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Saturday after Lent V–April 4, 2009

  • Posted on Apr 4, 2009

No house, No home

In life no house, no home my Lord on earth might have; in death no friendly tomb but what a stranger gave. What may I say? Heaven was his home; but mine the tomb wherein he lay.
Stanza 6 from “My song is love unknown”, Hymn 458, Hymnal 1982

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and during the Sunday liturgy, we will sing this hymn. We will sing it directly after the dramatic reading of the Passion Gospel. This hymn is one of my very favorite hymns and captures the essence of the Way of the Cross. All through Holy Week, I find the hymns of the church often say what cannot be said in sermon or spoken liturgy. Such is true of this hymn.

Most of us struggle throughout our life to find or recapture a sense of home. We search for the right house, the right job, the right schools for our children. We think if we can just nail down the perfect spot and situation that we will be comforted and at peace. Jesus’ life tells us otherwise. We don’t know if Jesus lived at home in Nazareth until the age of thirty and the beginning of his public ministry. However, what we remember down through the ages is his life as an itinerant minister. From Galilee to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem through Samaria to Galilee and back, Jesus did not have a permanent home. He spent a good deal of time with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. Perhaps he stayed at his family home on occasion. The ministry we remember is his ministry on the road. As always, Jesus turns the cultural expectation upside down.

My grandmother, Mother Nell, was an itinerant woman for the last 20 years of her life. When she sold the family home in Garrett Park, Maryland, she lived for three months at a time with her three children and their families. As a child, I never knew when she was coming to our home. She just arrived. So too, when it was time to move on, one morning her baby blue Samsonite packed suitcase would appear in front of her bedroom door. Her presence in my life grounded me in a deep way. She was a source of comfort and love just by her very presence. When I saw her perusing the obituaries with her magnifying glass each morning in the library, I chuckled and knew all was well.

Mother Nell died at 96. At the end of her life, she made a series of trips to nursing homes. Her two daughters could no longer care for her. My father tried, but finally had to place her in a local nursing home. He and my aunt visited my grandmother every day. She had no house, no home, in a worldly sense. However, when I accompanied my father to visit her, I had a sense of home as soon as I walked into her room. As we rolled her out to the patio to feed the birds, I found home in her presence–even though she was less and less mentally present. Her picture is in my office. Her presence as a strong, faithful, itinerant woman is with me always.

Does our memory of Jesus work like our memory of those we love that we see no longer? Is it the love that passes beyond worldly space and time that is our true sense of home? I think so. It is a love that allows us to let go of our worldly homes and place our faith in a different sense of home. A home that never closes its door to us. A home that is with us always wherever we may be.

Where do you find your sense of home? Who is your sense of home?