.

What we’re now finding out is that maybe this isn’t as bad as people first feared. My doctor told me this week that it looks like what we’re really dealing with is just one more outbreak of the flu – no more life-threatening than most others that we have every season.

To put it into context: as of this morning, the World Health Organization had confirmed about 700 cases in 15 countries around the world. And in the U.S. there is only one confirmed death: a two-year-old child from Mexico.

Reading about all this earlier today, I was amazed at how quickly both the flu and news about the flu spread. It gives some indication, I think, of the age we live in, when information is transmitted around the world in seconds, and when an airplane can take a virus from Mexico to New York in a matter of hours.

It is almost instantaneous.

Contrast that with the readings we’ve been hearing in the weeks since Easter, which tell of the growth of the early Church.

This weekend, we encounter Peter standing before the Sanhedrin to defend his belief in Christ. And from his work, and his words, others came to believe. It seems clear that the faith of the apostles was more than just compelling, more than just convincing.

It was infectious. It was contagious. And it spread.

But unlike this flu, it happened slowly, across centuries. There were hardships and there was persecution. And it took hard labor.

Peter gives us some indication of that, when he quotes the ancient prophecy:

“The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”

Peter – “The Rock” – knows what he is talking about.

The fact is, Christianity wasn’t just something in the air, passed on like a microbe. No, the belief in Christ Jesus was something that was built.

Stone by stone. Person by person.

And it is still being built, by us, every day. We are the living stones of the faith.

Think of what these stones can be — and you get a clearer picture of what it means to call ourselves Christians.

We are a floor when the ground is shifting, and a roof when the rain is falling.

We are a wall to hold back the wind. We are a hearth to provide warmth.

We are shelter. We are solidarity. We are home.

We are part of a great work whose construction is never-ending. And we are adding to it every day.

This weekend, we have our Parish Expo, over at McLaughlin Hall, which offers a glimpse at how we can continue to do that, for our parish, in a variety of ministries. I urge you to pay a visit and see how the living stones of our friends and neighbors are building something beautiful right here, right now.

And the building goes on — not just here, but around the world. It is breathtaking to realize what has been built from that one rejected cornerstone: the millions, if not billions, of lives that have been shaped, uplifted, and redeemed.

Stone by stone. Person by person.

Each of us is a part of that. And at our very best, we are more than just walls of this great building of faith.

We are doors. And we are windows.

We are the gateways through which others discover the Christ who was celebrated by Peter, and illuminated in the letter from St. John: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called the children of God.”

What will we make from that love?

What will we help to build?

How will we add to the greatest construction project in human history?

It would be nice if it could just be passed on—like the flu. But keeping the faith alive requires hard work for it to spread, and grow. Sometimes, you have to get your hands dirty. But I think we can all agree: it’s worth it.

The cornerstone has been set. The walls have gone up.

But it’s far from finished.

There is more great work waiting to be done.

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