Last March, Pope Francis I celebrated a Service of Reconciliation in St. Peter’s Basilica. At that service he preached a homily in which he referred to a significant passage from the Gospel. Luke tells the story of Jesus in an encounter with a woman who was regarded widely as a sinner. She reached to wash and anoint his feet in a gesture of love and care. Jesus responded by saying that because of her great love, her sins were forgiven. (Luke 7:36-50)
Pope Francis sees this as an experience of great forgiveness. But beyond this he notes two words that flow from the story, love and judgment. What has happened is an act of love on the part of God’s love revealed in Jesus. There is no judgment except as God judges which is always of mercy.
In this homily, Pope Francis announced that he was calling for a Jubilee Year focused on the theme of MERCY. In doing so he expressed what it means to live God’s mercy as Church. The Year of Mercy is a call for us, for our whole Church. What follows is drawn from Francis’s homily.
The call of Jesus pushes each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness. The greater the sin, so much the greater must be the love that the Church expresses toward those who convert.
Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord's words: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)
This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – and living face of the Father’s mercy. I entrust the organization of this Jubilee to the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization, that [the dicastery] 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.
“I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time. From this moment, we entrust this Holy Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she might turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey.