Coming home to a place of safety, comfort, and belonging is one of life’s most precious feelings, a feeling that’s universally recognized and valued. But what if one person’s sense of home seems to clash with another’s?
I was thinking about that while listening to the glorious harmonies of a song performed a cappella by a group of Jewish men, filmed singing on a hilltop above lush Israeli fields.
We’ve come home
We’ve come home
To a land of our own
After 2000 years, we are home.
(Kippalive, “We are home”)
It’s a rousing song. And it’s hard not to feel a resonance with these simple words if, like me, you have Jewish parents who described the chilling feeling of not having a “home” called Israel to flee to when faced with the approaching Holocaust in pre-World-War-II Berlin.
But then I try to mentally put myself in the shoes of Palestinians in Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank listening to the same song. How would the words resonate with them?
Clearly, the Jewish people aren’t the only ones with a heartfelt sense of attachment to the Holy Land, especially when it comes to Jerusalem. Christian and Muslim Arabs have lived there for generations. And, as a Jewish scholar recently put it, Jerusalem is also “a spiritual home for Christians and Muslims worldwide” (Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr, “Jerusalem,” December 14, 2017, divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/jerusalem).
As I prayed recently to see through this sense of conflict surrounding that most precious of things, the place we call home, I thought about a sense of home my heart deeply desires all to know and experience. It’s a purely spiritual sense of home, a feeling of being at home in the consciousness of God’s ever-present love.
I believe this is the kind of “home” the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures refers to in a chapter called “Glossary,” in which its author, Mary Baker Eddy, offers a metaphysical interpretation of Bible terms. It includes a spiritual sense of the word Jerusalem, which simply says, in part, “Home, heaven” (p. 589).
In writing Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy intended its timeless message to speak to all mankind. So this spiritual sense of Jerusalem is the most profound and tangible experience of feeling “at home” available to any of us, a concrete awareness of unconditional peace and well-being in which we feel what it means to be divine Love’s cherished, spiritual offspring. This spiritual sense of being at home in eternal Love has no physical location associated with it, but is experienced whenever thought, uplifted through prayer, reaches a recognition of being enwrapped in God’s care.
When we experience such uplifted thought, it feels like a homecoming—a feeling that’s captured in the scriptural parable of the prodigal son. Christ Jesus tells of an impetuous young man who strayed from his family, only to become destitute and humbly return home. As he approached, he found his father running to embrace him, eager to celebrate his son’s return.
The spiritual sense of being at home in eternal Love is experienced whenever thought, uplifted through prayer, reaches a recognition of being enwrapped in God’s care.
To me, this parable points to the kind of affirming, spiritual homecoming we experience through Christ, the Truth Jesus represented. This Christ is at the very heart of Christianity, yet it is not denominational. It’s the power of God that brings to light divine Love, the universal nature of which Jesus evidenced in healing Gentiles as well as his Jewish compatriots. As we pray to express this Love, our hearts open to its infinite allness, and we truly feel as if we’re walking into a loving Father’s fond embrace.
Such spiritual homecomings aren’t a one-time event. These prodigal moments await us whenever our hearts have invested their hope for happiness or health on a material basis only to find that the well of hope has run dry, still unrealized. Then we humbly seek, and gratefully yield to, a higher sense of wellness or satisfaction that is always ours in our true dwelling place, divine Spirit. It’s this freedom from the grasp of faith in matter that we truly yearn for when we feel frustrated, isolated, or in any way exiled from good. We “come home” in a moment, or a series of moments, in which an unfulfilled or unsustainable desire gives place to a consciousness of our eternal peace in Spirit. Such spiritual awakenings might not always feel as dramatic as the prodigal’s return. But each time we sincerely turn away from a false, material sense of ourselves and glimpse something more of our eternal nature as a child of God, we feel the warm glow of coming home to where we truly, spiritually belong.
The story of the prodigal also introduces a second son, who never leaves home. Yet when his brother returns, he doesn’t want to celebrate, but seeks to judge and condemn, despite his father’s plea that he do the opposite. I find this son’s example helpful as a warning to guard against the temptation to feel at home in self-centered thinking, as described in another part of Science and Health’s Glossary definition of Jerusalem: “Mortal belief and knowledge obtained from the five corporeal senses; the pride of power and the power of pride; sensuality; envy; oppression; tyranny.”
Were these the kinds of traits Jesus lamented when entering the holy city just before his crucifixion? He cried: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Seeing the political, often violent, tumult that continues to occur in Jerusalem, it’s tempting to echo that sense of lament. But while Jesus is no longer with us to bring us together under God’s protective wings, the Christ is always speaking to human thought, conveying God’s urging of all His children to come home to the recognition of their shared home, in universal, spiritual unity. This home is described in the book of Revelation as the New Jerusalem, which in turn is defined in Science and Health as “divine Science; the spiritual facts and harmony of the universe; the kingdom of heaven, or reign of harmony” (p. 592).
In truth, nobody’s ever separated for a moment from this New Jerusalem, this true Jerusalem, which is our eternal, heavenly home. And what a home it is! A member of Mrs. Eddy’s household remembers her once saying: “We find home when we arrive at the full understanding of God. Home! Think of it! Where sense has no claims and Soul satisfies” (Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, Amplified Edition, p. 211).
This home that excludes the material sense that leads to conflict, and where our true spiritual cravings are completely satisfied by divine Soul, is a very special place of safety, comfort, and belonging, because it’s a home we each forever share with all humanity.
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