Today Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St Peter's to begin the Jubilee Year dedicated to Mercy.
For many people this is a puzzling and misunderstood rite of those crazy Catholics. For those who wish to learn more about The Church founded by Jesus Christ, one may begin by reading he Bulll Of Indiction (http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/giubileo/bolla.html) found at the Vatican Website dedicated to this special Year (http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en.html).
What is a Jubilee Year? It is a time of joy and a time for pardon (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08531c.htm) that dates back to pre-Christian times. For Catholics, it is a time of pilgrimage and a time of renewal of our Baptismal Vows and our dedication to the Teachings of The Church (even the unpopular ones) as well as a time to ask for pardon for our sins and our failure to live up to the perfection that we are called to when Jesus told us to 'be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect'.
Pope Francis is rightly loved for proclaiming that Mercy is the true mission of The Church. It is the Divine Mercy of God that forgives our sins and allows us to walk towards heaven. We cannot earn this mercy; rather, we can be open to it and we can cooperate with it through our good works. However, in my opinion, the toughest thing we have to do first is admit we need it.
It feels so wonderful to simply proclaim that Jesus Christ is all Mercy and Love. After all, what could possibly be wrong with that message?
Nothing, except that it is only half the message.
It is my experience that I did not begin to feel the incredibly peace of The Mercy of Jesus Christ until I was willing to admit that I needed it. And let's face it, to do that meant I had to admit that how I was thinking and living was not quite right. I had to look squarely into the eyes of the woman staring back at me from the mirror and say, out loud, 'Hey, Girlfriend...you are not living the way you are supposed to be living.'.
And that hurt.
It hurt my pride and it generated fear. If how I was living was wrong what was I going to have to do? Change the way I was living, of course, but how could I be expected to do that when the world told me how I was living and what I was doing and the attitude I had to so many things was A-Okay?
I tried to change the way I was and I caused other people a lot of grief. I didn't mean to - but I did and I will always be sorry for the way my conversion affected them. I hurt them. I made them feel less than and unwanted and I cannot undo that damage, I can only pray for forgiveness.
I even went through a period of resentment towards God. After all, I was doing everything right so where was my cookie, my crown and my parade? How come all I seemed to do was upset people I love and why didn't anyone appreciate how difficult it was for me to live like a Catholic in a world where that is outright disdained and sometimes vilified?
Where was the payoff, dammit!
Slowly but surely I began to recognize that my conversion did not guarantee me a seat at the popular table in the cafeteria. I started to grow up. I saw how much I had to learn, how far I had to go and how shallow my faith really was - and how it was up to me to deepen that faith through prayer, sacrifice, study and (yes) penance for my sins.
In fact, I had to recognize that I was a sinful woman....not walking on water or flying with angel wings....I was simply here, on this earth, trudging the road of happy destiny one day at a time...what foot step at a time.
The Year of Mercy is a wonderful thing. We need to remind people that Jesus' Infinite Mercy is available to everyone, no matter who you are or where you have been you are welcome in His Church. We have to be willing to do this while still standing firm in Truth as to what He expects us to be and how He expects us to live. As Catholics, we cannot water down the Faith - instead we have to show people that only through obedience to Him can we find true happiness and true freedom.
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let's help each other walk towards heaven. Ask a lonely Catholic to come to Mass with you, take a child to the park, a friend out for a cup of coffee and tell them how much they mean to you. Together, let's do what we are supposed to do as Catholics - spread the good news of the Gospel and invite all to partake of The Eucharist....and let's pray together:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of
Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and