Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. For more than 30 years, he has ministered to thousands of gang members in Los Angeles, offering them an opportunity to recognize their self-worth and to transform the trajectory of their lives. Homeboy Industries provides job training, educational services, and counseling and support for addiction and mental health issues, among other services.
The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness is the title of his forthcoming book. While accepting an award, he gave a talk at Boston College a couple months ago. The passage below is a section from an article about that talk from Boston College.
“What if we were to invest in each other? What if our singular aim was to create a community of beloved belonging? What if we were to imagine a circle of compassion and then imagine nobody standing outside that circle? What if we chose together in a community of kinship to dismantle the barriers that exclude?”
“We want to go to the margins and say [to those there], we refuse to live without you,” said Fr. Boyle. “We stand with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless…we stand with those whose dignity has been denied and those whose burdens are more than they can bear…we stand with the easily despised and the readily left out…we stand with the demonized and the disposable.”
Christians need to take seriously what Jesus took seriously: inclusion, non-violence, unconditional love and kindness, and compassionate acceptance, he said. “The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but only in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. For the truth of the matter is this: If we don’t welcome our own wounds, we may well be tempted to despise the wounded.
“We go to the margins not to make a difference, but to be made different.”
I’ve been spending time reflecting on the words of Fr. Greg Boyle, particularly during these times of divisiveness in our country. In the midst of so much exclusion, violence and unkindness, Fr. Boyle’s words are inviting and hopeful and yet, at the same time, challenging for all of us.Tags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey