Last Friday, Terry Gross (I think Terry Gross is a horrible interviewer, but she does get good guests) interviewed Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who has worked for nearly 20 years to help gang members in Los Angeles find jobs and integrate into society. The man is a saint many times over, but what stopped me in my tracks was when he talked about his recent struggles with leukemia.
When Terry asked him about his diagnosis and chemo treatments, Father Boyle said as they heard about his diagnosis, the men he had helped over the years came to him one by one to offer him assistance and to console him. But almost invariably, Father Boyle recounted, the men would break down and cry their eyes out–out of concern and love for him. He took that as an opportunity to minister to them–to allow them to express feelings that they normally have a hard time with, to console them.
He was suffering from a life-threatening disease, had a large community of supporters willing to help him in any way possible, and what is he concerned about? The others, not himself. That is truly an example of “WWJD?”
Later in the interview, Terry asked Father Boyle how it felt to be faced with his own mortality. He said something to the effect, “Death just isn’t high on my list of concerns.” Interestingly, he didn’t mention feeling consoled by the promise of eternal life, as one might expect of a Jesuit priest. He is simply so engrossed in helping others in the here and now that he can’t be bothered by such worries. Again, a shining example of selflessness.
In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t recall Father Boyle directly referencing Christian theology at all in his interview. He just explained his work–how he walks the walk. He’s an incredibly inspiring model of the Christian life.