First Sunday of Lent: Seeing Things Differently

BY FR. GREG BOYLE, S.J. | February 21, 2021
Today’s Readings
Reflexión en Español


Right away we are triggered by the word. 

“Cut it out.”
“Get with the program.”
“Stop being bad and try being good.”

A gang member, Louie, sat in my office at Homeboy Industries and was sobbing. “How come everyone here loves me?” The crying intensifies. “I mean…everyday…I take myself to court…and everyday…I find myself guilty.” He thinks a bit. “I signed on the dotted line…to everything I’ve done. If you knew who I really am…it would dissuade you…from loving me.”


It means “to move beyond the mind you have.” It doesn’t mean “do good and avoid evil.” It is about seeing things differently. There is an invitation in it to embrace the mystical view; to see as God does. Louie needs to recognize his own unshakeable goodness. No need to become someone he is not. The gentle urging of our tender God is for Louie to recognize what has been there all along. He needs to move beyond the mind he has, so he can see it.

As of this writing, I will bury, in a week’s time, a young man named Sammy. He will be the 240th young person killed in our streets for no reason at all. Before he left us, he “repented.” He ceased to see himself “as less than,” and came to know fully that he was exactly what God had in mind when God made him. The Buddhists say, “Oh nobly born, remember who you really are.” He did. He inhabited this truth and it gave him resilience, a grateful heart and a capacity to love his enemies. He moved beyond the mind he used to cling to, that only saw worthlessness and deficit. He moved away from that and began to reside in abundance. He found his true self in loving.


For Reflection: 

  • During the season of Lent, how can you repent—”move beyond the mind you have” and see things differently? 
  • How can you better see that you are exactly what God had in mind when God made you? How can you do the same for others?
10 replies
  1. Nora
    Nora says:

    I am grateful for this reading today. I find it hard to forgive myself for mistakes in my past. I felt solidarity with the words of Louie who said if you knew who I really am it would dissuade you from loving me. I pray that I can “move beyond the mind I have” and find peace with who I am.

  2. Andrea M Hattler Bramson
    Andrea M Hattler Bramson says:

    This is a perfect reflection for all of us feeling like we can never be enough. It is ok to continue to strive for better, and we should. But every evolution of who we are needs to be enough for the here and now, with a commitment to continued evolution forward. Thank you Father Boyle!

  3. Patti Meyer Lee
    Patti Meyer Lee says:

    I love the definition you have provided for “repent.” It is much different than I imagined. I always think of the words I’ve heard over time,”Father forgive me a miserable sinner.” I stopped feeling comfortable with this phrase after reading Theologin Matthew Fox’s, “Original Blessing.” It’s so much more loving and encouraging, to see yourself and others as being in God’s image instead of as “miserable sinners.”
    Thank you.

  4. Janice Gedmin
    Janice Gedmin says:

    I love the thought that we are exactly who God had in mind when he made us, and we have the opportunity to see others that way. It is part of repent definition, to move beyond the mind we have and to see things differently. It will be my challenge this Lent. Thank you Father Boyle.

  5. Matthew DeBoer
    Matthew DeBoer says:

    Fr. G is one of my inspirations, and a Homeboy named Louie whom I met in Atlanta a decade plus ago. He told me, “Fr. G told me never nudge a book by its cover, but don’t judge by its first chapter either.”

    It has influenced my approach as an educator, partner, friend, and follower of Christ ever since. Repent, and refrain from judgment. There are always at least 2 sides to every story.

  6. David Babcock
    David Babcock says:

    When I was growing up in suburban Syracuse in the 1960’s, I was told that the south side of Syracuse was a dangerous place. During those years, I as a white boy would know nobody on the south side and would be considered a curiosity at best if I ever visited there. The people who gave me these messages meant well but, in hindsight, what they were saying to me was that the people I live with and near and the people I associate with are better than people that live in a different area that were different from us in some ways. I thank God that somehow I now have many friends from the south side of Syracuse, and I know from first-hand experience that the south side is where many wonderful people live. Yes, we are called to see things differently.

  7. Francie Campbell
    Francie Campbell says:

    I was feeling grumpy on this first Sunday of Lent (why did I have to sit through another bleak homily about our sinfulness??) when I found Fr. Greg’s message in my inbox. I’ve taken it to heart and resumed the day with renewed spirit and acceptance of God’s love. And I’m eager to share the Good News! God bless you and yours, Fr. Greg —

  8. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    I read your story about Louie. There are so many of us that do think about the wrong things we have done. It takes a wonderful person to help you realize that yes you are right where God wants you to be. That person for me is my brother Father Bob. He probably does not know it but he gives hope and love for myself all the time. Thank you for letting me write this and thank you for reading.


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