Jesus is the Lover of Souls, the God who overflows with love for his creation. Blessed Newman chose this title for our Lord, and brings it to our consideration for the commemoration of Good Friday. His reflection recounts the two great manifestations of Jesus’s love: his incarnation and his paschal mystery.
The title itself comes from the Book of Wisdom. Newman quotes the inspired author: “Thou hast mercy upon all, because Thou canst do all things, and overlookest the sins of men for the sake of repentance. For Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made … And how could anything endure, if Thou wouldst not? or be preserved, if not called by Thee? But Thou sparest all, because they are Thine, O Lord, who lovest souls” (Wisdom xi. 24-27).
Good Friday is a powerful reminder of God’s unconditional love for all men. The very name Jesus, announced by the archangel to Mary and Joseph, literally signifies that he will save his people from their sins. In the Scriptures, names are not simply titles, they speak of a person’s mission. Newman explains: “It was His great love for souls and compassion for sinners which drew Him from Heaven. Why did He consent to veil His glory in mortal flesh, except that He desired so much to save those who had gone astray and lost all hope of salvation.” Hence He says Himself, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Matt. xvii. 11, Luke xix. 10).”
We take for granted and forget God’s love for us, but how can we if as Newman explains “He loves each of us so much that He has died for each one as fully and absolutely as if there were no one else for Him to die for. He is our best friend, our True Father, the only real Lover of our souls—He takes all means to make us love Him in return, and He refuses us nothing if we do.”
Newman invites us to pray for the conversion of all sinners:
“O Lord (…) for how short a time do they keep Thy grace in their hearts, how soon do they fall off from Thee, with what difficulty do they return; and even, though they repent and come to penance, yet how soon, in the words of Scripture, doth the dog return to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Many times we are those very sinners: “O my God, save us all from the seven deadly sins, and rescue those who have been made captive by them. Convert all sinners—bring judgments down upon them, if there is no other way of reclaiming them. Touch the hearts of all proud men, wrathful, revengeful men; of the obstinate, of the self-relying, of the envious, of the slanderer, of the hater of goodness and truth; of the slothful and torpid; of all gluttons and drunkards; of the covetous and unmerciful; of all licentious talkers; of all who indulge in impure thoughts, words, or deeds.”
Newman reminds us that final unrepentance leads to the loss of God. If we wish to correspond to God’s love let us resolve to make a daily examination of conscience at night, followed by a short act of contrition. If we desire to love him more let us practice the devotion of the Stations of the Cross and meditate on Jesus’ passion.