Pope Francis Holy-Year Indulgence

Pope Francis at Holy Door St Peters


Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
(Luke 5:34)

We know that the heavenly Bridegroom is always with us. Problem is that we are not always with Him.

He always loves–loves us with an earnest, peaceful, all-encompassing zeal. His constant, unflinching love is, after all, the only thing that can really make us happy. We, for our part, pay attention to Jesus loving us approximately 3% of the time.

On the one hand: time passing—weeks passing; months, years—on the one hand, all this time passing can very much work to our advantage. Because good things grow with time, even when we don’t realize it. If we keep some kind of wholesome routine and stay on the right track, the power of God can foster our growth in virtue and intimacy with Him. He accomplishes great things in us when we aren’t even paying attention.

But, on the other hand: the passage of time can lead us to sink into a rut, and our spiritual lives corrode gradually. We can find ourselves all but completely enveloped in the tedious monotony of the world–it’s short horizons and petty agitations. Over time, human beings can grow accustomed to a life that is all but spiritually dead.

cuaSo we need opportunities to break out of the small, uninspiring confines that our routines can lead us into. That’s called a jubilee: when the normal rut, which everyone got used to, without realizing it, and forgot that there is more to life—a jubilee is when that rut gets broken to bits by the hugeness of God.

The coming of a year of jubilee reminds us that everything is God’s. His mercy trumps all our antagonisms and lists of grievances. We remember that there was a beautiful beginning to this world, and it can be beautiful like that again.

In less than three weeks, our Holy Father will arrive here for a visit with us in the US. Can’t wait to concelebrate Mass with Him, at my alma mater and the site of my ordination, for the canonization of one of my most-beloved saints, using the Pope’s, and the saint’s, mother tongue.

In three months, we will begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The other day, as we discussed, the media focused on one passage of a letter the Holy Father recently wrote about the Jubilee Year. I think we should focus on a different passage:

It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: 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. (Misericordiae Vultus 15)

Popes designate jubilee years for one main reason: to grant indulgences. When we repent of our sins, God forgives us and liberates us from the eternal punishment that we have deserved for offending Him. Nonetheless, our debt to justice remains, and purifying ourselves completely takes time.

We do not, however, face the prospect of this painful purification all by ourselves. We face it as members of the one Church. And the Church has had many saints. So the supreme authority of the Church, moved to imitate the indulgent heavenly Father, indulgently grants us a share in the goodness of the saints, thereby reducing our own personal debt to justice. That’s an indulgence.

In his letter of Tuesday, Holy Father expressed something very profound, I think, when he focused on our obtaining the Holy-Year indulgence by practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Practicing the works of mercy obtains for us the grace of total forgiveness from the Father. The Pope writes that this would be the Jubilee-Year Indulgence in full—to experience living a year of jubilee in total harmony with the merciful Father.

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