Our Holy Father, Pope Francis recently released, Misericordiae Vultus, his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In this document, he lays out his plans for this upcoming celebration of our Lord’s incredible love and mercy towards His people. In addition, he encourages us to begin preparing ourselves now for this event through prayer and contemplation. Mercy, he writes, is “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us” (MV 2). Furthermore, mercy opens us up to hope.
The Church will begin this “Year of Mercy” on December 8th of this year, and will last until November 20th of the following year. This will mark a time for renewal in both our Church and in our own lives. For this reason, we should begin preparing now.
As Catholics, we are constantly called to lead lives of conversion. This allows us to carefully discern where we are in our journey with Christ and we want to go next. However, this is not meant to be a journey intended to be done in total isolation. Mercy is a gift bestowed upon us by God, but must also be shared with those around us. The motto for this Holy Year will be “Merciful like the Father” (MV 14). Just as St. Thomas Aquinas expressed God’s mercy as demonstrating His power, rather than weakness, our offering of mercy to others does likewise.
Mercy is not only for those closest to us. As Christ often ministered to the ones who seemed most distant from the Kingdom, we too, are obligated to step out of our comfort zones. This is easier said than done, of course. I appreciate that Pope Francis, as he is often accustomed to doing, placing emphasis on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy as productive ways of sharing this gift of mercy with others. We may feel that mercy is meant to be viewed solely as accepting ones apology for wronging us. Yet, Pope Francis there exists multiple ways to exercising this act. Nevertheless, mercy should never be misunderstood as compromise.
Truth remains truth and sin remains sin. However, mercy is its own reward. As we show mercy to others, mercy is shown to us. Our imperfect lives begin take on a sense of promise: “Mercy is the force that reawakens us and instills in us courage to look to the future with hope” (MV 10). Jesus’ Paschal Mystery is a witness to this mercy, and to this hope. This time of the New Evangelization corresponds to this call to live out the Gospel message in this manner.
Another way to help prepare for this is to become better acquainted with the Sacrament of Penance. Opening ourselves up to Christ’s mercy instills within us this conversion of heart, and provides for fruitful moments in our journey of faith. When we receive mercy, we are more apt to sharing it. The fact that Pope Francis will be permitting priests of the Missionaries of Mercy to perform acts of pardoning, reserved for the Holy See, shows his desire to encourage and inspire many to return to the fold.
Pope Francis’ references St. Augustine in showing that “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy” (MV 21). This will be a time of inviting people to embrace or re-embrace the Church. Though God is truly a just God, He is also a merciful God. His justice, His mercy, His presence are all incorporated into His loving offering of grace. May we accept this invitation to prepare for (and participate in) the Year of Mercy, and become open to learning how to imitate Christ’s ways, throughout our contemplation of this awesome mystery.