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The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 72)

The Jubilee Year of Mercy
Having begun on December 8 (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) this “Holy Year of Mercy” will conclude on Sunday, 20 November 2016 (the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe). Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year last March 13, during the season of Lent. The following words are taken from that announcement..
“Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy; and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with spiritual  conversion. Therefore, I have     decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its center the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Luke 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy! . . .
I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this    Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives   always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God. . . .”
The pope’s words bring together a double perspective. He speaks of the mercy of God that each of us so desperately needs; and he speaks of the mercy that we are called upon to lavishly render to others. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. The receiving and the giving inevitably go together. The mercy we show to another is not my mercy but God’s mercy, which we have received and which flows through us to others.
Here and elsewhere, the pope’s words in praise of the mercy of God inevitably shine a light on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The whole of the Christian life is a constant receiving of forgiveness. All the sacraments are signs and bestowals of God’s mercy. But in the confessional, God’s mercy takes on a    personal sacramental intimacy all its own. Because in the confessional the personal act of confessing our sins with honesty, in a state of spiritual nakedness before God, is met by the direct and personal Word of God’s forgiveness through the human voice of the priest. But the pope says it so much better.
“The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is a “gift from God”. We cannot do it alone. The power to confess our sins is a gift from God, it is a gift, it is “his work” (cf. Eph 2:8-10). Being touched with tenderness by his hand and molded by his grace allows us to draw near to the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty that we will be accepted by him in the name of God, and understood despite our wretchedness; and even to approach without a defense attorney: we have the One who alone gave his life for our sins! It is He who always defends us before the Father, He     always defends us. As we exit the confessional, we will feel his strength which gives new life and restores ardor to the faith. After confession we are reborn.”
The Christmas season is now upon us. This is not Lent!  But of course, that baby in the manger is the incarnation of the Divine Mercy, the coming-down of mercy to us in the flesh. He will grow up to die for our sins. What better time that the Christmas season to return to the confessional. 

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