Updated: Nov 17, 2019
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
9-12 year olds
Me, again. There's one other point that has been buzzing around my head and I wonder what you 9-12 year olds think about it.
At the end of this Sunday's reading, after telling the disciples of all the trouble ahead, Jesus says,
But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
The word "head" and the word "souls" jumped out at me. The word "head" is singular (one head) and the word "souls" is plural (more than one soul).
Jesus is speaking to a group of people, but to each person personally, at the same time. He should have said either:
a) "But not a hair of your heads will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
b) "But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your soul."
Why does he say "head" and "souls"? What could this mean?
The Gospel was not written in English. St. Luke wrote in Greek. So I went online and looked into the original Greek. (I don't read Greek, but there are a lot of tools online to help decipher!)
The words Jesus uses for "your" and "you" are plural, meaning he is speaking to the group. So really, option a) would have been expected. By saying "not a hair of your head," like the disciples all share one head, shows that they are all in this together. What hurts one, hurts them all; what helps one, helps them all. Like the branches of the True Vine, we are all connected, and Jesus says, together we will be saved.
This is good news. We are not alone. We belong to a community of believers, the Church.
I'd like to look at option b), though, because a thought struck me. When I have spoken to a large group of people, I address them all personally, as if I was speaking to each person on their own. So I would have said, "But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your soul." Now, I am not Jesus, and I don't pretend to be! But saying it this way makes it sound like we will each gain more than one soul. Who are the other souls we are gaining? What could this mean?
By your endurance you will gain your souls.
I looked into the meaning of the Greek word for "endurance". It would be like a plant that grows despite harsh conditions. It means being hardy, strong--like a weed. (Weeds grow no matter what. My backyard in summer is full of them!)
This made me think of the parable of the mustard seed again. The mustard seed, that tiniest of all the seeds in Israel, grows to become a tree. It grows quickly, and in fact is like a weed. These greatest of shrubs pop up quickly in fields and are difficult to get rid of!
In the parable it says,
“The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
Who are these birds of the air that come and make their homes in the Kingdom of God? Who are the souls who need to find rest in the safe branches of the Kingdom? Who are the people who are drawn to us because of our faith in God?
I wonder if these are the souls that we gain for God when we endure through all the troubles and trials knowing God is with us?