Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rev. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in California, has been ministering to gang members in and around Los Angeles for many years and has written of the struggles his “parishioners” go through trying to escape the ever-present tentacles the culture uses to lure them back.  His most recent book is entitled FORGIVE EVERYBODY EVERYTHING, and contains this story on forgiveness.

                On a Saturday in 1996 I am set to baptize George at Camp Munz (a juvenile detention camp).  He has delayed doing this until he acquires his GED, seeing it as a twofer celebration.  I know both George (17) and his brother, Cisco (19), gang members from a barrio in the projects.  As a part-time chaplain, I have gotten to know George pretty well during his nine-month stint in the camp.  He has moves so gracefully from his hardened posturing to being a young man in possession of himself and his gifts.

The night before George’s baptism, Cisco is walking home before midnight when the quiet is shattered by gunshots.  Some rivals creep up and open fire, and Cisco falls half a block from his apartment, killed instantly.  His girlfriend, Annel, eight months pregnant with their first child, runs outside.  She cradles Cisco in her arms and lap, rocking him as if to sleep, screaming with every motion.

I don’t sleep much that night.  It occurs to me to cancel my presence at the Mass at Camp Munz to be with Cisco’s grieving family, but then I remember George and his baptism.  I arrive before Mass and there is George alone in the mess hall, holding his newly acquired GED certificate.  He heads toward me, waving his GED and beaming.  We hug each other.  He is in a borrowed, ironed, crisp white shirt and a thin black tie.  His pants are the regular camp-issue camouflage, green and brown.  I am desvelado, completely wiped out, but trying to keep pace with George’s excitement.  None of the residents have phones or any way to stay “connected” to the activities back in their barrios and I am quite certain George doesn’t know about Cisco.

The mess hall slowly fills up and is packed for the Mass and we begin as I ask George his name.  “George Martinez,” he says with an overflow of confidence.  “And George, what do you ask of God’s church?”  He replies, “Baptism,” with a steady, barely contained smile.

It’s the most difficult baptism of my life.  For as I pour water over George’s head: “Father….Son….Holy Spirit,” I know I will walk George outside alone after and tell him what happened.  As I do, I put my arm around him, and I whisper gently as we walk out across the baseball field, “George, your brother Cisco was killed last night.”

I can feel the air leave his body as he heaves a sigh that finds itself a sob in an instant.  We land on a bench.  His face seeks refuge in his open palms, and he sobs quietly.  Most notable is what isn’t present in his rocking and gentle wailing.  I’ve been in this place before many times.  There’s always flailing and rage and promises to avenge things.  There is none of this in George.  It is as if the commitment he has just made in water, oil and flame has taken hold and his grief is pure and true and more resembles the heartbreak of God.

                George seems to offer proof of what we say about sacraments…that they have operative or effective power; that sacramental power can change our human kneejerk reaction to life’s experiences if we let it.  George managed to hold all the complexity of his great sadness, right here, on this bench, in his tender weeping.  I had previously asked him in the baptismal rite, after reminding him of his commitment, “to live as though this truth was true.”  Then I asked, “Do you clearly understand what you are doing?”

I remember he paused, and then revs himself up in a gathering of self and soul and says, “Yes, I do.” 

And yes, he does.

In the traditions of the monastic religious orders, the highest form of sanctity is to live in hell and not lose hope.  George clings to his hope and his faith and his GED certificate and choses to march, resilient, into his future.

Forgive everybody everything!  Fr. Glenn



























Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

A paraphrase of this week’s gospel…

If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell her – work it out between the two of you.  If she listens, you’ve made a friend.  If she won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.  If she still won’t listen, tell the church.  If she won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront her with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s healing love.

“Take this most seriously:  a yes on earth is a yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven.  What you say to one another is eternal.  I mean this.  When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.  And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there!”  (Matt 18: 15-20)

If we are special agents of God, then we serve as agents of grace for one another.  I am in a real sense at your service, as you are at mine.  Together we invite the Kingdom of God into our midst and it’s not the sort of commission we can achieve alone.

Of all we can do together to promote “the Kingdome already here,” the hardest may be our gentle mutual correction.  Unlike yourself, I’m sure, I dislike being told I’m wrong.  When I respond in anger and treat someone unfairly, I want to be justified, not reproved.  But some of my friends love me enough to tell me when I’m way off base and need to examine my motives.  Sometimes it’s enough to hear it from one person.  Sometimes I need to hear it from every direction before I’m ready to change.  I value this honesty in my life because I can’t always punch my own way out of ignorance.  My friends know how dearly I want to hear “yes” in heaven, so they’re willing to say “no” to me in the here and now.

Have you ever corrected one you love when they’re in error?

How do you respond to such correction?

       Have a good week!   Fr. Glenn

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We must offer our bodies as sacrifices to God. We are also called to offer our “bodies to God as weapons for justice” (Rm 6:13). We must know that our bodies are temples “of the Holy Spirit, Who is within” (1 Cor 6:19). Our bodies are sacrifices, weapons, and temples. Because our bodies are sacrifices, we must deny ourselves and let God consume us (see Heb 12:29). We must give God our best so as not to offer defective sacrifices (see Mal 1:7-8).

Because our bodies are weapons, we must not be “bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares” (Lk 21:34). We should fight by wielding the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17)and the spiritual weapons of prayer and fasting (Mt 17:21, NAB). We must be in shape to “fight the good fight” of evangelization (1 Tm 1:18).

Because our bodies are temples, they should be holy, clean, peaceful, and joyous. We need to repent of our sins, go to Confession, and enthrone Jesus as Lord of our lives and our bodies. Although our bodies are weak and fragile, they are precious in God’s eyes. If we use them to glorify Him, He will glorify our bodies and raise them from the dead (see Phil 3:21). “So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20).


Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Your car’s engine has been making a strange noise.  You bring it to your mechanic.  “So, what’s wrong? you ask.

                “Well, that’s a complicated question,” the mechanic  begins.

The kitchen remodeling is already several weeks behind and living in your mother-in-law’s house has stretched everyone’s patience.  “How long? you ask.

“You see, so much depends on other people,” the contractor replies – as he replies to all his clients.

Your elderly parent has been moved to hospice.  How long does Dad have you ask.

“There’s no good answer to that question,” the physician replies.

Oh, for a straight answer!

We have mastered the “non-answer.” We’ve learned to sidestep the question that challenges us to take a stand, that compels us to commit, that forces us in a direction we’d rather not go. Alternative” facts? Certainly. Extenuating circumstances?  Absolutely.  We always seem to leave ourselves an “out” – we provide ourselves an escape hatch.

We’re committed to being noncommittal.

Let’s see how it goes.

  It’ll all work out in the end.

Don’t worry – that will never happen!

If our Baptisms have any meaning, if we seek to make the love of God a reality in our lives, we can’t dodge the answer to the question Jesus poses to Peter and the disciples – who is this Christ to us?  The Christ who preached reconciliation and forgiveness, the Christ who revealed a God of compassion and mercy, the Christ who called us to realize the “kingdom of God” here and now, the Christ who washed the feet of his followers the night before he took up the cross, the Christ whose life God vindicated by raising him from the dead?   It’s a question we are called to confront when we are least prepared to answer:  when we’re debating whether to respond to a situation with vengeance or mercy, when someone in desperate straits asks us for help that is sure to cost us dearly, when we have to decide to act for the good of the community or in our own best interests or profit.

Our answer must be the straightest answer we’ve ever given to any question.

Have a good week!  Fr. Glenn































1 2 62