Rocks. All shapes, all sizes. They’re everywhere here in New England. From the rock-bound coast of Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Green Mountains of Vermont, rocks are familiar residents of this part of the world. And while tourists may come from other climes to admire them, they’ve more often been colorfully cursed by the farmers who had to wrestle them out of their pastures and fields. Despite their occasional picturesque configurations, rocks are most often regarded as useless obstructions to some useful endeavor – God’s ugly waste-products from an otherwise beautiful and fertile creation. All the rocks we see built into walls, foundations and fireplaces are not so much a testimony to an appreciation of rocks’ utility, as a pragmatic and inexpensive way of disposing of these unwanted blemishes on the landscape.
Tomorrow, Christians around the world will observe Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. The Gospels all report that it was a festive occasion, as his followers and admirers celebrated his arrival. In Luke’s account of this event, Jesus’ critics feel that such boisterous demonstration might provoke a repressive Roman response, and they demand that he restrain them. He responds by saying, “‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’” (Luke 19:40)
Luke’s gospel is the only one to mention this brief reference to rocks, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Jesus’ critics feel that his followers are making a big mistake – a dangerous one that could have serious consequences. But Jesus refuses to condemn the enthusiastic crowd, and instead, insists that if they were silent, even the lowly, worthless stones beside the road would celebrate for them. As a result, he seems to be inviting us to reflect on our own “stone-like” qualities. We often feel more like rocks than human beings. When we make a bad decision that has negative consequences for ourselves and others, we can easily feel like an ugly, useless rock sitting exposed in the field. We feel like we don’t belong there, and that everyone would be happier without us. Losing a job, betraying a spouse, disappointing our family can all leave us feeling as useless, lifeless and helpless as a rock beside the road. Aging can also prompt us to feel more like a sedentary obstacle than like the dynamic, productive and energetic person we once were.
But no matter how rock-like we may feel, Jesus reminds us that we are not without value. Failures, mistakes, disabilities and social isolation characterized the lives of most of the people Jesus ministered to over the course of his life, redeeming, empowering, healing and resurrecting the lives of those regarded (by themselves and others) as useless stones beside the road of Life. He showed us how, whatever our circumstances, we can be transformed into something great and glorious. Regardless of our reputation or social status, God can still build us into something beautiful and enduring.
In our current society, where productivity and utility are dominant values, this truth can be easily overlooked. But we are part of a larger Reality in which even the stones are blessed! We aren’t alone, but part of a magnificent construction designed by a Power beyond our control. Can you catch a glimpse of it? Can you hear the stones singing and shouting around you? Can you feel the rocks in your soul beginning to tremble and come to life? If so, wonderful! But if not, please remember that a Spiritual Director may be able to help.