He dwell among us: I have a place for you

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, no one is orphaned, and all find their true home

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

Thirty-six years ago, I was a young seminarian, and several of my classmates and I drove from St. Louis to Chicago for St. John Paul II’s fi rst visit as pope to the United States on Oct. 5, 1979. I remember how excited we were when we arrived at our hotel after a long drive, only to discover that we did not have a reserved room after all.

With every hotel booked within 50 miles of Chicago, I called upon a man of great holiness who assisted me greatly in discerning my calling to the priesthood—Maronite Archbishop Francis Mansour Zayek.

He and other visiting bishops also were in Chicago and had a block of reserved rooms in a nearby hotel. And it just so happened that there was one room left. I’ll never forget the astonishment of my fellow seminarians when I told them that an archbishop had just arranged a room for us where the bishops were staying!

After such a long journey, by God’s blessing, we were not to be without a place to stay.

Through the fatherly care of Archbishop Zayek, we came to experience a real sense of the pilgrim joy of knowing that we had a home— belonging to the Church as Mother and to God as Father— a temporal home and an eternal home.

Isn’t this what family is all about?

To know that there is room for you, a place where you are always welcome within the heart of others, and most especially within the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of His Mother and ours.

When Jesus was born, and came to “dwell among us,” Mary and St. Joseph were told there was no room for them, and later had to flee as exiles from Herod’s murderous rampage.

Sadly, we see this horror being repeated again today on a far larger scale with exiles driven far from their homes because of terror campaigns and poverty.

And in our own country, forces are at work to exile God, particularly from marriage, which He alone is the author of, and from the family, which is an image of Trinitarian love.

We have only to survey the daily news to see the truth of St. John Paul II’s words of warning regarding the intimate and sensitive relationship between the family and the common good—“What harms the family, harms society.”

How do we respond to this growing menace in our society where God is increasingly being exiled further and further from marriage, family and society?

How can we help those who are experiencing a loss of hope because of a crisis in marriage, or in the family? So often our words fail, but above all, bring them Jesus—be the face and heart of Jesus.

Turn to Jesus’ Mother and ours, and like the Apostle St. John take Mary into the home of your heart. She who is closest to the Heart of her Son and His sufferings will teach us.

She will show us how to be living stones and to be built into a spiritual house of God that can be a loving shelter for others, bringing grace, hope, healing and mercy to all we encounter.

This was my prayer for each one of you while in Washington, D.C., for the visit of Pope Francis—that you become saints! This is the very message Pope Francis is proclaiming—to be missionaries of God’s mercy, tenderness and love.

We have elements of this home in our loving families, in holy marriages and faithful communities, but even the very best experiences and models here on earth are only a glimpse of who God is and what He has to give. Our true and lasting home is the permanent place we have within His Sacred Heart, and love is our mission.

With the great blessing of our Holy Father’s visit and his presence at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, and with the Synod of the Family in Rome this month, I find in these words, “I have a place for you,” great comfort. For they speak to me of what we all desire and hold dear—we have a home where we are welcomed and loved, where we are safe and where we can grow in grace and holiness.

Our Lord loves us and constantly says to us, “I have a place for you” and reminds us that love is our mission!

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