Fr. Gregory Boyle SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries, delivered the 2015 Sol Kannee Lecture on Peace ad Justice today. The emotional and enlightening words had the audience on their feet at the end and in or near tears at various points. This humble, gentle man spoke Truth again, continuing to show us the path. He invited us to not come to this lecture but to go from it–with a new vision and hope to do the slow work of God.
Quoting Mother Teresa’s words if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other, he reminded us that we do belong to each other. He suggested that we need to dismantle the obstacles that allow us to alienate the other. We need to stand at the margins and watch them be erased beneath our feet. We must choose more often to stand at the margins in privileged moments with those easily despised in order to stop the demonizing and disposing of those who are on the other side of what we deem as acceptable. Without kinship, justice and peace cannot survive.
He reiterated that we are all in need of healing. Borrowing Helen Prejean’s words, he reminded us that we are all more than the worst thing we have ever done. Each of us may need an enlightened witness, a term coined by Alice Miller, to help us return to our true selves through love. He told a painful story of one of the homies whose mother would beat him so badly that he needed to wear three shirts so that the blood from the wounds on his back would not be visible in elementary school. The homie came to realize that he needed to welcome his scars: My wounds are my friends. How can I help heal the wounded if I do not welcome my own wounds?
As wounded people, we can infuse hope by sharing our stories. If we understand that the relationships are mutual and equal, we open ourselves to further healing. One story of my own comes to mind. I have volunteered within the prison system for over a decade. One night, during a conversation with a lifer, I was given a tremendous gift–a deep insight about something I had been struggling with. I went off to South Africa soon afterwards and when I returned he had stopped coming to the chapel. When he surprised me by showing up months later at Christmas Eve mass, I told him I needed to talk to him. When we sat down after mass, I said only three words: You healed me. The look on his face expressed his immense gratitude. As we talked more about what had happened, I could see that those three words were healing for him too. The relationship was not me going into the prison, wanting to fix some inmate. The relationship was me daring to stand on the margins and erasing them as healing happened for both of us.
Kinship will win the day in the end, Boyle said. If you choose to stand at the margins, people will ask why you are standing there. The answer is so that no one is left out and those lines are erased. Love is the answer; community is the context. This is the slow work of God.
Have you ever seen the margins disappear under your feet?
How can your community welcome those who live at the margins of life?
is that an eraser in your hand?
Why are you giving it to me?
May I be worthy of this gift.