Dec. 2, 2015
“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” With these words, Pope Francis announced to the world there is to be an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. In the Old Testament, the Book of Leviticus tells us that the Jubilee is a time of forgiveness of sins and universal pardon. This sacred time occurred every 50 years when slaves and prisoners would be freed, all debts forgiven and the mercies of God would be especially manifest.
This “Year of the Lord” has been celebrated in the Church down through the ages every 50 or, in recent centuries, every 25 years; the last was in the year 2000. This upcoming Jubilee Year, occurring outside of that chronological framework, is considered “Extraordinary.”
Beginning on our diocesan patronal Feast Day, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015, the Diocese of Ogdensburg will joyfully join Catholics throughout the world in focusing our prayerful attention these next several months on the boundless mercy of our God. The Jubilee Year concludes with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2016.
Many grace-filled opportunities to celebrate God’s mercy will be made available to all the faithful in the North Country, both in our local parishes and at special diocesan celebrations.
These will be occasions when we come together as a family of faith to celebrate our God’s unconditional love and limitless mercy and then, as the Holy Father urges, “we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God” to others. In this way, we can be living sources of water from which others can drink, introducing them to the healing presence of Jesus Christ, building up our parish families with Living Stones. Pope Francis reminds us that the credibility of our Church is at stake.
As a local Church, we will mark the beginning of the Jubilee Year with the Opening of the Cathedral Holy Door of Mercy at the 11am Mass on Sunday, December 13th, the Third Sunday of Advent. This will be followed by several Diocesan and parish celebrations in the days, weeks, and months ahead, including Holy Hours of Adoration, Special Days of Prayer, the Sacrament of Penance, Prayer Rallies, Pilgrimages (to Italy, St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle la Motte, Vermont; and specified Diocesan sites), the Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession, the Vocation Summit—INSPIRE: Call to Love—in Lake Placid, and much more. Please be sure to check our diocesan website, your parish bulletins and the North Country Catholic for the calendar of events.
During this time of spiritual renewal, as individuals and as families, we can reawaken our consciences and enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel. In a particular way, it is an occasion for us to learn about mercy and experience forgiveness in our families.
I encourage our moms and dads to spend time with their children, teaching and reflecting upon the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy with them. This can be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen faith formation in our families.
St. Paul wrote the Romans: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (5:20) I am reminded of the Holy Father’s response when asked to describe himself. He said, simply, “I am a sinner.”
Aren’t we all in the same boat? Because each of us is a sinner, we all need the patience and compassion of God. God’s mercy is a force that overcomes everything. It has that kind of power. Mercy is always greater than any sin.
My sisters and brothers, this can be a graced moment in time for you and me for reflection on our attitudes about God’s mercy when it comes to our own participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As St. John Paul II wrote: Sin is an integral part of the truth about the human person. (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 13). “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1Jn. 1:8-9) But this sin is countered by the truth of divine love. That’s what we celebrate, that’s what we embrace!
This is a time, too, when we can examine the words and deeds we use that might reveal inner tension when it comes to the actual practice of mercy. Do they speak of a rigid, revengeful, and judgmental temperament rather than the tender, understanding and inclusive attitude that reflects Jesus’ own approach to listening and teaching?
We turn to our Patroness, the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception and the Mother of Mercies, joining our prayers with that of the Holy Father: “Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in His merciful indulgence,” never forgetting that God’s mercy endures forever!