by Sister Jane Riha
In reflecting on the readings for this Sunday, I was reminded of the stories of individuals and families who live on the margins in the gang world of some of the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Stories of their struggles to find God and to have some kind of redeeming experience are recounted in the book Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, S.J. Fr. Boyle started Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in Los Angeles.
Our response to psalm 95 is: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." It reminds us to look at our heart and ask whether it has become hardened from holding within anger or pain; or whether it is soft and gentle through an outpouring of kindness and compassion. We may consider those who live on the fringes of society such as the homeless, gang members, criminals, the imprisoned, etc, as hardened by life. Yet within each one is a human heart throbbing just like ours.
The theme of love of others is woven throughout all of today's readings. The Gospel focus is on reconciliation, forgiveness, and prayer. There is an emphasis on listening and giving the other more than just a second chance. If a person doesn't listen the first time, invite others to join in conversation. The Gospel concludes by making the point that where two or three are gathered in prayer or agree on anything for which they pray, their prayer will be granted. The final phrase "there am I in the midst of them," is an affirmation that instills hope and confidence.
The Scriptures challenge us to conversion of heart and mind. Within the sacred words we find the presence of God who does not give up on us. God gazes at us with love and hopes for the best. During your personal reflections on the readings, perhaps you will choose to tattoo some message on your heart.