A Jubilee Year of Mercy

This Jubilee year which was solemnly promulgated by the Pope on 11th April, 2015, the Sunday of Divine Mercy, is to commence officially on 8th December 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and conclude on 20th November, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.

The Origin of a Jubilee year?

The Jubilee year has a firm biblical background. When the people of Israel settled down in the Promised Land after their liberation from Egypt, and their 40 year long journey through the desert of Sinai, God had given them a number of instructions as to their way of life in the Promised Land. One of these was a directive to observe a Jubilee every fifty years. It was to be inaugurated with the blowing of a trumpet, or the “yobel”, and during this year the people had to remind themselves of certain essential obligations concerning their life. The Jubilee year should remind the people of Israel about God’s continued love and compassion for them. They had to renew fellowship and solidarity among themselves paying attention particularly to a sense of justice to the poor among them in matters pertaining to the possession of land (Lev 25:8-24).

In the last seven centuries there have been thirty jubilees officially announced by the Church from Pope Benedict the VII in 1300 to Pope Francis in 2015. We may just recall the Jubilees celebrated in the very recent past. Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed two extraordinary Jubilee years during his papacy. The year 1983 was celebrated as a Jubilee year of redemption commemorating the 1950 years of life and mission of Jesus; the year 2000 was proclaimed as a great jubilee leading humanity into a new millennium.

Why a Jubilee Year of Mercy?

The new evangelization: The Holy Father is convinced that in the evangelizing mission of the Church today, referred to as ‘the new evangelization’, “the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action

50th Anniversary of the closing of the II Vatican Council: The Holy Father would like to acknowledge the new phase of the history of the Church with the II Vatican Council having perceived a true breath of the Holy Spirit, and thus becoming accessible to everyone.

A personal subject of Pope Francis: The Pope seems to be personally enthusiastic about this theme which constantly reminds him of his own Episcopal motto, “miserando atque eligendo”, (Mt 9:9-13)

Symbolic Features of the Jubilee of Mercy

i. The choice of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, On 8th December for the inauguration of the Jubilee is quite symbolic. Humanity infested with sin and evil from the time of Adam turns a new chapter thanks to the mercy of God who chose Mary to be conceived immaculately and to become the virgin mother of his son Jesus Christ

ii. The concluding day of the Jubilee namely the feast of Christ the King, on 20th November, 2016, has its own significance for God’s mercy. Jesus has been the King of merciful love and his own last judgment as king will be based on the criteria of mercy. (Mt 25:31-45).

iii. The logo chosen to depict the connotation of the jubilee of mercy is quite symbolic. The person of the heavenly Father is presented as carrying someone on his shoulders, like a shepherd carrying a sheep.

iv. There is also a vibrant motto provided for the jubilee of mercy which coincides with the logo: “Merciful like the Father”. We should be particularly reminded of the parable of the prodigal son, where the father receives his profligate son with great love and mercy.

Some External Features on the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

1. Passing through the holy door is one of the most delightful events linked with the inauguration of the jubilee year. The Holy Father is officially declaring the jubilee year by opening the holy door possibly in the Vatican at St. Peter’s Basilica. As the Pope says, “the Holy door will become the door of mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope” (MV, 3).
There is a theology behind the symbol of the holy door. When Jesus reached Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he entered the door of the temple, and thereafter redemption commenced.

1. Indulgences have always been an essential aspect of Jubilees. An indulgence is a special act of God’s kindness and mercy for releasing someone from some captivity. As we study in our Theology even after a sin is forgiven and the guilt is removed yet there remain a temporal punishment due to sin, and it can be remitted thought indulgences. But there are certain dispositions needed to gain the indulgence during the jubilees year: confession which can free us from the guilt of sin is obligatory; reception of Holy Communion; performance of good works like prayer, alms deed, and the visiting of a church.

2. Pilgrimages are also closed linked with the jubilee year. A pilgrimage should be characterized by the following factors: an act of sacrifice; a process of conversion; a yearning for intimacy with God; an acceptance of deep and mature faith; a plea for favours.

3. Missionaries of Mercy is a new designation given by the Pope for the special confessors to be in service during the jubilee year of mercy particularly during the period of Lent. The Pope seems to be so enthusiastic about this concept of the mission of the confessors that he sates, “During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. There will be priests whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer” (MV, 16). As per Canon Law the list of reserved sins i.e excommunications “latae sententiae” are, apostasy, heresy; schism; violation of scared species; physical attack of the Pope; absolution of the accomplice; unauthorized Episcopal consecration; direct violation of the confessional seal; procuring or directly collaborating in the act of abortion.

The Main Content of Misericordiae Vultus:

God’s Mercy in the Old Testament: Psalms of mercy: Dt 32:10-11; 26:5ff; Is 49:15

God’s Mercy in the New Testament as manifested by Jesus: Lk 4:18-19; Lk 15; Mt 18:22; Eph 4:26; Zachaeus story; the woman caught in adultery.

God’s Mercy as the Foundation of Church’s life:

The Holy Father asserts that “the Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love” (MV, 10). While justice is a necessary and indispensable step, the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. The Pope point out, “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope”

Conclusion: As the Holy Father concluded his Bull on the Jubilee of Mercy, he touches upon religions like Judaism and Islam, which also consider mercy as God essential attribute. Pope Francis mentions the name of Mary our Mother and her journey in life as a convincing herald of mercy. Among the saints the Pope invokes St. Faustina Kowalska who entered the depths of God’s mercy and also became a herald of that mercy

Rev. Fr. S.J. Anthonysamy
V.G. (Madras-Mylapore)

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