by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, March 18, 2018
Call it convergence. Call it repetition. However we might name it, we know that having the same message present itself to our consciousness over and over in myriad shapes or formats demands our attention. Sometimes the invitation calls to us in print, in sound, in image. Whatever form it takes, it is persistent and will not retreat until we’ve either treated it as an intruder and slammed the door shut, or approached it as a visitor and accepted its invitation for a closer look. So it was for me recently with the word, home.
Home seemed to pop up in multiple commercials and advertisements. Then I noticed how many times I pressed the “Home” key while writing on my laptop. Next, home arrived in my Inbox in an email from Catholic Relief Services about support for Syrian refugees who live in a kind of limbo, a neither here-nor-there space. They exist between a war-torn country to which they can never safely return and a temporary shelter providing for their basic needs, but with no sense of a permanent residence. The headline on the email about these refugees was, “Help them know home.” Not find home. Know home. To know home is one of the deepest desires of the human heart.
Home was also referenced for me in a video clip where Oprah Winfrey interviewed Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative genius behind “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.” Miranda noted that being born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, he very early in life had to navigate different cultural, linguistic, and artistic worlds. He spoke of traveling to Puerto Rico years ago to stage “In the Heights” and coming to the realization that, even though he was of Puerto Rican heritage, his mainland Spanish was sometimes inadequate or made him feel a bit unsettled and out of place in the land of his parents’ birth. In speaking of that experience of being in-between, Miranda observed, “That’s a great way to make a writer—be a little out of place everywhere.”
To be a little out of place, to be not fully at home. Many immigrants, even those who are second or third generation, feel the psychological homelessness that raises its voice in questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? What is truly home for me?
Most probably, all of us at some time have had the experience of being emotionally or geographically distant from the place we love, the place where our heart resides. Perhaps none have expressed this separation, this sense of not-at-homeness, as poignantly as Psalm 137:
“By the waters of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered you, O Zion. On the willows nearby, we hung up our harps. There our captors asked us for a song and called for mirth: ‘Sing for us one of the songs of Zion.’ How could we ever sing God’s song in a foreign land?”
In an online E-course, “Exploring the Psalms,” Barbara Crafton reflects on this same psalm and invites us to imagine what it must have been like to be forced to sing a song of home by the very persons who took home away and changed the understanding of where and what home was. She notes that, even years later when the Israelites were allowed to go home, not everyone left. They’d been in Babylon for years, put down roots as much as was possible, learned the language and customs. “They experienced the peculiar pathos of the immigrant,” she writes, “Fully at home in neither the old country nor the new.”
In the gospel of John, Chapter 14, the beloved disciple writes of the tenderness of Jesus who, even in his last moments among us, loved us to the end. Jesus named our deep longing for home as he spoke of the house of Abba God where he was going to prepare room for us. A dwelling place being lovingly fashioned. A home where all would be forever welcome.
As we stand at the edge of Holy Week, we remember with gratitude how Jesus made his home among us and embraced our human condition with both its glory and its wounds. May we enter into the sacred days of Jesus’ suffering, dying, and rising and accompany him with tenderness on his own journey into homecoming.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on your sense of home.
What contributes to a sense of well-being, wholeness, and welcome for you?
Who or what do you cherish?
Hold in your prayer the many in our world who are right now searching for safety, security, belonging.
Give thanks that you and all people are held in the tender heart of the Holy One, where every person finds a lasting home.
Thank you for your continued support of my mobile spirituality ministry. Please now hold in your prayer the last of the Lenten events, a retreat weekend, “Standing at the Edge of Holy Week,” that I’ll be offering at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA, March 23-25.
My deep gratitude for your accompanying this blog through every posting. Know that my prayer is for every blessing for you and those you love as we enter Holy Week and the risen life of Easter.
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