May 5, 2015
On Divine Mercy Sunday of this year, Pope Francis officially declared the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy from Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 16, 2016. This isn’t a small matter, as Pope Saint John Paul II declared the last Jubilee Year 15 years ago in 2000.
A Jubilee Year is a special Holy Year during which special plenary indulgences are offered. (Stay tuned for the details on taking advantage of these indulgences as the year begins.) The Holy Year of Mercy will kick off on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this year, when the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica will be opened and remain open for the duration of the Jubilee Year. Though it doesn’t officially start until December of this calendar year, it’s probably wise for us to start preparing now. After all, Jubilee years don’t come around too often.
Pope Frank knew that many would question why he decided on this Holy Year, so he had his answer ready: “Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness.”
Well, there you have it. Pope Frank wants us, as the faithful of the Church, to be signs of God’s presence and closeness. It sounds like a tall order. How are we signs of God’s presence? The answer is in showing and receiving mercy.
Pope Francis went on to explain, “Holy Year must keep alive the desire to know how to welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world and, above all, to those who suffer, who are alone and abandoned, without hope of being pardoned or feeling the Father’s love.”
It’s true that in this Year of Mercy we are called by our Holy Father to show mercy to those around us, to show mercy particularly to those who are suffering, in need, or without hope. But we need to keep in mind that it’s also true that we are called “to welcome the numerous signs of tenderness which God offers” to us
personally. It’s when we learn to welcome the tenderness of God that we can, in turn, reach out and offer that tenderness and mercy to others.
Some ways to welcome the mercy of God during this upcoming Holy Year would be to increase our visits to the confessional and learn how to continue to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Then, in turn, we can reach out to those around us and spread the mercy we receive.
It’s nearly impossible to miss the secular media’s thoughts on this Year of Mercy, wondering if it will affect Church teaching. But Pope Francis isn’t out to change church teaching. Instead, he’s all about drawing us back to the roots of the faith.
If you open up the Gospels you would read about mercy on most every page. It’s at the heart of Christ’s teaching. And Pope Frank simply wants to take us back to those roots. It reminds us what Christ’s love is all about, in a world where mercy is seen as weak and where there is no time for compassion.