A Jubilee of Mercy
This is quite a week for the Church! Pope Francis has opened the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica to proclaim the start of the Year of Mercy. He and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI walked through the doors and now the holy year is under way. In his homily at the Mass, the Holy Father told the world:
“We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment 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.”
Also this week, the Church celebrates two feast days of Mary that are of special importance to the people of the Americas. First is the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. In 1792 Bishop John Carroll dedicated the United States to the Immaculate Conception and the bishops of the United States affirmed her as Patroness of our country in 1846. Pope Francis chose this day to open the Jubilee of Mercy because Mary is a witness to God’s mercy from the first moment of her conception.
Also this week the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. In 1945, Pope Pius XII declared her to be “Patroness of all the Americas.” The story of the famous picture of Our Lady that appeared on the tilma, or cloak, of the simple Mexican peasant, Saint Juan Diego, speaks volumes about God’s love for the poor and lowly ones. Mary’s traditional message to Juan Diego contains these moving words:
“I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all those who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of all those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate their suffering.”
I am looking forward to this Jubilee year. I know for certain that I stand in great need of God’s mercy. I know, too, that this wounded world of ours needs the message of mercy as well.
The world hungers for the witness of those who would turn away from violence and judgment and would offer forgiveness instead of revenge.
One last thing! Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. The Sunday is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word for “rejoice.” It is taken from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:5).
Just as the world longs for mercy, it also needs a cup brimming full of joy. It is not a mystery why two great themes of Pope Francis’s papacy so far have been joy and mercy.
And like icing on the cake, what is the responsorial psalm for this joyful Sunday? The Canticle of Mary!
My soul rejoices in my God
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,