At the Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the world meeting of families in Oct 1994 Pope John Paul II said that:
‘Christ entered into the history of all families, because their vocation is to serve life. The history of life and death of every human being is grafted into the vocation of every human family, which gives life, but also participates in a very special way in the experience of suffering and death.
In his address the following year, St. Pope John Paul said that ‘The family is also the first, fundamental environment where every person identifies and fulfils his own human and Christian vocation.The family is a community that cannot be replaced by any other’.He describes the family, “as an ‘intimate community of life and love’ that is at the service of the Church and of society. In other words, it will serve as the sanctifying centre of one’s own family and of spreading the work of evangelizing the whole Christian home.
I was asked recently by a retreat co-ordinator to offer some reflections on the theme of ‘home’ and to share some thoughts on it.
My first thoughts were to reflect on the actual place where I grew up,my home in Dublin,the parish I grew up in,the community of the inner city of Dublin. This brought up lovely memories for me, and I realised how Blessed I was to have been surrounded by so many amazing people,family,neighbours and friends. Then,upon further reflection on this theme, i came to a much deeper place of thought. I thought about my home before I came into the world
The home of the womb – that space to ‘cocoon’ and grow in for nine months, and I use the word cocoon purposely here,as it is a word that has become widely used at the moment due to the Corona virus pandemic. The elderly have been advised for safety reasons, to ‘cocoon’ in their homes in line with current quarantine restrictions here in Ireland.
So my thoughts went deeper still, and I was filled with a deep sadness as I reflected on how the womb is no longer a safe house for many unborn babies in our world today. They are evicted through the horror of abortion, and, the global crisis of homelessness now has the unborn in its clasp.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; ; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5)
God knows us and loves us before we even reach the womb and so our first home is with Him.
Not one of us is a victim of chance, nor are we swept up in a series of unconnected events. Our life and our presence in this world are the fruit of a divine vocation! Each one of us was born at this specific time in history for a reason.We have a mission,we have a calling,we each have a vocation. So how do we discover what that is?
Well,the theme of ‘home’ has many layers, for it takes us into the very heart of who we are, and who we are created to be, and, It takes us into the heart of our Vocation.
When we find our ‘home place’ we find our vocation, and to find our vocation we must first have ‘the encounter’. The home place and the encounter are interconnected and in the heart of this, we discover our true mission, our true vocation in life.
At the closing Mass of the eight world meeting of families in September 2015, Pope Francis gave a beautiful description of family and home when he said:
Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by brothers and sisters. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to grow in faith”.
Being surrounded by our family, husbands ,wives, children,friends and neighbours is where we are ‘at home’ in that space of connection, and we can also be ‘at home’ in the dis-connection that can exist in families and in our lives as well.
The place of encounter is the Eucharist,the place of home is the Eucharist and, as I said earlier the two are interconnected. Here and only here,will you discover your mission, your calling,your vocation. Like the woman at the well who had an encounter with the Lord,she was changed after it, she was amazed. She felt the embrace of the Lord’s love and it completely changed her life! Wow!
This happens to each and every one of us today, IF, we allow it to. If we will only recognise Jesus in our lives and accept him as our lord and our God. That the first step – that’s all it takes.
Vocation and home are intertwined
because you will feel at home with yourself if you are fulfilling your vocation and if you are fulfilling your vocation you will have a sense of Joy in knowing that you are doing what God is asking of you.
A priest friend of mine made a very profound statement that stayed with me. In answer to a question on faith in a radio interview,he responded ‘ I’ve bet my life on it’ – What an amazing statement from someone who is truly living the call of vocation.
Don’t be afraid of the call. You will know what it is. The lord will speak to you gently, and make it known to you what his plans for you are. We each are a piece of the jigsaw of life ,no one else’s piece will fit into the puzzle,only your individual piece will,so dont be afraid to firstly have the encounter with the Lord and from there just allow him to help and guide you in your life. He will very gently lead you closer to himself and along the path he has chosen for you. You will know what it is because then you will have that feeling inside of having ‘arrived home’.
The encounter with the Lord helps us to understand who we are, and helps us to be at home with ourselves, which then leads us on to know what God’s will is for us in our lives. As we let go of the reigns of fear and anxiety about where our life is heading, or not heading,we begin to trust God more. He teaches us how to trust him,he does it in baby steps. It’s like dipping your feet into the water at the seaside and then over time, you realise that you have entered, and are swimming through deep waters and you haven’t even realised it! You are not afraid,you haven’t felt any fear. This is how we get to the point of discovering our true vocation. It can’t happen without the encounter. The encounter takes us there. I remember a time in my life when I was so filled with anxiety and suffered panic attacks,so much so, that I was unable to leave the house,even the thought of going on a school run terrified me. The only place where I could feel safe and be free from anxiety and panic was at Mass. It literally was my breathing space. It took me away from the darkness of anxiety when nothing else could. I was nurtured back to health spiritually, and was freed from all my anxiety through deliverance prayers that were said over me. I had been on a path that had led me away from God and had plunged me into a tunnel of fear. I had gone off in the wrong direction.
When we are on the wrong path,our lives are out of alignment,nothing will go smoothly, everything seems like a hassle,a struggle etc, but when we are on the right path,which is the path that God has ordained for our lives, then it’s just like plain sailing. I’m not saying there won’t be any challenges or tough times,there will ,but the difference is,is that you will have the strength to cope with whatever comes along and you will have that inner sense of peace,knowing and feeling the presence of God with you at every moment.
We find that place of home in the encounter with the Lord and from there he leads us on to discovering our vocation,and what a joy it is when you discover that, because then you know that everything you do is aligned to God’s will for you in your life, it’s not aligned to your own will but God’s, so firstly you discover joy in knowing that, and then you have that sense of being at home with yourself,which is an amazing feeling to have. It’s like you have reached a long sought- after destination after a long journey and you can finally rest there, knowing you don’t need or want to travel any further.
The space where I am ‘home’ and experiencing this at its deepest level is when I receive Jesus in Holy Communion at Mass. Here in these special moments I feel at one with God and with my loved ones who are with him. It is a space where Heaven meets earth and where God becomes one with us and we become one with him, and in this beautiful space we are opened to the understanding of our own creation, of what our purpose and our calling is.
Our encounter with Jesus changes us,moves us and draws us ever more out of ourselves and into communion with Him and with those around us. Our purpose,our Mission becomes clearer and we become at one with ourselves,and we become more aligned to God’s will and we have come home.
Take the journey – do not be afraid!