These last few weeks our gospel readings have drawn us deeper and deeper into the heart of Jesus. We are no longer called slaves. We are friends. We are the Body of Christ. We are
family. This is too much to swallow in one gulp. I need to take this apart and allow it to settle into my being. I need to play with it, try it on, digest it. What does it mean for my everyday life? How does this change me? Change what I see and hear and how I relate? Change what I think about and how I think about it? Questions draw us in. Answers may come…or not. Or someday we may live in to the answers, as Marie Rilke Rainier said.
Then I picked up a book that someone said, “Here, you need to read this.” I added it to the pile, but it wouldn’t stay there. The title kept calling out to me, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle. It held my attention until I finally picked it up. Then I couldn’t put it down! Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit Priest in Los Angeles, the city of angels - and of gangs. The book is not
about gang life per se, but more about Fr. G (as he is called) and his interactions with the “homies” (as the ex-gang members are called). In finally writing down his years of experiences, he says in the preface, “In finding a home for these stories in this modest effort, I hope, likewise to tattoo those mentioned here on our collective
heart. Though this book does not concern itself with solving the gang problem, it does aspire to broaden the parameters of our kindship. It hopes not only to put a
human face on the gang member, but to recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables.” His true life stories tell us how he did it. He saw a need for something to help the gang members when they were released from prison. He asked them what they wanted to do: some wanted to bake or become a mechanic. He opened up
places and made connections where the ‘homies’ could develop a trade and become connected in society, not go back to gang life. These stories are both humorous,
heartfelt and uplifting. Each child was treated as a child of God – no matter what their past or present situation looks like. One story stands out for me. A church had invited Fr. G and some of his ‘homies’ to speak a word of hope to their church. After they did, they were treated as ‘celebrities’. They connected with their true inner selves. They are celebrity disciples who are transformed through love, calling others
to witness what God has done for them through Fr. G and his community of the faithful – a faith filled community that loves without judgment, taking these young ones to their heart. They just love, and love changes everything!
At times, the challenges are seemingly insurmountable. There are days each one wants to pack it in as they wonder, “Really, is this working? Is this what I am called to do, to be…? I am hurting too….”
Then the next hurting child walks in… Take a chance. Read this book. Have your life transformed, your thinking changed, your heart shattered. Let the light in – and live! May we come to know the power of boundless compassion and wear the tattoos of the heart with joy!
- Sister Pat