Jubilee of Mercy
Rev. Mark Wiesner's presentation, "Experiencing God's Mercy: Forgiveness, Healing and the Sacrament of Reconciliation," began the Diocese of Oakland's 24 Hours for the Lord at the Cathedral of Christ the Light on March 4.
ALBERT C. PACCIORINI/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
'Be merciful like the Father,
change the world through mercy'
On Nov. 20, as Pope Francis closed the Holy Doors at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, bringing to a conclusion the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, he also released an Apostolic Letter. Entitled "Misericordia et Misera"("Mercy with misery"), the letter reflects upon the Holy Year as "a time rich in mercy, which must continue to be celebrated and lived out in our communities."
The Holy Year truly was a time "rich in mercy" for many throughout the world, and in our own diocese. It was a uniquely moving year for me personally.
With the endorsement of Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, I had the unique privilege of serving as one of the Holy Father's Missionaries of Mercy during the Jubilee Year. From February through November, I had the opportunity to speak at more than 20 parishes throughout Northern California, doing more than 40 separate presentations on the topics of "Experiencing God's Mercy," "The Works of Mercy" and "The Sacrament of Mercy." I also had many additional opportunities to preach at parishes and speak to groups about the Jubilee Year, and celebrate the Sacrament of Mercy countless times.
I have been asked by many people to share with them what the Year of Mercy has meant, what impact it has had, and what difference it has made. That's a difficult question to answer, especially since so often power of the year was experienced in the confessional.
As we kept a Year of Mercy, God was faithful in moving people's hearts. Like the prodigal son, many people chose to return to the Father's joyful and merciful embrace during the jubilee. I have had the privilege of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation with people who had been away from the confessional for 30, 40, 60 and in one case 83 years. How does one speak about the impact that moment has in others' lives? So many tears, so much gratitude, such deep relief.
The experience of speaking often and in varied settings about mercy as the primary attribute of God's love for us was transformative of my relationship with God. It was for others as well.
In every setting I have seen people move from fearing God to a beginning understanding of what it means to have a God who is "nothing but mercy and love." (St. Therese of Lisieux). It has been life-changing for me and many others.
Many have emailed or written to me about their willingness to try again at strained family relationships, to try again to forgive those who have offended them and to be more generous in caring for those in need.
Their witness to the Year of Mercy speaks for itself. Here are just a few samples of what was shared with me this year:
"The Extraordinary Year of Mercy gave me the courage and desire to go to Reconciliation after 40 plus years, and left me feeling reborn again with tears in my eyes when I walked to my car, rejoicing over my new found freedom and God's forgiveness of my sins."
"I truly felt the graces associated with the promises this year held. In humility and child-like trust, I went to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, then made the reverent pilgrimage through the Doors of Mercy in Oakland. I trust in Him to do his part."
"The Year of Mercy for me is timeless, yet has been a genuine reminder of God's perfect Love and Forgiveness. It has inspired me and cleansed my heart and left me even more aware of His infinite blessings."
"Through the grace of God, my relationship with my adult son has deepened that at one time I did not feel would be possible. Showing him mercy during a very difficult time for him has strengthened our bond."
"I was deeply challenged by the Year of Mercy … I decided that I was in a place where I needed to let go of my anger and resentments and that the way to achieve this was through forgiveness … I understood that if I wanted to receive God's mercy and forgiveness I needed to extend mercy and forgiveness unconditionally to others."
The question has been asked, where do we go from here? Pope Francis wrote that mercy, "… must continue to be celebrated and lived out in our communities." He has called for us "to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings" indicating that "Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, through which the profound truths of the Gospel are made manifest and tangible."
Ultimately, this is the challenge the Extraordinary Jubilee Year presents to us: to be the bearers of God's mercy in a world that is wounded and needs to know mercy's power. We are called to be merciful like the Father and to change the world through the practice of mercy in all our relationships.
(Rev. Mark Wiesner is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore. He is one of the 1,142 priests commissioned as Missionaries of Mercy by Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday 2016.)
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