“Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
A jubilee year is a special year called by the Church to receive blessing and pardon from God and remission of sin. In his powerful, opening statements proclaiming the upcoming jubilee year of mercy, Pope Francis calls the Church and it’s faithful to be beacons of merciful love and forgiveness. Merciful like the Father is the motto of this Holy Year which begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015.
“This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of humankind. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy,” writes Francis in his document. The feast also marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, an event that invited the Church into “a new phase of her history” and shed light on the “need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way.”
On the Third Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father will open the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. “On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope,” Francis continues. As a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion, he asked that all dioceses around the world designate a “Door of Mercy” at their cathedral or shrine, and to implement the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which is twenty-four hours where churches will be open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration.
“So many people, including the youth, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.”
Pope Francis intends to send out “Missionaries of Mercy,” priests who will be given special authority, to “pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.” He invites Catholics to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Corporal works include: feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless, giving drink to the thirsty, burying the dead and welcoming the stranger. Spiritual works include: counselling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offences, bearing patiently those who do us ill, and praying for the living and the dead.
Furthermore, the pope writes the Year of Mercy “relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes.” He trusts that celebrating the mercy of God may “open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better,” and “eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.” The Year of Mercy will conclude on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
“In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of throwing open the doors of his heart and repeats that he loves us and wants to share his love with us…. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people approach it.”