Strangers in a Strange Land
Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent
Preached on February 21, 2016 at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Lexington KY
Readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36
We are strangers in a strange land.
Some of us are already citizens of this country and some are still permanent residents while others are newly arrived immigrants. Yet, to us all, this still is a strange land. America may be the Land of Opportunity and our second home, but it just is not ‘home.’ However beautiful the bluegrass-blanketed hills may be and glorious the Appalachian mountains, somehow we cannot help but yearn for the grandeur of the golden fields of ripening rice, the beauty of the white sand beaches, the preciousness of those years spent in a hallowed land halfway around the globe. I recall an old tradition in my family of wrapping the newborn’s umbilical cord in paper and tying it to the family altar. In a way, that tradition reminds me of how we feel: we have grown up and gone away, but our umbilical cords still tie us back to our native place.
We are strangers. We may speak English well, but it still is a borrowed language. It is not our amanung sisuan, literally, the word with which we were breastfed. We may have adjusted to the fast-paced demands of American culture, but sometimes we still find ourselves lost. We may have stayed in contact with home, but at times we also feel distanced by the distance from the families and friends whom we had left in the Philippines.
We, like Abraham, are strangers in a strange land. We have gone forth from the land of our kinsfolk (cf. Gen. 12:1) to this Land of Opportunity. We know too well the travails of Abraham’s journey to God’s Promised Land: the adjustments of living in a different country, of speaking a foreign tongue, of dealing with people who think and act differently than we do. Thus, God’s promise to Abraham when he went forth from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:7) rings close to our hearts. We too hope to be blessed by God in this new place. We too hope to have our names made great. We too hope that God will bless our friends and deal with our enemies (cf. Gen. 12:2-3). We too hope that He will sustain us through all the difficulties, the loneliness, the homesickness, and even the prejudice that we experience in this new home.
We are strangers in a strange land, not only because we are Filipinos in America, but more so because we are Christians in a world that is hostile to Christ. Saint Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in Heaven and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:2). Just as our umbilical cords tie us back to our birthplace, so our baptism ties us back to God. We know how difficult it is to live a holy life in a culture that offers us so many temptations and distractions. It is quite easy to be led astray which is also why, every year during this season of Lent, we are called to turn away from our sinfulness and return to the path of holiness. For, however hostile this world may be or heavy the hardship for the Gospel, the Lord who calls us also guides us every step of the way (cf. 1 Tim. 8-9). He has led us on our journey from home to here; He leads us in this journey from here to Home.
There at the end of our pilgrim journey as Christians is a Promised Land more majestic than the Land of milk and honey of Abraham’s dreams, greater than this Land of Opportunity where we now live. We might be fooled into thinking that this world is about as good as it gets, but the Lord’s Transfiguration at Mount Tabor shows us that there is so much more for us to look forward to. So, we await, not just a Promised Land but the Promised One: Jesus Christ. It is He who have called us to this journey of faith and who directs our pilgrim way, whom we hope to see one day, surrounded by Moses and Elijah and all the prophets, Peter, James, and John and all the saints, His face more radiant than the sun (cf. Mt. 17:2). On that blessed day, we can exclaim: No longer are we in a strange land. No longer are we strangers. Finally, in Him we are home!