Anyone excited about celebrating Pope Francis’ “Extraordinary Jubilee [Year] of Mercy”?
Can we really handle another celebration? Every day, week, month, and year seems to have some added name or cause. A priest friend said, “Do we really need another special thing? What if we simply had a Year of Doing Our Jobs Better?” While sympathetic to this thought, Pope Francis usually has some good insights.
The reason this year is called “extraordinary” is simply because of the year. Jubilee years are typically celebrated every 25, 50, and 100 years. Pope Francis decided a Year of Mercy was so important, he could not wait. We need it NOW!
What is so urgent?
Mercy is supposed to be a normal part of our Christian lives. Jesus calls us to “be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Pope Francis sees mercy as the center of our relationship with God, mercy is the experience of the “closeness” and “tenderness” of the heavenly Father. If we do not get mercy right, our witness to our faith in Christ will always be empty.
Why should mercy be so central?
In my first thought, I would prefer “love” to be central to our relationship with God. (Pope Benedict started here - “God is Love” was the first document he wrote.) But Pope Francis understands our human condition. When do we know we are in full relationship with another, when we truly love? We know when we rightfully have to ask for forgiveness, and the other person grants it and asks for forgiveness as well. Young couples typically speak of surviving their first fight as a sign of this reality.
Our relationship with God our Father has to be real!
We can talk about God’s love without it being real, but not about the Father’s mercy. When mercy shapes our relationship with God, we recognize that our Father cares about what we do, how we live, shares with us true mercy and forgiveness, and always wants us close. When we truly know the Father’s mercy, then we can share that mercy with those we encounter.
What is the goal of the Year of Mercy for us? Can we help one another know the Father’s mercy and share it with those we encounter? If one of us more deeply encounters and shares this mercy, the Year will be worthwhile.
In Christ, Fr David