December 2, 2015 // Uncategorized

The Jubilee Year of Mercy

On December 8th, the Church throughout the world will celebrate the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis chose this date because December 8, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. On December 8th, the Holy Father will open the Holy Door, a Door of Mercy, at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. On the following Sunday, Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome. Also, on that Sunday, December 13th, the Third Sunday of Advent, bishops throughout the world will open the Holy Doors of their cathedrals.

On December 13th, I will open the Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne; Msgr. Michael Heintz will open the Holy Door at Saint Matthew Cathedral in South Bend; and Father Peter Rocca will open the Holy Door at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. I invite you during this Jubilee Year to pass through these Holy Doors in our diocese. They are Doors of Mercy through which, as Pope Francis says, “anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” This is one way to observe the Jubilee Year, visiting our cathedrals and basilica to pray, go to confession, attend Mass, and receive the Jubilee indulgence.

It is significant that the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This has special meaning for us in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, since Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our diocese. Let us celebrate this feast with great joy and thanksgiving this year, calling to mind that great moment of mercy and grace when God, in view of the merits of His Son, preserved Mary at the first moment of her existence, at her conception in her mother’s womb, from all stain of sin.

At the Visitation, Mary sang of God’s mercy in the Magnificat: He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. At the end of the Magnificat, she proclaimed: He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever. These words remind us of God’s mercy, the power of His love, throughout salvation history. How many times in the Old Testament the people of Israel experienced the power of God’s mercy prevailing over their sins and infidelities!

The mercy of God the Father became incarnate in the world in His Son. It became manifest to us in the greatest possible way in Jesus, in His actions and in His words, and supremely in His passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus reveals to us the mercy of the Father, His faithful love, His infinite goodness, His tenderness and compassion. In the words of Pope Francis: Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy… Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.

Mary proclaimed in the Magnificat that God’s mercy is from age to age, for every generation. This includes our own age and generation. The Jubilee Year reminds us that God’s merciful actions are not just events of the past. God bestows His mercy upon us now, if we but open our hearts to His grace. As individuals, we all need this mercy, so readily available to us, especially in the sacraments. I encourage all to begin the Jubilee Year by going to confession during the season of Advent. Rich in mercy, the Lord never tires of forgiving us. Speaking about the sacrament of Reconciliation, Pope Francis says:

In confession, we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our own efforts but rather a gift; it is a gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the wellspring of mercy and of grace that flows unceasingly from the open heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy reminds us that God is always close to us and that He assists us in our weakness. He comes to our help. We must turn to the mercy of God, that power of His love that gives us peace. At the same time, we recognize that the Father’s mercy is meant for everyone. It is not something we just savor and keep to ourselves. Jesus says to us: Be merciful just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). The motto of this Jubilee Year is Merciful like the Father. We who have received God’s mercy are called to be witnesses of that mercy to others.

We who receive and experience the mercy of God are called to practice mercy to others. One of the eight Beatitudes of Jesus is: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. In this Jubilee Year, I hope that in all our families and parishes, we will focus on this call to practice mercy. The Lord calls us to go out of ourselves to bring the mercy and tenderness of God to others. Our witness must be concrete: words without actions are empty. Pope Francis hopes that during this Jubilee Year, we will reflect on, and rediscover, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I hope that we will fufill this hope of our Holy Father in our diocese. It is by practicing the works of mercy that we live as true disciples of Jesus and enter into what the Holy Father calls “the heart of the Gospel.”

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I invite you to be close to Mary, our Mother of Mercy. Saint John Paul II wrote that “Mary is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy: our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy.” Mary obtained mercy in an exceptional way at her Immaculate Conception. She helps us to experience deep in our hearts her Son’s mercy. She also gives to us the merciful love of a mother. She embraces us in her loving arms as our most merciful and most tender mother.

Through the prayers of Our Mother of Mercy, may this Jubilee Year of Mercy be a time of great grace for our diocese and for the entire Church, that this generation may know and receive the mercy of God that is, as Mary teaches us, “from generation to generation.”

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