The Worth of the Soul
by Rev. Francis A. Baker
Third Sunday after Pentecost

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"There shall be joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:10

I

A

This is what theologians call an accidental joy.  The essential joy of heaven  consists in the perfect knowledge and love of God, and is unchangeable and eternal; but the accidental joy of heaven springs from the knowledge of those events in time which display the goodness and greatness of God. 

B

The first of these events was the creation itself, when the hand of God spread the carpet of the earth, and stretched the curtains of the heavens.  Then "the morning stars praised Him together, and all the sons of God made a joyful melody."  (Job 38:7)  After this, the great historic events of the world have been successively the burden of the angelic songs - the unfolding of the plan of Redemption, the birth of Christ, the triumphs of the Church.

C

But lo! of a sudden these lofty strains are stopped.  There is silence for a moment, and then the golden harps take up a new and more tender theme.  What is it that has happened?  What is the event that can interrupt the great harmonies of Heaven, and furnish the Angels with a new song?  In some corner of the earth, in some secret chamber, in some confessional, on some sickbed, in some dark prison, a sinner is doing penance. 

D

He prays, whose mouth had been full of cursing.  He weeps, who had made a mock at sin.  The slave of Satan and of Hell turns back to God and Heaven - and that is the reason of this unusual joy.  It is not that a recovered sinner is really of more account than one who has never fallen, but his recovery from danger is the occasion of expressing that esteem and love for the souls of men which always fills the heart of God and the Angels.  Therefore, as that contrite cry reaches heaven, the Angels are silent, for they know that there is no music in the ear of God like that. 

E

And then, when God has ratified the absolving words of the priest, and restored the contrite sinner to His favor, they cast themselves before the throne, and break forth into loud swelling strains of ecstasy and triumph, while He Himself smiles His sympathy and joy.  O my brethren, what a revelation this is!  A revelation of the value of the soul. 

F

There is great rejoicing on earth when a battle is won, or upon the occasion of the visit of some great statesman or warrior, or when some great commercial enterprise is successful, but these things do not cause joy in Heaven.  The conversion of one soul - it may be a child, or a young man, or an old woman - the conversion of a soul, that it is that makes a gala day in Heaven. 

G

Now, God sees everything just as it is, and if there are such rejoicings in Heaven when a soul is won, what must be the value of a soul!  Let us confess the truth, we have not thought enough of the value of a soul.  We have thought too much of the world, of its pleasures, of its profits, of its honors, but too little of our own souls. 

H

We have not thought of them as God thinks of them.  Let us, then, strive to exalt our ideas, by considering some of the reasons why we should put a high value on our soul.

II

A

In the first place, we should value a human soul, because it is in itself superior to anything else in the world.  The whole world, indeed, with everything in it, is good, for God made it.  But He proceeded in a very different manner in the creation of the material world from what He did when He made the soul.  He made the world, the trees, the rivers, the lights of heaven, the living creatures on the earth, by the mere word of his power.  "God said, Let there be light, and there was light."  (Genesis 1:3)  And God said, "Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind.  And it was so."  (Genesis 1:11) 

B

But when He made the soul, the Scriptures tell us, "He breathed into the face of man and he became a loving soul."  (Genesis 2:7)  By this action we are to understand that God communicated to man a nature kindred to his own divinity.  The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, is the uncreated Spirit of God, eternally breathing forth and proceeding from the Father and the Son; and God, when He breathed into the face of man, signified that He imparted to man a created spirit kindred to his own eternal Spirit. 

C

The Holy Scriptures, indeed, expressly tell us that such was the case:  "Let us make man to our image and our likeness."  (Genesis 1:26-27)  This likeness consisted in the possession of understanding and free will, the power of knowledge and love - the two great attributes of God himself.  You are, then, my brethren, endowed with a soul which raises you immeasurably above God's material creation.  You have a soul made after God's image.  This is the source of your power. 

