The Jubilee of Mercy

This is the full text from Pope's Homily for Opening of Jubilee of Mercy yesterday:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In a few moments I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy. We carry out this act, so simple yet so highly symbolic, in the light of the word of God which we have just heard. That word highlights the primacy of grace. Again and again these readings make us think of the words by which the angel Gabriel told an astonished young girl of the mystery which was about to enfold her: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28).
The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her. God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ. When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, faith and abandonment to the message revealed to her. The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love. Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world. This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves. The beginning of the history of sin in the Garden of Eden yields to a plan of saving love. The words of Genesis reflect our own daily experience: we are constantly tempted to disobedience, a disobedience expressed in wanting to go about our lives without regard for God’s will. This is the enmity which keeps striking at people’s lives, setting them in opposition to God’s plan. [my emphasis] Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness. Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.
This Extraordinary Holy Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy. How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy (cf. Saint Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.
Today, as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which fifty years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world. This anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council’s documents, which testify to a great advance in faith. Before all else, the Council was an encounter. A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time. An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey. It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces.
Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm. The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council. May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan.
[Original Text: Italian] [Vatican-provided translation]

Some really good stuff in that address, even if the last bit about the "Spirit of Vatican II" is a bit worrying!

If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, or are unfamiliar with the idea of a jubilee, CV have a good explanatory post here.

This article explains that Pope Francis wants this Jubilee to teach the Church that mercy is the essence of God’s proclamation, and for the whole of humanity to experience this.
“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!” 
The Pope exclaims in Misericordiae Vultus
“May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”
The door thing is linked to the practice of pilgrimage; thus the Jubilee Years encourages us to go on a pilgrimage, even if it only to our local Cathedral. The Holy Door of the Basilica is the pilgrim’s destination. The Church is a sign of the House of God, and Jesus Christ is the great Door that opens humanity to the love of the Father. Pope Francis has given a new symbolism to the ceremony by a pre-emptive opening of the Holy Door in Bangui cathedral, Central African Republic showing how God prefers the periphery.
“The Holy Year begins earlier in this land that has suffered for many years as a result of war, hatred, misunderstanding and a lack of peace. Let us ask for peace and reconciliation for all countries that are at war”, the Pope prayed.
But yesterday’s was still the main ceremony to mark the opening of the Jubilee. The Holy Door of St Peter’s gets bricked up at the end of each Jubilee Year, and yesterday morning the Pope opened the new one by knocking the bricks away with a hammer. Next Sunday, the Church across the world follows suit, as Holy Doors are opened in cathedrals in every city. In Rome, Pope Francis will do the same with ‘his’ cathedral — the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St John Lateran.

You can see the power of the symbol. On 18 November Francis dedicated his weekly audience to the symbolism of what he called “the door of God’s mercy, a door ever open to all who knock and desire to meet Jesus.” He said doors must protect, but not repudiate, and that it was necessary to knock, “as hospitality shines in the freedom of welcome, and darkens in the arrogance of invasion”. Then he spoke of how important it was to open the door frequently “to see if there is anyone waiting outside, who perhaps does not have the courage or even the strength to knock.” And he went on: “The Jubilee Year recalls the great door of God’s mercy, but also the small doors of our churches – open to let the Lord in – or to let the Lord out, who is often the prisoner of our structures, our selfishness, and of so many things.”

So what’s actually going to happen?

Lots of pilgrims, for a start. The Jubilee Year attracted about 25m pilgrims to Rome, and they reckon that with Pope Francis’s star rating it’ll be a similar number this time. Shops and restaurants are bracing for a busy year. In itself this is a riposte to the fear of being in crowds triggered by the Isis threat. Following Paris, Vatican officials were at pains to stress that, far from cancelling these events, they are needed more than ever (see CV Comment here).

But the essential element in a Holy Year is the Jubilee Indulgence.

This is what distinguishes the Holy Year from any other year (eg the Year of Faith). This is what distinguishes going on pilgrimage to Rome (or Brentwood Cathedral) during the Holy Year from going on pilgrimage during any other year.

The Vatican gave a clear definition of a Holy Year in 2000.
“In the Roman Catholic tradition, a Holy Year, or Jubilee is a great religious event. It is a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment due to sin, it is a year of reconciliation between adversaries, of conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and consequently of solidarity, hope, justice, commitment to serve God with joy and in peace with our brothers and sisters. A Jubilee year is above all the year of Christ, who brings life and grace to humanity.”
As the Jubilee Indulgence is the essential element of the Holy Year, it is not therefore surprising that Pope Francis wrote on 1 September 2015 in his letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella:
“I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy….. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. “
It's worth remembering too that Pope Francis recently reminded the bishops of Germany the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy offers the opportunity to “rediscover the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.”
The Jubilee Indulgence is an encouragement for Catholics to go to Confession because going to Confession is one of the requirements of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.

Fortunately there is clarity and sound information about the Jubilee Indulgence and how to obtain it on the Archdiocese of Westminster website. And the doctrine of the Church on Indulgences is clearly expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1471 to 1479 inclusive) and also in the Code of Canon Law (canons 992 – 997).

There's more on the CV blog, but additionally, Bishop Robert Barron has provided ten resources for the year of mercy.

I do hope this year of mercy will provide the necessary impetus to pull millions of lapsed Catholics back to their Parish communities where they can find love and peace through the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My thought before signing off on this one comes from an inscription in the old Cathedral in Lubeck, Germany:

You call Me Master and obey me not,

You call Me Light and see Me not,
You call Me Way and walk Me not,
You call Me Life and desire Me not,
You call Me wise and follow Me not,
You call Me fair and love Me not,
You call Me rich and ask Me not,
You call Me eternal and seek Me not,
You call Me gracious and trust Me not,
You call Me noble and serve Me not,
You call Me mighty and honor Me not,
You call Me just and fear Me not,
If I condemn you, blame Me not.


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