Anyway, after being here in LA a week, I am beginning to have the feeling that this experience is exactly what I needed at this time in my formation. Although the time thus far has not been without its challenges and difficulties, I have found myself mostly in consolation. Most of the difficulties center around my own introversion and going into a new place and meeting a gazillion new people (but that's the Jesuit life!) Furthermore, I am far from being fluent in Spanish, so it is not like I can easily strike up a conversation with a number of the new people I meet here at Dolores Mission which serves primarily a Spanish-speaking population. Yet, I have found my first week to be primarily one to be very lifegiving, and that gives me a lot of hope and excitement for the rest of the summer. Despite the difficulties and suffering that the people face, I find them to be a people of great faith dedicated in the fight for peace in their communities and homes. The history surrounding this area is extremely violent, but as one ex gang-member shared with me at Homeboy industries, he believed the way to peace was to help lift the poor out of its poverty. Homeboy's motto is: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." Youth here who find no hope in their lives will turn to gangs.
I had the privilege last Tuesday of attending a Liturgy Planning meeting with the Parish staff. During part of their meeting, they reflect on the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday (which happens to be today). In the Gospel, we hear that famous passage of the woman who washes the feet of Christ with her tears. As I listened to the Gospel, I shared with them that I was reminded of a scene in The Mission with Robert DeNiro, who plays a ex-slave trader who had killed his brother in a fit of rage. He is plagued by his past and cannot let go of the shame and guilt that he feels. In this scene, he is brought face-to-face with the people that he helped enslaved, and they have every right to pay him back with his own death. You can watch what happens here:
For me, this scene provides a strong image for how sin and forgiveness works in our lives. We often carry a lot of shame and guilt in our lives for some of the things that we have done. The Pharisees chastise Jesus for allowing the woman to come so close to him. Jesus knows what she has done, but he cannot help but look upon her with great love and mercy. He does not define her by her sins, because her sins do not define her. Rather, I believe that Christ sees only a person made in God's image, for this is what primarily defines her. I believe that Christ sees only that goodness within her that she cannot see herself. This so profoundly moves the woman that she cannot help but offer her tears of gratitude and thanksgiving. The forgiveness of Christ cuts her load that she was unable to let go of herself.
Well, the pastor here, Fr. Scott Santarosa, liked hearing about that so much that he has decided today to show as part of the homily this clip to the congregation during all of the Masses and ending with a moment of reconciliation in the community. As you can imagine, I was quite taken aback by this, since I didn't expect my sharing to amount to this sort of action. But, I am grateful that it will provide a moment of reconciliation for the people.
Like the woman, I think all of us are in need of forgiveness and healing in our lives, and we are lucky to have Christ whose gaze is the epitome of love, that love that we are all called to imitate in our lives.