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How to Build a Church

Peter, the Apostle, likes to talk about rocks in his letter. He uses rocks as an analogy, not because his name means rock, but because he wants to tell us how to build a church. This is how you build a church. You start with a cornerstone. This is the most important part of the church. The cornerstone communicates its qualities and characteristics to all the other stones of the building. So if the cornerstone is placed in the ground tilted and leaning to the side, then the stone on top of it will be leaning to the side as well. In fact, the whole building will be tilted. If the builder places the cornerstone in the ground level and plumb, then all the other stones will be level and plumb. When Peter says in his letter that Christ is the cornerstone, he means that Jesus communicates all of His qualities to us, His Resurrection, mercy, compassion, generosity, and patients.

A house owner asked my father to build a cupula. A cupula looks like a dog house with glass walls with a light inside. It is placed on the top of the roof and resembles a lighthouse. If you walk by the house or pull up in the driveway the first thing you notice is the light in the cupula. In fact, all the neighbors liked it so much, that dad had to build lots of cupulas. Even though the cupula is at the top of the house, it does not mean that it is the most important part of the house. It is not like your refrigerator or the front door, which gets a lot of use. The most important part of the house is not at the top but at the bottom. It is the foundation. But people do not go to your house and say, “Oh, what a beautiful foundation you have.” They do not even see it because it is buried under the ground. The only time you notice the foundation is when there is an earthquake or a storm.

That is what Peter is saying in his letter. What supports you when your world is shaken? What is under you during the storms of life? What stops you from falling apart when times are difficult? What is your cornerstone and what does it communicate to you?

I am sixty-two years old and I have learned one thing over the years, and that is happiness is at the bottom, not at the top. I am an adjunct professor at Pope John XXIII Seminary. Adjunct professor means that I am the lowest-paid person on the staff. I love that position. I do not have to go to staff meetings, I do not have to worry about snow removal. No one comes to me when the boiler does not work or when the internet is out of service. I simply prepare my classes and teach.

Here is what is nice about the Church. We are all at the bottom. Our job is to build a church and the way you do it is from the bottom up. We communicate Christ’s qualities to others, just as Christ, the cornerstone, communicates his qualities to us. At the bottom, I am humble, patient, generous, and forgiving. So if you are ever having doubts about the Church, please remember Peter’s message today. Happiness is at the bottom because that is where we do our best work.  

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