Recognizing the needs of others is a sign of genuine conversion, which only happens when the heart is ready to be changed by Jesus, Pope Francis said Saturday.
“True conversion happens when we welcome the gift of grace,” the Pope said during his catechesis for this month’s Jubilee Year of Mercy audience in St. Peter’s Square. “A clear sign of its authenticity is that we recognize the needs of our brothers and sisters, and we are ready to meet them.”
In off-the-cuff remarks, the pontiff spoke of the challenge many feel in the face of this need for conversion, and how only Jesus can bring about real change.
“How often do we tell ourselves: I must change, I cannot continue like this. On this path, my life will not bear fruit. It will be a useless life, and I will not be happy.”
“And Jesus is beside us with hand outstretched,” the pontiff said, and he tells us: “Come to me. I will do the work. I will change your heart. I will change your life. I will make you happy.”
Francis challenged the crowds to say out loud whether they really believe that Jesus can bring about this change.
Jesus “invites us to change our lives,” the Pope said. He, with the Holy Spirit, “plants in us the seed of this restlessness in order to change our lives a little bit for the better.”
He challenged the faithful to respond to this invitation of the Lord, and not resist it: “Just open the door, and He will do all the rest. He does everything. But open wide the door so that he can heal us and carry us forward.”
The June 18 gathering in St. Peter’s Square was the latest in a series of special audiences for the Holy Year of Mercy, which are being held in addition to the weekly general audiences every Wednesday.
The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that officially commenced December 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Conversion and forgiveness of sins are two aspects of mercy, Pope Francis said during Saturday’s catechesis, which centered especially on the meaning of conversion.
He noted how conversion is present throughout the Bible, and to convert — according to the prophets — means to return once again to the Lord.
Jesus’ began his preaching with a call to repent and believe in the Gospel, and insisted on an “interior dimension of conversion” in which the whole person, “heart and mind,” became “a new creature, a new person,” Francis said.
This call to conversion does not come from Jesus’ “judgement of people,” the pontiff continued, but from closeness, and a “sharing of the human condition,” be it on the street, in the home, at meals, etc.
“The mercy toward those who needed to change their lives occurred with his loving presence, involving everyone in his history of salvation,” the Pope said. “Jesus won people over with kindness’, with love.”