In his message for the World Day of Peace, January 1st, 2016, Pope Francis warned us that one of the greatest dangers to peace today is widespread indifference, which prevents us from seeing our neighbor or his suffering. (See page 4.) It is selfishness and individualism that prevails, much like in the time of Cain who, after having killed his brother Abel, dared to say to God: “Am I my brothers keeper?”
Yes, we are all the keepers of our brethren. It is even on what we have done—or not done—for our neighbor that one will be judged, as reported in Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew: “I was hungry, and you never gave me food...”
In his message for Lent 2016, the Holy Father even spoke about “the idolatry of money which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.” (See page 6.)
The Holy Year of Mercy, which began on December 8 last year, is an event quite exceptional in the history of the Church. (See page 7.) Since the year 1400, the Holy Year has been celebrated regularly without interruption every 25 years, with two exceptions: Popes Pius XI and John Paul II added two extraordinary holy years celebrated in 1933 and 1983, to mark the 1900th and 1950th Anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that is to say, the redemption of mankind. The Holy Year of Mercy is the third special Holy Year, since otherwise, the next holy year was to take place only in 2025.
During this Jubilee of Mercy, it is precisely the time now more than ever to show mercy towards our neighbor, by exercising the works of corporal and spiritual mercy which, it must be remembered, are the following, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The corporal works of mercy consist in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy consist in instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead.
One of the graces that can be obtained during this Jubilee is, obviously the plenary indulgence which, like in every holy year, can be obtained by crossing the Holy Door, but this time not only in Rome, but in every cathedral worldwide, or churches established by the diocesan bishop.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines an indulgence as follows (no. 1471): “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”
The next paragraph of the same Catechism explains that the temporal punishment of sin is purgatory, where the soul is purified. A plenary indulgence completely releases us from all temporal punishment, that is to say, purgatory. The conditions for the plenary indulgence during the jubilee year are, in addition to crossing the Holy Door: confession, communion, and pray for the Pope and his intentions.
In his letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion the New Evangelization, about the indulgence granted to the faithful on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote:
“I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”
So let’s get to work ... with the works of mercy!
Alain Pilote, Editor