It goes without saying that before it was Good Friday, it was the worst of all Fridays. Yet, Jesus would not have us wallow in some bleak, brutal re-enactment of that day. For indeed, it was love that made the cross salvific…not the sheer torture of it.
Part of the task for all of us at Homeboy Industries is to “transform our pain, rather than endlessly transmit it.” I have watched gang members bravely come to terms with the things that have darkened their lives and then step into the bright light of forgiveness and mercy. Grumpy is a burly gang member, who at 19, found a community of tenderness at Homeboy Industries. He learned how to make friends with his considerable wounds and finally made the acquaintance with his own wholeness…a buoyant and resilient compassion. He ran away from home at 9, joining a gang shortly thereafter. His mother tortured him…putting cigarettes out on him; holding his head in the toilet and flushing until he nearly drowned; tethering him like an animal in the back yard for weeks on end. Running away from home at 9 years old was a reasonable thing to do.
Now, Grumpy loves being loving. He has even managed to forgive his mentally ill mother.
Following Jesus is not some grim duty. Can we just love being loving? Love…made the cross salvific.
Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J. is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world.