By Fr SAJU PINAKKATTU
Pope Francis has declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This Holy Year of Mercy began on 08th of December 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. It will close on 20th of November 2016, the Feast of Christ the King. The motto of the Year of Mercy is “Merciful Like the Father”.
The image of the merciful father is well described in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-25. We see in the parable of the prodigal son, ‘while the son was at a distance on his return home, the father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him’. The father did not question him, nor placed any condition to welcome him and ask the details of how the son spent the inheritance, but instead just embraced him in love and healed the wounds of his son ‘who was lost and whom the father regained’.
This is the merciful embrace which heals the past, and ‘reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope’ (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 10).
I would like to invite you to reflect on the four powerful images of the Jubilee year, such as the Holy Door, Pilgrimage, Confession as the celebration of Mercy, and the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy. These images are reflected in the logo of the Year of Mercy. The Church makes the joyful call to her children to rediscover the deepness of the mercy of the Father who welcomes all and goes out to meet everyone personally. Therefore, Pope Francis says that ‘this Extraordinary Holy Year is itself a gift of grace’, when we make efforts to engage with the images of the Jubilee year.
The Holy Door: The holy door evokes the concept of forgiveness. To enter through the Holy Door means the pilgrim is publically expressing repentance by affirming his/her readiness to enter into the merciful embrace of God. This is an experience of being carried by Jesus from the darkness of sin into the light of new life as we see in the logo. Jesus carries the first man, Adam, from the darkness of sin to new light. Thus the ritual of entering through the holy door remains a sign of our repentance and recommitment to a life of faith.
Pilgrimage: Christian life is a pilgrimage of following the footsteps of Jesus. Lent is a special time to recall this journey to join Jesus in his passion, death and resurrection. The goal of our pilgrimage to receive new life in Jesus in order to see our brothers and sisters through the eyes of Jesus as we see in the logo.
The Confession as the celebration of Mercy: ‘A person unable to forgive has not yet known the fullness of love. Only one who truly loves is able to forgive and forget. At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves’ (Pope Francis). At that moment she heard Jesus’s words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” (Lk 23:24) Mary, following Jesus’s example and by his grace, herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son. Thus Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. The Church follows her example in ministering the sacrament of reconciliation to enable all to experience the embrace of the merciful God. Therefore we must make personal preparation to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation as the celebration of mercy.
The corporal and spiritual works of mercy: In order to be capable of mercy, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. The Word of God invites us to live our faith, nourished in and through prayer and the Sacraments, in the spiritual and the corporal works of mercy. The spiritual works of mercy are to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill and pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works of mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.