“Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.”…He does not say, “One day, if you are more perfect and try really hard, you’ll be light.” He doesn’t say “If you play by the rules, cross your T’s and dot your I’s, then maybe you’ll become light.” No. He says, straight out, “You are light.” It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it.” p.108
In chapter 4 of Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Boyle recounts story after story of individuals who are “reteaching loveliness” to themselves. These are people who have suffered abuse and neglect from parents, and who often have a hole the shape of their dad in their soul. And somehow through the community that is built at Homeboy Industries, each of these men and women find out the truth that Jesus so clearly states in the above quote. “You are the light of the world.”
As a perfectionist, I have struggled continuously with believing this truth. I spent much of my youth striving to be light not realizing that the light was already inside of me. And unfortunately without the truth of my own light, I wasn’t able to see and nurture that light in other people. I was critical and judgmental which obviously is not Christ-like at all. It was through my involvement in a faith sharing small church community that I came to “reteach” myself about my own “loveliness”, to believe the truth of my light. Once I believed the truth of my own light, I could lead a more authentic life of sharing that light with others. And most importantly see that light in others.
I think this is one of the great lessons in Fr. Greg’s book. It is through lack of community – dysfunctional families, gangs – that we forget about our loveliness and light. It is through a nurturing community that we begin to reteach our loveliness and believe in our own light. That is why places like the warming center that St. Mary hosts for the month of January, have such an enormous impact. The warming center creates a community where we can believe our own light, see the light in others and hopefully help people who have been marginalized learn the truth of their own light. Reteach loveliness.
Do you believe that “You are the light of the world”?
Can you believe that about gang bangers, panhandlers, even people who have committed violent crimes?
Let us pray that through ongoing prayer and God’s grace in community, we may come to see ourselves and every human being as the “light of the world”.
Lisa Hirsch is a member of the Faith Doing Justice Ministry leadership team. She and her husband, Tom McDonough, have 3 children and are longtime resident parishioners of St. Mary.