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Women and the Jubilee of Mercy

Jubilee and mercy belong to everyone in equal measure, as much to women as to men. If the Jubilee, a period for the forgiveness of sins, for conversion and for penance, is above all the year of Christ – which brings to completion the ancient Jubilee, since he came “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:16-30) – and if, as Fr Xavier Léon Dufour has written, “We shall be judged on the basis of the mercy we have shown, perhaps unconsciously, to Jesus in person” since “The love of God endures only in those who practice mercy”, how can the Jubilee be declined in the feminine? This is the question we are confronting in this issue of women church world. 

“Our Lady of Mercy” (Church of San Francesco, Monteleone di Spoleto)

Men and women Biblicists, as Nuria Calduch-Benages reminds us, explain that the root of the Hebrew verb “to show mercy” derives from the root of the term that denotes the maternal uterus rèhem. Thus the reproductive organ of the female body “functions”, as Elizabeth Johnson wrote, “as a concrete metaphor of a way of being, feeling and acting which is typically divine. When Scripture invokes God’s mercy – a theme that frequently recurs – what it asks the Holy One is that he have for us the same kind of love that a mother has for the child of her womb”. And she continues: “the womb protects and nourishes but neither possesses nor controls. It yields up its treasure in order to allow it full development and wellbeing. This is truly the way of compassion”. For this reason too we have dedicated the first page of this issue to Rachel, one of the matriarchs of Israel, the central figure in a splendid short story by Stefan Zweig. The Lord is full of wrath against his people, his patience has run out and the punishment is great, but can the God of love, Rachel bravely asks the Lord, be without denying himself the God of revenge and punishment? Or instead, can he be solely the God of mercy? “Judge, God between yourself and your word! If you are truly the wrathful God you proclaim yourself to be, then fling me down into the darkness with my children, for I do not want to contemplate your face if it is the face of an angry God, and the fury of your jealousy repels me. But if instead you are truly the merciful God whom I have loved from the beginning and by whose teachings I have lived, then show yourself to me”. And God, who is merciful, hears her. (giulia galeotti)

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