Each time I see a homeless person, my heart cringes, because it is hard to imagine sleeping on a street corner, without bathing or brushing my teeth, and without food. You find them everywhere. I remember a time when I went for a short visit to Rome. There are homeless people everywhere, even around St. Peter’s Square. In the cold and in the heat, they are out there in the street, covered with blankets. It is the reality of our time.
It is really hard to believe the number of people that go into St. Peter’s Basilica each day, as well as the Sistine Chapel. It is a mammoth number of human beings, from early morning to around 8pm in the night. Then, everywhere you go and at any time, you find a crowd of people. When I was a student in Rome I didn’t have the time to move around much. But this time, I could take it all in.
I was amazed at the crowds moving everywhere – walking, in buses, in subways, in taxis – that I began to ask myself: what are they really searching for? I know they are largely tourists, but were they just there to see the magnificent history of Rome and satisfy their curiosity? Or, were they there for the sake of adventure? Are they looking for more excitement? Do they want to indulge their fancy? Are they seeking an encounter with God, hidden behind the imposing history of Christians etched in almost every corner of Italy? It is hard to answer these questions because each person in the crowd had something that brought him or her to Rome, the Eternal City.
As I sat watching the mass of people, I had a feeling that whatever these people might be seeking, they were seeking their true home. The search for excitement, curiosity, and adventure, all mask the real search for our true home in God. We wander away from home and preoccupy ourselves with many other desires, hoping to find excitement, joy, peace, happiness, love, fulfillment, respect, but often as soon as we find them, we move onto another search. Like the homeless people, we all may be inwardly homeless or unsettled until we find our true home in God. In her book, The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila notes how most of us live outside the castle, preoccupied with things so much that we forget that at the center of the Castle dwells God in whose presence we find our Truest Self! As long as we remain outside the castle, we will never be truly happy because there are scorpions, serpents and poisonous animals outside. These are metaphors for all kinds of distractions that take our attention away from our true home. We may search for anything in this world to fulfill us, but unless we enter the castle through prayer and worship of God, we will remain homeless searching for crumbs of happiness and fulfillment.
This is why Jesus was sad watching the rich young man in this weekend’s gospel walk away from the opportunity offered him to get on the journey back home. He preferred to remain a homeless wanderer. His riches blinded him to his true home, just as so many of us have been blinded. Riches do not mean just money or estates; riches mean anything to which your heart is so strongly nailed that your life is identified with it. It is the over valuation of anything that leads to undue distractions. Only God is God! Jesus came to take us away from the streets of the world back to our true home in God. We don’t need to wander anymore. In what way are you wandering away from Home? What things, desires or relationships are holding your heart so captive that your heart and mind do not feel settled in the peace that God so readily offers us in Jesus Christ? Come back home and end your wandering.