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HOMILIES

OUT OF BROKEN HOMES AND BROKEN HEARTS

This homily is based on Luke 2:22-40 on the Feast of the Holy Family.

I’m reading Fr. Greg Boyle’s new book, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship. Like his first book, every single chapter leaves me in tears.

In a Friday, June 4, 2010 photo, Father Gregory Boyle hugs Robert Trejo, a former gang member, in his office at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Organizations trying to prevent youngsters from joining gangs have been hit hard by the sour economy. Homeboy Industries, which employed ex-gang members as a way of keeping them off the street, had to fire more than 300 of its workers as donations and city subsidies plummeted. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
In a Friday, June 4, 2010 photo, Father Gregory Boyle hugs Robert Trejo, a former gang member, in his office at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Organizations trying to prevent youngsters from joining gangs have been hit hard by the sour economy. Homeboy Industries, which employed ex-gang members as a way of keeping them off the street, had to fire more than 300 of its workers as donations and city subsidies plummeted. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Fr. Greg Boyle is a Jesuit who runs Homeboy Industries, the biggest gang rehab center in Los Angeles, if not all of the United States. He started it years ago because as the parish priest of Dolores Mission, he realized the need to handhold gang members if you want any chance of rehabilitation for them.

Homeboy’s tagline says it all: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job!” And that’s what he’s been working on: Finding and creating jobs for gang members who need a second chance to step out of their lives of violence. But more than that, he also gives them the loving family most of them never really had. Many of these former gang members look up to G, as Fr. Greg is fondly called, and consider him a true father.

Fr. Greg’s love for the homies is evident in the affectionate and reverent way he tells their stories–and he tells many heartbreaking stories. If there is one thread that goes through these stories, it is how these homies have themselves been victims–of their own families run by parents who are broken and incapable of parenting.

One particularly moving story that Fr. Greg tells involves Sergio, a young tattooed man who joined a gang at twelve. His mother used to beat him so badly that he had to wear three shirts to school to hide his wounds. His family background is so broken that one wonders how someone like that can crawl out of the ruins of a broken home and broken heart–and actually survive.

But what is remarkable is that even if our own biological families are dysfunctional, miracles of healing and redemption can happen as long as we find any other family that is nurturing and loving–the way Sergio has found it in Homeboy Industries.

I will let Sergio tell his story in his own voice, as recounted by Fr. Greg:

“I guess you could say my mom and me, well, we didn’t get along so good. I think I was six when she looked at me and said, ‘Why don’tcha just kill yourself? You’re such a burden to me’.”

“My mom beat me every single day of my elementary school years, with things you could imagine and a lotta things you couldn’t. Every day my back was bloodied and scarred. In fact, I had to wear three T-shirts to school each day. The first one cuz the blood would seep through. The second cuz you could still see it. Finally, with the third T-shirt, you couldn’t see no blood. Kids at school would make fun of me. “Hey fool…. It’s a hundred degrees…. Why ya wearin’ three T-shirts?'”

Then he continued, swallowing back his tears: “I wore three T-shirts well into my adult years, cuz I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want no one to see ’em. But now, I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my scars. My wounds are my friends. After all, how can I help others to heal if I don’t welcome my own wounds?”

And as Fr. Greg wrote: “Awe came upon everyone.”

Watch this Anderson Cooper’s  feature on Fr. Greg and Homeboy Industries: 

9 replies on “OUT OF BROKEN HOMES AND BROKEN HEARTS”

Dear Johnny
Sergio’s history and redemptive journey is both heartbreaking and admirable. Poignant as the destructive ordeal of Sergio is so painful and degrading, even heartbreaking, because the mother, who is the child’s first refuge in the face of adversity, becomes his torturer. An admirable history however, it demonstrates and celebrates the redemptive power of Love. Adult, beloved, Sergio accepts his wounds and, by caressing them, he rejoices because he knew how to forgive and restore Love in him.

Father Greg Boyle ventured into the peripheries that Pope Francis exhorts us to visit. Broken families are one of those existential peripheries where pain and injustice reside, where all miseries accumulate. He stays there for love of neighbour to rehabilitate young people “in conflict with the law”. And he is being both, the good Samaritan but also the innkeeper. In your homily of July 10, 2016, you remind us that more often we meet with people entrusted to our care. We are the inn-keepers of the parable of the Good Samaritan. And you specify we should not shirk our responsibilities and walk away but you remind us the words of the Good Samaritan who are those of the Lord: “Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given to you, I shall repay you on my way back.”

Dear Johnny, you were chairman of the board of ERDA Fdn. In the framework of the BK Restore and Tuklasan programs, ERDA Fdn was both the Good Samaritan and the innkeeper for the children in conflict with the law and for treet children. ERDA Fdn abolished these two programs and closed the Tuklasan Center, preferring to allocate the funds that had become scarcer to schooling programs. It was undoubtedly the same difficult for the Board to choose as it was difficult for the priest or Levite of the parable to choose between celebrating worship in the synagogue or rescuing the wounded man lying by the roadside. However, where at ERDA CE this becomes incomprehensible to us, it is the preference given by the Board of ERDA Group to the construction of a modern technical high school with boarding, requiring heavy financing both in investment and in operation. Shouldn’t it be better to keep the rehabilitation center Tuklasan open for the most vulnerable children, those who are in the outskirts of misery, where one handful of few Fathers Greg or Tritz who stop the bullets which raining down on those who try to survive? 10,000 killed since the president Duterte’s arrival in Malacañan.
Wouldn’t it have been generous, wise and charitable to give preference to the lost sheep, for it is it said that “there shall be more joy in heaven for one sinner who repents, than for ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance”?
“ And the Child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him”

Just as Simeon and Anna welcomed the Lord in their midst,so does Rev Fr. Boyle welcome the Homies in search of-well-a home. Now I see. Peace and Blessings,Many Thanks.

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