As some Catholic Popes have done from time to time, Pope Francis has declared a special Jubilee, which begins Tuesday 8 December 2015.
What is a Jubilee?
God commanded the Jews to declare every 50th year a Jubilee, a Year of Freedom (Leviticus 25). All property was returned to original family ownership, slaves were set free, all debts cancelled and the land was free to rest. The decks were cleared to give everyone a fresh restart on a free and equal footing. The record does not show if and for how long Israel implemented (celebrated) the Jubilee. Some scholars say that when Jesus began his ministry, taking his mandate from Isaiah 61:1-2a, he actually declared the Jubilee, “The Year of the LORD’s favor and mercy” (see Luke 4:16-21). Jesus proved to be God’s promised Messiah and his ministry of the Kingdom was The Jubilee of all Jubilees – The Day of Salvation.
Pope Francis continues his courageous leadership as a follower of Jesus, by announcing a Jubilee of Mercy, thus radically stirring the Roman Catholic Church and challenging the world. And the rest of the Church of Jesus should take note.
Why choose the theme of mercy? Why an “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”?
In his Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, he motivates why: “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy” (n. 10).
I fully agree! I support this Year of Mercy. What follows is from my reading of the Vatican News on zenit.org, with a mix of quotes from Francis and my interpretations and comments. I’m doing this to motivate YOU to ‘do’ this Jubilee – for God’s sake!
In explaining why he felt led to declare a Jubilee particularly of Mercy, Francis said, “I felt that it is somewhat a desire of the Lord to show His mercy to humanity. We are used to bad news, to cruel news and to the greatest atrocities that offend the name and life of God. The world is in need of discovering that God is Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty isn’t the way, that condemnation isn’t the way. There, came to my mind that image of the Church as a field hospital in the battle; it’s true, how many people are wounded and destroyed! The wounded are taken care of, helped and healed. I believe this is the moment of mercy. We are all sinners, we all bear interior burdens. I felt that Jesus wishes to open the door of His heart, that the Father wishes to show his deepest mercy, and therefore sends us the Spirit: to move us and to deter us. It is the year of forgiveness, the year of reconciliation.”
He then spoke of the Hebrew idea of compassion, which connotes the womb of God. God is moved as a mother to the core of her being with a warm life-generating flow of pure empathy. As a mother is moved by such deep tenderness to touch and caress her child, so God is moved to tenderly touch us (humanity) in com-passion – “to suffer with”. What the world needs most is a revolution of tenderness, which is a revolution of compassion and mercy. Francis said, “This revolution of tenderness is what we have to cultivate today as the fruit of this Year of Mercy: God’s tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say: ‘I am an unfortunate man (person), but God loves me thus, so I must also love others in the same way’.”
The prayer and intention of this Jubilee is an experience of mercy for each person that they may feel more intimately the love of God, who like a Father welcomes everyone and excludes no one who comes to him. It will be a significant time for all the Church to remember that mercy is the essence of her proclamation to the world, and to render every believer a tangible instrument of the tenderness of God.
As Pope Francis wrote in his edict: “In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (n. 12). So in closing, consider this: Francis launched an initiative calling for “Missionaries of Mercy” to carry out the special service of mercy in this Jubilee. The registration has closed at 800 requests of priests from various parts of the world, recommended by their bishops. They will be mandated by Francis himself to go far and wide and be preachers of mercy and confessors full of mercy. They will be given the authority to forgive sins – reserved to the Holy See – to be the sign of the closeness and pardon of God for everyone. Imagine what would happen if the Eastern Orthodox churches, Protestant denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, take up this challenge and call for Missionaries of Mercy from their own ranks to go throughout the earth in the Name of Jesus?
Therefore I call on the Vineyard Churches around the world, of which I am a member and pastor, and on all Christians and churches everywhere, to commit to this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, to pursue a revolution of tenderness, to be an oasis of God’s mercy. “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy!