A few months ago, Pope Francis proclaimed a jubilee year, beginning 8 Dec 2015 and running to 20 Nov 2016. The jubilee year finds it origins in the Jewish tradition. The Old Testament Book of Leviticus relates it to the idea of the Sabbath and the sabbatical year. (Leviticus 25) For God’s People such jubilee years were to be observed every 50 years. They were seen as a year of rest for the people and for their lands and with the rest came renewal of both the people and their lands.
The jubilee year was a time for restoration and reconciliation of the People of God. It was a time to take the initiative in reaching out with forgiveness of sins, the relieving of debts and the healing of divisions. The aim of such a year was to renew the community of God’s People to unity, harmony and peace. In living a jubilee, the People would heal all that divides the community and places burdens on persons. In particular it was a time to reach out to those who were excluded, for any reason, from the community.
In the Catholic tradition the practice of a pope calling for a jubilee year goes back more back more than 700 years. In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed the first such jubilee. Since that time, there have been jubilee years proclaimed every 25 or 50 years. Each of these jubilees had its own particular focus or theme.
The Jubilee Year announced this spring by Pope Francis I has a particularly significant and timely theme. It is to be a year for us as Church, and as individuals to focus on MERCY. Francis I called for the jubilee year in a document entitled Misericordiae Vultus (“The Face of Mercy”). In the words of Francis: “It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”
For Francis, such a year at this time is a crucial step in renewal. In fact, he asserts: [The Church’s “very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” It is no coincidence that December 8, 2015 is the anniversary date of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Given that Vatican II had a central purpose of bearing the Good News to the contemporary world, such a jubilee year once again proclaims the openness and compassionate love to which we are called as Church.
Our community of St. Theresa’s is called to be the local expression of this call. As we move into the jubilee year this Fall, we ask our community to consider and suggest how we might best live this year together. Please take the time and discern and pray what we might do as a parish community – and let us know of your thoughts. Email us at the parish firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can we best express this theme of mercy as a local community of faith?
What are some initiatives that we might take as a parish faith community to presenthe “Face of Mercy” to which we are called?