Jubilee Year of Mercy
With great joy we celebrate this evening the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has proclaimed this special year. He is inviting us to contemplate the mystery of divine mercy. First and foremost, let us consider these words of our Holy Father: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in Him.”
My brothers and sisters, let us keep these words in our minds and hearts during this Jubilee year. Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy. Mercy has become living and visible in Him! If we wish to see God, to know God, we must look to the Son, to Jesus, who reveals to us the face of the Father, the Father who is rich in mercy. “Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.”
The Jubilee Year begins on this beautiful Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. How appropriate this is because Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of Mercy. In fact, she is the masterpiece of God’s mercy in the world. No other creature manifests God’s mercy as does Mary Immaculate. How is this so? God in His infinite mercy desired to save his sons and daughters since the very beginning of history. “After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil” (Pope Francis).
As we heard in our first reading from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3: “the Lord God said to the serpent…..I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”
God in His mercy put enmity between Satan and his offspring and the woman and her offspring. In the Hebrew original, “enmity” means complete and radical opposition. How did God put enmity, complete and radical opposition, between the devil and a woman? He preserved a woman from any stain of sin! That woman is Mary. Her offspring is Jesus.
In His mercy, God did not allow the Blessed Virgin to inherit the condition of original sin. If she would have inherited this condition, and participated in the disorder and corruption that the rest of us inherit from Adam and Eve, then she would have been at least partially under the sway of Satan and evil. There would not have been the complete enmity between the woman and the serpent that God in His mercy had promised.
God poured out His grace upon Mary from the first moment of her existence. This is the Immaculate Conception. That is why at the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel addressed Mary as “full of grace.” She is the only human person ever addressed this way in the whole Bible. She received a special gift from God not due to any merit on her part, but on the basis of the merits of her Son. God the Father applied the graces of His Son’s passion and death, which He foreknew, to Mary at the moment of her conception in her mother’s womb.
God created Mary's soul to be the masterpiece of His mercy in the world. He made an immaculate vessel to receive His Son into the world. The Father, rich in mercy, sent His Son to be our Redeemer, to save us. And He saved Mary.
Yes, Mary, as a daughter of Adam and Eve, needed to be saved and to be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. In His mercy, God saved her in a unique way, applying that grace to her at the moment of her conception. It was truly an extraordinary grace, a special privilege, to prepare her for her special vocation of being the Mother of God incarnate, the Mother of the Redeemer. Saint John Paul II once wrote that “Mary is the one who experienced mercy in an exceptional way – as no one else.” This is because of her Immaculate Conception.
My brothers and sisters, we begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy with Mary, our Mother of Mercy, at our side to assist us to experience anew the mercy of her Son. How will we live this Jubilee Year? Based on the reflections of Pope Francis, I recommend to you, and all the people of our diocese who are able, these three things: the contemplation of divine mercy; the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
#1: the contemplation of divine mercy. How to do this? I suggest Holy Scripture, particularly meditation on the psalms of mercy in the Old Testament and the parables of mercy in the New Testament. There are ten psalms of mercy (Psalms 25, 41, 42, 43, 51, 57, 92, 103, 119, 136). There are several parables of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel that have mercy as their principal theme (Luke 7:36-50; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 15:1-10; Luke 15:11-32; Luke 16:19-31; Luke 18:1-8; Luke 18:9-14). The Gospel of Luke is called the Gospel of Mercy. Saint Luke presents Jesus as the Merciful Savior. It is a great Gospel for us to meditate on during the Jubilee Year, a year to contemplate the divine mercy.
#2: the sacrament of mercy. One of my prayers during this Jubilee Year is that many, many people will go to confession, including people who, for one reason or another, have neglected this beautiful sacrament. I am praying that many people will return to the sacrament of reconciliation and allow themselves to be touched by the tender love and mercy of God.
#3: the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I invite everyone, myself included, to heed Pope Francis’ call to rediscover the works of mercy. There are 14 of them. Wouldn’t it be great if during this Jubilee Year, we tried to do each of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Now there may be a few that you would really struggle with.
You could say: how in the world can I visit the imprisoned, one of the corporal works of mercy? Well, if you can’t do it literally, you could do it in a different way, like donating a book to be given to a prisoner through the diocesan prison ministry or maybe praying a rosary for someone in prison.
Other corporal works one can do more directly, like clothing the naked: for example, giving a warm winter coat to a poor person you meet or to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society to give to the poor.
Sometimes the spiritual works of mercy can also be challenging, like forgiving offenses. Just because it is challenging, we should not let ourselves off the hook. If we’re not trying to forgive those who trespass against us, then we don’t mean what we say when we pray the Our Father.
I invite you to think about the works of mercy and strive to practice them, thus learning to be merciful like the Father.
Contemplation of divine mercy; confession; and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. These are my recommendations to you for the Jubilee Year, based on the call of Pope Francis.
On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I entrust you and all the people of our diocese to the loving care of our Mother of Mercy. May she who experienced God’s mercy in an exceptional way, like no one else, intercede for us during this Jubilee Year!
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades, SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – 2015 (CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, Fort Wayne, Indiana)