Gift of Tears, Gift of Conversion

Today’s Good News, May / June 2016

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[googlefont font=“Cormorant Infant” fontsize=”20″]By Robert Jalbert, M.M.[/googlefont]


It was the last day of Pope Francis’ recent visit to Mexico when he celebrated Mass in Juárez. Maryknoll Sister Lil (Lelia) Mattingly was privileged to attend that Mass, simulcast on the other side of the border, in El Paso, Texas. She movingly shares her experience in this issue (see “Tears and hope in Juarez”). Sister Lil tells us that, recalling this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis offered a prayer: “With you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion.”

We are reminded daily in print and during the evening news that thousands of people throughout the world are fleeing situations of oppression and ethnic cleansing, crossing multiple borders and desperately seeking peace, acceptance and a better life for themselves and their loved ones. But often, the pope says, our hearts have not been open to them. He calls us to repent for our lack of compassion toward our brothers and sisters. He also calls us to “shed tears” for our abuse of God’s creation and urges us to bring about with others a renewed creation that we can bequeath with pride to those who follow us.

Since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis has modeled for us Jesus’ teaching of faith in action not only through his own simple lifestyle but also as expressed in his official teachings and other pronouncements. He constantly reminds us that conversion of heart comes when we encounter God’s mercy that empowers us to turn our lives around. The Gospels give us many examples. Luke (7:36–50), for instance, describes Jesus dining at the home of a Pharisee when a woman who had led a sinful life seeks him out and washes his feet with her tears of remorse. Forgiving her because of the great love she has shown, Jesus starts her on the path of conversion.

What is the personal and communal recognition of our own neglect of one another and of our environment to which Pope Francis and Jesus are calling us? What is the change of heart and attitude that are being offered us? In his homily at the border in Juárez, Pope Francis said, “We still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity.” How will we respond to this urgent call?

Robert Jalbert, M.M.

Featured Image: CNS/David Maung
 

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About the author

Robert Jalbert, M.M.

Father Robert A. Jalbert served four years in the U.S. Air Force as a Russian linguist in Italy and Turkey before earning a B.A. in English Literature from Holy Apostles Seminary College in Cromwell, Connecticut. He entered the Maryknoll novitiate in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1973, and after training in Tanzania earned his M.Div. in Theology from Maryknoll School of Theology, New York, where he was ordained in 1979.