Pope Francis has declared this year as the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, but what exactly does that mean to me and you?
To begin with, it means, that God is extending extra Graces to draw us closer to Him while He forgives and removes our sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church Part III Life in Christ defines Grace as this
1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46
Fr. Richard Rohr, defines Grace another way when he says, Grace is Not something God gives; Grace is who God is. Both are beautiful and invoke in us the desire to pause and reflect on them more deeply.
What does Jubilee and Extraordinary Jubilee mean?
Pope Francis has called this Jubilee Extraordinary because Jubilees are traditionally celebrated every 50 years in the Old Testament and 25 years dating back to the year 1475 while Extraordinary Jubilees are held only for special occasions. These requested special occasions are so infrequent that this is only the fifth one in history. Something to ponder further about Jubilee’s comes from scholar and Theologian, Tim Gray, who reminds us that Moses gave to the people special social legislation to be enacted during Jubilee years in three precepts.
- All financial debts were to be canceled
- Slaves freed
- Land lost returned- with no questions asked, nor bargains to be made.
Can you imagine if during a Jubilee all our debts were erased and everything lost regained? Our credit card debt, student loans, mortgages, car loans, etc. wiped completely clean!! Whew, what a way to start over. Now look at our Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy through the lens of erasing our spiritual debts by God’s Mercy to fulfill our spiritual needs. A beautiful and much-needed gesture by Pope Francis so we can grow closer to God so we can serve in missionary ways the poor in our everyday lives in order to change the world.
Churches around the world will be offering additional services of reconciliation and churches designated as the “Holy Doors of Mercy” will take special care to center their focus on the concept of mercy throughout the year.
What do the Holy Doors of Mercy symbolize?
They symbolize special doors designated in each Major Papal Basilica in Rome which are usually sealed with brick and opened only for Jubilee years for pilgrims to pass through and receive Grace. A symbolic gesture from an ancient practice of offering ‘sanctuary’ to those who run afoul of the law. Since we all run afoul from the law by our sins, it’s symbolism is still relevant to us today. The doors symbolize the openness of God’s heart inviting us to enter while He waits lovingly and warmly to receive us. Our entering shows God our hearts opened in a conceptual union of Love.
In Rome, St. Peter’s Basilica’s doors are only open during a Jubilee every 25 years, but this year for the Extraordinary Jubilee Pope Francis opened them early. He encourages pilgrims to travel to a designated Holy Door Church to receive this special Grace and walk through the doors and get a special indulgence. Since everyone can’t go to Rome bishops in America, have designated certain churches to serve as Holy Doors during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
What is an indulgence? It is the complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.
How do I obtain an indulgence? The Pope has established five conditions to be met in order to receive the indulgence:
- You must be in a state of Grace by going to Reconciliation within about 20 days
- You must receive Holy Communion within about 20 days
- You must make a Profession of Faith and pray for the intentions of the Pope (typically one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be)
” I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father 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 the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop as a sign of deep desire for true conversion.
It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, 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, Letter, 1 Sep. 2015
What a great way to enter the Lenten Season and what a profound gift to each of us from our Holy Father during this time of unrest and turmoil in the world today. Make a sacrifice this Lent to a church designated with Holy Doors and see how your life will change. I’ve visited two so far and I plan on visiting more. I find it exciting seeing how each church celebrates the Year of Mercy in its own unique way. Check out more info about God’s Mercy by clicking Ocean of Mercy