The National Basilica in Washington DC
In September 2015, Pope Francis announced that 2016 would be a Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is a special year because the next scheduled Jubilee Year is 2025 so it is very early. This is essentially the Pope’s theme for a year and wherein he also offers a jubilee indulgence. I am excited because there is an opportunity for pilgrimage, details at the end of this post.
Pope Francis said:
“I entrust the organization of this Jubilee to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, in order that it may come to life as a new step on the Church’s journey in her mission to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person.
I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God.” (Announcement by Pope Francis, Vigil of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 14 March, 2015)
I am excited about this because I have recently come to see some things about myself in a new, most honest light. The timing of this Year of Mercy couldn’t be better.
I think it’s very easy for the Church to seem scary, like a house full of rules, judging eyes and hypocrisy. But that’s not the point at all! If it is, we are no better than the pharisees whom Jesus criticized in his own time.
Pope Francis said the Church is a field-hospital for sinners; Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).” And truly, if our vision is clear, we are all sinners.
The rules of the Church are meant to guide us in a healthy, happy life. They are not meant to condemn us for imperfection. Thisdifference is the entire message of Jesus in the Gospels.
Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy is helping to make that clear, in case it had perhaps become shadowed. He is making opportunities for we the faithful and also, for non-Catholics, so that hopefully the Church will be revealed as less intimidating and as more profoundly merciful and loving, and therefore more approachable. We believe that the Gospel is for everyone, that it is good news for all people. Let us show that it is truly good news by showing what He has done for us!
Here are some ways to celebrate!
- Go to Confession; receive God’s forgiveness.
- Check out the Year of Mercy events in your local parish or diocese.
- Perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Corporal Works: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, comfort the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.
- Spiritual works: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, pray for the living and the dead
- Make a pilgrimage to a Door of Mercy!
- This is a unique and cool opportunity; there are Doors of Mercy this year at most cathedrals and major churches. All you have to do is visit a Door of Mercy and pass through it. (Confession and Mass recommended beforehand).
- Pope Francis said, “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. “
- The image of pilgrimage is especially meaningful to me because of how inspiring I found the stories of Christian pilgrims through out the years and because of my own efforts at making a modern pilgrimage and experiences thereon. Nothing quite captures my view of the faith and my love of the Middle Ages in one neat swoop.
So I’ll be making a pilgrimage to the National Basilica in Washington DC when the weather warms up. Date to be decided, but all friends are invited.