Home vs. Alone

Rey at home Force Awakens Star Wars

When Mary and Joseph found the child Jesus in the Temple, He said to them, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand.

Mary and Joseph knew something, of course. They both had received visits from an angel twelve years earlier. But we can hardly fault them for not understanding completely. They did not have ‘the typical child’ to raise. They had God incarnate for a son. Human in everything, except sin. But also possessed of the infinite depth of the eternal Word.

To Whom does the only-begotten Son of God belong? To no one but the Father, of course. Who can “house” the Creator? Where is His “home?” The only true home the infinite Son can have is the infinite bosom of the infinite Father.

But: “He went down with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them,” like any normal good son. He Who made the world to be our home lived in a humble family home of His own, in a small town.

Let’s imagine a Nazarene townie giving a newcomer a tour: “That house? That belongs to so-and-so the weaver. That one? Oh, that’s the carpenter Joseph’s house, where the Son of God grew up.”

elgreco_holy-familyI guess by now everyone has seen the new Star Wars movie. If not, don’t worry. I won’t give much away. It’s just that one thing really struck me, about how the heroine grew up.

In the original Star Wars, back in the 1970’s, the hero Luke Skywalker lived on remote desert planet. He was an orphan, apparently. But he lived in a cozy space-age farmhouse with uncle Owen and aunt Beru. In other words, Luke had a home–where he had grown up, with a man and wife raising him.

At the beginning of the new Star Wars, the new heroine, named Rey, also lives on a remote desert planet. But she lives alone, in an old broken-down imperial tank. No family at all.

Is this difference between the movie of the 1970’s and the movie of today a “sign of the times?” Forty years ago, we Americans took for granted: a child needs a home, with a family, a mom and dad. Now? We don’t know. We don’t know what a child needs. We have managed to get ourselves thoroughly confused.

Instead of bemoaning the collateral damage of the Age of Divorce, though, let’s do this:

1. Let’s communicate what the prophets of the Bible say. After all, Israel herself, the chosen tribe, had fallen into the same homeless state as the young Rey on the planet Jakku. Friendless and bereft, an apparent orphan, marking days in misery, struggling to survive alone. Israel had become an exile, far from the Holy Land, her very identity as a people threatened. We worry about African lions going extinct. But in the sixth century BC, The People of God almost went extinct. The heritage of Abraham and Moses almost forgotten.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s a stretcher for us to say this: The words the prophets addressed to the exiles of 2500 years ago are the very words God addresses now to the lonely children of this Age of Divorce and Single Parenthood.

Prophet Ezekiel's portrait in the Sistine Chapel
Prophet Ezekiel’s portrait in the Sistine Chapel

You have a father, child! You have a birthright, and a name. Israel is no orphan! God says: You are mine. My house is yours.

2. Our second task is to build real homes ourselves. To make the parish a true home for all. And to make our own particular dwellings as much like the home of the Holy Family as we can.

What does the world need in AD 2016? Not macho men–silly boys trying to masquerade as grownups. No, the world needs chaste and strong husbands and fathers like St. Joseph. The world does not need feminists–unhappy girls trying to act like men. No, the world needs chaste and strong mothers and wives, like our Lady. Our Lady and St. Joseph did not believe in divorce, so neither do we. And, for God’s sake, the world does not need “gay-rights” advocacy, in vitro fertilization and test-tube babies with absent anonymous fathers. The world needs champions who will defend the rights of children.

We were lost, homeless, orphaned before Christ came. It’s not as if family life according to the model of the Holy Family constricts us in some stale old convention. To the contrary: divorce and broken families have been around longer than the hills. There were plenty of divorces and broken families during the Babylonian captivity. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, God has given us the genuinely new thing. He has given us the kind of home where we can hope for a better future.

AD 2016 sits before us like a sheet of blank notebook paper. Let’s write JMJ at the top. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We don’t have to live as hermit orphans, like poor Rey in “The Force Awakens.” We have a home. In the bosom of the Father. With Mary and Joseph. With Christ.

Sitting and Talking in 1977

Star Wars Chewbacca C3P0

I know a few of you out there have yet to see the new movie, so I will reveal none of the supposedly surprising plot details. Nor will I judge The Force Awakens according to the standards of contemporary comic-book movies; I have no expertise there. The group of experts with whom I saw the movie last night all agreed afterwards that it is awesome.

Also, I freely acknowledge that I teared-up at the beginning, as the new installment opened just as the original had. I thought of how much I love the people I first saw Star Wars with, shortly before my seventh birthday–some living, some dead.

As I see it, the fundamental difference between the movie of 1977 and the movie of 2015 is this: In 1977, people sat down and talked to each other sometimes. Not so much in 2015. At least not in The Force Awakens.

In 1977, Luke sat and talked with Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen over breakfast. He sat and talked with Obi Wan in the aging Jedi’s Tatoonine hermitage. Luke even sat and chillaxed with C3P0 and R2D2.

death star conferenceThe bad guys sat and talked in 1977. Admiral Tarkin presided over a sit-down meeting on the Death Star, at which Darth Vader distinguished himself as particularly evil by not sitting down. (By the bye, Peter Cushing managed a level of sinister in 1977 that makes Domhall Gleeson’s 2015 General Hux look like Bart Simpson by comparison. But, to my point…)

In 1977, Wookie, droid, and human sat around on the Millennium Falcon and talked theology.

The only sit-down in the new movie occurs in the barroom scene. But the strange, female ET character can’t manage to stay in her seat. She insists on crawling across the table.

Meanwhile, in 1977, they sat in the barroom, and the immortal line about making the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs entered the patrimony of our English tongue.

It makes me weep a little now to think about how, in 1977, we sat and talked. We did it all the time. I became who I am sitting and talking, at the seat closest to the refrigerator, at the kitchen table, conversing with the fascinating people who lived in, and who visited, 3741 McKinley St., N.W., Washington, D.C.

The Force Awakens is fun enough. Kylo Ren actually makes a respectable, gaunt successor to Darth Vader–no mean achievement. And having the ruins of old Imperial military equipment as the furniture of life on the planet Jakko–really brilliant.

But sitting and talking beats Star Wars 2015 by many orders of magnitude, when it comes to interesting ways to spend 2 1/2 hours. After all, the real “Force” is divine love. And divine love moves people to sit and talk to each other.