By Deacon John De Gano
Since 1939, when the movie “The Wizard of Oz” was first released, generations of moviegoers and TV watchers have watched the adventures of Dorothy Gale, prodigal girl from Kansas, who ran away from her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s farm only to return the wiser.
“There really is no place like home,” Dorothy confidently proclaims.
Growing up, my family spent summer vacations rotating between the beach and the mountains. Sometimes we made side trips to one of the California missions or a ghost town in one of the more remote areas of the state. Often times we’d go out to the desert on weekends. Wherever we went we did so as a family.
And to this day, I see life as an adventure to be shared. With my wife, Cheryl, with others through stories and photographs, and sometimes through an occasional tchotchke or memento.
Yet, no matter how much fun we’re having, there’s always a tug on our heart to return home, to our own bed and not to have to live out of a suitcase or backpack. Or have to tip toe around the kitchen in the morning for a glass of water so as not to awaken the relative or friend with whom we are staying.
Dorothy understood this. She is like a fish out of water on this farm. Her parents are absent and she has to live with her aged aunt and uncle who struggle to keep their farm going and have little time for the silly imaginings of a child. When it looks like Toto, her only and best friend is about to be taken from her and destroyed, Dorothy runs off in search of a better place for the two of them to live.
Like the prodigal son in the Bible, she eventually comes to appreciate all that she had and, longing to return home, she changes course. And both find acceptance.
I wonder what loneliness Jesus must have felt so far from his home. Did his heart long to be with the Father? Were his prayer times joyous or did they leave him hungering for more? When the Father spoke at his baptism or at the transfiguration did Jesus hear his Father’s voice, or were those words only for us to hear?
Jesus told his disciples that he had no home.
From his earliest days, his life was on the road. Mary runs to see her cousin Elizabeth and stays for a few months. She returns to Nazareth and has to leave with Joseph to Bethlehem for the census count. Jesus is born amid the livestock and while they may have found better accommodations once the count was over, the Holy Family goes into exile, hiding in obscurity from Herod’s soldiers (and spies) in Egypt.
At the age of twelve, Jesus would be found in “my Father’s house” (the temple at Jerusalem) and, as an adult, he would stay with Peter and his mother-in-law in Capernaum and live the life of an itinerant preacher, healing and teaching as he wandered about the countryside. He ate with saints and sinners alike and when he was finally executed, he would be placed in a borrowed tomb.
Even in the tomb, Jesus couldn’t rest for long… He rose and commissioned His disciples to build up His church (our spiritual home) and returned to His Father where He undoubtedly reported on His adventures and, most assuredly, joyfully proclaimed in similar-sounding words:
“There’s no place like home!”
On our part, we will have to live in hope, accepting His words on faith until we come home and are embraced by our heavenly Father, who will lovingly say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.