It seems hard to believe, but the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is coming to a close. Sunday, November 20 marks the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, and with it the close of the Jubilee year. The Jubilee, announced in April of 2015 by Pope Francis, began on December 8 last year with the feast of the Immaculate Conception and has since inspired millions to embrace more fully the mercy of Christ Jesus. Around the world, and here in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, cathedrals and basilicas opened their Holy Doors of Mercy, welcoming pilgrims to experience the grace of conversion and the peace one finds in the mercy of God. In September, the Archdiocese of Boston was particularly blessed to have hosted the heart of Saint Padre Pio, who was known for his dedication for spreading the message of mercy and forgiveness and who dedicated countless hours to hearing an estimated five million confessions.
Pope Francis, emphasizing the need to welcome all into the light of God’s mercy, took the opportunity presented by the Jubilee to introduce new canonical practices to serve those most in need of Christ’s healing power. With the commencement of the Jubilee also came the implementation of a new law on annulments which the Pope viewed as a necessary ministerial reform. The new law makes the process of granting an annulment much less costly and drawn out than it had been under the previous law. In addition to the procedural reform regarding annulments, Pope Francis conceded to all priests for the duration of the Jubilee year the discretion to absolve the sin of abortion. Under normal circumstances, the sin of abortion is one which places the person who has committed it under censure—which effectively excommunicates them—and the blessing of a bishop is needed to bring the person back into the Church. However, recognizing the pain of those living with this sin and the need for God’s forgiving love to reach all people, Francis relaxed the normal restrictions to encourage reconciliation with Christ.
Though the Jubilee Year of Mercy may be coming to a close, I think it important to emphasize that our approach to others and to God need not become any less focused on mercy. In our own lives it can be quite easy to fall into the equally bad habits of considering ourselves as either so sinful that even God could not love us or as so saintly to have no need for God’s mercy. We are all in fact sinners, each of us is broken in his or her unique way, and therefore each of us is in need of the merciful forgiveness of our Father in Heaven, and, because we are His children, none are beyond saving. Pope Francis declared this year to emphasize the mercy of God but we must remember that His love is everlasting, and therefore we must continue wholeheartedly to embrace that mercy each and every day. This cannot be limited to our personal interactions with God, but also with one another. It remains a part of our Christian mission to bring each other into God’s mercy and to be reflections of God’s mercy in the world. It seems providential that our election cycle coincided with the Jubilee Year of Mercy: the division and contempt which we have witnessed among our community cannot but emphasize the need to approach one another with open hearts and a desire for true communion. The Jubilee will soon end on the feast of Christ the King, and let us remember that regardless of temporal politics, as Christians we have one king, and His mercy is not limited to a year, as the psalm says “His mercy endures forever.” It is a mercy which flows into our world through the Sacraments, and through you and I who are called to be instruments of His love, icons through which the world comes to know Him.