D

The two things go together in Holy Scripture.  "Let us make man to our image and likeness; and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moves upon the earth."  (Genesis 1:26)  In the state of original innocence, no doubt, this dominion was more perfect, but even now it exists in a great degree.  "Every kind of beast, and of birds, and of serpents, and of the rest is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind."  (James 3:7) 

E

See how a little boy can drive a horse.  See how a dog obeys his master's eye and voice.  See how even lions and tigers become submissive to their keepers.  The elements, often wilder than ferocious beasts, are obedient to you.  The fire warms you and cooks for you, and carries you when you want to travel for business or pleasure.  The wind fans the sails of your vessels, and the waters make a path for them under your feet. 

F

Even the lightning leaps and exalts to do your bidding and to be the messenger of your will.  Thus everything falls down before you and does you homage, and proclaims you lord and master.  What is  the reason that everything thus honors you?  It is on account of the soul that is in you the power of reason and will the godlike nature with which you are endowed.

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III

A

Yes, and your soul is the source of your beauty, too.  In what consists the beauty of a man?  Is it a mere regularity of form and feature?  Do you judge of a man as you do of a horse or a dog?  No; the most exquisitely chiseled features do not interest you, until you see intelligence light up the eye, and charity irradiate the countenance - then you are captivated. 

B

A man may be a perfect model of grace in his movements without exciting you, but when he becomes warm with inspirations of wisdom and virtue, when his words flow, his eye sparkles, his breast heaves, his whole frame becomes alive with the emotions of his soul, then it is you who are carried away, you are ready almost to fall down and worship. 

C

What is the reason that Christian art has so far surpassed heathen art?  that the Madonna is so far more beautiful then the Venus de Medici?  It is because the heathens portrayed mere natural beauty; the Christians portrayed the beauty of the soul.  And if the soul is   so beautiful in the little rays that escape from the body, what must it be in itself? 

D

God has divided his universe into several orders, and we find the lowest in a superior order higher than the highest in the inferior order.   The soul, then, is more beautiful than anything material.  "She is more beautiful  than the soul, and  above all the order of the stars: being  compared  with the light  she  is  found  before it."  (Wisdom 7:29)  O my brethren, do not admire men for their form, or their dress, or their grace, but admire them for the soul that is in them, for that is the true  source of their beauty.

IV

A

It is also the secret of their destiny.  God did not give you this great gift to be idle.  He gave it for a worthy end.  He gave understanding that you might know Him, and free will that you might love Him; and this is the true destiny of man.  You were not made to toil here for a few days, and then to perish.  You were made to know God, to be the friend of God, the companion of God, to think of God, to converse with God, to be united to God here, and then to enjoy God hereafter forever. 

B

Once more, then, I say, do not admire a man for his wealth, or his appearance, or his learning.  Do not ask whether he is poor or rich, ignorant or learned, from what nation he springs, whether he lives in a cabin or palace.  Let it be enough that he is a man, possessed of understanding and free will, spiritual and immortal, with a soul and an eternal destiny. 

C

That is enough.  Bow down before him with respect.  You, respect yourselves - not for your birth, or your station, or your wealth, but for your manhood.  "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches.  But let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)  Yes, my brethren, this is your true dignity, the soul that is in you - the soul, that makes you capable of knowing and loving God.

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V

A

And yet, there is another reason why you should value your souls, besides their intrinsic excellence - I mean, the great things that have been done for them.  Do you ask me what has been done for your souls?  I ask you to look above you, and around you, and under you.  Oh, how fair the earth is!  See these rivers and hills!  Look on the green grass!  Behold the blue vault of heaven!  Well, this is the palace God has prepared for your abode; nay, not for your abode - your dwelling-place  is beyond the skies, where "the light of the moon is as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven-fold, as the light of seven days," - but for the place of your sojourn. 

B

This earth was made for you; and as your destiny is eternal, therefore the earth must have been made to subserve your eternal destiny.  Why does the sun rise in the morning, and go down at night?  It is for you - for your soul.  Why do summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, return so regularly?  It is for you, and your salvation.  The earth is for the elect.  When the elect shall be completed, the earth, having done its work, will be destroyed. 

