Advocate for at-risk youth and gang members speaks about Resurrection life
Fr. Greg Boyle addresses chapelgoers
Watch Fr. Boyle's talk on Vimeo.
It was a full house at Fuller’s All-Seminary Chapel Easter service on Wednesday, April 11, as the students, staff, and faculty gathered to celebrate the Resurrection and also eagerly anticipated the morning’s guest speaker, Fr. Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries.
An advocate for at-risk and gang-involved youth in Los Angeles and around the world, Boyle delivered a sermon based on the day’s Scripture lesson from John 20:1-18, which includes the account of Mary meeting the risen Jesus in the garden. Boyle began his message by pointing out that just as Mary did not immediately recognize the “gardener” as the resurrected Christ, so we often do not recognize signs of the Resurrection in ourselves and those around us. “The risen life in me recognizes the risen life in you,” he told his listeners, “and in the gardener, and in the gang member.” However, he pointed out, we want our risen life to be spectacular—“out of the ordinary but not in the gardener,” he quipped.
But Jesus insists that risen life is hidden in our lives, and in a special way hidden in those lives on the fringes: the powerless, the voiceless, the easily despised, the readily left out, the demonized, the disposable. “Tears wiped away, death swallowed up: victorious meaning and the risen life hidden in them—and in you—here and now,” Boyle said, in a phrase that he repeated throughout his sermon as a refrain.
With wit and emotion, he told several moving stories about the “homies” and “homegirls” who work in the café, bakery, screen printing factory, and other initiatives of Homeboy Industries. Through all of them, Boyle revealed an honest faith in the hope for redemption and new life in everyone, even the most hardened gang members, as well as a deep love for those whom he serves.
“All of us are called to be enlightened witnesses,” he remarked, “and to return people to themselves, to the unshakable recognition of the risen life that is hidden in their life.”
All of Boyle’s anecdotes exemplified this “returning people to themselves,” where people with records and tragic family histories find their voices, their stories, themselves. They find strength to overcome past mistakes and to make peace with past enemies.
“It shouldn’t surprise us,” commented Boyle, “that God’s dream for us—that we discover and recognize the risen life within us—just so happens to be the deepest longing we have for ourselves.”
After the service, Fr. Boyle stayed to sign copies of his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion