We have begun our discussion of Fr. Gregory Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart. Fr. Boyle tells how he came to the title of his book:
Once, after dealing with a particularly exasperating homie named Sharkey, I switched my strategy and decide to catch him in the act of doing the right thing. I can see I have been too harsh and exacting with him, and he is, after all, trying the best he can. I tell him how heroic he is and how the courage he now exhibits in transforming his life far surpasses the hollow “bravery” of his barrio past. I tell him that he is a giant among men. I mean it. Sharkey seems to be thrown off balance by all this and silently stares at me. Then he says, “Damn, G…I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”
In our second reading this weekend Paul asks the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The poet and author, Maya Angelu told how she had a religious awakening. It happened in a very simple manner. She was in her twenties and had just moved to San Francisco. She says that at that time she was an acting agnostic. It wasn’t that she had stopped believing in God; it was just that God didn’t seem to be around the neighborhoods she frequented. Then a voice teacher introduced her to a book entitled Lessons in Truth. The teacher asked her to read to him from the book:
I was twenty-four, very erudite, very worldly. He asked me to read a section which ended with the words: ‘God loves me.’ I read the piece and closed the book, and the teacher said, ‘Read it again.’ I pointedly opened the book, and sarcastically read, ‘God loves me.’ He said, ‘Again.’ After about the seventh repetition I began to sense that there might be truth in the statement, that there was a possibility that God really did love me. Yes, me Maya Angelou.
Suddenly I began to cry at the grandness of it all. I knew that if God loved me, than I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me when God was with me, since any person with God constitutes the majority.
For Maya Angelu, though she believed, God seemed very remote and unreal. It is only when she became convinced that God loved her that God became real for her. Then that belief energized her. Suddenly she felt that she could do anything, face anything, since God loved her and was with her.
Do we believe, truly believe, in God’s deep and abiding love? How has that belief changed our lives? How does it help us face difficult times? How does it move us to a deeper love of others?
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Maybe we should have that tattooed to our hearts.