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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul MacNeil

Homily, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 3rd, 2024

There’s no place like home

One of my favourite fantasies is the Wizard of Oz. When you think of it, there are some remarkably Christian themes in it. Perhaps the most significant or obvious is the conversion of a young girl. She feels alone and afraid, isolated, bullied, and frustrated with life. No one was paying enough attention to her because everyone was busy with their things. We’ve all been there.

I came across a very sad story recently about a parent who learned the hard way about how distracted he was. He used to play a little game with his young 7-year-old daughter. If you could have a superpower, what would that be? She said she wanted to be able to talk to animals. Why that? "Because when you and Mommy are on your phones, I’ll have someone to talk to."

What was Dorothy’s superpower that she wanted? She just wanted to go home. She missed her family even though she sometimes felt abandoned by them. And her friends, too. The cowardly lion wanted courage, the Tin Man wanted a heart, and the scarecrow wanted a brain. So they went on a journey searching for a wizard who could grant them what they wanted.

And then Dorothy and her companions met the wizard, the great and powerful Oz, a frightening figure in his glorious temple surrounded by smoke and thunder, just like God on Mount Sinai. He gave us a path to follow. Deuteronomy:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live!"

And so the wizard gave Dorothy a difficult path as well, the most difficult of all, she had to go and confront the one thing that she was most afraid of, the witch's broom in this case. And in the process, she was even abducted, only to be rescued by her friends.

In a way, perhaps this dark search represents the Israelite people in the desert, desperately in search of salvation, of a messiah, of a way out of their misery and slavery. In the process of trying to find that Messiah, they created all kinds of religiosity, corruption, and superstition. Of course, not all of it was bad, but Jesus approved most of it. “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” That search led the Jewish people to the temple, but there was something more critical behind that temple. Jesus came to reveal to us who God was.

Just like Dorothy and her friends. When she returned to the temple with the broom, having completed this perilous task, the great and powerful Oz was revealed, and Toto removed and tore the veil in two. Jesus's turning out the money changers was not only about a challenge to corruption; it was like little Toto pulling back the curtain to reveal the real Wizard. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Pay no attention to Jesus, crucify him, crucify him. Ever thought of it that way?

When Dorothy encountered the real wizard, she discovered that she already had the superpower she needed to get home; it was always in her. She was, in fact, already home, sleeping comfortably in her bed because it was all a dream. It was the same with her friends. At first, they didn't want to do what the wizard asked them to do because it was difficult, and they didn’t understand why they had to do it, but they did it just the same. In doing it, they discovered they already had the superpowers they were asking for. It was the cowardly lion who led the charge to rescue Dorothy, the scarecrow who came up with the plan to save her, and the tin man who appealed to his heart out of his love for Dorothy, his friend.

Maybe in some ways, Dorothy represents us, still trying to do what God wants us to do, still trying to discover his will so that we can have whatever superpower we think we need.

Or, maybe Dorothy represents Jesus, being held captive by the forces in this world who would rather we not be free, that we don’t see Jesus, encounter him, and allow him to show us the way to our freedom.

Or maybe Dorothy represents our neighbour, trapped by sadness, loneliness and despair. When you go to the Vision Cafe for coffee and cookies, you’ll see many opportunities to serve right here in this parish. Maybe we, too, can reach out to Dorothy, save her, and bring her home. We’re her four friends, and instead of Fonthill Frank, think of Fonthill Dorothy. And in the process of showing her the path of life, we, too, can go home. Or realize through Jesus Christ, who dwells in our hearts through faith, that we are already home.

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