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12.09.2015

Jubilee of Mercy

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception yesterday the pope initiated the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy the Pope explains the purpose of the year of mercy.

Perhaps the most surprising statement that I read in this Bull is 

It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of 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.
We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45). 

(underline added).  

I could not have articulated my own understanding more clearly; as the criteria by which we're judged, practicing the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy is the cornerstone to being a Catholic.  

One of my biggest misgivings (and I have more than a few) with other Catholics and parish communities is that these works of mercy seem rather peripheral to the life of the parish.  Families (almost exclusively the pillars of a parish) seem mostly interested in rearing their kids in a Catholic School, and give their time principally to fundraisers for the school, and any involvement in social services seems strangely absent from the community.  

Or 'devout/serious' Catholics seem caught up in some kind of 'orthodoxy' where they see having opinions about the Church's teachings on sexual morality or abortion as essentially the cornerstone of their faith.  At their worst, I once met a Catholic who had outright disdain for visiting someone in prison as he saw it as bleeding heart and progressive.  

Anyway, having the pope say that practicing spiritual and corporal works of mercy is in fact the criteria upon which Jesus will judge my life certainly gives this view some cache!  Maybe my understanding of Catholicism isn't so off base.  

Or maybe I just like this pope more than I realized.  He seems like one of those people (which perhaps really is every person) who occupies such a grey zone; some of what he says seems dead on, as in the instance of his quote above.  Other times, he seems to be going off a deep end; such as instances where he (seems to be anyway) advocating to allow fornicators to receive Communion.  

Well anyway, these issues are so delicate.  Jesus says "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" perhaps indicating that the Church certainly cannot exclude potential members on the grounds they aren't living moral lives.  Yet at the same time respect needs to be paid to the Sacrament; a person who's actions have offended Jesus, and who's made no effort to receive absolution perhaps oughtn't be receiving Communion.

At the same time, for example in an instance where a person divorces then remarries and then converts to Catholicism, the situation becomes very complicated.  Technically in the Church's eyes the person is 'living in sin', and so cannot receive Communion.  However, due to a church that's deeply mired in red tape, some people simply cannot receive annulment and, in this instance then, this person cannot ever legitimately receive Communion!  It seems rather harsh.  

Ah, well, I've disappeared down a rabbit hole.  Which is probably inevitable given the issues.  

Let's hope that this year of Mercy will bring about deeper conversions in all of us, and so bring Christ's mercy in greater abundance to the world.  

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