Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 14, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins
There's No Place Like Home
But I have trusted in thy steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. (Psalm 13:5 RSV)
Through Moses, God promised Israel a home of their own. Their destiny? Their own land, from which they would eat the produce of the Promised Land. Israel responded to God's promise. Sometimes reluctantly. Often in rebellion to God's promise. Occasionally with faith.
Moses brought them to the border of Canaan, the Promised Land. He sent twelve spies into the territory. It was a reconnaissance mission to determine the strength of the people, the vitality of the land, and to bring back some fruit, since it was the season of the first ripe grapes. I remember a little grape arbor at my first childhood home. There isn't anything quite like the first ripe grapes transformed into homemade grape jelly.
After forty days sizing up the Promised Land, the spies returned with their report and the fruit. They carried back pomegranates, figs, and grapes. But the grapes were like no grapes ever seen. One branch containing a huge cluster was carried on a pole between two spies. Every Sunday School child has seen a picture of these two spies carrying back the grapes from the Valley of Eschol. The sight of this fruit and its fragrance alone suggested the Israelites were home at last.
Then the report came out.
"The Land flows with milk and honey. Look! Here's the fruit. It is a beautiful place. You couldn't ask for a better place to call home. But."
"What do you mean, 'but'?"
"Well, the people are strong, and their cities are very large and fortified and..."
"And, and, and. And WHAT?"
"The descendants of Anak are there. Giant people. We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them."
You could have heard a pin drop, or whatever you hear drop when you are in the desert.
Only Caleb and Joshua assured Moses that Israel had the resources to occupy the Land of Promise. But the damage was done. The ten renegade spies, walking by sight and not by faith, convinced the people that the Promised Land wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
So God sent them back to the desert to wander one year for every day the spies were in the Promised Land. It's the end of that forty year period today's first reading is about. A new generation of Israelites, better disposed to the Promise of a New Home, begin eating the produce of the land of promise.
The forty days of Lent help us to be better disposed to the promises of faith. Israel's call to posses the Promised Land is similar to our call to find our new home, our new life in Christ. Like the prodigal son and his brother, we need reconciliation with our Father and one another. St. Paul reminds us, we are reconciled to the Father through Christ. Lent helps us to put sin behind us as Israel finally put Egypt behind them. Like them we sometimes crave the pleasures and attractions of a past life. These temptations are real, but can be defeated.
By reclaiming our new life in Christ through confession and penance. Lent is the promise that the door to Father's house is always open. It is the Father's love for us wooing us back home. Wherever we may roam, the fragrance of Father's house penetrates the foul, stale odor of sin. And then we remember, there's no place like home.
And in our Father's house we eat this bread, the body of His Son. We drink also from this cup, which is the new covenant in his blood.
May we never forget that there truly is no place like home.
Let us pray: Dear Father, you embrace us with a relentless love in the gift of your only Son, our Lord. In the friendship you give us in your Son confirm us in your Holy Spirit. Amen.