When Rejected, Be a Cornerstone!

5 March 2010 Friday of the 2nd Week of Lent
Genesis 37, 3-28; Psalm 105; Matthew 21, 33-46

Have you ever been rejected? I guess many of us are used to repeated rejections, but never liked the feeling of being turned down. We feel rejected when someone we like don’t want to go out with us; when an invitation has been ignored; when we don’t receive a call after several job applications; or when we are not accepted in an audition. Or simply, when some people do not like us and they devise schemes to exclude us from their circle of friends.

In the first reading, Joseph experienced rejection. His brother sold him as a slave to Egypt, but that would be providential. As a governor of Egypt, he will eventually save his family from famine. Jesus has been in our situation too, though His historical context is different from ours.

What should we do when rejected? We turn the negative experience to our favor. The Gospel alludes to Jesus when it says, “The stone that the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.”

First, we have to be a stone. We have to be still in the running. We have to be an option among a variety to choose from. In auditions, we should be one of the hopefuls vying for a role. In job applications, our resumes should be on the table of a possible employer. In other words, we have to try our luck too. We cannot sit and just wait. A thing is rejected, because it has been one of the options. We may not be at par or we don’t fit into the qualifications, but at least we know what we have.

To be a stone is to be aware of the skills we are good at and where we could be useful in different situations. In this season of American Idol, Simon Cowell would put it as “self-belief” — the ability to believe in oneself and how good we are in what we can do. Spirituality teaches us that self-belief comes from gratitude: we discover and develop our skills as sign of gratitude to God, the source of all that we have. That is why the responsorial psalm says, “Remember the marvels the Lord has done.” We believe in ourselves because the Lord believes in us. Remember, He entrusts to us the whole of creation. He gives us a role in the world because He knows we can perform it.

Moreover, there are those who are rejected because they have new ideas or imaginative ways of doing things. Their ideas do not prevail against the old system because of the resistance from people who are outmoded, or their positions are threatened. Even if Jesus says, “new wine in new wineskins,” many people are not yet open to possibilities. Notice the Church: it moves cautiously, slower than a snail on its way to a tree.

Thus, a maverick will always meet resistance. The older the organization, the greater the resistance to change. We just have to live with it.

Or, we just have to try and try. Many of the greatest names in the entertainment world or in business succeeded after several attempts.

There is however another way: blaze your own trail and be a cornerstone.

A cornerstone is the foundation of an institution, the backbone of an organization, the centerpiece of a business, the heart of a belief.

The progressive and innovative teachings of Jesus is one characteristic we overlook about our Saviour. How many times did He challenge the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the scribes? How amazed were his listeners about the freshness of his teachings and the authority in which these are taught? He was rejected, but He became the cornerstone of our faith.

Many people have creative ideas to share. But many gave up because they have been hurt several times. But I know many people who pursued their hearts by starting something new. Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga and Illac Diaz of My Shelter Foundation with their passion to provide sustainable housing for the poor. Or Efren Penaflorida whose push cart education became an inspiration to many.

I have a theory: if you have been rejected several times because of your unique ideas, you’re probably meant to start something new. Isn’t that exciting?

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