The lover of souls: A homily for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

soulsA few scientific facts.  I read not long ago that scientists now believe that the universe is 14 billion years old.  They say that, in the course of those 14 billion years, light has not traveled to each part. That is interesting because light travels at the speed of 671 million mph.  In all those years, light, even traveling at that rapid speed, has not had time to make it to the universe’s end.  Fascinating how wild the universe is, how big it is, how amazing it is. The first reading, from Wisdom, talks about it.  And yet this whole thing, the entire universe in all its wonder and majesty, is nothing but a grain of sand compared to the Lord.

And that Lord, our God, is called in our first reading the “lover of souls.”  There is nothing in the whole of creation as important to God as your soul, as the soul of every son and daughter of God.  He cares about nothing as much as our souls.

For evidence that God is truly the “lover of souls” Wisdom says he is, all we need to do is look to our Gospel.  It is the story of Zacchaeus, a short man, a man no one liked. He had no one to call a friend. He probably felt ashamed for who and what he was.  Yet he, like them all, wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus walking through town.

And that’s when it happened. Jesus surprised the crowds and summoned forth the biggest sinner of them all, the most insignificant in the crowd, the shortest, the most hated and despised, the most controversial, the most detested man. God, the  lover of souls, cared even about that wretch and his soul.

God cares about your soul. He loves it more than anything in this crazy beautiful universe. Jesus’ body the Church continues to speak out for souls and pray for them and love them–the soul of the unborn baby that so many want to slaughter through the travesty, the atrocity, the idiocy, the crime of abortion. We the Church care about the soul of the great great grandfather who wants to end his life by assisted suicide.  We care about the soul of the homeless man we all pass by or the man in jail no one ever cares to visit. We care about the soul of the homeless, hungry, desperate immigrant that humanity in its sin wants to wall out.  We care about the souls of the proud and the arrogant.  We care about the souls of children and youth, the old and the older, the popular and the not, the Gentile and Jew, the woman and man. We must care for every soul as God, that lover of souls does. And as last weekend’s reading said, God doesn’t play favorites and nor should we.

God is truly the lover of souls!  And so too must we be.

We are about to enter into the month of All Souls.  We remember our loved ones who have gone before us, we let ourselves be inspired by them and spurred on by them. We pray for them in case they are in purgatory.  When I die, I’d rather have people praying for my sorry soul than celebrating my life.  Celebrate we must, but pray we must first.  We pray for our beloved dead, the souls that surround us.  Right now, our church building is surrounded by luminaries that memorialize our loved ones. It is a beautiful image. Because it is true–the souls surround us all the time.  They help us, that cloud of witnesses, and thanks be to God for that!

We thank God for being the lover of souls.  May we also love souls. All of them.