Thinking of home, wanting to be home is an abiding part of our human experience and longing. Refugees leave home with the hope of finding, establishing a new home – somewhere they will be known and welcome, consulted on matters of life…where they can keep “their things,” no matter how little they have…somewhere that people can come to visit and know hospitality…somewhere that they can put down the tent flap or close the door. To be homeless is to have none of these.
Home is where the heart is, “I’m coming home today,” the voice on the phone announces. “Country road take me home to the place I belong,” the late John Denver sang.
We not only want a home for ourselves and our families, we want a home for God. Hence, people all over the world throughout history set apart places to be sacred. We build altars, temples, churches and shrines, and we weep when people without sensitivity destroy these holy places because they belong to the other.
In the Synoptic accounts of the Transfiguration, Peter expresses our human urge to stop, to honor a sacred space by building a kind of home. “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” Peter says, dazzled by the sheer beauty on the face of the Lord, awed that he should be present to experience Jesus this way.
But Jesus says no. No home, not even a temporary one. If we follow Jesus, the Transfiguration story tells us we have to leave behind our desires, our securities. We have to leave the sacred mountain with Jesus – to go with Him to Jerusalem, to the sharing of Himself at Passover, to his trial and passion and death on the cross and resurrection. Jesus, who had no place to rest his head, (Mt.8.20) would find His apparent resting place in the tomb where he would be laid after his death on Good Friday.
But fast forward to the account of the empty tomb on Easter in the Gospel of John. There’s a detailed description of what Peter saw – a line that many of us consider a throwaway. “When Simon Peter arrived…he saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. (John 20.6-7)” Did the separation of the head cloth tidily set aside mean anything at all? Yes, it did.
In the household culture of the day, when the master left the table after a meal, he left his napkin in one of two ways. If he left it crumpled, discarded as it were, it signaled the servant that the master was not coming back. But if the napkin was neatly folded at his table setting, the servant understood that the master wasn’t finished yet. He would be back. At the empty tomb, the folded head scarf signaled His followers that Jesus would be back, as indeed He was. Jesus, who was raised up from the dead is back. He lives with us, has made His home among us, walks with us through good days and bad. On His way to Jerusalem, at the mount of the Transfiguration, Jesus couldn’t, wouldn’t stop. But afterwards, after He had risen and gone back to His Father, Jesus would nonetheless stay with us, never to leave us. In the face of this mystery, with His Father and at the same time with us, we can say to the Risen One: it’s so good to have you home.
~ Sister Joan Sobala