On Tuesday, December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Concep- tion, Pope Francis will literally
open the Year of Mercy, from his pastoral letter entitled “Misericordiae Vultus.” He will begin by
open- ing the jubilee doors at Saint John Lateran Basilica and then the other papal jubilee doors on churches in the city of Rome. He invites the world bishops to likewise open jubilee doors of mercy in their respective cathedrals and places of pilgrimage in their dioceses.
Diana Macalintal has written an article in the recent issue of the Valley Catholic, our diocesan newspaper highlighting the importance and power of mercy, the symbolism of jubilee doors, indulgences and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
When we stop and think about it, mercy is the central mystery of our faith. It is not a concept or a commandment, but literally the human face of Jesus Christ, who reveals God’s unconditional love for all human beings. “Merciful like the Father” is the official title of the holy year. The parable of the Prodigal Son immediately comes to mind.
The youngest son who has no right to his inheritance requests his portion of the estate from his father and mother, who readily agree to share with him his portion. It is tantamount to wishing his father dead, but without hesitation the father pours out his generosity on his son who leaves and spends the money with abandon. Upon returning home, the son prepares his speech, requesting forgiveness from the father. Unknown to his wayward son, the father has been pacing back and forth every day, just waiting for his son to return. Seeing him at a distance, the father runs to greet him telling the servants to kill the fatted calf, put rings on his finger and clothe him with the finest robe. He refuses to hear the words of contrition, and out of love, welcomes the son home. On the other hand the elder son is blinded by resentment and refuses to partici- pate in the welcome home celebration.
There are so many Gospel stories that speak about God’s love that are expressed clearly in words and action of mercy, Jesus healing the man born blind, the parable of the wayward son, and forgiving the debts of the debtor. For those who have been forgiven much, how grateful they are to receive not only God’s love but the incredible actions of mercy that restore and renew. The Pope’s pastoral letter, “Misericordiae Vultus” is available on the Vatican website in English, only 12 pages of very readable English. It takes about 20 minutes to read it, reflect upon it and then pray about how we can be instruments of God’s mercy.
The profound experience of mercy through the forgiveness of our sins opens our hearts to be attentive to the needs of others, especially those who are seeking their own way to God’s generous mercy and compassion. Let us open our hearts to receive God’s abiding love and generous mercy, passing on this gift to those we meet in our commu- nity, our homes, and in our lives. Let us be attentive to this jubilee year of Mercy.