May 15, 2011
Fr. George Smiga
Gospel: John 10:1-10
I have a question for the young people who will be making their First Communion today: Do you ever remember your parents or your grandparents talking about something that was around before you were born and isn’t around anymore? For example, do you ever remember them talking about a typewriter? A typewriter is a machine that people used to use to make letters on paper before we had computers. Or did you ever hear them talking about a record player? A record player is the way people used to listen to music before we had IPODs. Or did you hear them talking about a VCR? That was the way people used to watch movies before we had DVDs.
Today I want to share with you a story about something that happened to me when I was your age but in order to do so you have to understand about something with which I do not think you are familiar. It was around when I was growing up, but is not around much anymore. When I was in the second grade we had a glider. In fact I think everybody on our street had a glider on their front porch. And I know you’re asking me, “Fr. George, what is a glider?” Well, a glider is kind of a couch, but it’s an outdoor couch. It’s not lawn furniture; it’s not patio furniture. It was a regular couch and it was covered with oil cloth so that if it were to rain it would not be damaged. It had big cushions, and about three or four people could sit on it. And of course, the reason it was called a glider was because this couch could move. It could glide forward and glide backward. It was always a sure sign of summer when my Dad would carry up our glider from the basement and put it on the front porch. Because it meant from then on we could sit on our front porch and enjoy the nice weather and call out to our neighbors as they walked by on the sidewalk. So our glider was an important part of summer.
But the reason I want to tell you about the glider is because of something that I invented when I was your age. It involved the glider. I invented a new game. You see our glider also had a big cloth, a cover that would go over the glider. Of course you know that during the summer we often have a number of thunderstorms, when there is wind and lightening and rain. What I invented was this game: during a thunderstorm I would go out on our front porch and crawl under the cover on the glider. I would be right there in the middle of the storm, with the thunder and the lightening and the rain blowing all around me. But I was dry and safe because I was under the glider cover. It was a lot of fun. And it was a great invention of mine. The only mistake I made was to tell my sister about it.
My sister, Margie, is three years younger than me. As soon as she heard about my new game she said, “I want to go out on the glider during the storm.”
“No way,” I said, “You’re too little. It’s too scary out there. This is not a game that I invented for kids in kindergarten. You have to be in the second grade to be old enough to do this.”
“I can do anything you can do,” she said. “I want to go out on the glider.”
I told her that she couldn’t, but she never listened to me. So, as you would suspect, when the next big storm that came up, I went out and climbed under the cover on the glider. Just before the rain began to fall, my sister crawled in right next to me.
“What are you doing here?” I said. “You’re not old enough. Go back into the house.”
“Make me,” she said. “I’m staying here.”
But before I could begin to argue with her, there was a peal of thunder that was the loudest thing I ever heard. It was so loud it made your teeth rattle. It seemed like the sound was coming right outside the glider on our front porch.
My sister began to cry. “I’m afraid,” she said.
“See,” I told her, “you should have stayed in the house.” But even as I was speaking, it began to rain—not just little drops of rain but buckets of rain coming down, and plenty of wind. It felt like someone was hitting the cover of the glider with a broom. This was wilder than I had ever experienced before. And—even though I would not have admitted it to anybody—I was beginning to be afraid myself. So I said, “Margie, let’s get out of here.” We lifted up the glider cover to go back in the house, but there was so much thunder, rain, and wind that we realized that we were stuck. We would have to stay under the glider cover in the midst of this terrible storm and wait to see what came next.
Well, what came next was a voice. Through the screen door of our porch someone said, “Are you kids out there somewhere?” It was my father’s voice.
I said, “Yes, we’re here under the cover on the glider.”
Just a few minutes later, my dad came under the glider cover too. “What are you kids doing here?” he said. “This is a big storm.”
“It’s a game I invented,” I said to my dad.
“And it’s no fun at all!” my sister said, “It’s scary with the thunder and wind.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said my dad, “this is kind of fun, all of us here underneath the glider cover. I’ll tell you what we should do. Every time it thunders, we should see if we could yell out even louder. And every time the wind makes the glider swing, we should see if we can make it swing faster.” And that’s what we did. For the rest of the storm we kept yelling and rocking on the porch until the storm was over. And I have to admit that even though I was afraid, it was a lot of fun. But it was only fun because my dad was with us.
Now I tell you this story because to this day I remember how in the middle of that storm I knew things would be OK when I heard my dad’s voice. I knew that my dad cared for us and loved us. This is really the message of Jesus in today’s gospel. He wants each of us to know that he cares for us and that he loves us. Jesus calls himself a shepherd. And we are Jesus’ sheep. We are to follow him because we recognize his voice and because we know that he cares and loves us. This is what First Communion is about. At Baptism you became a part of Jesus’ family. Today, at First Communion, when you receive the bread and wine, you take the very presence of Christ within you. In this way Jesus promises you that he will always be with you and he will always guide you.
This is a message that all of us should hear, not just the young people making their First Communion today. There are many storms in life, many things that frighten us and cause us worry. We need to remember who we are and to whom we belong. In the midst of the storms of life we need to listen for Jesus’ voice. He calls out to us to assure us that he is with us. And if he is with us, we do not need to be afraid.