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.
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.