A few years ago, William J. O’Malley wrote about “taking the long way home.” It was a wonderful “musing” on the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” We were reminded about the archetypal scene when Dorothy’s house lands on the Wicked Witch and then Glinda, the good witch, shows up and magically transfers the ruby slippers to Dorothy. As the ending of the movie makes clear, all Dorothy had to do was click her heels and proclaim, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Why didn’t Glinda tell Dorothy that at the very beginning?
Of course, if Glinda did there would be no story, no journey – and the journey is the very point of the story. At the beginning of the story Dorothy is not ready to move into the next stage of her life until she has discovered that she already has the virtues her three companions on the journey seem to lack: courage, intelligence, and love. The journey becomes the venue to reveal to herself that she is ready for what lay ahead. It is only possible because she took the long way home.
Dorothy discovered that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche got at least one thing right: that which does not kill us makes us stronger. She had lots of setbacks, any one of which might have led her to toss in the towel. I think each one of us can take a longer perspective on our lives and recount the setbacks: the loves lost, that thing we wish we hadn’t said, the road we should have taken, the moment that passed by, the days, the nights, all stirred together in the cauldron called life. And yet like Dorothy we found a reason to continue on, even if it was simply the momentum of the moment. The older I become, the more I appreciate the struggles, failures, successes, and all that lays between the milestones on the long journey of this life.
As we come upon Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, I find that I have been musing on Jesus and “the long way home.” Why didn’t the “House of God” blast into the world and land on Satan, the king of the world – then we would be done with it. The King of Heaven has come, evil is vanquished, we put on the ruby red slippers of salvation, and let’s “rapture” out of here to our heavenly home. “There’s no place like our heavenly home! There’s no place like our heavenly home!”
Why did Jesus take the long way home? Perhaps it is because He is like us in all things except sin. Jesus had his “own long way home,” in which he came to know the will of his heavenly Father – that all be saved no matter what the cost – even life itself. And he came to journey with us on our long way home that we, like Dorothy, would discover the reason to continue on through the cauldron of our life, never alone, ever loved.
I invite you to accompany Jesus on the finals steps of his long way home; come celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter liturgies. There is no place like home.