Jubilee, face and eyes ” “of mercy ” “

With the bull "Misericordiae Vultus" the Pope introduces believers and non believers into the great, perhaps incomprehensible mystery of Christian faith

“Misericordiae Vultus”. The first words of the major papal documents highlight the main purpose of the text, its heart, its focus. It is the case of the Bull of Indiction of the extraordinary Jubilee on mercy “Misericordiae Vultus” (the face of mercy). The theme is dear to Pope Francis, who addressed this theme on several occasions during the past two years of Pontificate. Let is suffice to recall the words of the first Angelus prayer after his election on March 17 2013: “Feeling mercy, this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world”. Mercy is a central element of the personal and spiritual experience of Francis. As he once said, perceiving the vocation to the priesthood for the first time on September 21 1953, Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced the mercy of God upon himself. His personal experience is that the glance of Jesus changes lives. His Episcopal motto: “Miserando atque eligendo” bears evidence to this. It’s a quotation from the homilies of Saint Bede the Venerable that can be translated as: “With eyes of Mercy”. The face and the eyes of mercy. Pope Francis doesn’t speak of something abstract, he speaks of concrete, visible things. Eyes and faces transmit everything about a person: that person’s intimacy, secrets… And the same is true for mercy. The Pontiff introduces everyone, believers and non-believers alike, to the great, and perhaps incomprehensible mystery of Christian faith. Mercy, Francis writes in the Bull, “is the bridge that connects God and man, it opens our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”. Speaking of the centrality of mercy, Francis places himself in the wake of the great tradition of the Catholic Church. Scriptures and liturgical texts underline that God’s omnipotence is centred on His mercifulness. Not only… In the Bull the Pope reminds us of what was affirmed in different times and contexts by John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II, who devoted to the theme of mercy his second Encyclical “Dives in misericordia”. To summarize, it can be said that there is a string that connects the teaching of the three Pontiffs, namely that mercy is the most beautiful of all of God’s attributes and the Church cannot do without the proclamation of merciful and compassionate love. Thus is understood the special relevance of the indiction of this extraordinary Holy Year for Francis, far from being an exceptional, isolated event in time. The extraordinary feature of the Jubilee must be translated, in its essence, within the ordinariness of everyday life. Only in this way will it be possible to live the tenderness of forgiveness and of loving embrace. How? The way is shown by the Bull, that sets the timeframe, fixing the opening and closing dates, as well as the main procedures of implementation of the Jubilee, making explicit the spirit for which it was established, the intentions and the fruits hoped for by the Holy Father. The spirit emerges from the chosen motto that sounds like and invitation: “Merciful like the Father”. The intentions and the fruits are to be reaped in at least three different dimensions that every Jubilee involves. The ecclesial dimension first of all, which encompasses a vast array of gestures and symbols: from the opening of the Holy Door, from living the event in every local Church with the opening of a “Door of mercy”, to the “missionaries of mercy”; from the theme of indulgence to that of pilgrimage… Not to mention the opening and closing dates of the Jubilee: on December 8 2015, solemn celebration of the Immaculate Conception, upon the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council and on November 20 2016, marking the solemn liturgy of Jesus Christ Lord of the universe. It is not a coincidence. Fifty years ago the closing of the Second Vatican Council ushered in a new season for the Church that opened her doors to the rest of the world, while the solemn celebration of Christ Lord of the universe every year signals the end of the liturgical year before the beginning of the time of Advent. No other image can better describe this than that of the “outgoing Church”, which, having experienced the sweetness of mercy, resumes her journey to treat and soothe the wounds of every person. “The time has come again for the Church – Francis says – to make the joyful proclamation of forgiveness”. Then there is the social dimension. In ancient times, the jubilee was a year proclaimed holy, when equality had to be restored throughout, offering new opportunities to the families that had lost their property and their personal freedoms. We no longer experience these situations, even though other forms of slavery, which bring loneliness and fragility, blemish our present times. We are technological and powerful beings, but we have lost our fundamental certainties. Pope Francis has understood this change in ethos, since – the Holy Father often reiterates – certain realities are better understood from the periphery. And he has realized that mercy is capable of giving answers to the yearning for salvation that lies in everyone’s hearts. Finally, there is the dimension of interreligious dialogue. “There is an aspect of mercy – writes the Holy Father – that extends beyond the borders of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy as one of God’s most important attributes. (…) May this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination”.

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