Pope Francis inaugurated a Jubilee Year of Mercy on December 8, which will conclude on the First Sunday of Advent next year. The Catholic practice of jubilees began in 1300 with Pope Boniface VIII. So popular was this first jubilee year that the bridge connecting the center of Rome with Castel St. Angelo collapsed under the weight of foot traffic. Jubilees are fifty-year anniversaries, capping seven seven-year sabbaticals. They are described in the Book of Leviticus as occasions for atonement, liberty, holiness, and homecoming. Pope Francis explained his reasons for calling this extraordinary year of jubilee in his bull, Misericordiae vultus, April 11, 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/bulls/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html
The Jubilee Year is a call to Christians to be encounters of love, forgiveness and mercy for the world, and Christian communities to be oases of mercy. Pope Francis’ exhortation reminds us that we are to bear Christ to the world.
“The Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of oneself. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae vultus, 1).
The Pope’s call to action in the Jubilee Year of Mercy gives us ten things we can do individually. These ten practices have the promise of making the world and our homes safer and more life-giving places.
- Let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge. Whenever the temptation to feelings and actions of this sort arise check them and for the sake of the holiness of this year, turn them to understanding, forgiveness, and love.
- Practice silence. Set aside times each day to spend in silent but active listening to the Word of God as it comes to you through the Scriptures and through the world and the graced moments of the day. For more on this kind of attentive silence, see Anne Carpenter, “Incline the Ear of Your Heart: Aspects of Liturgical Silence,” Questions Liturgiques (2014), available from Peeters Online Journals.
- Go on pilgrimage. The journey interrupts the routine of daily life and symbolizes the spiritual journey to our heavenly homeland. The Pope has authorized every cathedral throughout the world to have a Holy Door. He has also made the thresholds of prison cells Holy Doors for prisoners who think of God as they enter. Bishop Barber has designated the cathedral of Christ the Light as the pilgrimage site for the Oakland Diocese. See http://jubileeofmercy-eb.org/page/pilgrimage/
- Do not judge or condemn. We are all sinners. Pope Francis tells us “to accept the good in every person and to spare him any suffering that might be caused by our partial judgment, our presumption to know everything about him. But this is still not sufficient to express mercy. Jesus asks us also to forgive and to give.“
- Rediscover and practice the corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.
- Rediscover and practice the spiritual works of mercy: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.
- Meditate on the Scriptures. This invitation flows from the call to practice silence and is consonant with the Lasallian way of being a teacher. From the earliest Rule of Saint John Baptist de La Salle to the present, the Christian Brothers’ way of life provides for daily Scripture reading: “In order to enter into and live according to the spirit of their Institute, the Brothers constantly seek sustenance in the Word of God, which they study, meditate on and share with one another. They have a very profound respect for Sacred Scripture, and especially for the Gospel, their first and principal Rule” (The Rule of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, 2015, c. 8).
- Participate in “24 Hours for the Lord” during Lent and receive the sacrament of reconciliation. This is a call to communal Eucharistic adoration and private confession in March of 2016. For a description see http://www.dnu.org/diocesan-events/2016/3/4/24-hours-for-the-lord
- Participate in Indulgences. Pope Francis invites us to live consciously within the communion of saints during the Holy Year, and hence we may offer our penance, pilgrimage, prayer and other works of mercy for our departed loved ones so that, as the Pope says in his letter of Indulgence, “the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude” (https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150901_lettera-indulgenza-giubileo-misericordia.html).
- Participate in inter-religious and inter-faith dialogue. The Pope invites us to work fervently with Jews, Muslims, and members of other noble traditions to eliminate, as he says, “every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.”
“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy… Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God” (Pope Francis, Misericoridae vultus, 1).
Photos:Fresco of Pope Boniface VIII on Wikimedia commons; Ade Bethune, Visit the Imprisoned, by Jim Forest, on Flickr