January 7, 2021



(originally published in CatholicRegister.org)

The first haiku I ever wrote was about home. I was in sixth grade French class staring out the window as usual (zut alors!), and it came to me wholly formed, in a flash of insight.

Oh, how I do think
of how lovely life would be
if I could go home.

Lest you are thinking I went to a boarding school, I did not. The content and sentiment of the haiku startled even moi-même, because I knew it didn’t mean my home right down the street. The poem was surely a grace from God, whispering to me that I had another home, my real home for which I was longing. It was my first inkling of heaven.

“Home” has been much more than a concept during the 2020 pandemic filled with lockdowns, shutdowns and restricted activities. People got reacquainted, very reacquainted with their living spaces, such as they are, and with their families and roommates, such as they are. My friend--who was paying off her dream condo on Yonge St.--became quite literally a prisoner for months on end in her cozy little nest (due to pre-existing lung conditions). The upshot of “home” for her was that, “when the days of her confinement were over,” she sold the thing and bought a home in Thorold, swearing to never be a cliff dweller again.

As I see it, everyone has three homes.
1) Our physical home: where we crash at night. Even the home-less might consider the streets their home, or perhaps a piece of hard-earned turf somewhere. This physical, practical place can be palatial or humble, and we might change our address many times throughout life. For some, the family homestead has great significance, having been passed down from generation to generation. Indelible memories and family history are ingrained in every doorway and staircase. I remember when we were kids going on a family vacation each summer, we’d actually wave and say “goodbye house!” as the station wagon pulled away. My mum still lives in this same house she’s lived in for sixty years now. My Dad lived in it even longer, and before him a professor whose grown-up grandchildren (all girls) would periodically visit our house—just the house, mind you—and weep as they remembered their dear Grandpa Morgan. You see, love is the only real thread that keeps any of us attached to anyone or anything.

2) Our spiritual home: whose hearts we live in/who lives in our hearts. How often have you heard a spouse say of their beloved: “she is my home/he is my home”? And God definitely wants to be enthroned in our hearts, first and foremost: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone…opens, I will enter and sup with him” (Revelation 3:20).

3) Our forever home: God. Our third home overlaps with our second home, because heaven starts now if God is in our heart. (Hell can also start now if He isn’t!) Heaven is a place and a Person.

If, as the Bible tells us, “…here we have no lasting city…” (Hebrews 13:14), then why are we so invested in “here”? Why are we so sad to think of leaving this world to be with God forever in paradise? Because our earthly home—with all its warts--is all we know, and the unknown can be terrifying, even if our good God is both the destination and the One making the promises. So, “don’t be such a stranger!” We have our whole lives to get to know God so well that “death will be like moving from one room to another” (Blessed James Alberione).  

Jesus Himself had a checkered trajectory when it came to “home.” There was no room…in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Born in a barn (we really shouldn’t use that expression pejoratively); a child refugee; returns to Nazareth; moves to Capernaum; hits the road preaching, teaching and healing, and tells His disciples: “The birds of the sky have nests, the foxes have dens, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58); buried in a borrowed tomb.

 For those worn out, depressed, or even made suicidal by these plague days, I would like to say: “Home is on the way!” Our earthly life is so short—but we don’t get to decide when it ends. So hang in there--one year at a time [gives 2020 the bum’s rush]--with Jesus: our Friend, our Saviour, our Home.

Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. www.HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns



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