We went and listened to a talk by Fr. Greg Boyle last night at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, an event organized by Kathleen. Fr. G works with gangs in the ‘projects’ in East LA. He described how the poor live on the edge in such an environment amidst all the squalor and violence. And challenging us his audience to imagine what it is living on the edge, he left me with something to really think about: “Stand in awe at what the poor have to bear. Do not stand in judgement over how they have lived their lives.”
Faced with the reality that is East LA, Fr. G affirms the goodness that is in everyone. He does not romanticize the misery of the poor and the gang members he lives and works with. He just keeps on giving and giving his time, his energy and his influence (known in the neighborhood as “juice”) to the young people of the Pico/Aliso District in East L.A. He keeps at it till the goodness and the beauty hidden deep in his homies finally come shining through.
Taking the words of Jesuit founder, Ignatius of Loyola to heart, he seeks and sees God in everything. He seeks and sees God in the midst of the squalor and violence of East LA. He seeks and sees God in every homie he gets to meet and work with as he goes around among the gangs and their members. In the process, he has transformed thousands of lives. He has set up a whole support infrastructure for those who would want to see real changes in their lives. (He says he works with those who want to change and not those who need to change.) He has developed a system and technology he can share with other communities on how to transform lives.
For me, he left me with this inspiring thought: Think of the worst decision you have ever made or the worst act you have ever done. You have it in you to decide and do something good that will be better than the worst you have ever done. For even in the face of total defeat (as in death), God can still transform my life (as in giving me eternal life).
As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”