Monday Reverb – 14March2022




Returning Us to Ourselves

Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)


Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles. He’s done this for more than 30 years, and during that time, he founded Homeboy Industries where former gang members can find support, from job training to therapy and from tattoo removal to anger management classes. He’s also an author, with two New York Times bestsellers that chronicle his experiences in working with gang members and creating an environment where they find their transformation. For most who join gangs, they are running away from something: trauma, abuse in the home, mental illness. According to Father Greg, gangs speak the language of “a lethal absence of hope,” and he’s convinced that to reach gang members, “you infuse hope to kids for whom hope is foreign” (Kate Bowler).   

Father Greg was interviewed by Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast, and he told this story about one former gang member who works for him:


“I have a homie named Louie, who’s just turned 18, and he’s kind of a difficult kid. He’s exasperating, and he’s whiny. And he works for me, although ‘work’ may be too strong a verb. But homies lately have asked me for blessings…they always ask me on the street or in my office, and they never say, ‘Father, may I have your blessing?’ They always say, ‘Hey, G, give me a bless, yeah?’

So this kid, Louie, I’m talking to him, and he’s complaining about something. And finally, at the end of it, he says, ‘Hey, G, give me a bless, yeah?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So he comes around to my side of the desk, and he knows the drill, and he bows his head, and I put my hands on his shoulder.

Well, his birthday had been two days before, so it gave me an opportunity to say something to him. And I said, ‘You know, Louie, I’m proud to know you, and my life is richer because you came into it. When you were born, the world became a better place. And I’m proud to call you my son, even though’ — and I don’t know why I decided to add this part — ‘at times, you can really be a huge pain in the [butt].’

And [Louie] looks up, and he smiles. And he says, ‘The feeling’s mutual.’ And suddenly, kinship, so quickly … Maybe I return him to himself. But there is no doubt that he’s returned me to myself.”

Homeboy Industries doesn’t offer a 12-step program. It’s not about “inserting a message into their ears.” Instead, Father Greg says and believes:

 “In the end it’s always relational.  So, if you can engage people and connect to them and … return them to themselvesthey can start to believe the truth of who they are, that they’re exactly what God had in mind … It’s really about holding a mirror up and telling them the truth and assuring them that the truth is really all good” (NPR).

Jesus is all about relationships, like Father Greg Boyle, especially with those the culture had deemed of little value.  We can know and understand the Father’s heart toward all humanity by observing Jesus’s actions and words.  Remember that Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9 (NRSV), “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”  God is about “kin-dom” or relationship as much as he is about “kingdom,” and our sermon text reveals that.  Let’s read today’s text.

Read Luke 13:31-35, NRSV.

What can we notice about this passage?

Setting the context: Beginning in Luke 9:51, Jesus starts to head toward Jerusalem, knowing that he faces his own death there.  Yet this knowledge did not keep him from continuing to reach out in relationship with people.  Let’s go through the text:

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31 NRSV)

It’s interesting to note that in Luke’s writings (i.e., the books of Luke and Acts), Pharisees were not always enemies of Jesus. Consider these examples:

  • Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple who provided a tomb and assisted with Jesus’s burial.
  • Gamaliel, a Pharisee who talked the council into not killing the apostles in the book of Acts, but instead, waiting to see if their actions were from God or if they resulted in nothing.
  • Jesus dined at the homes of Pharisees (Luke 7:36, 11:37, and 14:1).
  • Pharisees were represented as early believers (Acts 15:5).
  • Paul was a Pharisee, even after his conversion (Acts 23:6).

In this case, we don’t know if the Pharisees were simply trying to get Jesus to leave their area or if they were genuinely concerned for his safety.  As for the Herod referred to in v. 31, it is assumed to be the same Herod who had beheaded John the Baptist.  Though the verse says, “Herod wants to kill you,” Cambridge Bible Commentary points out that Herod most likely wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle.  However, Herod had not “wanted” to behead John, and he still did it, reluctantly, so his whims were prone to change.

He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’” (Luke 13:32 NRSV)

Jesus calls Herod “a fox,” which in rabbinical literature, is often used to convey contempt.  Jesus goes on to focus on his ministry and how he is creating relationships with people through healing and deliverance.  Jesus was “returning people to themselves,” their best selves created by God, through his ministry of healing and deliverance, and it is important to note that his crucifixion was not the end or completion of his ministry.  Jesus points this out by saying, “And on the third day I finish my work.”  The resurrection perfected and finished Jesus’s inclusion of all humanity into the loving relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33 NRSV)

By Jesus saying, “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day,” he is implying that he is in charge of his destiny, not Herod or anybody else.  Jesus intends to fulfill his ministry enroute to Jerusalem.  He knows that Jerusalem has a reputation of killing its prophets, but the crucifixion will not end Jesus’s ministry.  His resurrection on the third day completes it.

