Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy
On March 13, 2015, Pope Francis was presiding over a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica when he announced an extraordinary Jubilee dedicated to Divine Mercy. During his homily for the service as translated by Vatican Radio, the pontiff drew a clear connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and our Father, who is “rich in mercy” and who “extends his mercy with abundance over those who turn to him with a sincere heart.”
The pope indicated that his decision to call an extraordinary Jubilee arose from his reflection about how the “Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion.” For this reason, Pope Francis put the mercy of God at the center of this Jubilee year and urged all the faithful “to live this year in the light of the Lord’s words: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ (cf. Lk 6:36)”
The Year of Mercy begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015) and will end on the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – a.k.a. Christ the King (November 20, 2016). The pope declared the organization of the Jubilee was to be given over to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in the hope that it “might animate it as a new stage in the journey of the Church on its mission to bring to every person the Gospel of mercy.”
According to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, on the official website for the Year of Mercy (www.im.va), the Year of Mercy will be an opportunity to encourage Christians to meet the “real needs” of people with concrete assistance, to experience a “true pilgrimage” on foot, and to send “missionaries of mercy” throughout the world to forgive even the most serious of sins. In addition, the Jubilee will be marked by various Jubilee days, such as for the Roman Curia, catechists, teenagers and prisoners. A complete calendar of events can be found at www.im.va.
In addition, the Sunday readings for Ordinary Time will be taken from the Gospel of Luke during the Jubilee. Luke is often referred to as “the evangelist of mercy” in part because it is in the Gospel of Luke that we find the famous parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the merciful father.
According to Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network of Toronto, Canada, and assistant to Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican’s official press spokesman, as featured on the Inside the Vatican website, in ancient Hebrew tradition, the Jubilee Year was celebrated every 50 years. The purpose of the Jubilee Year was to “restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom.”
The Catholic practice of the Holy Year began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 and has been given a more spiritual significance. “It consists in a general pardon, an indulgence open to all, and the possibility to renew one’s relationship with God and neighbor.” In short, it is an opportunity to deepen our faith and to renew our commitment to live a life of Christian witness.