There is a new movie out on Disney called Soul. Has anybody seen the movie Soul? Has anybody not seen it but wants to see it? Raise your hand, please. There are going to be some spoilers in this homily, so if you want to go to sleep or walk out for a while, you are welcome to. I thought it was a great movie. It is not theologically correct. The movie is about this jazz musician. It is called Soul because he is a jazz musician. Like all Disney movies, somebody must die within the first ten minutes, so he is the one that dies. As he dies, his soul leaves his body and is on this conveyor belt going to heaven, the afterlife. As he is going there, he realizes that he never quite found his purpose in life. He never achieved his dreams. He never got to do the one thing that he wanted to do, which was to play in a jazz band with this famous singer. So, he is on the conveyor belt going up to heaven, and he decides he is not ready for it. He turns around and starts running back rushing over people panicking. He gets all the way back, and he ends up in this place that looks like heaven but is not heaven (again, it is not very theological accurate). He is with all of these souls that have not become bodies yet. They are being prepared to take on life. They are given their personalities. They are given help to define what they are interested in. The most important thing that they do with these souls is to help them discover their spark. Until they discover their spark, they cannot become human. The whole premise of the movie goes on from there about this theme of discovering their spark. It says that each soul is given unique personalities. You will notice that some souls are missing something in this area. The souls are all missing something, and there is a spot that is empty. The question is, “What goes in that spot?” The answer is that these souls need a spark, and maybe you will find that spark in life. The question is, “What is that spark?”
I want you to think about your own life. What is the spark in your own life that allows you to be truly human? As he is teaching the high school students, he uses a quote from Mary Oliver that is the theme of the movie. The quote is “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild precious life?” What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? So, he goes back into the world and tries to discover the spark. He wants to fulfill his purpose he thinks. He wants to become this great jazz piano player, this musician.
After going back to life, he takes one of these souls with him who does not want to become human, but he must mentor this soul to help them find their spark. He ends up playing, finally, and at the very end of it, he walks out of the theater and says to himself, “Is that it? That is all there is to it?” He looks over at the main music director that has the inspiration, and he says to her, “What do we do tomorrow?” She says, “We come back here, and we do the same thing.”
He is kind of disappointed to realize that what he has been passionate about and working for all of his life turns out not to be that exciting, not that purposeful. There is a pivotal scene in the movie where he is in a barber chair with the barber and gets philosophical. You know how you get in the chair with the barber and you can just relax. So, he is telling the barber about his purpose and finding his purpose. He says to the barber, “You found your purpose. You are a barber. You are an amazing barber. The barber says, “I did not find my purpose. I wanted to be a veterinarian.” He looks at him and says, “What do you mean?” He says, “I wanted to be a vet. But then I went off to war, came back and did not have any money. I could not go on to what I wanted to be, so I became a barber.” He says, “Are you not destroyed because you did not become who you were supposed to be?” He says, “No, I love being a barber. I get to meet wonderful people, and I get to save lives through cutting hair.” He is happy doing what he is doing.
We hear in the gospel today that Mary was one that treasured in her heart all these things that she experienced from her Son. When we think about Mary and her spark we understand that it was not some kind of activity. Mary was not a musician. We did not hear about any outstanding talent that she had. She was simply the mother of God. That is the feast that we celebrate today. Mary fulfilled her purpose in life. She found her spark not by doing something great but by simply being the mother of God. I think for all of us in life, we think that we must accomplish something. We think we must do something great or become something great. We must really go after our dreams. I am not one to discourage that. I will always encourage people to go after their dreams, but our dreams can become items. Our dreams can take us away from what ultimately is the purpose of who we are. Our dreams can cause us to be disappointed with life or disappointed with ourselves.
In the movie Soul, he brings the character he is mentoring to earth and, all along the way, she is trying to find her spark. The interesting thing is that she just notices little things. When she is given her first piece of pizza, she just goes wild about it. She keeps the crust as a souvenir. She puts it in her pocket, and she keeps the crust. They go to the barbershop, and she gets a lollipop from the barber. She thinks it is so cool that he gave her a lollipop that she keeps the lollipop. As it continues, there is a beautiful scene where the windmill seeds (the maple seeds) come down. As one of them comes flying down, she catches it in her hand, and she keeps it. She treasures all these experiences of life. In the end, he realizes that that is what life is all about. It is just about treasuring the experiences that God gives us. That is the line we hear in the gospel today. When Mary saw all these things happening, she treasured them in her heart.
As we begin this new year and celebrate this feast day of Mary the Mother of God, I encourage you to think about that yourself. What is your spark? What is the thing that you find so passionate and good in life? Most importantly, what are the simple things in your life that you can treasure? What are the beautiful things that you can hold on to? We can get distracted by thinking that we must become something great in this life when ultimately, we just must be who we are. We must accept the situation that we are in. The priesthood that I am in. The marriage that you are in. The single life that you are in. Whatever it may be, treasure all these things in your hearts.
I’ll end with a question that I began with by Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild precious life?”