The Measure of Mercy: Francis and the Extraordinary Jubilee Year | Dr. R. Jared Staudt | Catholic World Report
The horrors of the 20th century and the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II form the backdrop to the Holy Father's recent announcement of a Holy Year of Mercy
“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry” (2 Cor 6:2-3).
“This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!” – From Pope Francis’s Announcement of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, March 13, 2015
Pope St. John Paul II has been called the pope of mercy for his support of the Divine Mercy devotion and his establishment of Divine Mercy Sunday, but Pope Francis has also been making mercy a hallmark of his papacy. Even his motto references the Lord’s mercy in calling each of us to follow Christ. The Vatican Radio in explaining the Jubilee Year described the significance of his motto:
Miserando atque eligendo. This citation is taken from the homily of Saint Bede the Venerable during which he commented on the Gospel passage of the calling of Saint Matthew: “Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy [miserando] and by choosing [eligendo], he says to him, ‘follow me.’”
In addition to this piece from the Vatican Radio, which sought to situate the Jubilee Year of Mercy within Francis’s teaching—noting that his first angelus addressed mercy and the theme appeared 32 times in Evangelii Gaudium (EG)—other articles have highlighted the importance of mercy within Francis’s pontificate as the “real face” of Francis’ revolutionand also within his life more broadly.
Is mercy the way in which Pope Francis wants us to read his papacy? Could his oft quoted and criticized line, “who I am to judge?” be read in terms of mercy triumphing over judgment (James 2:13)? Could it explain his criticism of an “economy of exclusion” (EG, 53) as not prioritizing mercy toward neighbor? Even the controversy of the two synods could be seen in light of mercy in his closing speech to the extraordinary synod last fall. He specifically refers to his role as Pope as uniting and reminding pastors of their need for mercy in regards to their lost sheep:
So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep.
Pope Francis sees this as a time of mercy and wants all of us to receive this mercy right now and to show it to others in the context of the Jubilee that he has called.
Mercy as a personal encounter with God
Pope Francis related that he had a profound experience of mercy in his teenage yearsthrough the sacrament of Confession. “After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call.” This was the definitive moment of mercy in his life, which fuels his desire to share this mercy with others. He describes the Church as a “community [that] has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (EG,24).
I also felt the Lord’s mercy very directly in my life when I was a young teen.