Year of Jubilee: the Why

Lord Jesus said, “the Holy Spirit has anointed me to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” A year of jubilee. Like this year. Last month, Pope Francis inaugurated a Jubilee Year of…

christ-synagogue1Now, maybe you think: Father, that’s nice. But, when we read the Bible, we see that the jubilee of Divine Mercy began when Christ first came into the world. He said so, in the synagogue in Nazareth, as we will hear at Sunday Mass (assuming we can safely get to church).

Christ came to bring glad tidings: God’s love overcomes all evil. God loves the suffering and the poor. We human beings don’t need to mistreat each other over inconsequential trifles. We don’t have to fight over having the most stuff, or the most glamour, or the most fleeting pleasure.

God wills to give us His Kingdom, true happiness that does not die. God will give us something infinitely better than anything we could ever fight each other for in this world. The glory of God, better than ten Super-Bowl rings or 25 Oscars.

So: Live simply, humbly, and devoutly through this pilgrim life; love your neighbor; give to the poor. Avoid evil. Live for the Mass; live for the next Holy Communion; live by faith. Long for heaven. What’s the point of fighting over peanuts, doing injustices, and piling up a lot of junk that will only turn to dust in the end?

The Age of Grace and Mercy dawned like a perpetual Year of Jubilee, when the Christ came to the world. He atoned for our sins, conquered death for us, and gave us a hope worth living for.

So why would a Sovereign Pontiff of the Christian Church feel the need to proclaim a special jubilee year, since every year in which the grace of Christ flows is a year of jubilee already?

Good question.

In this case, I think our Holy Father has a double reason for proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

1) Popes always have one basic reason for proclaiming years of jubilee: to help people get out of purgatory more easily.

Pope Francis fiatNow, how can our humble Pope Francis help souls complete purgatory and reach heaven? This pope’s very simple; he just rides around in a little Fiat.

But: Pope, simple as he may be, has full executive authority over a unique kind of bank. It’s the bank with the most valuable assets in the entire cosmos: the treasury of all the good works done by the saints of Christ throughout the Christian ages.

All these good works shine before the eyes of God, like jewels. And the pope has the authority to “disburse” these jewels, and give them to us, to show to God as if they were our own.

So the pope declares: For this year, my dear people, you can make withdrawals from the bank of saintly merits more easily! You can more easily apply the goodness of the saints to yourself, or to a deceased relative in purgatory. Make a pilgrimage, or do the works of mercy, and the goodness of the saints will count as your goodness, too–or as the goodness of your beloved dead.

That’s called an “indulgence.” Popes declare years of jubilee in order to grant indulgences liberally.

So: that’s reason enough for Pope Francis to have declared this Year of Jubilee! But he has another reason, also.

2) In his letter about the jubilee year, Pope Francis wrote about the very passage from the gospel which we hear on Sunday. The Pope wrote: “A ‘year of the Lord’s favor’ or ‘mercy’: this is what the Lord proclaimed and this is what we wish to live now.”

Christ came and proclaimed the perpetual jubilee of divine mercy, in the synagogue in Nazareth. By doing so, He fulfilled a commandment He had given long before, during the time of the Old Covenant.

In the laws of Leviticus, the Lord commanded Moses and the ancient Israelites to start fresh every fifty years. Start fresh, as in: forgive debts, liberate slaves, restore lost property. Everyone has the right to a decent, peaceful life–to food, shelter, health-care, etc. Start fresh with a fair shake for everyone, every fifty years. Equalize all the incomes. That was a law in the Old Covenant. You might laugh, but there really was a divine law that said basically what Bernie Sanders says.

The ancient Israelites, however, never followed that law. The rich got richer and the poor poorer, even among the Chosen People of God. The fact of the matter is: in this fallen world, a complete fresh start never comes. But there is a way for us to try to make things the way God would have them: those of us who possess stuff–corporal and spiritual goods–have to make sacrifices for the good of others.

So Pope Francis has given us this jubilee year as an occasion for us 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.

Also 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.

By doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy this year, we obtain the Jubilee-Year indulgence. But not only that. By doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we help to bring about the unending jubilee the Christ came to declare.

Advertisements

Our Lady, Vatican II, Mercy Old and New

Closing Mass of Vatican II
Closing Mass of Vatican II

Today, the Lord re-established the Garden of Eden, as it had been before the Fall.

The place where the human being, child of God, could receive the Creator’s love, and return it, without selfishness getting in the way. The place where human intelligence and freedom could exercise itself fully, without vice and dishonesty destroying things. The place of quiet, pure friendship between God and man.

That lovely garden returned to the earth on this day. Because the soul of the Virgin Mary is that garden. In her conversation with the Archangel Gabriel (which we read at Holy Mass today), we see into Our Lady’s soul: perfectly honest, humbly intelligent, living by faith, and ready to serve. An un-fallen Eve.

Now, that was well over 2,000 years ago, when our Lady was conceived immaculate in the womb of St. Anne. Who remembers what happened exactly 50 years ago today? Pope Paul VI solemnly concluded the Second Vatican Council.

The Pope made all the Council Fathers’ teachings his own. Four years of fervent prayer, study, and debate came to an end. Something much bigger began. In the teachings of the Council, the Lord gave us modern Christians a unique and profound insight into our identity and mission.

Fifty years ago. Hate to break it to you: If you can remember the Second Vatican Council, you old.

Or perhaps we should say, ‘mature.’ Because in fifty years, I think it’s fair to say, we have matured in two ways.

1) Fifty years on, we can understand that the Church of today, the Church of the new millennium, has not fundamentally changed from the Church of the two previous millennia.

Neither Pope St. John XXIII, nor any of the Council Fathers, saw themselves as founding a ‘new’ Church. At Vatican II, the same Church of our holy ancestors greeted the 20th century—greeted the ‘modern’ world. Holy Mother recognized the urgent need for us to share the Gospel of Christ faithfully in this age. So, at Vatican II, the Church strove to understand Herself in that light.

2) We have also matured in this way: We thoroughly recognize the teachings of the Council as the pure, rich, and beautiful gift that they are. We needed new guidance in order to stay true to the faith of the saints of old.

Even old-fashioned Catholics like myself take all the important teachings of Vatican II for granted: full participation in the liturgy by everyone; the apostolate of the laity; the importance of Scripture study; our shared baptism; our common humanity; the good that modern means of communication can do; the good that the modern dream of a unified world can do. Vatican II reminded us that we believe in a fruitful future just as much as we revere the holy Tradition.

Today we begin a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Jubilee Year offers a path to the Garden of Eden, to the soul of our Lady. Holy Father has sketched out the path for us. (I think it’s a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit that the following could also serve as a basic summary of the teachings of Vatican II.)

Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Heal the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Bury the dead.

Counsel the doubtful. Instruct the ignorant. Comfort the sorrowful. Admonish sinners. Forgive those who have wronged you. Bear patiently with those who do you ill. Pray for the living and the dead.

Pope Francis enters St Peters through Holy Door

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.