Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.
We recently asked him: "How can we speak about the Year of Mercy in light of our work?"
you may recall from Old Testament studies, one feature of early
Israelite society was the Jubilee time every seven years- a time to
re-balance life and society. This took very concrete forms: fields were
to lie fallow for a year; debts were forgiven; and land sold after the
previous Jubilee was returned to the original owners. The scriptural
foundation for this practice is found in the Book of Leviticus Chapter
25. Additionally, there was a major Jubilee year every 50 years.
Church historically took up this idea, not in terms of social
re-adjustments, but in declaring every 50 years a Holy Year, a year of
Jubilee, marked by special indulgences, special penance services and a
time for reflection on God's mercy.
In more recent times
this Jubilee year has continued every fifty years but additionally some
popes have declared special Jubilee years to encourage penance,
forgiveness and reconciliation.
So what about the 'year
of mercy'? On April 11 of this year Pope Francis in a bull of indiction
declared the period from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016 (the
Feast of Christ the King!) to be an extraordinary year of Jubilee
(meaning that it does not fall in the normal 50 year cycle[verses.
4-5]). In the document Misericoriae Vultus the Pope picked December 8 in
order to point to Mary as Mother of Mercy as well as a celebration of
the fifty years since the close of the Second Vatican Council.
Misericoriae Vultus the Pope calls for this year to be a time of
repentance, pilgrimage and the granting of special indulgences to
sinners in order to remind us of God’s great mercy (verses 12-14; 22).
It also calls for the faithful to pay special attention to the poor and
marginalized: "In this Holy Year we look forward to the experience of
opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society;
fringes which the modern society creates." (verse 15). It is the hope
that Catholics would re-awaken a sense of mercy as well as "...Reawaken
our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty." (verse
15). This concern is more than a new awareness of the poor but a call
for action as Pope Francis says: "Let us rediscover these corporal
works of mercy.... (verse 15). Finally, there is a discussion on need
for confessors, “ missionaries of mercy” and a communal Church to
witness of mercy.
As you can see this fits very well
with a call for Catholics to be mindful of our brothers and sisters in
need of medical care in poorer parts of the world!
The document in its entirety (only 21 pages) can be found on line at www.vatican.va
I hope that this helps and if you have any other questions please ask.
Brother John Kiesler,OFM