December 13 - 26, 2015

Let the Jubilee of Mercy Begin!

On December 8, Pope Francis will begin the Jubilee of Mercy by opening the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. This Sunday, December 13, Holy Doors in cathedrals around the world and at our own Holy Name Cathedral will be opened to express the universal need for mercy. Opening a door is an invitation to cross over, to enter a different space. As the Holy Father wrote earlier this year, the new space we are invited to enter is a life shaped not by laws but by mercy, or in Latin, misericordia.

Misericordia literally means to have pity in one’s heart. Mercy is not just an attitude or an occasional sentiment. Rather, it is a strength or virtue that shapes and enlivens one’s heart. Without mercy, our hearts beat wrong; without mercy, we suffer from heart disease.

This is how Pope Francis described mercy when he announced the Jubilee:

  • the word that reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity;
  • the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us;
  • the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life;
  • the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

Let’s unpack these phrases:

Mercy is the word that reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

In my first year of theology, a professor warned us not to confuse knowing about God with knowing God. That is a temptation for anyone studying theology or taking up ministry. Pope Francis is telling us that the more our hearts are filled with mercy for others, the more we know God. The more we practice mercy, the more we let it shape our motivations, our desires and our behaviors, the more likely we are to come to know the love that the Father and the Son have for one another. In a word, practicing mercy not only saves those to whom we show mercy. It saves us too.

Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.

Real mercy begins with humility, a recognition that God first has shown mercy to us. Shortly after being elected, Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” He replied simply: “I am a sinner.” The more we experience and call upon the mercy of God, the pope is saying, the more we tend to be merciful to one another. But the opposite is also true. When we close ourselves off to God’s mercy through pride and the illusion of self-sufficiency, the less likely we will be merciful to others. The proud do not recognize the need for mercy, so they walk past God’s open door. If we want to measure the way God works in our lives, we should look at how well we practice mercy.

Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life

In a recent interview, Pope Francis spoke about the need for the Church to take the lead in practicing mercy by avoiding the temptation “to follow a hard line and to underline moral rules only,” to the point that “many people are excluded.” Instead, the Church should serve as “as a field hospital after a battle,” reaching out to the wounded and injured. And earlier this year, Pope Francis recalled the words of St. Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Second Vatican Council: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity.” Pope Francis is not saying that rules are unimportant, but that they are not ends in themselves. Their aim must always be to bring souls closer to God’s mercy, which is the fundamental law. Of course, that is hardly a new idea. For centuries the Church’s pastoral practice has been inspired by the ancient saying, salus animarum lex suprema—the salvation of souls is the supreme law. It is God’s mercy that saves souls, not human observance of laws.

Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

We all want to get to heaven. Mercy is the bridge for our crossing over because God’s mercy endures forever, as the Psalmist reminds us (Psalm 136). God’s everlasting mercy gives  us hope to continue the journey, for it is a mercy that is present even in our sinfulness. God will not stop being merciful. Like a good shepherd, he will search for us and bring us back, not begrudgingly, not to scold us, but with joy. The more we experience the everlasting mercy of God, the more generous we become in showing mercy to others, for we come to understand that we are not showing them our mercy, but God’s. Knowing that gives us hope to accompany one another across the bridge of mercy to the heaven we so desire.

Throughout this year, I invite you to choose one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy and dedicate yourselves to practicing it individually or as a family. You can take confidence in the promise of Jesus, “the measure you measure with, will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:2).

Cardinal Cupich’s Schedule

  1. Dec. 13: 2 p.m., Archbishop's Christmas Concert, Holy Family Parish, Chicago; 5:15 p.m., Year of Mercy Opening of the Holy Door Mass, Holy Name Cathedral, State and Superior Streets
  2. Dec. 14: 5:30 p.m., To Teach Who Christ Is Reception, the residence
  3. Dec. 16: 1 p.m., To Teach Who Christ Is Cabinet Meeting, Quigley Center
  4. Dec. 17: 1 p.m., Administrative Council Meeting, Quigley Center; 6 p.m., Assembly of Catholic Professionals Reception, the residence
  5. Dec. 19: 9 a.m., Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Quigley Center; 5 p.m., Simbang Gabi, St. Ferdinand Parish, Chicago
  6. Dec. 21: 5 p.m., Illinois Club for Catholic Women Presentation Ball, Hilton Chicago, Grand Ballroom
  7. Dec. 23: 11 a.m., Advent Prayer Service and Reception (Employees of Archdiocese of Chicago), St. James Chapel, Quigley Center
  8. Dec. 24: 10:45 a.m., Visit to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, Chicago; 5 p.m., St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy Holy Supper, Ukrainian Cultural Center, Chicago
  9. Dec. 25: midnight, Midnight Mass at Holy Name Cathedral; 9 a.m., Mass at Cook County Jail, Chicago; noon, Catholic Charities Luncheon, Catholic Charities office on LaSalle, Chicago
Cardinal's Crest

Clergy Appointments

Archbishop Cupich approved the following appointments:

Administrator

Rev. Paul Stein, to administrator of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Glenview, effective Jan. 1-June 30, 2016.

Sabbatical

Rev. Maina Paul Waithaka, from pastor of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Glenview, to sabbatical, effective Jan. 1-June 30, 2016.

Rev. Bolivar Molina-Ramirez, from associate pastor of St. Barbara Parish, Brookfield, to sabbatical, effective Jan. 27-June 30, 2016.

Retirement

Rev. Mark Canavan, from pastor of St. Louis de Montfort Parish, Oak Lawn, to retire after 44 years of service to the church, effective Dec. 31.