One of the greatest challenges a preacher has it is to give a homily at a family mass. There is an old saying "If you preach to the adults through the children you will reach neither." You do not want to preach just to children and you do not want to preach just to adults if it is family mass. One solution I came up with is to give a homily in story form and then encourage the children and the adults to discuss it after mass. Here is the one for Sunday November 26, 2017.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a young orphan who roamed the streets of the city. He was about twelve years old. His parents died in a tragedy long ago and he was left an orphan to beg in the streets.
Eventually, he learned to steal and through stealing was left able to support himself well as long as he could avoid getting caught. This was a skill he learned on his own on which he had become quite adept.
It started when Mrs. Johnson’s saw some of her pies go missing. She baked them daily for her husband and children. One day one or two began to disappear, she often made three or four. She had no idea where her pies disappeared to, that is until she saw the back of the thieving boy as he ran away with one of them. She chased him down the street, but to no avail. He was faster than she was and was able to escape with her freshly baked apple pie. Laughing all the way.
He also stole from Mr Grey’s produce store. This was more difficult, but he was able to sneak around when the man was busy with other customers and steal the apples and bananas on display in front.No one was able to catch him as Mr. Grey and some of his customers chased him through the town square. Even the constable could not catch him as he blew his whistle loudly.
His thieving angered many in the land and they worked hard to find him, but alas, he was so good at getting away they failed to catch him over and over again.
Eventually, as is always the truth the inevitable happens, he was caught. It was that day that Sheriff Heidly, who was constantly on the lookout for the young thief was walking through the town square and the orphan was running with some of Mrs. Olson’s tomatoes. He was not as careful as he had been in the past and he ran right into the angry sheriff.
He was arrested, tried and put in jail a long way into the country.
The people were happy to be rid of him and never did anyone hear of him again.
One day, many years later, a stranger came to town. He actually only visited for a day, but from that moment on the town was never the same. The stranger looked somber. He was tall, somewhat lanky. He was well dressed but had a stare that seemed to go right to the core of your soul. When he spoke, he said only one thing: “Remember the orphan.”
He was passing through and indeed by nightfall he no longer was seen in the town. But the stranger’s visit upset the townsfolk so much they decided to hold a meeting.
Some thought the man was the orphan all grown up. Others thought he was someone who knew of the orphan after he was in prison. It was there that the sheriff first tried to calm every down as the meeting began. The orphan had been long gone and some even said that he was still prison. This was nothing to get upset about.
Mr. Groguen said he did not know any news about the orphan and even laughed, if the stranger was him he would have at least tried to steal another one of Mrs. Johnson’s pies. Everybody laughed.
Then Mr. Dunwoody spoke. Everyone felt uncomfortable about him, but shouldn’t they? He was after all the undertaker.
You have forgotten, said the mortician, “That there may be a lesson to learn here,” and then he looked over to Mr. Groguen. “And it is not how to get more of Mrs. Johnson’s pies.”
He walked to the front of the hall. “Why did the orphan go to prison?” He asked.
“He was a thief!” Mr. Grey stamped his foot as he spoke out.
“And why was he a thief?” Asked Mr. Dunwoody.
“He had no parents.” chimed Mrs. Olson.
“Right.” said the mortician. “I buried them long ago and even then we worried what would happen to the boy.”
“But he was a bad boy.” called Mr. Greene.
“But was he?” said the mortician. “Did any of us care about him. Did Mrs. Johnson bake a pie for him or just complain when he stole one of her pies baked for others?”
Mrs. Johnson looked embarrassed as her face became flush.
The room went silent.
“When the sheriff arrested him, did any lawyer in town volunteer to help him?” the mortician looked right at the Attorney Cotton, esquire, the only lawyer in the town. He looked to the ground.
“Did any of us even care to visit him in prison with the interest of rehabilitating him?” Mr. Dunwoody looked all around the room all were silent. “I suspect that the stranger knew the way we treated the boy and came to warn us of our sin.
"How do we know that the stranger was not an angel come to warn us that our treatment of the boy may have an effect on where we spend eternity? Maybe even, that the boy is the one who would judge us and let’s face it: that may not go well for us now will it?” He looked right into the eyes each member of the crowd.
“Do you think that the boy was Jesus in disguise?” asked Mr. Groguen.
Many in the room gasped. “Everyone is Jesus in disguise now is that not what your Bible says to be true?” the mortician responded.
You could hear a pin drop.
“Let us go and repent of our treatment of the boy and maybe God will have mercy on us.” Mrs. Johnson stood and spoke to the whole room.
No longer was there heard any laughing in the auditorium.
The people left in silence and starting the next day they all remembered the words of the mortician. “Everyone is Jesus in disguise, now is that not true?”
From that day on to this very day never was there an uncared for anybody in the whole land. They all recognized that everyone is Jesus is disguise, every one.