Rooted in the Old Testament tradition of a Jubilee Year, themselves steeped in mercy, repentance, thanksgiving and care of the poor and vulnerable, within the Roman Catholic Church there have been over the millennia some thirty Jubilees.
However the first formal one did not occur until 1300 and prior to this one was the Great Jubilee to usher in the new millennium called for by St. John Paul II.
The present Jubilee will begin on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and conclude on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Pope Francis begins by reminding us that: Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.
In a world so filled with hatred and violence, in a word with sin, Pope Francis reassures us that:
When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.
Whenever we are troubled or discouraged by our own sins or the evil in the world as we observe on a daily basis things such as terrorism, human trafficking and the like, satan will attempt to convince us he is more powerful than he actually is.
God’s merciful love is the only real, true, pure, selfless power there is and God uses His Divine power to fill us with His merciful, forgiving, healing, comforting love.
Clearly the following comes from deep within the heart of our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis: How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!
Today many nations are showing mercy to the people of Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake, many ordinary people in Baltimore are trying to show mercy by standing between the angry mob and the police so violence ends and dialogue begins.
Hidden from such public view others are showing mercy by volunteering to keep vigil in various hospices, in soup kitchens, bring meals to shut-ins: the ways of fulfilling the works of mercy, of being merciful, are innumerable.
All that is needed is love’s imagination.
The Holy Father reminds us that: Throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, close, provident, holy, and merciful.
Therefore Pope Francis also reminds us that: …..the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a “visceral” love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.
To fully appreciate this we need to be steeped in all of Sacred Scripture, which overflows with examples of this Divine Love, culminating in Christ Jesus laying down His life for us, the same Jesus who calls us to be as merciful as our Heavenly Father, loving one another as we are loved by Him.
Placing before us anew the essence of the Church’s life and mission Pope Francis notes that:
Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life…..and….. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.
It is tempting at this juncture to note at some length where great reform is needed as regards how the Church, or more accurately those with power within the Church, from the Vatican to the smallest parish, exercise mercy, both externally towards parishioners and people in general throughout the world and internally towards priests, religious, consecrated lay people.
A temptation, yes. To be detailed here with suggestions, no.
These, at least for a priest-hermit, are things best brought to the Lord in prayer.
Everyone can read the teachings of Pope Francis, heed his words, follow his example, and each of us, whatever our state in life, are called upon by Pope Francis to exemplify and exercise this mandate of mercy.
Pope Francis guides us by reminding us that: In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s mercy and adopt it as our lifestyle.
In this, and in all things, we have Our Blessed Mother, among whose titles is Our Lady of Mercy, to help us as Pope Francis notes: My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of His love.
We have just over seven months to prepare to cross the threshold into the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and meditating upon the teachings and encouragements given us by Pope Francis in the Bull of Indiction, is one way to prepare so that: In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6).