Wednesday, August 15, 2018

HGTV’s ‘House Hunters’: A Metaphor for Life

(Assumption 2018: This homily was given on August 15, 2018 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Revelation 11:19-12:10; Psalm 45; 1 Corinthians 15: 20-27; Luke 1: 39-46.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Assumption 2018]

A 2016 article in the Washington Post called it “one of the most unlikely and unstoppable juggernauts on TV.”  The Post called it that because of its incredible popularity.  At the time 25 million people per month were watching it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if that number has increased in the last two years. 

I’m talking here about the House Hunters program on the HGTV network.

I confess that even I have been drawn into its “web” from time to time.  When I go to Barrington on my day off, every once in a while I’ll find my sister and my brother-in-law watching it—and invariably I’ll get hooked and end up watching it with them.

For those who might never have seen it, this is a reality show in which a couple or family searches for a new home.  In a typical episode, a local realtor presents the prospective buyers with three properties that meet their requirements and are priced within their budget.  Then, at the end of the show, the couple or family chooses one of the three to purchase.  Part of the fun of watching the show is trying to anticipate which property they’ll pick.

By the way, I almost always get it wrong.  I guess that’s one reason why I don’t sell real estate!

Fr. Ray, what does this have to do with Mary and the feast of the Assumption?

Actually, quite a bit.  It also has a lot to do with us.

You see, I have a theory as to why this program, House Hunters, is so popular.  This is just my idea; you can agree with it or disagree with it—but I think it’s true.

I really believe that House Hunters is as popular as it is, because the show is actually A METAPHOR FOR LIFE!

From one perspective, you could say that the purpose of this earthly life is for us to “choose a house”—a house that we will live in for all eternity!  Jesus himself indicated this in John 14 when he said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”

That’s one of the possible choices that we can make: to live in our heavenly Father’s house with Jesus Christ and all the saints for all eternity.

Of course, we can also make another choice: to live forever in another house—a house where it’s very hot (even a lot hotter than it’s been in Westerly in recent weeks).

And just like the couples on the House Hunters television program, we must make a choice!  It’s not optional.  The only difference is they have three houses to choose from on the TV show, but we have only two in life.

Today the Church celebrates the choice that Mary made.  That’s what the feast of the Assumption is all about.  “From this day all generations will call me blessed,” Mary said in her Magnificat.  (We heard that a few moments ago in our gospel reading.)  Because our Blessed Mother never sinned and was always obedient to God, she was blessed at the end of her earthly life by being taken up—soul and body—to the special “dwelling place” that God the Father had prepared for her in his incredibly big house. 

This is the common destiny of all those who leave this life in the state of grace—which is a group that will hopefully someday include all of us!  Although for us it will only happen at the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.  Mary’s soul was never separated from her body, even at the end of her earthly life.  Our souls, on the other hand, are separated from our bodies when we die.  Our bodies then go in the ground; our souls go either to hell or heaven (or to purgatory on their way to heaven).  It’s only at the end of time that our bodies will be raised up and become like the bodies of Jesus and Mary.

Therefore, what happened to our Blessed Mother 2,000 years ago when she was assumed into heaven is an anticipation of what will happen to the rest of the saved at the end of the world.

This should motivate us to examine our consciences each and every day so that we can identify and repent of our sins (if necessary by bringing them to the sacrament of Reconciliation).  In today’s meditation in the Magnificat prayer book, the author—a Carmelite nun from England—says this: “Jesus is what he is because of his life on earth, because he fulfilled to the last iota the Father’s will.  So also Mary is what she is because of her life on earth.  The glory, the holiness, which now shines resplendent in heaven was forged here below.”

Mary, in other words, chose the right house in eternity, by making the right choices in time.  May God help us to repent of our sins and to follow Mary’s example of holiness in our own lives here on earth, so that in the end we will also choose to live forever—body and soul—in the Father’s house and not the hell house.