Well … first things first. What is so unusual about a Jubilee Year?
We’ve seen several special “years” in the Church. (You may remember the Year of Faith in 2012–13.) But an Extraordinary Jubilee is, as the name implies, something special.
The tradition of “jubilee” has its roots in the Old Testament, where the People of Israel would, every fifty years, were to remember God’s mercy for them and that they were to extend mercy and forgiveness to others (not only for slights against them, but even monetary debts). All hurts were required to be forgotten and never thought (or brought up again). As the people would want God to forgive and forget … so it would be the same with the People of Israel. This tradition has continued in the Catholic Church, where every 25 years a jubilee (or holy year) is called. The most recent was the Jubilee Year 2000 to mark the beginning of the new millennium. An extraordinary jubilee occurs outside that normal 25 year cycle and is called to direct our attention to a particular event or theme.
Why Pope Francis call for this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy?
“Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.” (Divine Mercy Sunday, 2015)
Our days can often be filled with experiences of division between friends and strangers, family and co-workers, and even within our Church. This spiritual cancer , of course, necessarily translates and reflects our “Christian World”. More than ever our world needs mercy today, as seen in the frightening events of mass shootings and terrorism, war and rumors of war, and the incredible and unprecedented plight of millions of refugees from the war-torn Middle East. Our own country seems more polarized and divided than ever over the most fundamental questions of life, family, and freedom.
Pope Francis has called us to step back, to recollect ourselves and consider God’s work of mercy in our own lives … how He has extended forgiveness to us and blessings for us … and … in return … how we have and might still offer mercy and kindness to others.
Over the course of the Holy Year of Mercy, let’s use this space to offer suggestions for how we can seek mercy for ourselves and our loved ones and offer mercy to others. A good start is the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We’ll be expanding on the meaning of those works of mercy as well as other ways to live out the Jubilee of Mercy.