Winding down the Jubilee Year of Mercy
As I was greeting the parishioners after a Sunday Mass recently, one of them approached me and said it was so nice of the Church to change the Mass prayers to incorporate so many references to mercy during this jubilee year. I told her that the Church didn’t change any language in the Mass for this year, but that she now had a heightened awareness of mercy because of the holy year.
She was surprised. Then I thought to myself: “What a hidden gift we have had all along, that this special year dedicated to mercy has helped us unwrap for the sake of our salvation!”
This Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy comes to a close on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20. We’ve been offered many lessons and opportunities during this beautiful year. Pope Francis hoped that we would develop in three ways. First, he offered the invitation to come to a deeper theological understanding of mercy, which is concrete and reveals God’s love. He wanted us to learn practical ways to engage in this year by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. Finally, he challenged us to answer the call for justice and conversion.
From the very first words of the document announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — “Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy” — Pope Francis has been calling us to live out the mercy that God constantly extends to all of us. So as we come to the end of this special year, we must ask ourselves: Are we more in touch with the Father’s greatest attribute? Are we more readily generous to share the Father’s quality of mercy with others? Are we prepared to work for justice through the Father’s characteristic of mercy?
Mercy is the way in which God shares his love with us, a love much like that which is shared between a parent and a child, a love that is deep and lasting, a love that renews and refreshes us. The Holy Father teaches us that “the name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of; we are not condemned to sink into the quicksand.”
Mercy is the primary way we receive the Lord and give him to others. As we have developed a renewed understanding of mercy throughout this year, we are truly called to be merciful like the Father. Have we come to an understanding of mercy and found a way to communicate it to others through our words and actions?
One of the most powerful ways we celebrate the Father’s mercy is through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Perhaps you participated in the “24 Hours for the Lord” or went to Confession during one of “The Light is On” opportunities that took place in many dioceses across the country. The Church has made a concerted effort to offer the grace of the sacrament in abundance to all of us. Once we have acknowledged and celebrated this wonderful gift of mercy, we should have felt compelled to engage in the works of mercy so that we could be instruments of God’s love and mercy to those we encountered throughout the year of mercy. During this year, have we celebrated the outpouring of the Father’s mercy through the sacrament and shared the gift through the works of mercy?
Pope Francis’ final call for this jubilee was that of justice and conversion. At first glance, many people have the sense that justice and mercy are opposed to each other, but the truth is that these virtues are two sides of one coin. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us that justice is the will to render everyone their due and mercy is the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help them. While we may sense a moment of mercy outside of justice, the long-lasting effects of mercy cannot penetrate our lives or world without justice. Have we found a way during this jubilee to invite both of these gifts into our lives and the world?
The outpouring of God’s mercy does not stop when this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy ends, nor does our opportunity and duty to participate and share God’s mercy. Rather, the gift of this year has been a springboard to a way of life where we proclaim with all our being that God loves us and wraps us in his mercy so that we can share this precious gift with the world.
MONSIGNOR MICHAEL BILLIAN is the chaplain of Legatus’ Genesis Chapter and pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Toledo, Ohio.