The Daily Bread, 1st April 2020.
Readings: Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28; Daniel 3:52-56; John 8:31-42
The word home evokes for most of us all kinds of heart-warming things. Apple pie! Mince and tatties! Favourite TV programmes with all the family there! Yes, all these things, too. But surely love has to be the first of them: being loved and so learning to love in return. Then there’s unconditional acceptance, happiness, learning how to know and be known, unity around the hearth and around the table, sharing, give and take, compassion, discipline, faith in God and prayer to him, knowledge and observance of his commandments. There are many others things, too, which we receive and learn at home and they form us into decent and responsible human beings, ready to take our part in Church and society.
Keeping all of that in mind, Jesus in today’s Gospel makes what seems an astonishing claim. He invites us to make another home, another place where all those things I have just mentioned, and many more, are to be found. He says, “if you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.” He wants us to be at home in his word. How is that possible?
There are programmes on TV about home-makers, usually referring to the interior décor and other such things. The first thing a home-maker does is to get inside the building, get the measure of it, know its layout, its nooks and crannies. This is true also when it comes to home-making in the word of Jesus, in the Bible, in the Scriptures, you could say. We need to get inside it, or perhaps better, let it get inside us. We each need to discover the front door which gives us easy access to the word of God. What part of it do you find easy to enter? It could be the gospels, the psalms or a person like Peter or David. That part of the word which draws you in is your front door. It is Jesus himself who has planted in you that attraction. He wants to use that attraction to draw you into himself.
Once inside, you will find yourself in the hallway or vestibule. That’s where you lay down your coat, the externals covering you. If you go into someone’s home and keep your coat on, it says a lot about what you’re doing there. You certainly don’t necessarily feel welcome, or you don’t want to feel welcome. You want to be ready to get out, to escape. When you take your coat off, you begin to feel more at home, more comfortable. Whatever person or story attracts you into the word of God helps you to take off your coat, the externals, the defences which prevent you from being immediately in contact with the Lord. We need to get rid of the sense that we don’t belong to or in the word of Jesus, or it does not belong to us.
Let’s say it’s the story of Peter which disarms you with his strong and attractive humanity. As you get to know Peter and his personality, his strengths and weaknesses, you find that, just as the hallway leads to other rooms, Peter will gradually take you to discover other doorways off the hall. Peter’s story can only really be understood in connection with the story of Jesus. So perhaps, at a certain point, you leave Peter and enter into the sitting room where the story of Jesus himself becomes the place where you sit down and make yourself comfortable.
After a while, Jesus himself may direct you to the stories of those who were in his life, and you find them sitting around the table in the dining room. There is Mary, there is Lazarus, there is Zacchaeus, and so on. You sit with them and get to know their stories and connection with Jesus and with you, with our story. As they tell you their story and as you get to know them, you become more and more at home in the home which is the word of Jesus.
As you move from room to room, from floor to floor, from New Testament to Old, from one parable to another, from one personage to another, you become yourself gradually and imperceptibly become part of the world of the word, part of the home which is the word. You move back and forward from room to room like any member of the household. You can rest in a psalm, feast on a parable, weep over a sin. All the people and all the stories become familiar to you, and you become more familiar to them. Their story throws light on your own and shows where you fit into the home of the word.
And as you become deeply at home in the word, you realise that it has become your world, your home-base, where you experience all those things I mentioned at the beginning as being typical of any good home. The difference is that little by little, unsuspectingly yet powerfully you begin to think and feel and react and love and cry and laugh and rest within the word of Jesus. You become transformed into an intimate relative and friend of the Lord. You take on the mind of Christ.
Learning the truth which is the word of Jesus, you are inevitably stripped and set free from falsehood in all its forms, the sin , the superfluous, the dangerous, the ambiguous. You are not freed from your sins by your own concentrated efforts, your own power, but are gradually cleansed of them and stripped of them simply by the immersion of yourself in the word of Jesus. It is Jesus who is the Truth. It is Jesus who alone sets free. It is Jesus who is our true home, our everlasting home. Members of the same home usually have a similar outlook as well as a similar look. But in the case of our home in Jesus, we are given the grace to think like Him, to love like Him, to “tick” like Him.
At a time when we are searching for the meaning of what is going on and are confused by our own feelings and fears; at a time when our priorities are in upheaval and we are questioning ourselves and the world around us: the word of Jesus is our anchor, our mainstay, our reassurance and our peace. Make your home in his word so that we may learn the truth that sets us free and gives us the hope we need to face the future, including death, and come to our eternal home in the Kingdom of Heaven.