10 April 2017
When I was in 8th grade my parents had me move down to the basement, which they had just partially finished. My dad put up a wall and added a door. That room was so nice, as during the summer it stayed a cool 60 degrees (we didn’t have air conditioning in our house; it was too expensive), and during the winter it was around 75 degrees, due to the fact that it was right next to the furnace. Another great feature was that my parents had replaced their stereo system upstairs, complete with 2 tape decks, radio tuning, two speakers, and a record player, with a CD/Radio player, so the stereo system made its way into my room, along with the records that my dad had kept. One of those records was Simon and Garfunkel: Concert in Central Park, which was recorded in September 1981, two years before I was born. It has all the classics: “Mrs. Robinson,” “America,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” “Kodachrome,” “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “The Boxer,” “The Sound of Silence,” and “Homeward Bound.”
“Homeward Bound” starts with the little guitar lick which is immediately recognizable. If you know the song, you can probably hear it playing in your head right now. And the refrain, for those who don’t know it, goes (I’ll speak the words): “Homeward bound, / I wish I was, / Homeward bound, / Home where my thought’s escaping, / Home where my music’s playing, / Home where my love lies waiting / Silently for me.” It’s a beautiful song, with nice, crisp harmonies. Maybe on your way home, load it up on iTunes or YouTube and give it a listen.
Today we celebrate that we can be Homeward Bound. The Good News, the Gospel, is that home is now open for us, and we have a surefire way to get there: by Jesus. Now, today a lot of people believe that everybody goes to heaven; hell is only for Hitler or Stalin. And while heaven is pledged to us in baptism, baptism is not our “Get Out of Hell Free” card. I hope everyone’s in heaven, but Jesus talks about getting there by a narrow way, so we do have some sense that maybe it’s not necessarily the default. Nevertheless, we probably also think of heaven as always being open to humanity. But it wasn’t. Heaven was opened by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus after Adam and Eve closed the way by their sin. It is the long-standing tradition of the Church that even all the good people of the Old Testament–Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, Moses, the prophets–all had to wait for Jesus to free them from the abode of the dead, which He did when He descended there while His body lay buried. In fact, there is an ancient homily that talks about this. It’s too long to give in its entirety, but a few passages will suffice:
[Jesus] goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s Son.
The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: “My Lord be with you all.” And Christ in reply says to Adam: “And with your spirit.” And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
“I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those sleep: Rise.
“I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.”
Jesus takes Adam and Eve, and all the just, home to heaven.
And that is what Jesus offers us today, if we believe in Him, and follow Him, and seek what is above. It is as if the Old Testament patriarchs and matriarchs were waiting at the door of their home, but they did not have the key. Jesus Himself opened the door, and welcomed them to the place He had prepared for them, and they had accepted by their lives. The door remains unlocked, and Jesus desires to open it to us, if we decide that heaven is the home we desire.
It was always good to be home after school, after track or soccer or play practice. It is nice to be home after work; to take it easy, to eat home-cooked food, to be in a place of relaxation. By His Resurrection, Jesus gave us the opportunity to be in our heavenly home after we die, if we live for Him. Do not dally in preparing to go home; do not wait until the last minute. Be like St. John, the beloved disciple, in living a life that hurries toward heaven, as John hurried toward the tomb. Do not be distracted by the many passing joys that are along the side of the road and off the beaten path. Live in a way that prepares you for the gift of heaven, our home.
Because heaven is the place where we can escape from this exile and have our thoughts on God; heaven is the place where angelic music plays as we worship God; heaven is the place where God, the ultimate love of our hearts is waiting silently to welcome us into His peace. Be homeward bound.