We are about to begin the season of Advent, when we prepare to welcome Jesus with the joy of those who have been rescued from their sins. We are also one week away from the opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Together, these two liturgical events remind us that with his birth, Jesus Christ showed us the “face of mercy.”
Pope Francis in establishing the Holy Year desires it to be “a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God…a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened, and thus, testimony to it be ever more effective.” It is a time to strengthen our faith in the Father’s personal tenderness for each one of us.
Before Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, no one had seen the face of God directly. But, as Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his 1980 encyclical Dives in Misericordia, “Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God’s mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does He speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it.” The Holy Trinity, in its three persons, is mercy; and that is why it is so important for every human being to encounter them and have a relationship with them.
In that relationship, mercy and truth are inseparable companions. Mercy always presupposes that there is sin and brokenness that needs the healing of the Father’s compassion, forgiveness and love. His mercy, while never condemning, never condones sin or leaves a person in sin. The light of the truth reveals sin, and in his mercy, he heals the wounds caused by sin with his tenderness and love.
Responding to God’s outpouring of mercy is also important as we learn from Jesus’ command, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36).
Jubilees do not happen often. The last jubilee was 15 years ago, and the next ordinary one won’t occur until 2025, so this opportunity to receive the mercy of God and to help bring it to others is rare. Do not ignore this grace offered by God through his Church.
During this jubilee year, there are several archdiocesan events where you can experience God’s mercy, and the truth of what St. John the Evangelist wrote, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn. 3:17).
The Year of Mercy will begin on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and will last until Nov. 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King. I invite you to attend the 5:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral to open the Year of Mercy in the archdiocese.
During the year, five penance services will be held in various locations, confessors who speak both English and Spanish available. There will also be five pilgrimage sites with Holy Doors where an indulgence can be obtained, after satisfying the appropriate conditions. Pilgrims will be able to participate in a special “pilgrimage passport” that will encourage them to visit all five sites.
On Jan. 23, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn will host an English-language conference on the jubilee, called Mercy Chose Me. Speakers will present on the meaning and importance of the Year of Mercy, the beautiful witness of Julia Greeley – Denver’s “Angel of Charity” – and on how to live a spirituality of mercy. Opportunities to participate in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy will also be presented.
Opportunities for the Hispanic community to participate in the jubilee year will include a special focus on mercy at the annual Youth and Charismatic Congresses, and the designation of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish as one of the pilgrimage sites. Additional events are being planned as well.
Although he wrote his encyclical on mercy in 1980, St. John Paul II’s words seem like they were written yesterday. The Father of mercies, he said, is particularly close to us, especially when we are suffering. “And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God,” he added (DM, 2).
Pope Francis’ decision to declare the Jubilee Year of Mercy shows that he is carefully attuned to this need for mercy. His heart, like the heart of the Good Shepherd, desires that every person experience the mercy of Jesus, fall in love with Jesus and stay in love with him.
Lately I have been reading St. Faustina Kowalska’s Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, and in it she recalls a message that Jesus gave her that speaks to this longing. “I am Love and Mercy itself,” Jesus said. “When a soul approaches me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls” (#1074). I encourage you to read her diary throughout the Year of Mercy, praying with three or four pages a day.
May everyone in the archdiocese experience the freedom and joy found in God’s infinite mercy in a new and profound way during this year.
The latest information on Year of Mercy events can be found at: www.archden.org/mercy.