Lent this year is particularly special because it is taking place within a Jubilee Year (which hasn’t happened for 16 years) and this Jubilee’s focus is on Mercy. In the document designating this year as a Jubilee Year, Pope Francis said that he wanted the Lent of this year to be taken up more intensely as a special time to “celebrate and experience God’s mercy”. The things that we do in Lent fall into three categories: prayer, alms-giving and fasting; and so, below are ways that we can “celebrate and experience God’s mercy” this Lent in prayer, alms-giving and fasting.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
This Sacrament is always an important part of Lent and especially so in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis wants us to especially focus on this Sacrament as a Sacrament of Mercy where we experience personally God’s response to our sins which is Mercy: to continuously lift, save and heal us from the effects and wounds of sin and to always bring us into ever closer communion with Him.
Listening to God’s Word
Reading and reflecting on passages from the Bible are an important way to understand God’s Mercy better particularly Jesus’ Teachings and Parables on Mercy as well as the Psalms of Mercy.
Pencil this in your diary: 24 Hours for the Lord – First Weekend of March
On Friday 4th March, Pope Francis will lead a Penitential Service during which there will be Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After this, Pope Francis hopes that, over the next 24 hours, many churches around the world will offer the same. Why not lock in some time for Eucharistic Adoration during this time as well as Reconciliation?
Pope Francis has asked us to focus on what have been traditionally known as the Seven Works of Mercy which are based on the Parable of The Last Judgement in Matthew 25. Over time, there have developed the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy and the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy recognizing that we need to help our neighbour in body and in spirit. Why not pick out at least a couple of each to practice this Lent?
The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
These Works of Mercy are directly mentioned in the Parable of the Last Judgement and deal with the physical needs of our neighbour. They are:
The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy
Pope Francis has put an emphasis on not separating the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Spiritual Works of Mercy focus on the spiritual needs of our neighbour:
It seems that Mercy and Fasting don’t necessarily go together particularly in light of the theme of Pope Francis’ Message for Lent which is from Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. However, this phrase (in its proper context) is meant to be understood as mercy more than sacrifice. After all, God’s greatest act of Mercy for us was the sacrifice of the Son on the Cross. Where Mercy fits in with sacrifice is that Mercy needs to be at the heart and the motive of our sacrifices. We don’t make sacrifices in Lent just because we have to or for physically beneficial reasons but out of love for God and mercy for our neighbour. So we need to put Mercy at the heart of all our sacrifices this Lent.
This year Pope Francis is not necessarily asking us to do anything massively new or different but probably the biggest thing he is asking us to do differently is to really focus on Mercy in all that we do for Lent this year: to “celebrate and experience God’s mercy” in our prayer, in our good works and in our sacrifices.
Fr Brennan Sia is the Youth Chaplain for the Archdiocese of Perth