"Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today?"
The Pontiff posed this question in his homily last night at St. Peter's Basilica, responding: "Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God's presence and closeness."
The Pope's remarks were intertwined with his having officially proclaimed a new Holy Year yesterday with the presentation of the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
In his homily, Francis stressed that the Church is called to offer “more evident signs” of God’s presence and closeness.
"This is not the time to be distracted,” he said. “On the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential.”
This is a time, Francis said, for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on Easter Day, namely, "to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy."
This year we are to be transformed by His mercy, so that we too may become "witnesses to mercy,” the Pope said, noting, “Without the witness of pardon," he lamented, "life would be unfruitful and sterile.”
The Holy Year’s motto is, “Be merciful like your Father” which the Pope said, involves opening our hearts and witnessing mercy everywhere, for, "Pardon is a force that can give rise to new life and infuse courage to look with hope to the future.”
Fr. Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, read the Bull in a ceremony by the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica.
With the Bull of Indiction--the formal document explaining why the Pope called the Jubilee, his hopes for it and giving an outline of what will happen during the Holy Year--Francis formally convoked the Jubilee. Afterward, the 78-year-old Pontiff moved into the basilica to preside over Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Entitled “Misericordiae Vultus” or “The Face of Mercy,” the Bull begins by saying how Jesus is 'the face' of His Father's mercy. It also explains that the year's opening date Dec. 8 is to commemorate both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, and that the closing date Nov. 20, 2016, is to commemorate the Feast of Christ the King.
The Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica will be open on Dec. 8, and Holy Doors of the other papal basilicas will similarly be opened in the days which follow. The Holy Father has also requested that every diocese around the world open similar doors of mercy as a sign of communion with the Church and as a way for the Jubilee to be celebrated locally.
The Pope gave a copy of this Bull to the archpriests of the four major Roman basilicas, at each of which there will be a Holy Door through which pilgrims will pass. He also distributed copies to other Church representatives during the brief ceremony in front of the Holy Door in the atrium of St Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony was attended by cardinals, bishops, clergy and lay people.
We complete today, in the catecheses on the family, the reflection on children, who are the most beautiful fruit of the blessing that the Creator has given man and woman. We have already talked about the great gift that children are; today, unfortunately, we must talk about the “stories of passion” that many of them live.
So many children are rejected from the beginning, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and their future. Some might dare to say, almost to justify themselves, that it was an error to make them come into the world. This is disgraceful! Please, let’s not unload our faults on children! Children are never “an error.” Their hunger isn’t an error, as their poverty isn’t, their fragility, their abandonment -- so many are abandoned on the streets; nor is it their ignorance or their incapacity -- there are so many children who don’t know what a school is. If anything, these are reasons to love them more, with greater generosity. What are we doing in our solemn declarations of the rights of man and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?
Those who have the task to govern, educate -- however I’d say all of us adults are responsible for children and for each of us to do what he/she can to change this situation. I am referring to the “passion” of children. Every marginalized, abandoned child who lives on the street begging and with all sorts of devices, without school, without medical care, is a cry that goes up to God and that accuses the system that we adults have built. And, unfortunately, these children are prey to criminals, who exploit them for unworthy traffic or commerce, or to train them for war and violence. However, in so-called rich countries so many children also live dramas that marked them in a heavy way, because of the crisis of the family, of education voids and of conditions of life that at times are inhuman. In every case they are children violated in body and soul. However, the Father who is in heaven does not forget a single one of these children! Not one of their tears is lost! Nor is our responsibility lost either, the social responsibility of persons, of each one of us, and of countries.
Once Jesus rebuked his disciples because they were sending the children away that the parents were bringing to him, to have him bless them. The Gospel narrative is moving: “Then the children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said: ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (Matthew 19:13-15). How lovely was this trust of the parents, and Jesus’ answer! How I would like this page to become the normal story of all children! It’s true that, thanks be to God, children with serious difficulties very often have extraordinary parents, ready for any sacrifice and every generosity. However, these parents should not be left alone! We must support their effort, but also offer them moments of shared joy and carefree happiness, so that they are not prey only to the therapeutic routine.
In any case, when it is a question of children, we should not hear those formulas of office legal defense such as: “after all, we are not a welfare entity”; or “In privacy, each one is free to do what he wishes”; or also “we don’t like it, we can’t do anything.” These words are not right when it is a question of children.
Too often the effects of a life strained by precarious or badly paid work, of unsustainable hours, of inefficient transport, fall on children ... But children also pay the price of immature unions and irresponsible separations: they are the first victims; they suffer the successes of the culture of exasperating subjective rights, and they then become the most precocious children. Often they absorb violence that they are unable to “digest,” and under the eyes of the grownups they are constrained to be inured to degradation.
In our time also, as in the past, the Church puts her maternity at the service of children and of their families. She brings to the parents and children of this our world God’s blessing, maternal tenderness, firm rebuke and decisive condemnation. One doesn’t joke with children!
Think what a society would be like that decided once and for all to establish this principle: “It’s true that we aren’t perfect and that we make many mistakes. However, when it is a question of children who come into the world, no sacrifice of the adults is deemed too costly or to great, in order to avoid a child thinking that he is a mistake, that he had no value and that he is abandoned to the wounds of life and to the arrogance of men.” How beautiful such a society would be! I say that much would be forgiven such a society, its innumerable errors -- much, truly.
The Lord judges our life by listening to what the angels tell him about the children, angels that “always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven” (Cf. Matthew 18:10). We must ask ourselves always: What will the children's angels tell God about us?
Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!
Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord!
By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God(cf. Col 3:1-4). The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.
On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it. To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.
The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail… But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.
This is not weakness, but true strength! Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.
From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. There are many!
We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful coexistence may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the tragedy of the numerous refugees.
We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land. May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.
We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person. For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people.
At the same time, in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.
We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya –, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.
May the Lord’s resurrection bring light to beloved Ukraine, especially to those who have endured the violence of the conflict of recent months. May the country rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties.
We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups. Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family. And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn with the blood of men and women.
May the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: “Peace to you!” (Lk 24:36). “Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you” (cf. Roman Missal, Entrance Antiphon for Easter Day);
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John