By Archbishop William E. Lori
In March 2015, on the second anniversary of his election as Supreme Pontiff, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, announced the celebration of an extraordinary Holy Year, a Jubilee of Mercy.
With roots dating back to 1300, the church has a long tradition of celebrating Holy Years, which it sees as an opportunity to deepen one’s faith and to live with a renewed commitment to Christian witness.
This is the first Holy Year to celebrate not an anniversary of some kind. Instead this special Holy Year focuses on a theme, namely, the “attribute of God the Father which is most exalted in both the Old and the New Testaments: His Mercy,” according to the Vatican.
Mercy is a theme very dear to Pope Francis, whose episcopal motto is “Miserando atque eligendo” or “With Eyes of Mercy,” taken from the Gospel passage which tells the story of Jesus’ invitation to Matthew to “follow me.”
The degree to which mercy occupies a central place in the pontificate of Pope Francis is clear right from his Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii gaudium,” in which the Holy Father writes: “The Church has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of her own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy”
Showing mercy is the true mark of an authentic follower of Christ and a son or daughter of the Heavenly Father. “In short,” Pope Francis writes, “we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us.” We are called, especially during this jubilee year, to show God’s mercy to others by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The corporal works of mercy are: Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving drink to the thirsty and burying the dead.
The spiritual works are converting the sinners, instructing the ignorant, advising the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries and praying for the living and the dead.
We engage in these works of mercy, whether spiritual or corporal, not from some lofty platform but rather as fellow debtors, recipients of mercy. We must do so, as the pope urges, with deep respect for the poor and the needy and the sick and with welcoming arms extended to the stranger as well as to those who have felt distanced from the church.
These works are performed in abundance here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore every day, whether through the many programs of Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul; one of our five Catholic hospitals and countless other Catholic healthcare centers; our 70 Catholic schools; or through one of the countless ministries of our more than 150 parishes.
Behind each of these Catholic institutions are Catholic laity, priests, deacons and religious eager to share God’s love and mercy with those in need, whether spiritually, materially, emotionally or physically.
If you are not already involved in these works, please consider involving yourself in and supporting one or more of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy during this Jubilee year.
And, of course, nowhere can we experience more personally God’s mercy and love than in the sacrament of reconciliation. I invite you to participate more regularly in the sacrament, and to consider your involvement in one of the many ministries or programs that shares God’s mercy with others.
And I pray this Holy Year of Mercy will be one of great blessings for you and for all God’s people in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
To learn more about the Year of Mercy, including the Holy Doors of Mercy in the Archdiocese, visit archbalt.org.
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