This piece was published in the December 2015 issue of the Prep News
During a penitential service on March 12, 2015, Pope Francis announced that from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, the Catholic Church would embrace an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. In biblical history, Jubilee years were used to free prisoners and slaves, cancel debts and offer a general feeling of forgiveness, and during this Year of Mercy, the Catholic Church calls its members to embrace similar themes.
“The Holy Father called this Year of Mercy because it is somewhat outside the normal schedule for Jubilees, which normally take place every 25 or 50 years or occur on a special anniversary,” Fr. Terrence Baum, S.J., Rockhurst president, said.
Pope Francis considers mercy to be a central theme of his pontificate, and in doing so, has welcomed many groups of people into the church. Because of this, many Catholics consider Pope Francis to be a pope of incredible inclusivity and mercy.
‘‘As Pope Francis is our Holy Father and a Jesuit, we should, like him, embrace mercy and become more accepting of all in our community,” Fr. Baum said.
Catholics are always called to show special concern and care for the disadvantaged. In fact, Pope John Paul II often spoke of the “preferential option for the poor,” the idea that the poor, being marginalized and disadvantaged, deserve special care in order to welcome them into the Catholic community. With this Jubilee year, however, Pope Francis is taking this preferential option one step further, by emphasizing the care Catholics should show to the less fortunate in their communities.
“This year is about the call to Catholics to respond with generosity to all people,” Fr. Baum said. “Catholics should be less concerned with the letter of the law in this year and more concerned with being in tune with expressing God’s unconditional love.” This Year of Mercy is something very important to the Catholic Church, but to the everyday Catholic, it might seem difficult to find concrete ways to participate. However, to participate, one must begin simply by being nicer to and more accepting of others.
“Catholics can participate by being mindful of the importance of mercy, by being kinder and more gentle with each other and having sensitivity to different religious views, sexual orientations and people who are different than them,” Fr. Baum said.
As Pope Francis said towards the beginning of his pontificate, “I am a sinner,” and so are all Catholics. In order to be fully loving of others, Catholics must embrace their imperfections, and try to translate God’s unconditional love into tangible, everyday actions.