C

This is the end to which, in God's design, all things are tending.  God does not look at the world, or its history, as we do.  We say: "Here such a great battle was fought;" "there such a celebrated man was born;" "in this epoch such an empire took its rise, such a dynasty came to an end." 

D

But God says: "Here it was a little child died after baptism, and went straight to heaven;" "there it was I recovered that gifted soul, which had wandered away into error and sin, but which afterward became so great in sanctity;" "in such an age it was that I lost that great nation which fell away from the faith, and in such another, by the preaching of my missionary, I won whole peoples from heathenism," 

E

I know we shrink from this in half unbelief.  When it is brought home to us that this little earth is the center of God's counsels, and our souls of the universe, we are amazed and offended.  But so it is.  "All things work together unto good to them that love God.  (Romans 8:28)  All things; not blindly, but by the over-ruling Providence of Him who made them for this end.

VI

A

Do you ask me what has been done for your souls?  I answer, the Church has been established for them.  Look at the Church, and see how many are her officers and members - Bishops, Priests, Levites, Teachers, Students.  All are yours - all are for you.  For you the Pope sits on his throne; for you Bishops rule their Sees; for you the Priest goes up to the altar; for you the Teacher takes his chair, and the Student grows pale in the search for science. 

B

That the Apostolic commission might come down to you, St. Peter and St. Linus and Cletus ordained Bishops in the churches.  That the true doctrine of Christ might come down to you uncorrupted, the Fathers of the Church gathered in council, at Nice, and Ephesus, and  Chalcedon, and Trent.  That you  might hear of  the  glad tidings of  Christ, St. Paul and St. Patrick labored and died.  For you, for each one of you, as if there were no other, the great machinery of grace, if I may express myself so coarsely, gone on.

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VII

A

Do you ask what has been done for your souls?  Angels and Archangels, and Thrones and Dominions, and Principalities and Powers - all the hosts of Heaven - have labored for them.  "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for those who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14) 

B

For you the whole Court of Heaven is interested, and one bright particular Angel is commissioned to be your guardian.  For you St. Gabriel flew on his message of joy to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Michael, the standard-bearer, waits at  the  gate of death.

VIII

A

Do you ask what has been done for your souls?  From all eternity God has thought of them, the means of salvation have been determined on, the chain of graces arranged.  And the Son of God has worked for them.  Galilee, and Judea, and Calvary were the scenes of His labors on earth, and on His mediatorial throne in heaven He carries on still His unceasing labors in our behalf. 

B

And the Holy Spirit has worked.  He spoke by the Prophets, and on the day of Pentecost He came to take up His abode in the Church, never to be overcome by error, or grieved away by sin, to vivify the Sacraments, and to enlighten the hearts of the faithful by the preaching of the Gospel and His own holy inspirations.

IX

A

Why, who are you, my brethren?  The woman of Endor, when she had pierced the disguise of Saul, and knew that she was talking with a king, was afraid, and "said with a loud voice: 'Why have you deceived me, for you are Saul?'" (I Samuel 28:1-2)   So, I ask  you, who are you?  I look upon your  faces, and I see nothing to make me afraid; but faith tears away the disguise, and I see each one of you radiant with light, a true prince, and an heir of heaven. 

B

I look above, and see Heaven open and the Angels of God ascending and descending on errands of which you are the object.  I look higher yet, and I see God the Father watching you with anxiety, and the Son offering his blood for you, and the Holy Spirit pleading with you, and the Saints and Angels, some with folded hands supplicating for you, and others pointing with outstretched finger to the glorious throne reserved in Heaven for you.

X

A

Have you, my brethren, so regarded yourselves?  Have you valued that soul of yours?  Have you kept it as your most sacred treasure?  Is it now safe and secure?  Oh, how carefully do men keep a treasure they value highly!  Kings spend many thousand dollars yearly just to take care of a few jewels.  The crown jewels of England are kept, as you know, in the Tower. 

