The jubilee holy year that Pope Francis has proclaimed will begin on December 8 of this year and continue until 20 November, 2016. The theme and focus of this holy year is mercy. Our Church, both globally and locally is to be “The Face of Mercy” in our world. With this mercy there is a call for openness to one and all.
In some ways, such a holy year is intended to be a year-long pilgrimage for the whole Catholic church. Over the centuries such holy years have begun with the opening of a special holy door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. As it is Pope Francis’ hope that this door “will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.”
This holy and welcoming door at St. Peters becomes the model for every local community, every parish around the world. Throughout the jubilee year every parish is called upon to present an open door to all who enter. This call to openness is rooted in the Gospel. Throughout the mission of Jesus, he constantly revealed a readiness to welcome all. In particular he reached out to the wounded and the vulnerable, the outcasts and the forgotten.
This call to mercy and openness is response to the call given us by Vatican II. Looking back to that Council, Francis remarked on the new vision it expressesd. “With the Council, the church entered a new phase in her history. [The Council] perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way.” What was expressed then and is again proclaimed is that we are to be a church not of judgement and condemnation, pardon and readiness to welcome all.
Both globally and locally, the challenge we are being given in this jubilee holy year is to discover how we can reveal mercy to all, especially the outcasts in our midst, those who are marginalized. As a church this is indeed a challenge. We will face it as church in the coming months. The bishops at the Synod on Family life this Fall will consider some very contentious issues. Not the least of these is our church’s attitude and response to divorced and remarried Catholics. As well the synod will face the question of the place of gays in our faith community. How open can we be to all who have for so long been outcasts?
Pope Francis as he called for this jubilee year has stated: “[The church’s] very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
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 community to present the “Face of Mercy” to which we are called? Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.