We have all heard the old adage – there’s no place like home. And upon reflection, this sentiment seems to ring true.
Home is a unique place. It’s the place where we learn, where we retreat, and the place where we belong.
And actually, the more I think about it, home is a unique place because it might be better described as a relationship than a place.
When we think about “home,” we usually call to mind what it is like to be there more than we recall what it looks like. Don’t we? Home seems to be where the heart is, where the soul is, not as much where the feet have been or will be.
So, why are we talking about “home?”
Well, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, or as he prefers to be called, “Father,” or “Papa,” Benedict, in response to questions about his health, recently wrote,
“I can only say at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage home.”
Wait, is he going back to his homeland, Germany? Well, maybe… temporarily (for a pretzel and a stein), but no.
Although Germany might be where his feet have been, he is talking about the place where he truly belongs.
Benedict Is Venturing Towards His True Home: Heaven.
And although Benedict’s words on the “slow decline in (his) physical strength” have been interpreted in many ways, the Vatican assures us all that he is simply experiencing the “weight… of years” which “is normal at (his) age.”
But as the rest of the quote suggests, Benedict himself sees the strength of the soul more than the weakness of the flesh as he “inwardly… pilgrimage(s) home.”
In a homily in 2010, Benedict said,
“Heaven is not a place within the cosmos, but a place within God.”
He isn’t, as he’d say, “on the last part of the road” to a physical destination, but rather, to a spiritual realization. He is taking the proverbial final turn en route to realizing the fullness of the life he’s always lived, the relationship with God he’s always had.
In his own words, “‘Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize ‘life’ here and now…”
As Benedict exemplifies, the God to whom we have access in the here and now is the same God to whom we have access in eternity.
“God does not change; He is Love, ever and always. In Himself, He is communion, unity in Trinity, and all His words and works are directed to communion (with us).”
And this is a Love, a relationship, a “home,” that we need.
“We have to see that the human person needs the infinite…”
The infinite gives us purpose.
You see, Heaven, or the infinite, is found in the waiting, but this waiting isn’t passive. It’s active. It’s purpose-driven.
Holy Saturday: Easter’s Background
Benedict knows this better than most.
He was born on Holy Saturday, 1927.
So, it’s safe to say that he was born ready to engage the wait.
When reflecting on his birthday, he once said, “To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but, the more I reflect on it, the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life: we are still awaiting Easter; we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust.”
Holy Saturday Provides The Background For Easter
We wait. We hope.
“Hope is practiced through the virtue of patience… which accepts God’s mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness.”
-Deus Caritas Est – Pope Benedict XVI
On Holy Saturday, when we pine in “darkness” for the One we have “lost,” trustfully, patiently, we wait… We hope.
And we can learn so much from the way the Holy Father, Benedict, has waited.
From the beginning of his life to these final seasons, he has been praying fervently. He has been evangelizing lovingly. He has been preaching and teaching boldly.
And these acts have been the sign of his knowledge of the one in whom he believes. Benedict knows the Jesus in whom he believes; he loves the Jesus in whom he believes.
Thus, he eagerly awaits the fullness of His revelation, the reward of His Resurrection, and the display of our relationship with Heaven: our true Home.
So, let’s do the same: to eagerly and actively await our return Home.
And let’s pray for the saint among us, who will be Home shortly – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Keep the faith, Papa!