Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a time of deep, personal conversion
by Father Matthew Kraemer
In less than a month we will embark upon a new year of grace! Pope Francis announced last Lent that the Universal Church would be celebrating an ‘Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016. In his announcement he said, “I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy… we want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’” (Luke 6:36).
What exactly is an ‘Extraordinary Jubilee?’ In biblical times, every fiftieth year was called a ‘jubilee year.’ During the jubilee prisoners were released, debts forgiven and the mercies of God were particularly manifested (Leviticus 25). As Christians, we know that the greatest bondage and debt we have is sin. And we also know that we are freed from sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18-19). For followers of Christ the jubilee year takes on new meaning. It is a time to invoke God’s mercy, to rejoice in it and to tell others about it.
An Extraordinary Jubilee is one that doesn’t follow the usual cycle. The Catholic tradition of the jubilee year began in the year 1300 onwards it has been celebrated every 25 years. The last ordinary jubilee year was the Great Jubilee of 2000, which many still remember. But an Extraordinary Jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance. Pope Francis has announced the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy because he feels it is urgent that we slow down and contemplate God’s mercy right now.
Here are some things to look forward to this year:
Holy Doors: On December 13, 2015, Pope Francis will open a special door that is only opened in Jubilee Years at the Cathedral in Rome. At the same time, our own bishop will open a door at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo that will serve as our own Holy Door. The Holy Door is a symbol of Jesus Christ; he is the door through which we have access to God. There will also be Holy Doors established in different churches throughout the diocese.
Pilgrimage: During the Jubilee of Mercy, all of the faithful of the Diocese are encouraged to make a pilgrimage to the Cathedral or to the nearest church that has a Holy Door. Visiting the Holy Door isn’t magic. It is a sign of wanting to experience the mercy of God and to be merciful to others.
Works of Mercy: Jesus makes it very clear in the Gospel that since we have received the mercy of the Father, we are to be merciful to others in return. Pope Francis asks us to really dedicate ourselves this year to performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Throughout the year New Earth will highlight how various parishes in the Diocese are putting this call into action.
Jubilee Indulgence: The Holy Father wants all of the faithful to experience the mercy of God by receiving a special indulgence this year. It can be obtained by visiting the Holy Door at the Cathedral or at one of the other churches in the Diocese that has one, or by performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. There will be more details to come about this indulgence and exactly what one must do to receive it.
24 Hours for the Lord: The Jubilee of Mercy will be a time to experience God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 24 Hours for the Lord is an initiative that Pope Francis started two years ago in which various churches throughout the world are open for 24 continuous hours with priests available to hear confession. This Lent he asks us to join him in our own celebration of 24 Hours for the Lord on March 5 and 6, 2016. We will, of course need to adapt it so it will work in our diocese.
All faithful in the Diocese of Fargo are encouraged to participate fully in the Jubilee of Mercy. It promises to be a time of deep personal conversion and renewed zeal in sharing God’s mercy with others.
For more information on the Diocese of Fargo’s program for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mary and resources visit the Jubilee of Mercy web page.