Thanksgiving – The Homily
From the diary of a Christian man:
My troubles began when I was just a young teenager. I was kidnapped and taken to England, where I learned to speak English and taught the people in Englamd about America. After nine years, I sailed back home again. However, only days later, I was kidnapped a second time.
An evil ship commander, Captain Hunt, tricked me and 26 others. He chained us in the bottom of the boat and took us across the ocean and sold us as slaves. By God’s providence, I was purchased by a Catholic monk, who took me to Spain.. He told me about the god-man named Jesus.
The compassionate monks eventually helped get me back to England, where I found passage on a ship to America. We stopped in Maine, where I saw a man wearing clothes and moccasins – a fellow countryman like myself. He said that his name was Samoset. I greeted him with a raised hand to show friendship. “I am Tisquantum,” I said, but “the English call me Squanto. I am returning to the Patuxet tribe, no longer a slave.” I was glad for Samoset’s friendship in the weeks to come.
At last, our ship pulled into the harbor. I slid down the rope over the side of the ship and into the waiting canoe. The land of my childhood looked deserted, but I thought I knew why.They probably saw this English boat coming and hid in the woods. I’ll call my family. They will answer.
All the familiar places were still there. I ran into the woods calling my father and mother, anticipating a joyful reunion.
I called the familiar Indian whistle, the one that sounded like a frightened bird.
Still there was silence.
My heart began to thump. I raced through my land, searching wildly for my tribe. Samoset’s birdcall beckoned me to him. I found him squatting over something in a clearing. I gasped at what I saw there. Human bones and skulls were scattered on the ground. Samoset got up and walked away, disappearing into the woods. I searched until sunset, finding more bones, a pair of moccasins, and a few arrowheads. Finally Samoset returned with the worst news. The chiefs of the next village had told him of a Great Plague of 1616. The entire Patuxet tribe had died in the plague. There hadn’t even been time to honor the dead with a proper burial.
I stumbled into the darkness and fell to my knees as I realized I was the only one of my family still alive. Why? Why was I even born? To break my mother’s heart? Does the God of the English care about the Indian?
For weeks I wandered the land of my childhood, sad and alone. Finally, I joined the Wampanoag tribe. Kind chief Massasoit welcomed me, but no place felt like home without my family.
Samoset called one day.
“Squanto, have you heard? The English have come again and have settled in the land of the Patuxet. They are peaceful but barely surviving. They need an interpreter. Do you want to go meet them?” I wasn’t sure I could trust them, but I went along. They were surprised to find that we spoke English! Before we left, Governor John Carver asked me to stay with his people and interpret for him whenever he wanted to talk to “King Massasoit,” as he called our chief. I agreed to stay.
The pilgrims were hungry and had no idea how to survive in our great land. For the first time in years, I felt like I belonged. Could it be that God’s purpose for my life was now unfolding?
I smiled at the wonder on their faces when I returned from the river one evening with my arms full of eels. At sunset, we cooked them over an open fire. The boys couldn’t wait to try catching their own fat, juicy eels the next day.That evening every boy had at least two eels to bring home to his family. As we ate supper together, I said to Governor Carver “April is corn-planting month. You must wait until the bud of the white oak has reached the size of a mouse’s ear before you plant corn. Then you’ll have enough to last you through next winter.”
Governor Carver leaned forward and said, “You know how to plant enough food to last a whole winter? Maybe our people won’t starve this year thanks to you, Squanto.”
Could this be why I was born? Finally, I had a purpose in life. Finally, God had shown me where I belonged.
Governor Carver passed away that year and didn’t get to see the corn growing taller than the men. The new governor, William Bradford, was so pleased with the food supply in the fall of 1621 that he invited Chief Massasoit and the Wampanoags to a great feast. Bradford declared it “a day of public Thanksgiving.” It started with prayer and lasted three whole days. We ate and played games. I thought about my new life, a life of many twists and turns, of dark times but with good fortune as well. There was a reason for all that had happened to me. I could see now why I was born and all that had happened to bring me here – among these people – at this time.
My family was gone, but the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims were my family now. The Pilgrims and their God, Jesus, adopted me
— and for that, I could truly give thanks.
Audio version of the homily is here: