The challenge of the Jubilee of Mercy

Kate Gapp, Contributing Writer

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Pope Francis has announced that the following liturgical year will be a Jubilee of Mercy, beginning Dec. 8.

Most notably, and perhaps most controversially, our Holy Father is giving all priests discretion to absolve women who approach the Sacrament of Confession with sincere repentance for the sin of abortion.

Normally, a priest needs special permission from his bishop to absolve sins concerning abortion.

Pope Francis wishes to extend mercy not only to women who have had abortions, but to all who are currently on the fringes of the Church.

“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one”, Francis said.

Not only does this mean that the Church must be all-inclusive in offering mercy to every person who seeks it, but also that the Church’s members have a responsibility to ensure that this happens.

Why “mercy” for the theme of this Jubilee year?

Our distraction and outrage with certain challenging issues in contemporary society have caused us to lose sight of the need to act with compassion toward all human beings.

This call is more than an opportunity to deeply and sincerely reflect upon the vast mercy of God and to seek to be greater instruments of mercy. It is also a reminder of our responsibility to act with mercy.

This attempt to mend the Church’s divide between “insiders” and “outsiders” must permeate our hearts in order for the universal Church to truly expand her horizons of mercy.

Francis invokes us to realize that we cannot be excluded from our Mother Church’s mission to evangelize the gospel of mercy in every aspect of our lives.

As a Catholic university, does the University of Dallas reflect the mercy of Christ? We may be falling short, but we are an especially fitting congregation to take the message of this Jubilee of Mercy to heart.

A UD professor once shared with me that, in comparison to students from other authentic Catholic universities with which she was familiar, we perform far less community service. Of all of the things she loves about UD and its spiritually rich student body, this observation greatly surprised her when she first began teaching here.

Why many of us do not have community service on our to-do lists, I think, is no mystery. We work hard all week studying, and we feel entitled to some rest and relaxation.

Obviously, setting time aside from edifying leisure is necessary, but Christ told us in holy Scripture that we can only gain eternal life by dying to ourselves. We must cease our pursuits of comfort to be his true disciples.

Pope Francis reminded us of all of this.

“And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy,” the 2015 Bull of Indiction said. “Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples.”

Commitment to service can be daunting, but Christ makes it clear that we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven by serving ourselves.

“We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison,” Francis wrote.

“It is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to eternal life,” St. Francis’ well-known prayer says.

We have a Christian duty to serve the poor in our communities, and we are unable to receive mercy if we refuse to give freely to those in great need.

Pope Francis’ call to mercy begins with essential reflection on the eternal, boundless mercy that God offers us. He sees a problem in our Church, an attitude of division and judgment, and has confidence that mercy is an essential part of the cure. May we take this command seriously and see the face of Christ in every face we encounter.

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