Going back home is not a reality for most of my readers. Most of you still live at home and won't be leaving for a year or more.
I have been away from home for six and a half years (aside from a few summer breaks and other short trips).
Believe me, it sounds much longer than it feels.
This past weekend, we loaded up the car for some time in Tiffin with my family. Tiffin is a small town surrounded by fields and other smaller towns (some without a traffic light, most with one). We're talking, rural and very small town (people around here are always talking about how Cincinnati isn't really that big...perspectives are so different).
In my town you will find two Catholic churches and one Catholic High School. The kids from the parish schools feed directly into the High School. This means that for my entire childhood, High School was the pinnacle of existence. It dominated all conversation. "Did you know he was dating her?" "How 'bout them Senecas!" "Basketball team will go a long way this year."
High School dominated almost every Mass at my home parish I attended before High School and while I was in it.
Your proper response here is, "What?!"
In grade school and junior high, I blatantly remember thinking, as I looked around at all of the High School kids at Mass, that High Schoolers have it all. They have status...and by status, I think I meant: a girlfriend, a car, popularity, and a varsity letter jacket. In my little mind, that was everything you could ever want. And, when I got to High School myself, that is what I pursued. And did a good job of it. I became the idol for the younger kids, for the town, etc.
Now, only six and a half years later, this past Sunday, I was standing in Mass looking around (not unlike I did growing up).
Everyone looked incredibly old. That was my first thought. My second thought was, do I look that old after 6.5 years?
The third thought was what started to get me.
I realized midway through Mass that I spent all of my childhood aspiring to a certain status, and all of my High School time living the status...which was greatly affirmed by the praise I received from so many sitting in the pews nearby. I did this because I wanted to be unforgettable. What a genuine desire, right? I can't think of a single person that I know who says, "Man, I just want to be forgotten." No, that is unnatural. All of us want to be loved, affirmed and remembered. We want to be unforgettable.
But the world forgets. Those people who admired my status just 6.5 years ago have forgotten me, to the point that they may not even recognize me, and certainly have forgotten me to the point that I am no longer worth approaching after Mass.
I mean, how disheartening is that. I recognized in the course of just one Mass that I had spent the first 18 years of my existence pursuing a status that would make me unforgettable, just to realize harshly that I had been forgotten, replaced. (Recall here the great fear surrounding the toys in the Toy Story series).
But, grace abounds all the more. As I walked up to receive the Eucharist, weighed down by these thoughts, I understood something deeper than ever before.
"But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not for I have called you by name: you are mine. Fear not, for I am with you" (Is. 43: 1, 5).
I am unforgotten by only One. This desire that seems to be such a part of my nature, this desire to be unforgettable, this desire that led me to attain a certain worldly status that would "stand forever," cannot be satisfied but in the One who created me. The one who calls me by name, who formed me and knows me.
I am but a blip, yes in the scope of the history of the universe (as we learned in the video presentation on Sunday), but even in the history of my tiny hometown. Present then gone.
But not on the screen of the Father. I hope we can all begin to realize what this means and how it changes the way we perceive ourselves.