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Thankfulness and Generosity

January 18, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

January 18, 2015
John 1:35-42
Fr. George Smiga

All in all, I think I was a rather average child. There were some things I could do rather well, but there were other times where I simply got stuck. An example of this happened just before I entered the first grade. My mother decided that it was time for me to learn how to tie my own shoes. So she carefully showed me how to make a loop with one of the laces, wrap the other one around it, tuck it underneath, and pull. I watched her do this and tried many times, but I just couldn’t pull it off. I remember sitting for days on our front porch trying to tie my shoes but always ending up with two loose shoelaces in my hands.

It took Mrs. Peterson to save me. Mrs. Peterson rented the second floor of our house. Coming home from the supermarket one day, she found me on the front porch, hopelessly trying to tie my shoes. She stopped. “Trouble?” she said. “I just can’t do it,” I said. Mrs. Peterson set down her groceries and knelt down in front of me, facing my untied shoe. She said, “Well, you can also tie your shoe this way.” She made two loops, one with each shoelace, crossed them, tucked one underneath, and pulled. I watched her, and on the second attempt I succeeded. “Thank you,” I said, and I ran to tell my mother. Now, I think I could still be sitting there on my front porch today, trying to tie my shoes, if Mrs. Peterson had not come along. She had a piece of information that I needed in order to proceed with my life.

Something similar is happening in today’s first reading from the Book of Samuel. Samuel would eventually become one of the great prophets of Israel: a spokesman for God. But in this story, Samuel is stuck. He simply cannot figure out who is calling him. Every time he hears the voice of the Lord, he runs to Eli and says, “You called me.” Every time Eli sends him back. This happens over and over again. It is finally Eli who figures out what’s going on. He tells Samuel that it is the Lord who is calling him and that he should respond and listen. Samuel accepts Eli’s wisdom. The next time he hears the voice, he opens his heart to the Lord and begins a new life as God’s prophet.

This story of Samuel is calling us to remember how much of our lives are dependent on people who, at key moments, showed us how to see. They might have showed us how to do something or understand something or believe in something. They might be examples of how to succeed or change or dream. They might be members of our own families or close friends, or simply people who step into our lives for a moment or two. But each one gives us something essential that allows our life to continue.

This story of Samuel, then, leads us to thankfulness and to generosity. It asks us to remember who are the people in our life that gave us a gift that allowed our life to develop. Who are the people who inspired us to enter a certain career or showed us how to love or how to believe in God? It asks us to remember those people and be thankful for them, for without them we would not be the people who we are.

The story of Samuel also calls us to generosity. Each person here today has something that they know and believe, that someone else is waiting to hear. We do not need to be perfect people to share those gifts. Eli, after all was not a perfect person. He was a corrupt priest whose ministry was about to come to an end. But he knew this—he knew that it was the Lord who was calling Samuel. So he shared it, and his generosity made all the difference. All of us here have truths that we know and believe. We must be willing to share them with others just as others shared them with us.

Mrs. Peterson has been dead now for over thirty years, but I still remember her in the morning when I tie my shoes. Her simple act of generosity allowed my life to go forward. Remember the people in your lives who gave you the gifts that made you who you are. Be thankful for them. Allow their generosity to move you to share what you know and what you believe with others.

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