5 Easter A – May 18, 2015 – We Are Living Stones!
When I was about eight years old I tried out for the Little League. I wanted to play in the outfield like my hero Mickey Mantle. Well there I was along with other kids chasing fly balls at the try-outs. One ball, hit high in the sky, was coming right at me. I thought to myself this was my big chance. There I was getting my glove ready to make a spectacular catch. But guess what? The ball sailed right over my head! I did not make the team. It took me a long time to get over feeling rejected.
Not making a Little League team seems small now compared to the rejections other people endure in life. Being turned down for a promotion, spurned by your best friend, ignored by your parents, not getting into a college, repudiated by your church, are just some examples. Being rejected because of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or age is an even more devastating experience.
Feelings of rejection are also intensified today by popular social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The desire to be connected is nothing new. Psychologist Matthew Lieberman writes, “What social media exacerbates is the satisfaction of feeling part of a group and the pain associated with feeling excluded from a group.”  In a religious context the feeling of belonging to a faith community is usually the first step in wanting to join that congregation. 
The Acts of the Apostles portrays a young church as a community that took belonging seriously. They shared their goods and stood up for one other. There was a spirit of collaboration between the leaders and the members in order to advance the word of God. In today’s reading there is a concern about not neglecting widows, orphans and strangers.
The passage from Peter speaks of the demands of a baptismal life. The people chosen by God to make a difference in the world are called “living stones.” In this passage we are challenged to imagine ourselves as a spiritual house, a priesthood of faithful persons. We provide physical and emotional shelter for others as well as ourselves. The cornerstone for this holy dwelling place, this church of ours, you and me, is Jesus of Nazareth who himself was rejected. 
In his farewell address Jesus tells his followers not to be afraid of rejection. Although departing this earth the strength of his spirit would remain with them to guide them. Further, if they continue the work he started there will be an eternal dwelling place for them with God.
That same spirit is with us today as we welcome our little brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, to take holy communion with us for the first time. They belong to our church and just by being here we promise now never to neglect or reject them.
So what does this have to do with all of us? Think for a moment of the times you experienced rejection. How did you handle it? To whom did you turn for help? What can you and I learn from being rejected in our lives that can help us not neglect the needs of others?
I started this homily with the memory of not making a baseball team as a youngster. Recently I learned of a biography about a famous ball player who experienced a major rejection as a youth. When the boy was about eight years old his parents had no time for him and signed over custody to the Xaverian Brothers who ran the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore, MD.
One of the Brothers there took an interest in young George Herman Ruth whose life as some of your know was bittersweet. I wonder. Would Babe Ruth ever have become the great baseball player he was if it were not for those Catholic Brothers who took him in? How many countless others, young and old like, who have been neglected or rejected, have never had the chance to bounce back because nobody cared?
It is good for us to be here this morning. If you are visiting or come to church only once in awhile know you are always welcomed here. There is always a place for you at our table. This church is built out of “living stones.”
1 Lieberman, Matthew D. Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. (NY: Crown) 2013
2 Butler Bass, Diana. Christianity After Religion: The End of the Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (NY: Harper) 2012
3 DeBona, Guerric. Between the Ambo and the Altar: Biblical Preaching and Roman Missal. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2013, 129