 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34 NRSV)

This verse conveys the depth of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s love for humanity as Jesus uses the metaphor of Jerusalem.  Human beings often see themselves as separate, disconnected, especially from those who are weak, sick, and oppressed.  The metaphor of Jerusalem talks about our very human tendency to kill or remove that which shows us the truth of our human frailty and need.  Yet Jesus does not respond to this tendency with anger but with the compassion of a mother hen (a simile).  We can envision a mother hen spreading her wings to gather all her chicks, not just the strong ones, under her loving care.  If we are parents, we can understand the desire to protect and help our children, even when they may strike back or refuse our help.

Referring to his work with gang members, Father Greg Boyle says that if we assume God is compassionate lovingkindness, all we’re asked to do is to participate with God in the world.  He asks an important question: “So how can we seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it?”  Here’s the answer he suggests:

“So you’re trying to imitate the kind of God you believe in.  You want to move away from whatever is tiny-spirited and judgmental, … [and] you want to be as spacious as you can be … And love is all there is, and love is all you are … You want people to recognize the truth of who they are, that they’re exactly what God had in mind when God made them. [Child psychologist] Alice Miller … talked about [how] we’re all called to be enlightened witnesses: people who, through kindness and tenderness and focused attention of love, return people to themselves.  And in the process, you’re returned to yourself.” (On Being)

Jesus longed to hold a mirror up to Jerusalem to show her who she really was, beloved by God, and then return her to that original vision.  Unfortunately, Jerusalem and humanity in general long to fight against real or perceived enemies and forego compassion.  As a result, we fail to live lives of peace, joy, and love.

Jesus wants to return us to ourselves, but we have to want it, too.  Father Greg says that Homeboy Industries doesn’t “exist for those who need help.  We are only around for those who want help” (Kate Bowler).  To embrace our fullest, most loving, and compassionate selves, we have to want it.

See, your house is left to you.  And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13:35 NRSV)

This verse outlines the consequences of not living in God’s kin-dom, in relationship with God the Father, Son, and Spirit.  “Your house is left to you” could refer to Jerusalem’s fall to Babylonia in 587 B.C. or prophetically to Vespasian’s siege on Jerusalem in 68 A.D.  This is not the only verse that talks about the consequences Jerusalem’s refusal to return to God.  Jesus weeps over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44.

The reference “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” is from Psalm 118:26, and while it might refer to Jesus’s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, it could also refer to his Second Coming.


  • Recognize that God longs to return us to ourselves.  This means that God seeks to heal us of hurt and trauma that are uniquely part of our human experience and restore us to the confidence that we are worthy of love and belonging.
  • Realize that the way God returns us to ourselves is often by having us show compassion and create relationships outside our typical comfort zone.  We are restored by “imitating the kind of God [we] believe in,” according to Father Greg.  We stop judging the means people use to carry their hurts, and instead, we stand in awe that they are able to carry their hurts and still live.
  • Know God’s heart toward you by studying Jesus’s treatment of people, especially those who were marginalized by culture.  By seeing Jesus’s tender care of the children, his healing and care for women, and his respectful interactions with Gentiles, we can know that God is for us.  And we are motivated to show that same spacious care in the world.

Compassion is an indicator of health for any church or community.  Jesus’s example of compassion not only shows God’s heart toward humanity, but it reveals a love that seeks relationship.  It’s a love that returns persons to themselves, and in loving that way, we too are returned to our best and truest selves.





  1. What is the Gospel?   
  2. Is the Gospel about something that can be done … or something that has been done?   
  3. Is the Gospel about good news for all … or good news for some?   
  4. What is the “good news”?   
  5. What was the “bad news”?   
  6. Why do you think God made Man?   
  7. What would you say was/is Man’s biggest problem?   
  8. How did God solve that problem?  
  9. What is Man’s potential?


From the GCI Equipper … article by Rick Shallenberger …

Who are others in relation to Jesus?  

Again the answer is simple and profound.  They are saved, they are forgiven, they are reconciled.  The sad truth is many don’t know this yet.  They live in darkness because they haven’t been brought into the light.  Jesus invites us to bring them into the light.  He invites us to reveal the truth of who they are and help them leave shame and guilt behind.  He invites us to help them understand they are loved, they are worthy, they are valued.  He invites us to stand beside those who are hurting and give them comfort.  He invites us to stand up for those who are mistreated because they need to know they are valued.  He invites us to see others as he sees them, to see his love and compassion for them and then act accordingly.  Because we know Jesus, we want others to know him as well.  We want them to live in the truth of who they were created to be.  We are compelled by love to love others.  This is the foundation of the Love Avenue.  


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