Jubilee Year of Mercy: Mercy is bridge to encounter with Christ, transforms world, says bishop

By Jay Nies
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) – The Jubilee Year of Mercy will conclude Nov. 20, but the Catholic Church’s renewed emphasis on mercy must not.
“If it does come to an end, shame on us!” Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau proclaimed from the ornate dais of the House chamber in the Missouri Capitol.
Bishop Rice addressed 400 Catholics from all over the state at the Missouri Catholic Conference’s annual assembly. The Oct. 8 assembly’s theme, borrowed from Pope Francis, was: “A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
The pope has described mercy as “being loved forever despite our sinfulness” and as “not getting what you deserve.”
Drawing from and extrapolating on the pope’s document instituting the Year of Mercy, “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”), Bishop Rice spoke of mercy as a bridge to an encounter with Christ at the foot of his cross and into a relationship that transforms people and the entire world.
“What began at the Incarnation, what came to full expression on the cross, what is given to us in the Eucharist – that’s mercy. And as the children of God, we’re supposed to put it into practice,” said Bishop Rice.
Pope Francis based his call for the Year of Mercy on the fact that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.”
“If we study the words of Jesus, if we look at the actions of Jesus, the entire person of Jesus, what we learn about is the mercy of the Father,” said Bishop Rice.
“When you’re humble enough to open your heart to the mercy of God, he’s not going to leave you where you are,” he noted. “He’s going to call you to conversion and to change your ways.”
Returning from the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis told reporters that “ours is a time of mercy – this generation.”
Bishop Rice reiterated the pope’s observation that the church’s credibility is seen in how it shows merciful and compassionate love.
Mercy transforms everything it touches, the bishop said. “It has implications in our efforts for respect for life, for the entire spectrum, from the womb to the tomb.”
“Mercy has something to say about employment and education,” he continued. “Mercy has something to say about health care. Mercy has something to say about the poor and the marginalized … those who suffer violence, the refugees, those who are addicted, those who need housing, those who suffer from hunger.”
“To the world, mercy, forgiveness and kindness are often seen as signs of weakness,” Bishop Rice observed. “But in the eyes of faith – mercy, forgiveness and kindness are signs of God’s power!”
Bishop Rice noted that the Year of Mercy and its themes of experiencing God’s mercy and becoming more merciful as individuals and as the church have resonated profoundly with people of all ages.
This inevitably leads to a personal encounter with people who are poor and marginalized, who reveal the face of Christ, who reveals the face of God’s mercy.
Bishop Rice called to mind a sign a Protestant pastor in St. Louis posted shortly after Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It said: “Mercy is more than a year.”
“You know, the guy is right!” the bishop remarked. “In fact, it would be great if all of our Catholic parishes put up the same sign, because that’s our real challenge as the Year of Mercy draws to a close.”
(Nies is editor of The Catholic Missourian, newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City.)

Mercy isn’t an abstract word, it’s a way of life, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Mercy is not an abstract concept but a lifestyle that invites Christians to make an examination of conscience and ask themselves if they place the spiritual and material needs of others before their own, Pope Francis said.
A Christian who chooses to be merciful experiences true life and has “eyes to see, ears to listen, and hands to comfort,” the pope said June 30 during a Year of Mercy audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“That which makes mercy alive is its constant dynamism to go out searching for the needy and the needs of those who are in spiritual or material hardship,” he said.
By being indifferent to the plight of the poor and suffering, the pope said, Christians turn into “hypocrites” and move toward a “spiritual lethargy that numbs the mind and makes life barren.”
“People who go through life, who walk in life without being aware of the needs of others, without seeing the many spiritual and material needs are people who do not live,” he said. “They are people who do not serve others. And remember this well: One who does not live to serve, serves nothing in life.”
Instead, he continued, those who have experienced the mercy of God in their own lives do not remain insensitive to the needs of others. Far from theoretical issues, the works of mercy are a “concrete witness” that compel Christians to “roll up their sleeves in order to ease suffering.”
Pope Francis also called on the faithful to remain vigilant and to focus on Christ present, especially in those suffering due to a globalized “culture of well-being.”
“Look at Jesus; look at Jesus in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the sick, in the naked, in the person who does not have a job to support his family. Look at Jesus in these brothers and sisters of ours. Look at Jesus in those who are alone, sad, in those who make a mistake and need advice, in those who need to embark on the path with him in silence so they may feel accompanied,” he said. “These are the works that Jesus asks of us. To look at Jesus in them, in these people. Why? Because Jesus also looks at me, looks at you, in that way.”
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis recalled his visit to Armenia June 24-26, thanking the people of Armenia who, throughout their history, “have given witness to the Christian faith through martyrdom.”
While thanking Armenian Apostolic Catholics Karekin II for his hospitality, the pope stressed that in making the visit alongside the patriarch, he was reminding Catholics of the importance of strengthening bonds with other Christians as another way “of giving witness to the Gospel and being leaven for a more just and united society.”
The late June audience was the last one the pope was scheduled to hold before a reduced summer schedule. (Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Diocese unveils Jubilee Year of Mercy Plan

