A Church on the Streets

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“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the Streets.”

In bringing to a close Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy on November 20, we’re reminded of “mercy moments” when we’ve been able to be instruments of God’s mercy and also recipients of God’s extravagant love and compassion. In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis’ vision is clear as to where and how to live out those moments. “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets,” our Holy Father writes as he invites us to move out of the center of life and encounter the majority of our sisters and brothers living on the periphery. In the spirit of Jesus’ teachings, Francis upsets and overturns our complacency and directs us toward where God calls us to be.

In responding to the pope’s invitation, we cannot help but repeat often what the prophet Jeremiah protested when called by God: “I do not know how to speak.” But God replied, “I have put my words into your mouth”(Jeremiah 1:6,9)

Called to live Jesus’ Gospel “on the streets,” we will be personally and communally transformed once God has us where God needs us to be. Living among the poor and marginalized in Kenya and Tanzania taught me that it is only among Jesus’ favored followers that we’re able to receive more than we give. In arriving in East Africa with all my religious background and higher education, I needed first to embrace my own poverty by accepting and learning from my hosts their language, culture, customs and traditions, which would enable me to receive anew and share God’s Good News there.

Pope Francis also reminds us in The Joy of the Gospel : “At our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat.’ ” In this issue we feature stories related to our Church being “on the streets” in ministries such as ensuring food security, accompanying those suffering from HIV/AIDS, receiving Mayan immigrants into the United States, educating youth, experiencing mercy in Buddhism and sacrificing one’s life to bring about peace and reconciliation.

As we approach this Christmas season, let us remember that it was God’s mercy that sent Jesus to become one of us and show us the way. May we follow where he leads.

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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.