Our Home in God
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you..” (John 14: 2)
[L]ike living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… (1 Peter 2: 4,5)
In Nomine, + etc.
When we hear the word “home", many things come to mind. Home is (supposedly) a place where we would feel safe, a place where we would expect to find unconditional acceptance for who we are, a place of great comfort where we could find a warm welcome and deep hospitality, a place where we would expect to find nurture and love from others. Home is a place where others know us well, a place where we are not strangers. Home is where we have our roots in, a place where we belong. I believe that at the very core of our human nature is a deep pining for a true sense of home. We all want to feel at home. And often we do. But, we also know that this sense of being at home is a pretty precarious feeling. Many things could happen to us that could make us “feel not at home.” A serious illness could make us feel “not at home” with our bodies. Some breakdown in familial relationships could make us feel less at home” in our own home. The experience of hate or prejudice because of our race, or skin color, or culture, or for whatever reason has a way of making me feel less at home in our city or nation. The schism in the Church over the issue of women or gay clergy could make us- whether we are progressives or traditionalists- could make us feel less at home in our Church. Wars and threats of terrorism abroad and in this country suddenly could make us feel less at home in this world. We are at home yet not totally at home.
Much of Christian language describes Christians as wandering strangers and pilgrims on earth searching for a true and permanent home. In fact, the language of Hebrew and Christian Testaments describe both Israel and the Church as a people in exile. Whether as Jews or Christians, we are a people who are never at home with the world. Ever since our eviction from our paradise home, we have been strangers, pilgrims, sojourners, exile, and homeless wanderers in search of our true home.
God knows the loneliness of our vain search for this home. God knows the sorrows of the humanity in its self-imposed eviction from God who is our true Home. This is not what God wants. He wants us to come home. As we are lonely for God, God is lonely for us. Many times in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep who wanders away from home. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that God seeks us out to bring us back to our true home. While we have lost our way to our home, Jesus comes seeking us and offering us a “Way” to his Father’s house where there are many dwelling places for each one of us because God wants us home.
Yet, when Jesus speaks about this homecoming, he refers not only to some future event, and some future heavenly place. Jesus wants to tell us that we are already at home with God now. We might not feel it. We might even feel as if God is far from us, but Jesus tells us that God is “at home” now in our hearts and souls. The many rooms and dwelling places that Jesus spoke about refer to our human hearts. God dwells in the center of our heart and soul. Jesus, God is not far from you. He is very near you, for God finds a home in every human heart. Each one of you, your heart, is a house…a mansion…a dwelling place of God. You are God’s earthly dwelling. There in your heart you will find God who is your Home.
And because God has come to reside within you, each one of you has become, must become, what the first letter of Peter says living stones that make up God’s earthly spiritual house we call Church, our home away from home. And this spiritual house is to be a place where others and us could find a glimpse, a foretaste of the heavenly home. The Church is sort of a hostel where exiles and pilgrims and sojourners all alike are cared for, a lighthouse in the midst of life’s storms that points others and us to our true home. The Church (and this church) is a temporary home for all to find a welcome, a shelter, nurture and care as we all journey to our heavenly home.
The challenge for us is to share this home to others, those out there who are feeling lost, the rejected ones of our society wondering if God truly loves for them. The challenge is for this house to become a home for those seeking a true home. Incidentally the words parish and parochial have their roots from the Greek words, paroikia, meaning exile and homelessness. In fact the first letter of Peter from which we took our epistle describes the Church as none other than an oikos, a home, for the paroikoi, the homeless who are seeking their heavenly home. Just as Jesus has a dwelling place for you in his Father’s house, so then you must make room for others who come knocking at the doors of this spiritual house, looking for the love of God that comes through you. In welcoming others, you “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood,” whose acts of profound hospitality and love of your neighbor are “the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4,5)
© 2023 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Episcopal priest in the Philippines. He runs Nazareth House, a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality for persons with HIV/AIDS in Manila.
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