I just read this excellent article about Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles which exists to give jobs to ex-cons. There’s a lot to take away from the profile of Father Gregory Boyle and the company he founded, but this took my breath away:
There was a theological point: “I always have a funny story at communion time that underscores that no one is perfect, and that communion is not for perfect people but for hungry people,” Boyle told me. But that probably matters less than this: The girls were rapt. After Mass, they came to him and lingered as long as they could. He spoke to each one in turn, as if she were his favorite niece: “You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.“
Boyle is speaking to girls in a detention camp, but don’t we all need to hear this? The greatest danger of sin, the adversary’s greatest tool, is that we’ll be defined by our sinfulness and look away from God, lose hope of repentance and redemption. The wages of sin are real, and we need to confront them and see them for what they are, but we also need to keep them in some perspective.
And so I will steal this. I will say this to the young men I teach on Sundays. I will say this to the inactive members I hometeach from time to time.
And I will say this to my own sons as they struggle and misstep and wander into the darkness of sin and self-loathing. But mostly I will say this to myself as my past folly continues to swirl around me and those I love, sometimes obscuring my view.
It’s the old mantra: I am a child of God. I have value. And I am so much more than the worst thing I’ve ever done.