2015-12-07 Vatican Radio - Director of the Apostleship of Prayer in Zambia, Jesuit priest, Father Charles Searson reflects on the Jubilee year of Mercy and what it entails of all:
Pope Francis has declared the period from 8 December 2015 to 29 November 2016 as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is also his prayer intention for December: "that all may experience the mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving."
Appropriately enough the Holy Father anticipated the year on Sunday evening 29 November by opening the Door of Mercy at the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Bangui, in the Central African Republic.
Pope Francis wants the celebration of the Holy Year to be for all believers "a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God". The Hebrew word for Mercy is "Hesed" which translates as "the loving kindness of the heart of our God."
"My wish is that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and at that, as a result, they may witness to it be ever more effectively."
"I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God's mercy... who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed."
"To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop... This moment is to be linked... to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, with a reflection on mercy."
"It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world."
Pope Francis makes special provision for the sick and the elderly who cannot enter the Holy Door: "For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who, in the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection, indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness."
The Holy Father also includes Mercy for those in Prison who seek God's mercy while conscious of the injustice they have done. "They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts and is also able to transform their prison bars into an experience of freedom."
Pope Francis invites us during the Jubilee to rediscover the richness of the spiritual works of mercy (teaching the ignorant, counselling the doubtful, admonishing the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offences willingly, comforting the afflicted and praying for the living and the dead) and of the corporal works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captive, burying the dead.)
"The Jubilee Indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased. We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude."
The Pope includes the tragedy of abortion. "I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonising and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented."
In the Central African Republic Pope Francis extended the year of Mercy to all those who engage in violence. "To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace."
The Jubilee Year will be celebrated in different ways in different dioceses. In Rome, during 2016 there will be 12 celebrations spread throughout the year: for male and female religious, for Deacons and Priests, for Catechists, for the Sick, for Teenagers aged 13-16 (April 23-25th) and very appropriately for Prisoners on November 6th.
The Great Jubilee Door of St Peter's will close on Sunday 20 November 2016.
By then we pray that this fragile earth and all its people have a deep experience of "the loving kindness of the heart of our God" (Luke 1:78).