Here is a comment I received about my November 20th Homily: Lord when did we see you!. The e-mail below is responding to my story about Nancy, a young woman who did time for a car crash that left a young mother dead.
Dear Deacon Mike,
I have to say your homily on Nov 20 @ the 8am mass was rather unsatisfying. You talked about ‘Nancy’ and how she wanted to see her kids for Christmas but all I could think about was how the kids of the woman she killed will never get to see their mum again. I think this particular example would have been better suited to a theme on forgiveness.
I don’t know anyone personally who’s had that happen and even then I am finding it difficult to be charitable. I suppose that’s why we should do it.
Father Greg Boyle is the CEO of Homeboy Industries and the author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. Fr. Boyle has devoted his life to living with and among the gangs of LA.
In Chapter 3 of his book titled- Compassion, Fr. Boyle tells the story of a 12 year old boy named Betito. “G” (the name the homies and homegirls call Fr. Greg) and Betito had developed a genuine friendship. I will not provide you all the details of their journey together (Pages 63-67 of Boyle’s book) except to say that one day Betito was stuck down in a senseless drive by shooting and he eventually died from his wounds.
Fr. Greg struggles with this loss. Then the two gang members who shot his little friend, who he called the “Real Deal”, were caught. He was conflicted as he wondered if his circle of compassion could be big enough to include those that had taken the life of a boy who was simply standing on the street minding his own business.
Much like Anonymous above who questioned if we should focus on the young woman who killed the mother in a car crash, Fr. Boyle asks himself this same question in this excerpt from Tattoos on the Heart:
“I will admit that the degree of difficulty here is exceedingly high. Kids I love killing kids I love. There is nothing neat in carving space for both in our compassion. I can recall a woman in the audience at a talk I gave in Orange County, rushing me during the question-and-answer period. She wanted to do me real harm. People had to restrain her and remove her from the audience. Her daughter had been set on fire by gang members. I represented to her the victimizers. It is a sobering moment, underscoring the precariousness of being too glib here. Sometimes it’s enough to acknowledge how wide the gulf is that we all hope to bridge. But isn’t the highest honing of compassion that which is hospitable to victim and victimizer both? (Page 66)
In my ministry to those touched by crime I have too admit most of my time is spent with the offenders and their families. I share Boyle’s thought that there is nothing neat and clean about these situations as we struggle to expand our circle of compassion to include victims and victimizers. If we think Christianity is easy we have obviously not read the fine print.
Thanks to Anonymous (although there is no need to be anonymous) for the honest comment and concern.