The Lord and Lover of Souls

(October 30, 2022)

Bottom line: Jesus is the Lord and lover of souls. He calls even the most wretched sinners. That gives hope to ordinary bumblers, like you and me.

Last Sunday we finished the first unit on Revelation - how God reveals himself through creation. Before beginning the second unit (on the Trinity) I'd like to briefly sum up what creation tells us about the Creator. That's what we see in today first reading. It begins:

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.

Physicists say the universe began about 14 billion years ago with something as tiny as a dot, then expanded into something unimaginably large.

God didn't light the fuse on the Big Bang, then sit back to watch what would happen. A better comparison would be a tiny human embryo inside a mother. The mother is involved at every stage. Wisdom says:

"For you love all things that are...And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?"

God cares for even those creatures that appear ugly to us - like a slug or even a wretched human being. We see that with Jesus and Zacchaeus.

I was trying to think of someone universally despised like a tax collector was in Jesus' day. The best comparison I could think of is a Klansman. If someone came up for Communion wearing a racist insignia, I would say, "wait, we need to talk."

When Jesus sees the hated tax collector, he says, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."

One of my heroes is the famous African American blues musician, Daryl Davis. Back in the sixties when Daryl was 10-years-old, he joined an all white Cub Scout pack in Belmont, Massachusetts. A racist man saw Daryl and threw a rock. Others joined in, shouting racial slurs. The pack leaders immediately formed a protective ring around Daryl. This incident led Daryl to an in-depth study of the origins of racist attitudes.

Fast forward to 1983, Daryl is performing at a bar in Maryland. A white patron impressed by his music, invites him to a drink. In the course of the conversation the man admits he is a Klansman. Daryl is skeptical until the man shows his KKK membership card. To make a long story short, the two become friends and the man gives Daryl contact information on Ku Klux Klan members.

Daryl begins calling Klan leaders asking for interviews for a book he is writing. One of them is Roger Kelly, Imperial Wizard for the state of Maryland. You can imagine Roger's surprise when a black man shows up. Another complicated story, but the two go from impassioned arguments to friendship. Roger invites Daryl to be his daughter's godfather and when Roger leaves the Klan, he gives his robe to Daryl.

Daryl goes on to befriend over 20 KKK members and estimates he is directly or indirectly responsible for over 200 men leaving the Klan. Daryl Davis dramatically illustrates Jesus' love for sinners, even the most wretched.

Now, I still wouldn't welcome a Klansman or an abortionist or a drug dealer to receive Communion, but I would meet with them, especially if they were willing to meet in the confessional. The point is, as we hear in the Wisdom prayer, "you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!"

Jesus is the Lord and lover of souls. He calls even the most wretched sinners. That gives hope to ordinary bumblers, like you and me. Writing to the Thessalonians, St. Paul says, "We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith..." Amen.

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Homily Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus (Audio homily for 31th Sunday, Year C 2016)

How to Pray, Part Four (Audio homily for 31st Sunday, Year C 2013)

From Archives (Homilies for Thirty-First Sunday, Year C):

2019: Zacchaeus, Come Down Quickly
2016: Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus
2013: How to Pray, Part Four: Self-Emptying
2010: Salvation
2007: A Little Man With a Lot to Teach Us
2004: Astonished Gratitude
2001: An Ocean of Mercy

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