William Bradford (Roger Rees) cites and paraphrases chapters 11-12 of Hebrews which is at the heart of the Pilgrim's faith. (1:59)
Mayflower Pilgrims Unprepared
One of the most cherished events in our history was the landing of the Mayflower on these shores. One hundred and two Pilgrims stepped from their storm-tossed little ship with unsteady legs and huge relief.
William Bradford, Governor of the colony, would later write:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. By faith the elders obtained good report, and through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Abel. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. These all died in faith; not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off -- and being persuaded of them, and embracing them -- and confessing that they were but strangers and pilgrims on the Earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek another country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return. But they desired a better country -- that is, a heavenly one: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: and he hath prepared for them a city.
It is difficult to imagine, however, a group of people more ill-suited to a life in the wilderness, according to Bill Bryson in his book, Made in America.
Many of these Pilgrims packed as if they had misunderstood the purpose of the trip.
They found room for sundials and candle-snuffers, a drum, a trumpet, and a complete history of the country of Turkey.
One man named William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and thirteen pairs of boots. Y
They failed to bring a single cow or horse, plow or fishing line. Among the professions represented on the Mayflower’s manifest were two tailors, a printer, several merchants, a silk worker, a shopkeeper, and a hatter–not exactly the most appropriate occupations when one thinks of surviving in a hostile environment.
With the uncertain exception of their captain, Miles Standish, probably none in the party had ever tried to bring down a wild animal. Hunting in seventeenth-century Europe was a sport reserved for the aristocracy. Even those who labeled themselves farmers generally had scant practical knowledge of husbandry, since “farmer” in the 1600s, and for some time afterward, signified an owner of land rather than one who worked it.
These Pilgrims were, in short, dangerously unprepared for the rigors ahead, and they demonstrated their incompetence in the most dramatic possible way: by dying in droves. Six expired in the first two weeks, eight the next month, seventeen more in February, a further thirteen in March. By April, when the Mayflower set sail back to England, just fifty-four people, nearly half of them children, were left to begin the long work of turning this tenuous toehold into a self-sustaining colony.
Today’s parable and illustration is a harsh warning that Jesus expects us to be prepared.
What are we thinking of when we spend our lives accumulating funds for old age, but ignore the spiritual side of our lives so that life after death will be worth living?
No one parable captures the whole truth
Fr. George Smiga in his homily Against Presuming Too Much (2005) points out that "many passages in the scriptures that present our Lord in a much more flexible attitude. I could point to passages that show that Christ would be willing to make allowances, that there would be divine mercy to overcome any of our deficiencies."
Hence, it is fitting that the Pilgrims who stayed behind were helped by the Natives (e.g. First Thanksgiving).
Clarendon Learning (6:53)
Sing Along (3:09)
American Experience PBS (6:18)