This is a synthesis of the Christian faith: the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy, which Pope Francis recently announced. And this is because, as we read at the beginning, mercy is the very heart of the revelation which culminates in Jesus of Nazareth, the face of the Father and of his love, Misericordiae Vultus. The papal document is meaningfully addressed to all who desire to read it, without distinction, and its wish is that “the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present” in the midst mankind.
This Extraordinary Jubilee — which will begin on 8 December 2015 and will close on 20 November 2016 — is bookended by liturgical events which should be understood in the light of mercy: the liturgical memorial of the Immaculate Conception and the Sunday of Christ the King. The opening feast of the Holy Year recalls God’s action from the very beginning — that he “did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil”. So he turned his gaze to Mary, preserving her from original sin — and the closing recalls the lordship of Christ, and that of his mercy, over all the universe.
Within this framework of the history of salvation Pope Francis chose to mark the beginning of the Holy Year during the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, because the Church “feels a great need to keep this event alive”, an event with which “the Church entered a new phase of her history”. There is, he says, “a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way”, as Montini previously said, to Jean Guitton in 1950: “What does the truth serve, if the men of our time don’t understand it?”.
Half a century after one of the greatest Christian assemblies ever celebrated, Pope Francis remembers it as a “new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning”. He then makes reference to the short book by Hans Urs von Balthasar published in 1952, Razing the Bastions: “The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way” and “to bear witness to their faith” in Christ, the one Lord “with greater enthusiasm and conviction”.Pope Francis recalled in his bull words that set Vatican ii at the centre of this ancient and yet ever new message: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy” and thus “show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children”, John XXIII said at the opening of Vatican ii.
Now is a favourable time to return to the essential and transform every Christian community into an “oasis of mercy”, shattering indifference, practicing works of corporal and spiritual mercy, rediscovering the beauty of confession and molding our lives, being open to encountering men and women of other religions. As pilgrims on a journey towards a goal to which everyone, perhaps even unconsciously, aspires, we shall — without fear — “allow God to surprise us”.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 18, 2019
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