On Tuesday 8th December, which also happens to be the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis and the whole Catholic Church will mark the beginning of the great Jubilee Year of Mercy. From Old Testament times there has been a religious tradition of celebrating a Jubilee Year every 50 years; a time of prayer and forgiveness and freedom from debts. 700 years ago the notion of celebrating a Jubilee Year every 25 years was incorporated into the tradition of the Catholic Church. The tradition of these special Jubilee Years was intended to encourage all believers to focus again on the call to holiness and to become more aware of God’s loving presence in our lives and in the world.
The last jubilee was held in 2000, to mark the second millennial anniversary of the birth of Our Most Holy Redeemer. But this year, Pope Francis invites us to celebrate an extraordinary jubilee year, with a special focus on the mercy of God. Special events will take place all over the world throughout this year.
Here at Holy Redeemer we will mark the opening of the Year of Mercy with a special deanery Mass, which will take place in our Church on Tuesday evening at 7.00pm. I urge as many parishioners as possible to attend and to consecrate the year ahead as a time when we reflect on the mercy of God for each of us, and also as a time when we focus on the need to be witnesses of mercy to one another, to our families, to our parish community and to all we encounter in our lives.
Earlier this year Pope Francis wrote that he wanted all Catholic parishes to become islands of mercy in a sea of indifference. This must be a real and urgent focus for all of us in this year of grace. Our parish can be transformed forever if we respond with all our hearts to the invitation to reflect on God’s mercy towards us, and to reflect that mercy to one another in all our liturgies and parish activities.
One immediate place where we can strive to manifest God’s love and mercy is through our family life. We all know that family life is not always easy, and that our families can be seriously damaged by hurt and resentment, and by a lack of willingness to forgive one another. Let this year be a time when we offer our families to God’s mercy, and to ask for the grace to live out the mercy of God in our personal relations.
Pope Francis also stresses that no one should be excluded from the grace of mercy. We need to pray for God’s grace that we might open our eyes to recognise all those who feel abandoned or forgotten. I am thinking especially of the lonely and the poor, of the elderly and the sick, of the unemployed and of all who are experiencing bereavement and grief.
We have been given a remarkable opportunity of grace. May we all make use of this time to both experience and to reflect the overwhelming mercy of the God who always walks with us.
Fr Gerard, CSsR