By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz will seal a door in St. Peter Cathedral on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the 5:15 p.m. Vigil Mass as part of diocesan preparations for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday. The Pope sealed a door at St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outide the Walls in the Vatican earlier this year. Bishops around the world were invited to follow suit in their home dioceses.
All the doors will be symbolically closed until Sunday, Dec. 13, when cathedrals around the world will open them as “holy doors” for the Jubilee. The opening ceremony will be celebrated in the Diocese of Jackson at the cathedral’s 10:30 a.m. Mass. Pilgrims can use the Holy Doors to gain indulgences during the year.
In the communiques from the Holy Father’s office and from the Pontifical Commission for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is coordinating the worldwide planning for this special jubilee, it was strongly suggested that there be one holy door in a diocese with that being at the cathedral. As distance may be a factor for some, Bishop Kopacz has designated several pilgrimage sites around the diocese as places of prayer, mercy and reconciliation.
In a letter to pastors at the designated sites, Bishop Kopacz wrote: “Since pilgrimage is a key element of any jubilee year and to allow the faithful who may not be able to make it to the cathedral to participate in the pilgrimage of walking through a holy door, I have designated numerous pilgrimage sites around our diocese. In several places I have designated all parishes in a town as “stations” to make up the whole pilgrimage site.
“Pilgrims will need to make a visit to all stations as part of the one pilgrimage. I think asking the faithful to make pilgrimages to several stations in one site reflects the spirit of mercy and forgiveness intended by the Holy Father in declaring this Jubilee of Mercy,” wrote Bishop Kopacz.
In announcing the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis explained in Misericordiae vultus, the papal bull declaring the special jubilee: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.” (Misericordiae vultus, 2-3)
A diocesan calendar in conjunction with the official Vatican calendar has been established with several days designated as pilgrimage days and also days of mercy. These days offer opportunities for pilgrims to visit diocesan pilgrimage sites and receive an indulgence.
Pilgrims may gain an indulgence for visiting the pilgrimage site, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions, participating in adoration and/or Mass if available and then going to confession within eight days of the visit.
In his letter explaining the special Jubilee indulgence, Pope Francis states: “It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy…. It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be 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.”
Designated days of mercy are occasions for parishes and individuals to find specific ways they can perform the corporal works of mercy. The Pope outlined in the bull suggestions for jubilees to celebrate people with specific ministries, such as priests and religious, catechists, youth and other groups.
Other opportunities for growing in a better understanding of mercy and being a people of mercy are being developed to make the year a real occasion of grace-filled growth for our parishes, organizations and families. These opportunities coincide with the Holy Father’s themes of mercy to prisoners, those with disabilities, and so on. More on these activities will be communicated to parishes later in autumn.
When our Holy Father declared a Jubilee of Mercy this past spring, one has to wonder if he knew it would come at a time when our world really needs mercy more than anything else.
The world is a very scary place. European leaders are struggling to find a way to handle an influx of people from parts of an embroiled section of our world. Every day we face a barrage of media reports featuring shootings at schools, senseless killings, and angry voices. Yes, a year to focus on mercy and our faith as Christians in the face of this world will be a welcome moment in the life of our church and our communities.
I cannot think of a better time for there to be a Jubilee of Mercy. May we not waste this gift of a jubilee. For more information on the Jubilee of Mercy visit: http://www.iubilaeummisericordiae.va/content/gdm/en.html. A list of pilgrimage sites is available on the diocesan website, www.jacksondiocese.org.