Jesus said, "Take the stone away"
"Lazarus, here! Come out"
It’s strange how something keeps turning up in different settings. I’m very conscious of the image of “stone” this weekend.
In today’s Gospel passage, before Jesus could call Lazarus back into life, he asked that the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb would be moved. On Easter Sunday we will reflect once again on the stone that needed to be, and was, moved from the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. Stones, it seems, can stand in the way of progress and yet there’s something about them that is solid and dependable.
Yesterday we had a lovely celebration of family life here in this parish. It was a reunion of a family – Duffy Family of Magheraboy – and brought to the parish generations of one family to remember generations past. I had the joy of celebrating Mass with this group in our parish church. It was wonderful to hear the family speak, through one of the organisers of the day, of how crucial it was that they gather in the church where their people prayed.
At the beginning of the Mass, one of the family carried forward a stone from the old family home. This was placed at the front of the Altar and, in the placing, became a sort of focus point – touchstone perhaps – for all gathered. I liked the image and the part this stone played in supplying shelter to generations past. It was a lovely idea.
I thought about that stone afterwards. Not least when many of the family came forward to take photos of it. iPads, phones and cameras were all used to capture an image of a stone that a few days earlier lay somewhere in the ruins of an old family home. Now it was centre stage. There was a little sticker on it with the words “Duffy Reunion”. I mentioned to one of the photographers that she might like to remove the sticker but she said “No, the sticker makes it even better”. I think I know what she meant but, in truth, the stone required no sticker. It had its story and place. I suppose in years to come, the sticker will let others know what the stone meant and, to that end, the photographer was correct.
How did that particular stone come to be the one selected? Maybe it was just casually picked up but somehow I’d like to think the family member looked around the old house, picked up one or two (maybe more) of the old stones and somehow decided the shape and feel of this one spoke in a way that some of the others didn’t. However the decision came about, there seems to be a message here about stones being moved and, in that movement, allowing new life to breathe again into an old and personal family story.
“If those walls could talk” is a saying we sometimes hear around the story a house can tell. The truth is they can talk and even in tumbled down old houses they have s story to share. Stories of family life, Rosaries being prayed, goodbyes being cried through, children welcomed, wakes and funerals. All of these are found, all of these are important and all of these must be cherished.
Stones left idle, in time will gather moss. The rolling stone – the moving stone, the willing stone, the TOUCHSTONE … well, that’s another story!
There’s a reminder here of a fine piece of work in Battery Park, New York. It’s a memorial to the Irish Famine and features the ruin of an old house from the Parish of Attymass, Co. Mayo. The house was taken down, stone by stone, and rebuilt in the heart of the Financial District of NYC. A reminder that houses were left to fall in, following emigration and hunger. It is an amazing piece of work. I’ve had the chance to walk to and through it a few times and always, always it strikes a chord.