November 16, 2015
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part conversation with Bishop Patrick J. Zurek on the Jubilee of Mercy, which originally aired on St. Valentine Catholic Radio.
The West Texas Catholic: A Jubilee of Mercy begins on Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let’s begin by talking about the prevalence of Mercy, which is found throughout the Scriptures.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek: Chris, you are absolutely right. It is incredible how often the Scripture use the word mercy, or loving mercy, or merciful love, much of it stemming from the Hebrew word
chesed, which describes it so. The Father is known in the Old Testament as the one who is merciful. He so often describes himself through the prophets as “I am not like man, I am God.” That says it all.
Let me give you a few examples; the Psalms in particular speak so much of mercy.
Psalm 13: ‘I have trusted in your mercy. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing unto the Lord because he has been merciful towards me.”
Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 25: “Remember, Lord, your tender mercies and your loving kindnesses, for they have been forever of old.”
Psalm 33: Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us.”
Reflect sometime on how hard we find it to say
I’m sorry, forgive me. So often we say things we regret or we do things that we don’t like and it is so difficult to go back to the person and say I am sorry. And yet those few words can burn away and Bridge the chasm that was created by that thought, word, or deed.
Psalm 86: “You, Lord, are good and always ready to forgive and full of mercy to those who call upon you.” It’s like the question posed by Peter to Christ: How often must I forgive another? Seven times? Jesus said: No, seventy times seven times. In other words we are called to be God’s presence in this world and to be merciful and forgive just as the Lord himself is merciful.
Psalm 136, if you want to designate one psalm as a mercy psalm, that’s it. “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever.” Sometimes you will hear “for his love endures forever,” or “for his merciful love endures forever,” or “for his loving mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 136 is dedicated to praising the mercy of God. Twenty-six verses end with the phrase “his mercy endures forever.” There is no wonder that the Holy Father would call for a Jubilee of Mercy to remind us to be more like God, to be the light of the world and not be like those who do not believe. We are called to be mercy.
WTC: Let’s talk about Pope Francis’ call for a Jubilee of Mercy that will begin Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Bishop Zurek: The Holy Father wrote a wonderful letter to us and by papal standards a very short one. It is called
The Face of Mercy. The very first line tells it all. Many of us in the West, and Amarillo is no exception, have fallen in love with icons—images of Christ, the Father, the Trinity, the saints. Icons are stylized, rich in color, and almost transcendent. When you look at them you know that you are in the presence of something more than a picture. Pope Francis refers to this when he writes, “Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s Mercy.”
In other words he is saying that Jesus is the Icon of Mercy. When you look at an icon, an image of Jesus, you should remember first and foremost that Jesus is merciful. He has come on a mission of mercy—to reveal the mercy of the Heavenly Father. He did that on the cross.
As a consequence of that, the motto for the Jubilee of Mercy, about 12 months long, is
Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful. Pope Francis said in his letter that there are times when we are called to gaze on Christ as merciful; and to do so now, more than at other times in our lives. Then we realize that we can become an icon of mercy, an icon of the loving action of the Father in our lives. I think the Holy Father is saying that the world in which we find ourselves today needs mercy. This is the time that all Christians should put on the icon, the face of mercy, and never take it off again.
We begin this Jubilee Year at a beautiful celebration, the Immaculate Conception, which is itself a sign of the Father’s Mercy. As soon as Adam and Eve committed the sin in the garden and ruptured the relationship between God and humanity, between man and woman, between humanity and the created world represented by the serpent, the Lord promised Mercy. You know God’s time is not our time; so it took a while for that to happen in the coming of Christ. He promised in the beginning that through a woman this would all end. We know that woman to be Mary, the Immaculate One, conceived without sin, the fitting vessel to knit together in her womb the physical body of the Son of Man, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. God through Mary is showing us this mercy.
It is interesting too that it is the year of the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. St John XXIII had something very interesting to say as he opened the council in 1962, “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity. The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at the beginning of the Council, wants to show herself as a mother to everyone. She wants to be patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.”
When he closed the council, Blessed Paul VI spoke in a very similar way; he said “The old story of the good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the council. We prefer to point out; charity has been the central religious feature of this council and from it a wave of affection and admiration flowed over the whole world of humanity.” Some errors were condemned indeed because charity demanded this, no less than the truth. But for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect, and love.
This is what we are called to in this time of jubilee. The Holy Father told us in another document what he plans to do in Rome; he is very kind and grandfatherly about it. He said this is what I am going to do in Rome, if you deem it feasible and good, you can do it in your own dioceses. We will formally begin this jubilee on Sunday, Dec. 13 in a way we have not done before. The Holy Father is asking every diocese and its cathedral to prepare a “Holy Door” which will be closed for a time before Dec. 13th. This Holy Door was created as the portal of the mercy of God at St. Mary’s Cathedral at the 5:30pm liturgy on Nov. 7. That door will just be a physical reminder to us of the profound mercy that comes to us through reconciliation, when we reconcile and forgive each other; more significantly, when we are in need of a greater reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance itself. That Jubilee door will remain open until we close it on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.
During that time, people will be encouraged to enter through that door to receive the Graces and Indulgences granted during this time. An Indulgence removes all stain of sin. Even after the sins have been forgiven, the stain remains. In these documents the Holy Father has made it clearer than anywhere else what an indulgence is. He refers to it as the indulgent love, the indulgent generosity of the mercy that God has for us. He not only wipes away the sin in forgiveness, but through indulgence he wipes away the after effects that still give us pain within our being or that continue to hurt others. That is what he is asking of us—to somehow make this love and forgiveness a part of our lives.
Part Two of this conversation will be published in the Sunday, Dec. 6 issue of The West Texas Catholic and online at www.amarillodiocese.org.