B

It is a heavy fortress, guarded by soldiers who are always on watch.  At each door and avenue there is an armed sentinel.  The jewels themselves are kept in glass cases, and visitors are not allow to touch them.  And all this pain and outlay to take care of a few stones that have come down to the Queen by descent, or have been taken from her enemies! 

C

And that precious soul of yours, before which all the wealth of the world is but worthless dross - with what care have you kept that?  Alas!  every door has been left open.  No guard has been at your eyes to keep out evil looks.  No guard at your ears to keep out the whispers of temptation.  No guard at your lips to stop the way to the profane or filthy word. 

D

Nay, not only have you kept up no guard, but you have carried your soul where soul-thieves congregate.  The Holy Scripture says: "A net is spread in vain before the eyes of a bird."  (Proverbs 1:17)  Yes, the birds and beasts are cunning enough to avoid an open snare; but you go rashly into dangers that are apparent to all but you.  Sinners lie in wait for you.  They say, in the language of Scripture: "Come, let us lie in wait for blood; let us hid snares for the innocent without cause.  Let us swallow him up alive like hell, and whole as one that goes down into the pit" - and you trust yourself in their power. 

E

Oh, fly from them!  Consider the treasure you carry.  "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"  Will you sin against your own soul? you that are made after God's likeness; you that are princely and of noble rank, will you defile that image, and degrade yourselves to a level with the brutes that perish?

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XI

A

But there are others whose offence is another kind.  They let their salvation go by sheer neglect.  If a man plants a seed, he must water it, or it will not grow.  So the soul needs the dew of God's grace; and prayer and the sacraments are the channels of God's grace. 

B

Yet how men neglect the sacraments!  Even at Easter, when we are obliged to receive them, some absent themselves.  It has been a matter of the keenest pain to us to miss some members of this congregation during the late Paschal season.  You say, you have nothing on your conscience, and it is not necessary to go to confession.  But is it not necessary to go to Communion?  Will you venture to deprive yourselves of that food of which, unless you eat, the Savior has said, "You have no life in you?" 

C

Or; you have a sad story to tell.  You have fallen into mortal sin, and you are afraid to come.  But do you think we have none of the charity of the Angels?  Only convert truly, for it is a true conversion that gives the Angels joy, and we can give you the promise that Thomas Kempis puts into the mouth of Him whose place we fill: "How often when a man truly repents and comes to me for grace and pardon, as I live, says the Lord, who desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live, I will not remember his sins anymore, but all shall be pardoned him.

XII

A

And to you, my brethren, who, during the Easter season just past, have recovered the grace of God, I have a word of advice to give in conclusion.  Keep your souls with all diligence.  Keep your souls; that is your chief, your only care.  Keep them by fleeing from the occasions of sin.  Keep them by overcoming habitual sins. 

B

Nourish them by prayer and the sacraments.  How great a disgrace, that all the irrational world should do the will of God, and you, the rulers of the world, should not do it!  "The kite in the air has known her time; the turtle, and the swallow, and the stork have observed the time of their coming; but my people have not known the judgment of the Lord." (Jeremiah 8:7) 

C

How great an evil it is in a state when an unworthy ruler is at its head.  The people mourn and languish, and at last rebel.  So, when a man neglects the end for which he was made, the whole creation cries out against him.  The stones under his feet cry out.  The air he breathes, the food he eats, protest against the abuse he makes of them. 

D

Balaam's ass rebuked the madness of the prophet; so, when you live in sin, the very beasts cry out: "If we had souls, we would not be as you.  Now we serve God blindly, and of necessity; but if we had souls, it would be our pride and happiness to give Him our willing service." 

E

All things praise the Lord; - "showers and dew;" "fire and heat;" "mountains and hills;" "seas and rivers;" "beasts and cattle."  O sons of men, make not a discord in the universal harmony!  Receive not your souls in vain!   Serve God; "praise Him and exalt Him forever."

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