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Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy 

December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016 


What’s a Jubilee Year?

For Catholics, a Jubilee year is a special year to ask for forgiveness of sins, and receive pardon and blessings from God. It begins with the Pope opening a ‘Holy Door’ in Rome (for this Jubilee, in all dioceses, parishes, and homes) through which Catholics will enter as pilgrims to receive the Jubilee year ‘Indulgence’ – the fullness of God’s mercy and love through forgiveness and works of mercy (see corporal and spiritual works of mercy below). As Jesus says in John 10: 9, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved”, Pope Francis prays that each of these ‘Doors’ “will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” A Jubilee year is usually called every 25 or 50 years by the Pope, but this ‘Year of Mercy’ is called “Extraordinary” because it comes up before the 25th year of the ‘Great Jubilee’ by St. John Paul II in the year 2000. It is important to note that based on the need of the Church, any Pope can call for “Extraordinary Jubilee”. St. John Paul II called “an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Redemption” in 1983.


Why Mercy?

Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” These words from

Pope Francis quoted on the Jubilee logo could simply summarize his papacy. From listening to his words, and reading his book, ‘The Church of Mercy’, where he describes the popular prodigal son story as the parable of the ‘Merciful Father’, to watching his actions since he became the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, one may rightly argue that Mercy is at the heart of his pontificate. He chose as his personal motto since his episcopate the words from St. Bede’s reflection on Matthew 9:9-13 (the call of Matthew, the tax collector) – miserando atque eligendo, – meaning that God saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him. It reflects the experience of Matthew whom Jesus looked at with mercy and chose, inviting him to follow him. Also, he mentioned in one of his interviews that one of his favorite songs is J. S. Bach’s rendition of the tears of St. Peter after he betrayed Jesus three times in Matthew’s Passion story – “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” – “Have mercy on me, my God.”


It is no surprise to see that in a world filled with the destructive horror of terrorism, alarming increase of refugees due to political and religious tensions, financial meltdown caused by the greed of a few, the neglect of our common home – the environment, the waning influence of religion and the rise of secularism (at least in the West), cyber wars, family disputes, etc., Pope Francis, in line with his vision of Mercy for the Church, deemed the need to make an exception and declared “an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy”. This will run from December 8 (the feast of Immaculate Conception) to November 20, 2016 (the feast of Christ the King). He calls every Christian (and of course, everybody) to remember that mercy, not fear (cf. 1 Jn.4:18), is the perfect response to these horrific and challenging events of our time.


In almost every instance in the Bible where God appears to calm the nerves of the people, either through an angel or the appearance of the resurrected Christ, the first words are the words of hope, “Do not be afraid!” Fear creates uncertainties, and uncertainties breed divisions. Pope Francis, in one of his speeches to the people of Cuba, reminds us that “division of hearts doesn’t overcome any difficulty. Only love is capable of overcoming difficulties.” Love is the essential attribute of God (cf. 1 Jn. 4:8). Jesus, through the many examples of God’s love and mercy in the Gospels, reveals that He ‘is the face of the Father's mercy’ (Misericordiae Vultus, #1), and calls us to make mercy visible in our world. ‘Mercy’, Bishop Robert Barron writes, ‘is what love looks like when it turns toward the sinner’. It is also important to note that “mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert and believe” (MV, #21).


Using St. Augustine’s commentary on the account of the woman caught in adultery, Bishop Gerrard Bergie of the Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines beautifully explains this magnificent gesture of God’s love and mercy reaching out to the sinner: 

In his commentary on the Gospel of St. John, St. Augustine presents the account of the woman who has been caught in the act of committing adultery. The Pharisees bring her to Jesus and state that the Law of Moses commands that we stone such a woman. Jesus responds, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” We are told that they all went away beginning with the elders until Jesus was left alone with the woman. Jesus offers the woman forgiveness rather than condemnation and tells her to sin no more. In his description of this moment, St. Augustine, writing in Latin, states that misera (misery) encountered misericordia (mercy); the woman was in misery because of her sin and Jesus offered her mercy, (lo. Ev. tract 33, 5). In the word misericordia we find the meeting of misera (misery) with cor (heart) which symbolizes love. In this union of words we find a definition – mercy is offering love to those in misery. We see this most perfectly expressed in Jesus who offers love and mercy to the sinner. (


What can we do?

So, what can we do in our TCDSB school communities to celebrate this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy? To understand the practice of merciful love, the Catholic Church, traditionally divides the works of mercy into two kinds: Corporal works, which focus on the physical or bodily needs, and the Spiritual works, based on the spiritual and emotional needs.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

1. Feed the hungry

2. Give drink to the thirsty

3. Clothe the naked

4. Shelter the homeless.

5. Visit those in prison

6. Comfort the sick.

7. Bury the dead – through prayers or presence, comfort those who mourn

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

1. Admonish sinners – do not judge, but support others to correct their mistakes

2. Forgive offensesletting go

3. Counsel the doubtful – accompany a friend who is on a faith journey

4. Comfort the sorrowful – lend a shoulder for someone to lean on

5.Bear wrongs patiently – take a deep breath

6. Instruct the uninformed – know your faith and be open to share with others

7. Pray for the living and the dead – prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support one another


In conclusion, Pope Francis’ call for Mercy echoes the message of St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy that Jesus desires we practice at least one act of mercy every day through kind words, kind deeds, and by prayers. This desire beautifully reflects His inspiring, but challenging words: “Whatsoever you do the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me” (cf. Mt. 25:31-46). This is a gracious opportunity for us to speak words of mercy, show mercy, perform acts of mercy, and live mercifully.   






For more information, visit the Vatican website:


or the Archdiocese of Toronto website:


Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy