The simple word "home" has a strong impact on us. For most of us thoughts of home are agreeable and pleasant, evoking images of warmth, shelter, rootedness, safety, security. Home is where the heart is. It's that place of our origin, a haven, a resting place, the spot where we know we belong, the place we call our own, a source of refreshment to us. To feel "at home" is to be at ease, on familiar ground. Home: our abiding place.
And so the idea of going home is usually a welcome one; with fondness and anticipation we make that trip. The statement, "you can't go home again" has a sharp poignancy about it.
With a realization of these many aspects of home, it becomes significant that Jesus extends this particular invitation to us: "Abide in me!" (John 15:4), or, actually using our image, the Jerusalem Bible reads, "Make your home in me."
More than any earthly home, it is Jesus himself who is our shelter (Ps. 91:1), our rock and refuge (Ps. 62:7), our dwelling place (Ps. 90:1). He offers himself as our resting place (Matt. 11:29), our refreshment. We have a sure confidence of belonging to him, and he even allows us to claim some "ownership" of him, too: "My beloved is mine, and I am his" (Song of Songs 2:16). As we grow into a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus, we find ourselves more and more at ease and on familiar ground in his presence. As with our home, "where our treasure is, there too will be our hearts" (Luke 12:34). And we look forward to finally arriving at our "homeland" in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
What a rich comparison there is in seeing Jesus as our home. Even our most appealing notions or most pleasant experiences of our earthly homes pale in the light of Jesus as our true and lasting abiding place. A wealth of insight lies before us in this concept for our prayer and reflection.
But we can find even more in this comparison as we search the Scriptures further--more to thrill us, more to excite us, more to move us to an active response to Jesus' invitation. While inviting us to make our home in him, Jesus went on to say he wants to make his home in us: "Make your home in me, as I make mine in you" (John 15:4). In other words, Jesus requests that we make a place to receive him, to welcome him, where he can take up permanent residence with us. Earlier in his gospel, John expressed the same idea this way: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14), or, more literally, "pitched his tent among us"--made his dwelling place in our midst.
How can we respond to such a request? And such an offer!
What can we do to make more of a place for Jesus to enter into our lives?
Perhaps the most concrete action we can take is to embrace the Word who
dwells among us--to get to know the Word made flesh by getting to know
the spoken and written word of God in Scripture. St. Paul gives us
advice that is finely tuned to our analogy: "Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly" (Col. 3:16). Again, the translation that the Jerusalem
Bible offers strongly underlines the image: "Let the message of Christ,
in all its richness, find a home with you.
This image helps make real one of my favorite (and to me, most helpful) ways of approaching Scripture. I often think of Scripture and relate to it in terms of "making it my own." To me, that means not only reading Scripture, but taking it in, loving it, embracing it, pondering it, allowing myself to be molded and taught by it, obeying it, having it as my fingertips and in the front of my mind; in short, becoming so familiar with God's word that I can really say that I've made it "my own"--my way of thinking, my way of life, my guide, my nourishment.
One doesn't build a house or home overnight. Nor has Scripture instantly become my own. It has only been with daily patience, daily discipline, daily prayer for insight into the word of God, over years and years, that this familiarity has been growing, that the word of God is truly finding a home in me. And there have been many days of being hard put to find the time to read Scripture; or while having the time, no desire has risen in me for this reading. But little by little, gradually but steadily, Scripture has pervaded my life, has taken a hold of me, and is finding that place in me that God desires and yearns for. It is being written on my heart.
In Old Testament times, the God of Israel gave his people a way of holding onto his word to them. The direction he gave to them so long ago has been relevant, meaningful, and effective for me as I have striven to let the word of Christ find a home in me. Urging the Israelites to prize his word, Yahweh said, "These words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut. 6:6-9).
May you, too, write the word of God on the doorpost of your house.
As you make your home in Christ, may you also make a worthy home for his
word in your heart.