Those who know me well enough, know that I love stories. Especially true ones. They manage to have an almost magical way to convey deep truths dressed-up in a more memorable and accessible way.
Here is one about the coolest Catholic Father I know, Gregory Boyle from Homeboy ministries.
He retells the story of a 15-year-old gang member named Rigo. Rigo was getting ready for a special worship service for incarcerated youth when Boyle casually asked if Rigo’s father would be coming. The following is a summary of their conversation: “No,” he said, “He’s a heroin addict and never been in my life. Used to always beat me. Then something snapped inside Rigo as he recalled an image from his childhood.”
I think I was in fourth grade,” he began, “I came home. Sent home in the middle of the day … . [When I got home] my dad says, ‘Why did they send you home?’ And cuz my dad always beat me, I said, ‘If I tell you, promise you won’t hit me?’ He just said, ‘I’m your father. Course I’m not gonna hit you.’ So I told him.” Rigo began to cry, and in a moment he started wailing and rocking back and forth.
Boyle put his arm around him until he slowly calmed down. When Rigo could finally speak again, he spoke quietly, still in a state of shock: “He beat me with a pipe … with … a pipe.” After Rigo composed himself, Boyle asked about his mom. Rigo pointed to a small woman and said, “That’s her over there … . There’s no one like her.”
Then Rigo paused and said, “I’ve been locked up for a year and half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she takes every Sunday [to see me]?” Rigo started sobbing with the same ferocity as before. After catching his breath, he gasped through the sobs, “Seven buses. She takes … seven … buses. Imagine.”
This is such a powerful story that captures a great image of gracious love and affection in the face of hatred and unkindness. Yet this is miles away from the Greatest Story ever told. In Christ, God travelled the length of eternity to come as a gift to us. We were, lost, sinful, unlovable and undeserving. Yet He came. Humble. With a surprise factor.
As John puts it in his Gospel: Jesus came to His own, but His own did not receive him, but to all those who received Him and believed in His name, He gave them the right to become the children of God.
Jesus makes that journey for ma and you. Far more than 7 buses. Receive Him and rejoice because of Him this Christmas!