First Communion: Serving Jesus

Posted in: Homilies

April 15, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

April 15, 2018
Luke 24: 35-48
Fr. George Smiga

My dad was born in Pennsylvania. When he came to Cleveland for work, he stayed for a while in a boarding house in East Cleveland. East Cleveland, in those days, was an exclusive address. The woman who ran the boarding house was Mrs. Breslin. She liked my dad a lot and he liked her. So, even after he moved out and married my mom, he would often come back to visit her. When I was about the age of those making their First Communion today, our family would visit Mrs. Breslin at least once a month. It was not fun. By this time, Mrs. Breslin was old and confined to a wheelchair. When I would come up to say hello, she would grab me by the cheek and shake my head. “Oh, you’re so cute!” she would say. Then she would give me a big kiss on my face and because Mrs. Breslin had whiskers, it tickled. Yuck! I couldn’t get home quick enough.

Because she was confined to the wheelchair, Mrs. Breslin was always asking me to do things. “George, go and get my purse out of the bedroom. Go into the kitchen and bring me a glass of water.” Sometimes when she asked me to do things, I would pretend I didn’t hear her and keep playing with my toys. My dad noticed this. And one day when we came home from a visit, he said, “We have to talk. I know that sometimes you pretend that you don’t hear Mrs. Breslin when she asks you to do something. This has to stop. I want you to jump up and do what she wants, whenever she asks you.” “But dad”, I said, “she asks me to a lot of things.” “Yes she does”, he said. “That’s because she can’t do them herself and you can.” “I know,” I said. “I’ll do it because you asked me.” “No, not just because I ask you, because Jesus asks you. Don’t you remember that we know that whatever we do for anyone, for someone like Mrs. Breslin, we do for Jesus.” “I remember”, I said. “So I’ll do it, for you and for Jesus.”

“Good”, my dad said. But then a strange smile came over his face. And he said, “Also, you should know, that if you make friends with Mrs. Breslin, she might introduce you to some of her friends.” Then he went away. And I said to myself, “I don’t want to meet any of Mrs. Breslin’s friends. I don’t want to meet more old people in wheelchairs with whiskers.” That’s what I thought; but I was wrong. So I did what I promised my dad I would do. Whenever Mrs. Breslin asked me to do anything, I would jump up and do it right away.

And after a while, she said to me, “George, I am really thankful that you have been so helpful to me. Would you like to meet my friend, Clarence?” “Sure”, I said, not too excited. “Good”, she said. And then she gave me two walnuts, whole walnuts, still in the shell. “I don’t like walnuts,” I said. “These are not for you,” said Mrs. Breslin, “These are for Clarence. Will you wheel me into the backyard?” So I did, expecting to see some old man in a wheelchair on the lawn, waiting for his nuts. But no one was there. Mrs. Breslin said, “Now sit down on this step and be very still. Give me those walnuts.” So I did, and she took them and clicked them together three times. Click, click, click. Nothing happened. So she did it again. Click, click, click.

Then I saw something coming down out of the tree in the backyard onto the lawn. It was a big, brown squirrel. And it ran up to Mrs. Breslin and me. It sat down about five feet in front of us. “George,” said Mrs. Breslin, “This is Clarence. Clarence, this is George.” Now I could tell that Clarence wasn’t too excited about meeting me. He had his eyes on those walnuts. So Mrs. Breslin took out one of the walnuts and placed it in her hand. “Stay very still,” she said. She held the walnut out on her palm. Clarence came very slowly, reached over, picked up the walnut, bit it open with his teeth, ate the inside, and then went back and sat down. He knew there was another walnut. “George, it’s your turn now.” So I took the walnut and held out my hand. “Be very still,” she said. I held it in my palm. Clarence came, took it out of my hand, cracked it open, and ate what was inside. Then he gave me a little nod and ran back up the tree. “Well,” said Mrs. Breslin, “What do you think of that?” I told her that I thought it was the best thing ever. Ever after that, I never complained about visiting Mrs. Breslin because she and Clarence and I became the best of friends.

In today’s gospel, Jesus shows his disciples his hands and his feet. He does this to remind them that they need to be his hands and feet to others—they need to do for others what others cannot do for themselves. Those making their First Communion today remind us that every time we share this meal, we commit ourselves to be Jesus’s hands and feet to others. We are called to reach out in our families, among our friends, in our schools, and serve others in Jesus’s name. When you do that, you should know that whatever you do for someone else, you do for Jesus. And—if you’re very lucky—you might even get to feed a squirrel.

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