Early this year, Pope Francis surprised the Catholic world by calling an Extra-Ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin on December 8, 2015, and concluding November 20, 2016. Jubilee Years in the Catholic Church ordinarily take place every 25 years but, every now and then, an extra or “Extra-Ordinary” Jubilee Year can be called and Pope Francis has done that for the coming twelve month period because he wants the Church’s members to reflect on Mercy in this time and thereby become more effective and stronger signs and witnesses of God to the world.
Doors of Mercy
The beginning of every Jubilee Year is marked by the Opening of the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. There are several large doors to enter into St Peter’s Basilica but the Holy Door is only opened in a Jubilee Year and, when the Jubilee Year is finished, it is closed and sealed up until the next Jubilee. For the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica on the 8th of December 2015 (Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and close it on the 20th of November 2016 (Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe).
Pope Francis has also asked each diocese to have its own Door of Mercy so that the Jubilee Year of Mercy can also be celebrated on a local level. St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth City will have a Door of Mercy and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe will open it on Saturday 12th December at the 6pm Mass and it will function as a Door of Mercy until the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. The function of the Door of Mercy is so that by simply passing through it and receiving Holy Communion, Reconciliation and praying for the intentions of the Pope; an indulgence can be gained (see my article from last month for information about indulgences).
In his Letter declaring the Extra-Ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis reflects on how God’s Mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the sign of God’s power. This comes from the thought of St Thomas Aquinas and also one of the oldest Collects of the Mass where it says that God shows power above all in mercy and forgiveness. Pope Francis reflects on the wider culture and notes that we have to admit that the practice of mercy is diminished around the world and so the world, more than ever, needs to have a witness to Mercy and the Church needs to take up this charge to witness to God’s Mercy to the whole world.
Pope Francis proposes several ways we can grow in Mercy:
Rediscovering silence in order to meditate on the Word, contemplate God’s mercy and integrate it into our lives.
Pilgrimage is a feature of every Jubilee with the Holy Door as the goal. By focusing on the Door as a symbol of Mercy, it reminds us that Mercy is a goal to reach in life which will require dedication and sacrifice.
There are seven corporal works of mercy as well as a corresponding set of spiritual works of mercy and Pope Francis hopes this will be a time for us to rediscover and practice them.
To be witnesses of mercy, we need to touch God’s mercy in this sacrament and then be able to extend that same mercy to others in our world.
Mercy and Justice
Justice and Mercy are not meant to be as two contradictory aspects but rather as two sides of love. Justice is necessary for society to function under the rule of law but Justice can also be distorted to mere legalism without Mercy. Mercy, in light of Justice, expresses God reaching out to the sinner and offers the sinner a chance to look at themselves, convert and believe. Justice leads the sinner towards conversion and then experiencing God’s Mercy.
Mary, Mother of Mercy
No one has penetrated the depths of Mercy like Mary as she carried Mercy-made-flesh within her. Pope Francis proposes prayers like the Magnificat and the Salve Regina which call to mind the Mercy of God in the mission given to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Pope Francis hopes that this Extra-Ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy will be a time when all the members of the Church will tap into and live out the Mercy which God the Father is constantly extending out to us. In his message for World Youth Day 2016, Pope Francis encouraged young people to devote each of the seven months leading up to World Youth Day to one of the Seven Works of Mercy. Whether we are going to Krakow or not, this is a great exercise we can take up for the Year of Mercy.
Let Mercy be our Goal!