“Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20).
As an additional year Jesuit Volunteer, and soon-to-be high school English teacher through Loyola Marymount University’s PLACE Corps program, I enter this ever-expanding Jesuit conversation within my own niche of how faith meets justice. Educational access has become a mission work since my introductory teaching experience as a Jesuit Volunteer. But it was at Homeboy Industries that I witnessed God moving through my relationships with trainees. In these relationships, it was no longer about what I did but who I was, and how much I opened myself to be loved, and, in turn, love the homies and homegirls that cultivate Homeboy’s environment of tenderness.
This worldview-altering and heart-shifting experience of exquisite mutuality that Father Greg speaks of in his Thoughts for the Day is what transformed a Jesuit Volunteer placement into a commitment to a movement. For, it is through not just accompaniment but also relationship and friendships (which I now have the responsibility to keep alive) that I am moved to justice.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts his 72 newly-commissioned disciples, who return from their service awe-struck in their Kingdom work.
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” (Luke 10:17)
From the magnified lens of a Jesuit Volunteer stationed in Homeboy Industries’ computer lab, I am now aware of the systemic barriers erected by American government policy that formerly incarcerated individuals face in pursuit of accessing mainstream society.
Such obstacles include: securing stable housing (often facing discrimination from landlords), nutritional assistance, reliable means of transportation, and achieving family reunification—all while under the sometimes suffocating correctional control that limits mobility (probation and parole), not to mention the circuitous route to dignifying work as someone with the label “criminal” on their record.
Certainly, the aforementioned are injustices. Knowledge of them makes the political evils of our society subject to us, as we advocate for our brothers and sisters who are left on the margins.
But it is through the friendships that form via accompaniment that we begin to understand that it is not about what we do, but who we are, and who we, then, decide to stand beside.
Dan Simonds is a second year Jesuit Volunteer who, after a year teaching at Detroit Cristo Rey High School, is continuing his westward trek from the smallest town, Warren, in the smallest state, Rhode Island. He is serving in 2018-2019 as a Student Services Coordinator at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Dan calls Gordon College—a small Christian liberal arts college near Boston—his alma mater.