Meister Eckhart said, ‘It is a lie, any talk of God that doesn’t comfort you,’” said Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. at the 9:15 a.m. Monday morning worship service on July 16 in the Amphitheater.
“‘You are my beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased’ is all God wants to say. That is God’s singular agenda item,” Boyle said.
His sermon title was “The Tender Glance,” and his Scripture text was Mark 1:9-11.
Boyle’s mother died about six months ago. She died in her home and was “sharp until the end.”
“She watched so much MSNBC that she was becoming Rachel Maddow,” he said.
His mother was not afraid of dying; she was happy to be going home.
“I’ve never done this (dying) before,” she told him.
One of her last days, she partially woke up and said, “Oh, for crying out loud,” and went back to sleep.
“She was pissed she was not dead,” he said.
When she did die, he said, she let out a “glorious gasp and left us. If you heard that (sound), you would never fear death again.”
“Behold the one beholding you and smiling,” Boyle said. “Receive the tender glance from God and decide to extend it into the world.”
When most people think of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, they imagine turmoil, struggles and Jesus thinking, “Why did I give up scotch and chocolate for Lent?” Boyle said.
Boyle said he suspected it was instead “40 days of tender glances.”
“ ‘You are here!’ (Jesus said to God),” Boyle said. “ ‘You’re here!’ (God said to Jesus).”
We, he told the congregation, often settle for a lesser God. Boyle quoted St. Teresa of Avila that all concepts of God are like a jar that we all must break.
One day, a Homeboy was in his office trying to make small talk with Boyle. He asked Boyle if he had won a Nobel prize.
“Not yet,” Boyle said.
“Haven’t did enough yet, huh?” the Homeboy said.
We get stuck, Boyle said, in earlier versions of a God who think we “haven’t did enough.”
“We have to steer away from a God who thinks it is OK to separate kids from their parents,” Boyle said. “We have to break the jar.”
God looks at us and is ecstatic. God never has second thoughts about us, he said. St. Ignatius of Loyola said to look for the God who is always greater.
Boyle said that the Homeboys and Homegirls have taught him wisdom in how to see God.
“They tend to mangle the language like Yogi Berra,” Boyle said. “One day, Lisa, a trainee, was picked up after work by her man. She introduced him as her ‘sufficient other.’”
A Homeboy came in to see Boyle one day and was having trouble with his lady.
“Damn, G, she’s in a bad mood. She is just beginning her administrative period,” the Homeboy said.
Boyle, who had just turned over day-to-day operations of Homeboy Industries to an operations manager replied, “I just finished mine.”
At a mass at the San Fernando Valley Juvenile Hall, one of the Homeboys was reading the responsorial psalm and said, with great emotion, “The Lord is exhausted,” not exalted.
“I liked that way better,” Boyle said. “I choose to love an exhausted God who is without judgement, who is soaked in mercy, who has no enemies, only children. That is way better.”
Boyle told the story of a Homebody named Leftie who is married with three daughters. He and his twin brother were sent to live with a grandmother who made them sit
in the hall, cross-legged in their underwear, with duct tape over their mouths because she told them, “I hate the sound of your voices.”
They ran away to a gang after a year.
“This is why I never shush my girls,” Leftie told the audience at a presentation. “I love the sound of their voices.”
One day, one of the daughters drew on a wall with crayons, and Leftie’s wife asked him to do something about it. He knelt down, hugged his daughter and told her, “That is a magnificent work of art.”
“We have a God who loves the sound of our voices,” Boyle said, his voice cracking. “We are magnificent works of art.”
At another presentation, Leftie told a story about cleaning his bathroom. As he was scrubbing the sink, Marvin Gaye’s song “Let’s Get It On” came on the radio.
Leftie started singing to the audience, repeating the song twice. Then he started to recite the lyrics: “Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be?”
“I knew it was God talking to me, and I said yes,” Boyle said. “I surrendered to (the vision of a wonderful life).”
Boyle’s voice cracked again.
We all have holiness in us, but it is frozen. God’s love thaws the holiness in us, he said.
“We rest in the stillness of love, and love rests in the stillness of God,” Boyle said. “The incarnation was necessary because God’s love needed to be tender, to have the touch, feel, smell in the flesh.”
Manny was a Homeboy, a drug dealer full of rage, who resisted help from Boyle, but one day walked into his office and told Boyle he was tired of being “gangfully employed.”
Boyle found him employment with a “felon-friendly employer.” Manny returned from the interview and said he got the job because he “ fit the description.”
“Yeah,” Boyle said, “if you are on ‘America’s Most Wanted.’ Don’t you mean you met the qualifications?”
Manny figured out why he had stayed on the streets so long — he preferred his rage to his shame. When he was freed from his shame, he began to pull his resume together and look for a better-paying job.
The day before his daughter’s baptism, for whom he had bought a beautiful dress, Manny was gunned down. Boyle did the baptism at his funeral.
“In the gospel when Jesus says, ‘You are the light of the world,’ it feels like a tender glance,” Boyle said.
Jesus received the blessing of God, “You are my beloved,” and returned it to the world: “You are the light of the world.”
Jesus did not say one day you will measure up, if you behave better you will become light or “you haven’t did enough,” Boyle said.
“Manny was abandoned, abused — a drug dealer — but he was the light of the world because he ‘ fit the description,’ ” Boyle said.
Love is the foundational architecture of the heart, and jars need to be broken to get to the oceanic tenderness of God that organizes everything.
“You are my beloved. You are here. You’re here,” Boyle said. “Yes, it is a lie, any talk of God that does not comfort you.”
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion, presided. Ed McCarthy, a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic rite serving at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida, read the Scripture. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the Motet Choir in “Still, Small Voice” by Karen Marrolli. The Alison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion provides support for this week’s services.