The Hometown in my hometown

Another feast from Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer’s pulpit. This poet-pastor priest “gets” it. I am grateful to him again for letting me post his homily here.

++++

Fourth Sunday of Easter (50th Wedding Anniversary)

A couple of years ago, Eric Church hit the country charts with a song called, “My Hometown.” Here are the opening lines:

I see Main Street and the high school lit up on Friday night.
Down there it’s another touchdown.
Man, this year’s team is stout.
I can hear them going crazy

You can have my grandma’s locket,
The knife out of my grandpa’s pocket.
My state champion jacket.
Every picture, every broken dream…
Yeah, everything. You can have everything.
But give me back my hometown.

You might recognize those words but even if you don’t, you’ll recognize the fact that personal ties to one’s place is nothing new. In fact, it’s as old as the Bible itself.

In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 17, St. Luke reminds us that God determines the boundaries of nations and assigns the places where people live out their lives.

Did you catch that? This means that places like your hometown occupy a place in God’s plan for you. Yes, the community where you live, the house you call home, the team you cheer on Friday…these entities form a part of God’s plan insofar as they form the context in which we come to discover His Truth and experience His Love.

You can have my grandma’s locket, sings Eric Church, the knife out of my grandpa’s pocket.

my state champion jacket…but don’t take my hometown!

It doesn’t matter if our hometown is called Versailles, Coldwater, St. Henry or Greenville, we know that the place where we live influences what we believe

and how deeply believe it. This is especially true in matters of religion. If you come a strong family, a strong community and a strong parish, chances are that you will have a strong faith.

Every picture, every broken dream…Yeah, everything. You can have everything. But give me back my hometown.

Rural folks know, in a deeper way than other folks, that the places where we live, influence how we live. And we’re not alone in singing this song. In fact, there’s a new movement in spirituality called “theology of place.”  It emphasize how God shapes His people and His Church through the places where they live which includes the woods where men hunt, the rivers where teenagers swim, the neighborhoods, the farms and businesses, the county roads, main streets and water towers.

Some writers in this school go further and identify “thin places,” unique locations where the walls of this world become very  thin, so thin that we find ourselves stepping out of this place and into another place, from this country into God’s country, where we sense the presence of angels and saints, the timeless realm where the Christ himself dwells in the fullness of power and glory.

According to these writers, the more we love and cherish the place where we live, the more easily we’ll recognize the “thin places” within it.

I agree.

Consider this area of Ohio, for instance. This time of year is packed with some special occasions and events: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, graduations and family reunions. For my own family, today’s Mass includes a blessing for my own brother and sister-in-law’s on the occasion of their 50th Wedding Anniversary. These are wonderful events when God’s love falls like springtime rain, turning ordinary places—the fields we plant, the lakes we fish, the the factories where we work, the churches where we worship—into potential “thin places.” This is especially true of the churches where we worship the living God, where the walls between heaven and earth become very thin, indeed.

This place, called St. Denis Church, where children are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit. This place of First Communions and Confirmations. Wedding Pictures, Advent wreaths and Nativity Scenes. Choirs singing “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.” The sound of rosary beads clanking against the back of a wooden pew.

This thin place, where tears of sorrow have washed our faces at funeral Masses; where tears of relief moisten our eyes at the sound of the words, I absolve you of your sins in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This thin place where we remember sacred vows which shape our hearts into the shape of the Cross: I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

This place where the Son of God, himself, breaks through the walls of time and speaks sacred promises of his own: Take this, all of you, and eat of it,   for this is my Body which is given for you…my Blood which is poured out of you;”   I am the Good shepherd…I lay down my life for you!    I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, and behold, I make all things new!

Sacred words. Sacred promises. Spoken in a sacred place. Gifts from God to sanctify and strengthen us, guiding us from this place we call home to the true home which we seek; the place Christ has prepared for us in the House of His Father, where all longing is fulfilled and all love made complete. That place called Heaven, our true hometown. Our one-and-only hometown.

4 comments on “The Hometown in my hometown

  1. nos says:

    Plant species that grow far from their place of origin are usually deposited there by way of wind water or animal , be it bear or eagle… those seeds that stay home become part of a thick stand of beautiful trees or fields of gorgeous flowers getting more and more widespread… those plants put down by mother nature far from home , while much thinner, are just as magnificent … over time with a little tlc from the gardener they too will become a thick stand of beautiful trees or a field of dreams… Thomas thank you Fr. Centimeter… an orator in the truest sense… P.B. W. Y. A.A.

    • Jennifer says:

      NOS, you just made me cry tears of hope. I have been having a really rough month or so, begging God for answers of what I’m supposed to be doing, begging Him to sustain my faith that He is near even though I feel completely blind. In part I have been beating myself up like crazy over being away from my place of origin. My hometown never felt like home (my parents’ hometown full of my extended family was where I felt I belonged) and my parents and I have never been close. I feel so much guilt for being away even though our relationship has been so much kinder and loving now that we are 1000 miles apart.
      Although we are definitely outsiders in this new place where everyone has century-long roots, we are slowly falling in love with this people and this place of rolling hills and salty air which feels deeply like home. I long to put down roots and I always thought it meant it had to be back in my hometwown, but maybe it will be here by the sea and maybe that will be perfectly good. God is doing big, beautiful things in our life here. Your comment reminds me that God is with us in this, even if we’re just an invasive species. If you want to see a picture from Sean’s first communion of our crazy family click on my name up there, it will take you to my blog. I was stunned by how much I am smiling in the picture and realized that it’s because (gasp!) I actually love being here! (I’m taking the picture down in a couple days, but for now it’s there.)

      -J

  2. nos says:

    Dearest ” small scale ” j what a beautiful family all … on the topic of answers from GOD to our prayers… start small but carve out a specific time each day — for me it’s the wee hours of the day…the easy part is asking the hard part is being quiet long enough to hear GOD “speak” hopefully your wait won’t be as long as Mother Teresa’s… you’ll be fine j your a warrior… a regular Joan of Arc… charge!!!!!!! P.S. tell Sean anytime he needs to borrow my guardian angel just call his name ( Frank) and he’ll be there …well done young Sean well done remember it’s HIS Will that’s to be done not ours…PEACE BE WITH YOU ALL ALWAYS.

    THOMAS ssshhh
    ..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s