The doors are closing — literally — on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Announced in March 2015 and commenced on Dec. 8, 2015, the Year of Mercy culminates this weekend on the feast of Christ the King, with the sealing of Holy Doors across the world, ending with the one at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was meant to be “a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective,” Pope Francis wrote in Misericordiae Vultus, the bull of indiction announcing the Year of Mercy last April. “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. … The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
For the past 11 months, Catholics have been encouraged to be witnesses of mercy by intentionally both sharing mercy and receiving it in their daily lives. In this space at the beginning of the Year of Mercy, this Editorial Board invited Catholics to share mercy in three concrete ways throughout the jubilee year: in our families, within our parishes and dioceses, and on a national scale. Now it’s time for an end-of-year examination of conscience.
Have we taken the time to make small gestures of mercy in our family lives, where it can sometimes be the most difficult?
Have we practiced corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Have we made a pilgrimage or walked through a Holy Door?
Have we reached out to those who are alone, marginalized, unloved or unwelcome?
Have we been messengers of mercy this election season, offering an antidote to the polarization, anger, frustration and bitterness that have engulfed our political sphere?
If your answers reflect a varying degree of success, you likely are not alone. But if you’ve found yourself looking back at the Year of Mercy as a missed opportunity, don’t fear: Living a life of mercy does not end with a calendar date.
As we look forward to the start of a new liturgical year Nov. 27, as well as a post-election political atmosphere, we can carry three hopeful lessons of this jubilee year with us.
The first is that, despite how much we may want it to be, mercy is not a task to be performed once, then checked off our list. It is a way of life. Living lives of mercy is something we trip and stumble though, every once in a while finding ourselves to be somewhat successful at it. Sometimes, too, we find ourselves the recipients of surprising, blinding mercy from others. What’s essential is to keep a heart open to giving and receiving the mercy that God desires for us.
Second, as we end this jubilee year, we should do so with hearts filled with gratitude for the opportunity to have developed a deeper understanding of what it means to “be merciful like the Father.” It’s an experience that can only bring us blessings, reminding us daily to be thankful to God for his never-ending love.
Finally, in the aftermath of a contentious election, it is more critical than ever that we look on those with whom we disagree with eyes of mercy. How we respond, as Christians, gives credibility to our witness and to our faith. “Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves,” Pope Francis wrote.
As we end this Year of Mercy, these are the lessons that remain with us. They remind us that, as Christians, the doors to God’s mercy never close, and his call to mercy never ends.
Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor