The Stones Will Cry Out

The Stones Will Cry Out

An occupied country. A time of civil unrest. And a city about to explode.

That was the situation in Jerusalem when Jesus arrived on Palm Sunday. Crowds were thronging the city for the Passover celebration, and the occupying Roman army was understandably nervous about it all. They scheduled a military parade; no one was off-duty, and additional troops had been sent for. There must have been an intense air of fear, of unease, of pressure. Something was going to happen, and the smallest spark might set off a riot.

And into this scene rides Jesus on a donkey.

He rode along the Mount of Olives, where there’s a cemetery. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited a Jewish cemetery, but unlike what we see in Catholic ones, there are no flowers on the graves. Instead there are stones, small and large, piled over time without any pattern. Rabbi David Wolpe has explained the custom: “There is something suiting the antiquity and solidity of Judaism in the symbol of a stone. In moments when we are faced with the fragility of life, Judaism reminds us that there is permanence amidst the pain. While other things fade, stones and souls endure.”

Jesus was by now surrounded by crowds of cheering people… precisely the sort of scene the Romans wanted to avoid, just the kind of spark that could set off a conflagration. Pressured by the occupiers, the Jewish leaders implored Jesus to, in effect, keep it down. We don’t want any trouble here. Get those people to be quiet.

Was he passing that cemetery when he responded? If so, it would have been fitting, wouldn’t it? Because his response was to say, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

Whether or not he was looking at the stones piled on graves when he said them, those words in that place have power. He wasn’t just surrounded by a crowd of people in that moment, but also throughout time itself. He was calling upon everyone who had been wronged, everyone who was lost, the voices of the dead as well as the living and even those yet to come, to acknowledge him as Lord.

And those who wanted to silence him, to silence the crowd, had no idea what he was talking about.

The stones will cry out.

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter refused to serve the Nazis during World War II, citing his faithfulness to God, and writing to his wife that “Easter is coming and, if it should be God’s will that we can never again in this world celebrate Easter together in our intimate family circle, we can still look ahead in the happy confidence that, when the eternal Easter morning dawns, no one in our family circle shall be missing—so we can then be permitted to rejoice together forever.” He was beheaded. 

The stones will cry out.

St. Thomas More was named the patron of political leaders by Pope John Paul II, but he, too, put God first and politics second. The supreme diplomat and counselor didn’t compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. He refused to approve Henry VIII’s establishment of an alternate church with the king as its head, and died for his efforts. 

The stones will cry out.

Servant of God Dorothy Day helped establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that combines direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. She practiced civil disobedience, which led to constant arrests and hardships. She never wavered in her determination to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. 

The stones will cry out.

St. Teresa of Kolkata experienced a “call within a call” to be God’s love in action: to serve the sick and dying, the hungry and homeless. She received permission to leave her Loreto convent. She sought medical training and became determined to serve the poorest of the poor, spending the rest of her life in the slums touching those deemed untouchable. 

The stones will cry out.

These are but a few of the people who understood what it meant to be stones that would cry out through the ages. Their voices live on, reverberating through the years. There is nothing on earth that can silence them.

Jesus’ message throughout the Gospels is clear: we are called by God to live differently. To put aside what our culture tells us we should want, and instead live in the love and hope of the eternal. Every day we’re told to have more, spend more, seek more comforts, climb more ladders. The pages of the Gospels tell us otherwise, and the stones themselves cry out.

When we listen to the stones, what do we hear?

The truth is that most of us would like to get to Easter without traversing Holy Week. We’d like the resurrection without the crucifixion. But we live in a world where joy doesn’t mean much unless you’ve known sadness, and hope doesn’t mean much unless you’ve known despair. At the very heart of God is the invitation to engage in our humanity, with all its contradictions, so that we might know new life.

Holy Week challenges us to dig deeper. To stand in the face of oppression. To care for the marginalized, those who cannot stand up for themselves. To speak truth to power. Palm Sunday calls us to remember what Jesus cared about and to carry that care into our own generations: to serve those who live in poverty, the victims of unjust wars, the detritus of greed.

As we travel into Jerusalem with Jesus this Holy Week, let’s rise to his challenge. Will we be one of the many who loved him on Palm Sunday but denied him when storm clouds gathered later in the week? Or can we meet the challenge to not stay silent, to not acquiesce to what we know is wrong, to be a stone that cries out?

I pray we all find the answer this week.

by Jeannette de Beauvoir



(image by Darelle from Pixabay)




Lent, Living the Faith Today, Prayer and Holiness


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