The Jubilee of Mercy ( 8 December 2015 – 20 November 2016) is an opportunity to remind ourselves that mercy and compassion are at the heart of the mission of Jesus in the world today. We can be ‘missionaries of mercy’ in our everyday lives by the way that we live and interact with others. On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 8 December – The Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica will be opened by Pope Francis. Symbolic ‘Holy Doors’ will be also be opened in cathedrals throughout the world inviting people to make a pilgrimage of mercy as they cross the threshold of compassion. At a local level this journey of compassion can be replicated and celebrated in a variety of ways. Our starting point is the challenge of Jesus in Luke 3:36 – Merciful Like The Father – which is the motto of the Jubilee Year and the document of Pope Francis – Misericordiae Vultus – the Face of Mercy. The motto ‘serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure cfr. Lk 6:37-38.’ (Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation).
There is more than a year’s work in that. In fact it is a challenge for life.

One Step At A Time
Every journey begins with a little step. The first thing to do is to put aside some time for reflection. We cannot fulfil the commandment ‘to love our neighbour as ourselves’ unless we apply the ideals of limitless love and forgiveness to ourselves first. This is not a free pass from the consequences of our human failings but is an acknowledgement that we learn from our mistakes, try to make amends and clearly move forward as a ‘new person’. This can be a painful inward journey as old feelings come to the surface and the chains of guilt wrap themselves around us once again. Let’s take for our reflection the words of Jesus – Be compassionate…give without measure.. Imagine Jesus looking into our eyes without judgment or condemnation – his loving gaze of compassion and understanding trying to meet our eyes that are reluctant and full of guilt. Let us stay with that image until we grow more comfortable in facing those loving eyes and accept the outpouring of forgiveness.

Seeing Eye To Eye
Another help on our inner journey is the logo of the Jubilee of Mercy designed by Father Marco Rupnik S.J. in which Jesus is depicted as the Good Shepherd carrying on his shoulders Adam representing all humanity. A very striking feature of the logo is that Jesus and Adam share a common eye indicating that both see life from each other’s perspective –Jesus and all humanity see eye to eye with each other. What a goal to have for the year ahead? Learning to see ourselves, our sisters and brothers through the same compassionate eye through which boundless mercy and forgiveness flows.

Your Own Holy Door
We all need visual reminders to keep us focused. The Jubilee logo can be used in many ways:
A computer or mobile phone screen saver
An outdoor display on the wall of a church or school
A banner for the inside of the church or a prayer area in the school
The unusual image might provoke talk or discussion leading to moments of catechesis or real engagement. Why not create your own ‘holy door’ at home using the logo? Every time we cross the threshold could be a reminder of the call to mercy and the fact that it does not begin and end at the door of the church but seeps into our family and community relationships. The logo on a car window can be another form of witness during the Jubilee.

Building Bridges
Jesus is the supreme builder of bridges between people of different cultures and traditions. His public mission was concerned with leading people from a place of exclusion or exile across the bridge of acceptance into the centre of the community. We know that Jesus will be with us in our sincere efforts to build bridges with those who have hurt us or wronged us and even those who threaten our lives. There can be moments of reconciliation too when we work earnestly to be reconciled with those against whom we have sinned or hurt in any way. Walking the road of forgiveness and mercy can be a rocky and painful journey. Strengthened by hope and the example of Jesus we can allow ourselves to be carried with humility at the most difficulty moments on this pilgrimage.

Crossing the Bridge
Pope Francis describes mercy as a bridge. ‘Mercy is that bridge that connects God and all humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.’ (MV 2). As with all bridges they are most effective when they are used. The planks that build the ancient bridge of reconciliation are contrition, confession, absolution and satisfaction. In other words we have to be sorry, to admit what we have done, to receive the grace of liberation and to make amends.

Sensitively prepared Services of Reconciliation can build solid bridges of forgiveness between God and people who want to make a new start. Jesus is at the centre of that bridge supporting it with pillars of his passion, mercy and compassion. Saint Catherine of Siena, in one of her revelations, reminds us that we need to cross the bridge that has been so lovingly built for us.
‘And observe that it is not enough, in order that you should have life, that My Son should have made you this Bridge, unless you walk thereon.’
There is an expression of our time that comes to mind and could be a contemporary motto for the year – ‘build a bridge and get over it.’

An Oasis of Mercy
Pope Francis invites us to create an oasis of mercy wherever we are. ‘In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.’ (MV12)
We can do this symbolically by incorporating a ‘mercy space’ at home, in our schools and churches. Just as an oasis offers relief in the desert our ‘oasis of mercy’ might be like a sanctuary for those who feel the heat and embarrassment of their failings and the sense of not being forgiven. We should be mindful of the isolation of those who have been cast out by society or the church or those who we have condemned with the words ‘I will in time forget what happened but I will never forgive you’. A physical representation of the oasis can be created simply with life giving plants and flowers associated with mercy such as Allspice – Compassion, Asphodel – My regrets follow you to the grave, Bramble or Raspberry – Remorse.

Mercy Is Everywhere
In the celebration of the Eucharist the word ‘mercy’ appears many times. Let us take note of these occurrences, savour the various strands of this grace in our liturgy and reflect on them. Here are some examples.

Penitential Rite
I Confess ….May Almighty God have mercy on us
Have mercy on us, O Lord…Show us, O Lord, your mercy
Lord have mercy…Christ have mercy…Lord have mercy

… you take away the sins of the world have mercy on us
…you are seated at the right hand of the Father have mercy on us

Preface VII of the Sundays In Ordinary Time
‘For you so loved the world
That in your mercy you sent the Redeemer

Preface II of the Holy Martyrs
‘in mercy you gave ardour to their faith’

Common Preface II
‘in mercy you redeemed him’

Eucharistic Prayer II
‘Remember … all who have died in your mercy…
Have mercy on us all we pray’

Eucharistic Prayer IV
‘For you came in mercy to the aid of all’

Communion Rite
‘Deliver us, Lord…by the help of your mercy’
Lamb of God…have mercy on us

Time for Reflection
‘It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. 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. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.’ (MV 15)

Why not offer a reminder of these ‘works of mercy’ on a card which might be given out at the end of Confession or at a Service of Reconciliation or other suitable time?

24 Hours for the Lord
‘The initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent , should be implemented in every diocese. So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.’ (MV17)

A Penance Service – Rite 2 – based on the document Misericordiae Vultus could be offered in every community. Elements of this service could be adapted for use when Rite One is used. See full text below.

Scripture Resources
The Parables of Mercy and Psalms of Mercy offer rich material for reflection and for prayer services during the year. More resources will be prepared before the beginning of the Jubilee on 8 December.

Music and the Jubilee
The 2016 Emmanuel programme for Second Level Schools contains four selections for use during the Jubilee. Jeanne Cotter’s setting of Psalm 85 – Lord, Show Us Your Mercy is gentle and reassuring. Prayer For Mercy presents four settings of the Kyrie/Lord Have Mercy from various traditions – Plainchant, Polyphonic, Irish Traditional and Contemporary with suggested texts in between. Trevor Thomson’s Let Your Mercy Wash Over Us is pleading and insistent. The Anthem for World Youth Day 2016 which will take place in Kracow, Poland is Blest Are The Merciful. It has a catchy refrain which will be sung by millions of young people from all over the world in their preparations and during their time in Kracow.