A phrase keeps popping up these days, in that “trending” sort of way. Here in an ad, there in a column. It crops up in conversations. I think it might be code. I do not know.
The phrase? “Saving souls.” It suddenly feels like a mission.
Yet the phrase seems … can I say? … a touch arrogant. Who am I to presume that this soul or that one needs to be saved? Perhaps this soul or that one is more saved than mine.
And when, I wonder, is a soul saved? Is it a process? Or is there a moment when someone takes you in the back room and puts it to you and you pretty much say Yes, just to get out of that claustrophobic space.
Does saying Yes seal the deal? I don’t know. It just feels so … disconnected from real relationship.
Should I go in search of souls to save? Or merely presume that these people riding the bus with me, these people sitting at the cafe this Sunday morning, all need to be saved? They are sitting at the cafe rather than worshiping in church. So am I. I worshiped earlier. And maybe they did, too.
What if someone is thinking that I need to be saved, especially in those moments when I do not look particularly brilliant or kind?
“Saving souls” could easily sound like “permission to pass judgment.” And then I think of Pope Francis’ humble statement, “Who am I to judge?”
I am convinced that this Christian life is not about judging. It is not about saving. This Christian life is about loving.
Loving Paul, in his forties, sitting this afternoon on the sidewalk alongside the transit center. He has a complex mouth and sky blue eyes. He is not asking for anything. I am loving him as he says he’s pretty well fixed for food today, and waiting for the first of the month when his check will come through and he can go to California for his drug rehab program.
Loving Pete, the older gent a few paces on, who, golly, would welcome a sandwich and a bottle of water. “It’s warming up today,” he says, venting his shirt. “But August will be hot.”
Loving the gaunt and skittish man waiting with his bags for the #41 Barger. A sandwich? “Well, that would be fine,” he says. He never quite looks at me. He has room in his bag, he says. And a bottle of water? Sure. God bless you.
As I turn to walk toward Bay L for my bus, a young woman sitting on a bench says, “That was kind of you.” She has been watching me.
I sit down next to her. “It’s something I do on Sunday afternoons,” I say.
“I know what it’s like to be hungry,” she says.
I start loving her, too, and wonder if she could use a sandwich, the last in my backpack.
“I live at the Mission,” she says, “which helps a lot, because I’m expecting twins.”
She rubs her belly.
“My name is Maria,” I tell her. “What do you like to be called?”
“Cassie,” she says. Cassie talks about her twins, due in September. “I pray with them. But at the Mission, when we have meditation, I have to be quiet.”
We each talk about how we read the Gospels. She loves the Gospels. She loves Jesus.
Does Cassie’s soul need to be saved? How about the soul of the gaunt and skittish man waiting for the #41 Barger? Or the soul of Pete? Or Paul who is waiting for drug rehab?
How would I know? I am not on a mission to save souls. My mission is the love and care of souls, making sure we all go together, at least on this Sunday afternoon, into the holiness of God.
Thomas Merton writes: The gate of heaven is everywhere.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.