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The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2016 

Click here to listen to this homily (.mp4 file)

      “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love them and we will come to them and make our dwelling place - our home - with them….”

     Home.  Who of us doesn’t need – or long for -- a home?

     I remember some years ago ministering to a woman, a renowned opera singer, who came here all the way from Italy for a bone marrow transplant. My heart went out to her: it was clear what a difficult time she was having, not just with the toxic treatments she was getting, but with being alone in a strange land, far from home.  And yet, each time I brought her the Eucharist, I could see in her face that, for those few quiet, prayerful moments at least, she was home.

     Home.  Not long ago, I received a letter from a woman who told me how touched she was by Pope Francis and his amazing ministry, and even though she identified herself as a former Catholic, she sent a donation in his honor and expressed the hope that maybe there could be a home for her in the Church after all.

     Home.  I often preside at the funerals of people who have been parishioners here for years, people who called St. James home. It’s always painful, at the end of the funeral, to lead the casket out through those doors over there, knowing that this place that has been home for a long time will be home no longer.

     Home.  We do need a home.  We long for a home.  And Jesus who became one of us and shared our home so fully, knew well this longing of ours.  It was his longing, too: he who had left the glory of his Father’s home to live in this home of ours.  The night before he died, as he tried to prepare his friends for what was to come, their fears and anxieties weighed heavily on him. “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid,” he told them. “I am going away but I will also come back to you.  My Father loves you and we will come to you and make our home with you.”

     Home.  We think of home as a place, but in a deeper sense, home is not so much a place where we go, or stay, or find ourselves.  Home is really the place where God finds us: “We will come to them and make our home with them.”

     Home. Have you ever noticed how frequently the scriptures tell stories of people leaving home?  Adam and Eve had to leave their home, their garden paradise; Abraham left his home, his lands, his herds, all that he knew; Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah, left the security of anonymous, private, undisturbed lives; Peter, James and John, left the security of their nets, their boats, their families, their way of life.  “Leave your home,” was the divine summons to each of them.  “Leave all behind.”  But there was more: there was also the divine assurance, ‘I will be with you.’  Home, it seems, is not a fixed place.  Home is where we are and where God is with us.

     Home. I remember once visiting with the grandmother of a baby I had the joy of baptizing.  “Do you know what baptism means to me?” she asked me after the ceremony.  “It means my granddaughter will always have a home.”  Beautiful, I thought.  And true!  But she might also have said that baptism also means that God will always have a home.  “We will come to them and make our home with them….” If we ever fully grasped the meaning of those words of Jesus, I think we would be completely overcome.  Lost in wonder!

      In many monastic communities, including one I like to visit, it is customary, whenever the monks process to the altar, that they bow two-by-two to the altar and then turn and bow to each other in silent acknowledgment of the God who dwells within. Altars and tabernacles, it seems, are made not only of precious stone or wood, silver, gold or bronze….

      Home. “We will come to them and make our home with them.”  Home is where we are and where God is with us.  The reading from the Book of Revelation said all of this in the wonderfully poetic imagery of John’s great apocalyptic vision that, I think you know, is beautifully represented in the tympanum above the great ceremonial bronze doors of the Cathedral.  The vision is of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, God’s home with the human family.  It is a rare jewel, this city: like jasper, clear as crystal.  It is surrounded by high walls and twelve gates and angels, and flowing through it are rivers of life-giving water.  But it lacks one thing, this heavenly city: it lacks a temple.  “There is no temple there,” we are told, “for the temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”

      There it is again, my friends – for home is not so much a place, nor is it a building, or even a great temple.  Home is where God is.  Home is where we are with God.  Home is here.  Home is now. Home is every time we celebrate the Eucharist.  And home will be eternity with God and God with us!

        Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303