Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily 11-26-20

Homily for Ordinary Time-34th Week Thursday, 11-26-20, Year A – Thanksgiving Day
READINGS: 1st Reading Sir, 50:21-24; 2nd 1 Cor 1:3-9; Gospel Lk 17:11-19
Theme: Thankful for Faith & Hope

A young boy was talking one day with his father, “Father, will you always be here for me?” The father looked at his boy, put his hand on his shoulder and turning to face him said, “Of course, you know I will.” The boy was reassured and smiled at this father. But just as the boy was about to leave to go play, his father reached for him and pulled him back and said, “But, there will be times when you will have to be without me, you know, on your own for a little while. It is in those times that I hope you’ve paid attention and listened to what I’ve told you about praying to God, being strong, taking care of your mom and how to hold on until I return, right?” The boy nodded quickly in recognition, but impatiently, as his friends were waiting for him outside. The father rubbed his head with a smile and sent him on his way.

Some years went by and the boy became a young man. He was very close to his parents and loved them very much. One evening when the family was at the dinner table, the conversation turned to the father’s work and a business trip that was coming up for him. They spoke of the timing and where he was going but that it would not be for very long, just a few days. The young man said, “Dad, can I come with you? I think it would be fun and maybe I could learn a little about what you do.” The father told him “That’s a great idea son but not this trip, maybe the next one.”

The time came for the father to leave and both his wife and son hugged him and said their farewells. The father said, “Son, when I return you can help me finish building that new dining room table just in time for Thanksgiving dinner and maybe, just maybe, I’ll let you carve the turkey this time.” The son nodded and smiled and began to think about the time they would spend in the shop and at Thanksgiving dinner with all the extended family. It was one of his favorite times of the year.

The next day the young man was helping his mother with chores when the phone rang. The mother picked up the phone said hello and listened. Her face turned ashen and she began to cry, unable to put words together. The young man new something serious had happened but waited anxiously for answers. After a short time, his mother slowly hung up the phone, wiping tears from her eyes. She sat the young man down and explained to him that his father had died in a car crash going to a work site.

The young man was stunned. His life was turned upside down in an instant. As the news began to sink in, he wondered what he would do next. He hugged his mother and consoled her. He thought back to that conversation he had with his father years ago, remembering what he had said to him about having to be alone for a while and hold on until he returned. But now, that is all changed because his father would never return.

They never had Thanksgiving that year with the funeral and all. His mother had great difficulty accepting his death. She fell into despair, turned to alcohol, lost her job and was angry at God. The young man had to put his college career on hold to take a job with a local construction firm in town, allowing him to come home at lunch time to check on his mother. He took care of the house, his mother and kept his faith in God and in his father’s teachings about what to do when his father was gone. But in the back of his mind he knew that his father was never coming back, and it weighed heavy on his heart.

Years went by and the young man got married and had a family of his own. His mother recovered from her depression and helped her son by watching the grandkids and volunteering at the shelter in town. As time went on, he became a grandfather himself. With his wife by his side, they said goodbye to his mother who died in peace and was buried next to his father. As he looked at the graves of his parents, the feeling of being alone washed over him. It was during these times, as in the past, he would draw on God’s grace and his father’s words. He realized how God and his father’s words had sustained him through all these years and he was thankful for them.

Eventually he himself was nearing the end of the wonderful life he had known and was so thankful for. As he began to slip away, with his family at his side, he could feel his granddaughter’s hand in his own and her words, I love you Papa.

As those words echoed into the distance, the grandfather felt his earthly life begin to slip away. Just as darkness was closing in on him, he suddenly felt a warmth he hadn’t known for years. It was his father’s hand on his shoulder. The father pulled his son close to him and embraced him and said, “See I told you I would return.” As they began to walk, the son saw the dining room table they were going to finish so many years ago. The table was immaculate, complete with carved edges, sturdy pedestals, intricate dove tailed joints and colorful inlays all around. On the table was a huge turkey and all the side dishes you could imagine.

The son was amazed and said to his father, “You did a beautiful job finishing our table and preparing the turkey and all of fixings! His father looked at him with a love only a father could have for his son and said, “Son, I didn’t finish the table or carve the edges, or build the pedestals or dove tails or any of the inlays. I did not prepare the turkey and all the sides dishes either. Son, you did. Through all the years when you prayed to God, cared for our family, was a good man, husband, father and most of all, a son, all this you see here, was all created by you. It was your life of love in the sight of God while on Earth that created all of this. 

As the son stood there in utter humility looking at his mother smiling at him and all of his relatives and friends who went before him around the table, Jesus came to him and handed him the carving knife and said, “Son, will you do the honors?”

Be thankful for all you have, for those who left footprints on your heart or showed you how to live a good life through their example. And most of all, be thankful to God for putting those people in your lives. One day, how you learned to live your life from those around you will be returned to you in grand design in heaven.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL