Homily for August 9, 2009

Father Tom’s Homily
19th Sunday
August 9, 2009

One of the frequently reoccurring themes in the scriptures is being homeless and receiving hospitality.
For example, our ancestors, Adam and Eve, became homeless when they were exiled from paradise.

The story of Christmas tells of Joseph and Mary in search of lodging to stay for a brief spell. They had to be content sharing space with a couple of cows and a donkey in an animal shelter. Because they were homeless.
Later they became undocumented immigrants in far-off Egypt to escape Herod’s death squad. Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus were homeless.

Jesus left his home in Nazareth to take up his ministry of prophecy and healing. He asked to stay at Peter’s home in Caphernaum because he was homeless.
He was on the road a lot, preaching and healing the sick in the towns and rural village of Galilee. During this time he often had to make due with emergency measures like sleeping out under the stars. He spoke of his homeless state: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay is head.”

He told stories/parables to instruct the people about a God who was in love with them.
One of his most famous parables is called the Prodigal Son. It tells of a son who leaves home hoping to make it big in the city. But the son loses everything and ends up feeding hogs to eke out a living. He is homeless and homesick.

Then we see the other side of the homeless story. When he meekly returns home expecting to receive harsh condemnation from his disappointed father, he receives instead a tearful embrace, sandals for his bare feet and a banquet with music and dancing.

The one who tells us this salvation story is the homeless Jesus, who slept in borrowed beds and under trees or in fields to tell us about going home.
This parable spells out the salvation story in terms that everyone can understand. The homeless son is encouraged to return home, because his father longs for his company.
Who is the homeless son. It is any one of us. We have been born to be at home with the One who loves more than any other person.
Who is the one who loves us? It is God, our Father/Mother/Lover, who delights to see our faces.

We are all homeless. We have been given a deep restlessness to be home with God. God’s response is heartfelt hospitality. An embrace and a celebration of food and dancing.
In turn, the God of hospitality asks us to give hospitality to each other, especially those in need. Like the stranger on the road.

In Matthew 25 we are given the terms of judgment. God calls “blessed” those who are generous to the homeless stranger on the road.
The God, who was himself homeless, says, “I was a homeless stranger and you took me in. Come,” he says, “claim your place in my kingdom.”
In other words, “I was homeless and you gave me hospitality. In turn, I wish to give you a home with me in heaven.” Because in truth, we are all homeless.

I offer this reflection on hospitality at a time when the homeless in our town want to be given some consideration.
The dozen or so who have banded together to form the “Safe Haven Tent Community” have been driven from one place to another in hopes that they will go away and not bother the rest of us.

Just because they have no address does not mean that they are not part of our community.
Just because they have no bank account does not mean they have nothing of value to share with others.
Just because they have no roof over their heads does not mean they have no dignity.

I feel that our parish community should be active in supporting the tent community.
I have had a conversation with some parishioners about inviting them to spend some time in the yard west of our Romero Center.
I hope this will have the support of the parishioners. I know that we can count on the approval of Archbishop Oscar Romero.