Sunday, March 15, 2015

There's No Place Like Home - Homily for Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday in Lent)

The Dwelling Place

Do you remember the Wizard of Oz? What is Dorothy’s famous line? Besides “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”…?

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

There was a longing in her voice, a longing that came from being away from home for so long. During her time in Oz, there was just one thing Dorothy wanted: she just wanted to be home again.

We all experience this. After days on a business trip or after a few days of living out of a suitcase on vacation, everybody just wants to go home and to sleep in their own beds.

A priest friend of mine, after returning from the Pro-Life march and the long twenty-or-so-hour haul from DC, took a picture of his bed and posted it on Twitter with the hashtag “Thank you Jesus.” (#ThankYouJesus)

Yes, home is where things are comfortable and safe; where there are smells of cookies in the kitchen or the laughter of children in the backyard; where you can walk around the neighborhood and see the gentle rise of the hills and the familiar trees and familiar homes and bend of the street.

Yes, there is something about home. And about returning there.

The Exile

I remember when I was about 10 or 11 and the moment when my family had to leave my childhood home. I remember how my family couldn’t afford our house anymore and we had to sell it. I remember the day we moved and being in the back seat of the car as we pulled away. And yeah, I’ll admit: I cried about it. Home was the place of so many memories. And of the big pool in the backyard.

It was a traumatic event. And for many years I longed to return home. When I was 17 and I finally had my driver’s license, I remember driving past the old house and being brought back to my childhood. And also to the reality that home had changed.

So, when I hear in the first reading how Israel had been taken from their homes and exiled in a foreign land, I totally get that. I get how they couldn’t even sing in that foreign land, because we sing with the heart. And their heart was back at home—because home is where the heart is.

The whole story of salvation history pivots around this simple reality. Our hearts long to be home. This desire has been playing out in century after century, from Israel being enslaved to Pharoah and longing for the Promised Land, to the Exile that we hear about in today’s first reading. Even to the present day, all of us long for a place where there is peace and eternal rest: rest from the craziness of our endless work-weeks; peace from the violence in our world; a true place that we can call home after this earthly exile.

The Homecoming

Have you ever seen YouTube videos of soldiers returning home to their families after having been gone for so long? That moment where there is the embrace of their families—there are tears of tremendous joy. They are home at last!

Where is that place of joy and of peace for us? Where is that place of rest?

God wants to bring us home. That’s the other side of the story. As much as we long for some sense of home, God is even more intent on making a home for us and bringing us to it. Right now, you are sitting in God’s house. This is where our homecoming begins.

There are so many people in our world who are looking for a place to land, a place where they can find rest and peace, a place where they can call home. They have been strangers in a strange place. If you are one of those people, I tell you: welcome home. You are exiles no longer.

There are also so many people who have lost their faith through confusion or doubt or because of a life of sin. They too are looking for home, looking for peace and for rest and for the joy that comes with a life full of hope and meaning. If you are one of those people, come! come to the Father’s house and receive His forgiveness! You are exiles no longer!

For six days of the week, we have been exiles walking in a strange land. On this day, the Sabbath day of rest, we return home. Every Sunday is a homecoming. Every Sunday, the exile ends.

This is why Jesus came, right? God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that we might have eternal life. God so loves the world that He sent His only Son, the light of the world, to go in search for us, who were lost and dwelling in darkness, and to bring us home.

Because there’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!

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