PARAGUAY, Ani Souberlich •
“Paying for the wrong we have done is one thing, but another thing entirely is the “breath” of hope, which cannot be stifled by anyone or anything. Our heart always yearns for goodness. We are in debt to the mercy that God constantly shows us, for he never abandons us (cf. Augustine, Sermon 254:1)… hypocrisy leads us to overlook the possibility that people can change their lives; we put little trust in rehabilitation, rehabilitation into society. Thus we forget that we are all sinners, and often without being aware of it, we are also prisoners. At times we are locked up within our own prejudices or enslaved to the idols of a false sense of wellbeing. At times we get stuck in our own ideologies or keep a tight rein on the laws of the market even as they crush other people. At such times, we imprison ourselves behind the walls of individualism and self-sufficiency, deprived of the truth that sets us free. Pointing the finger at someone who has made mistakes cannot become an alibi for concealing our own contradictions,” Pope Francis said at the Jubilee of Mercy for prisoners on the morning of 6 November, at the Mass in St. Peter’s in the presence of approximately a thousand detainees, who came, with permission, from prisons throughout the world. The Pope carried the wooden crosier that he received from the inmates of a Mexican jail in Ciudad Juárez.
Today at CEI (Centro Educativp de Itauguá, Youth Prison of Itauguá), located a few kilometers from the Schoenstatt Shrine of Tupãrendá, in Paraguay, where young offenders complete their sentence, the Jubilee of Mercy for prisoners was also celebrated. The Bishop of the Diocese of San Lorenzo, Joaquín Robledo, celebrated Holy Mass at 10:00 a.m., in which Fr. Pedro Kühlcke, prison chaplain, members of the prison ministry “Mary’s Visit,” and the “Mother of Tupãrenda” House’s director participated. At this time, eighteen youths are receiving a second chance, or actually, the first chance after completing their sentence.
What a celebration in heaven!
Several teen inmates, who were duly prepared by “Mary’s Visit” prison ministry led by Fr. Pedro Kühlcke and his team, received the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation. In a touching ceremony, five youths crossed “the portico of life in the spirit” when they received the sacrament of Baptism, five youths received First Communion, and seven received Confirmation. Can you imagine the celebration in heaven? The toast with cake and juice shared with everyone who attended was a very simple but a real reflection of this earthly and heavenly celebration.
Yes, “Dear friends: Today is your jubilee. Today, in God’s sight, may your hope be kindled anew.” (Pope Francis).
They need a human you
I could relate many things about everything experienced that day with these youths: the joy that, through their own initiative, they asked to be prepared to receive the sacraments. Their children’s souls and hearts seen through the windows of their eyes, despite the crimes they have committed. They need “a human you” who will accept them and love them just as they are. I looked at them– the ages of the majority ranged from 15-18. They are normal teens, in the full process of rebellion, fighting against everything, like any youth from our society at that age. Today they are there for some mistake they made, some very small, others greater…but in life everyone deserves and wants another opportunity, and I believe that in this Year of Mercy, we all received that opportunity born only from the infinite love that the Good God has for us.
A mother’s embrace
Everything was very touching, but something infinitely great touched my heart and my soul. At the moment of the sign of peace, a mother embraced her incarcerated son and he burst into tears. It was a silent cry, but one that destroyed her mother heart. I imagined the encounter that the Blessed Mother had with Jesus, her son, on the way to the cross, with her heart pierced… The tender and strong embrace of that woman and her son expressed “I am with you, I support you, I love, you are my son, I will not abandon you.” I imagine God’s embrace as that merciful embrace that does not judge, does not condemn…but rather, simply forgives, raises up, loves and gives hope.
What if the change in your life depends on my embrace of forgiveness?
Everyone makes and has made mistakes. Why is it so hard to give the embrace of forgiveness? Why do we not propose to believe and to give these youth an opportunity, an opportunity that can change their lives? I believe that if one of them were my son, my nephew, my grandson, my rebellious teen godchild, I would look at him differently. I would treat him differently, I would help them not to give up, to struggle against the vices and always believe in the good that is in him.
I propose that we make this click in our interiors. Let us change that chip that we have that only criticizes, judges and condemns…and be bearers of that sign of hope for many, let us get out of our comfort zone and get involved with life, be that “human you,” that link that God needs to give his mercy and to attract many to his heart.
Thinking about these youths, it is touching how the Lord and the MTA make our effort and service fruitful. They are miracles that give joy here and in heaven.
Jesus’ gaze goes beyond sins and prejudices; he sees the person through the eyes of God, who does not stop at past faults, but sees the future good; Jesus is not resigned to closing, but always opens, always opens new spaces of life; he does not stop at appearances, but looks at the heart.” Pope Francis, Angelus, 30 October 2016.
Original: Spanish. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA