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Bishop Paul Sirba: We’ll have lots of opportunities to reflect on mercy

Apr 7, 2015

Pope Francis is promulgating a special Holy Year on the virtue that ‘changes the world’

The joy of the Gospel of Easter fills our world. May the risen Lord make us living witnesses of his saving love! Happy Easter!

Pope Francis will formally announce the celebration of an “extraordinary Holy Year” on Divine Mercy Sunday. This “Jubilee of Mercy” will begin with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, and will conclude on Nov. 30, 2016, with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Bishop Paul Sirba

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

The Holy Father stated: “This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!”

Holy Years are an ancient tradition. The Jewish people celebrated Jubilees every 50 years. It was a celebration meant to restore harmony among all the children of Israel. Jubilee years saw the forgiveness of debts, the extension of personal freedoms, new possibilities for families and protection for the weak.

In our Catholic tradition we focus on our relationship with God and our neighbor by striving to deepen our faith and Christian witness. Charitable works and indulgenced prayers and acts will help us put our faith into action. The mercy we have received we are to give as a gift.

Since 1300, the Church has celebrated 26 ordinary Holy Years and just a few extraordinary Jubilees, most recently the 1983 Holy Year declared by St. John Paul II on the occasion of the 1950 years of Redemption. Most of us remember the Holy Year for the year 2000. Y2K didn’t faze it.

The theme for the Holy Year will be taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “God is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). The timing of the opening corresponds to the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

‘The best thing we can feel’

Mercy is a theme close to our Holy Father’s heart, and to mine also, and no doubt to yours.

Pope Francis said in his Angelus address after his election: “Feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient” (Angelus, March 17, 2013).

I often repeat the definition of mercy used by our pope emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, when he said: “Mercy is God’s love where we are hurting.”

We will have numerous opportunities to reflect on God’s mercy in the upcoming Holy Year. The Sunday readings for ordinary time will be taken from the Gospel of St. Luke. He has been called for centuries the “evangelist of mercy” because of the parables only recorded in his Gospel: the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son.

World Youth Day 2016 in Poland will take on addition significance during a Holy Year — if the land of the originator of World Youth Day, St. John Paul II, and the saint he canonized, St. Faustina, were not already enough! The Divine Mercy Shrine will be visited by millions of youth from around the world in 2016. Young people from the Diocese of Duluth should be quick to reserve a spot and contact our youth ministry office. We have 35 reserved places for you. I look forward to accompanying you.

Our Easter Season begins with a Jubilee announcement. Our God is a God of surprises. The Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from the dead is the greatest unexpected rescue the world will ever know!

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.