Archdiocese releases Scripture book for Jubilee of Mercy

By Chicago Catholic
Sunday, February 21, 2016

Father Louis Cameli’s “Rejoicing in Mercy: A Prayer Commentary on the Gospel of Luke” offers commentary and prayer suggestions for Catholics who want to reflect on Luke’s Gospel, which is being read during Masses this year, in light of the Jubilee of Mercy. The book includes the full text of the Gospel, questions for reflection or discussion and prayers.

Cameli, the archbishop’s delegate for formation and mission, and Deacon Keith Strohm, director of the archdiocese’s Office of New Evangelization, sat down to discuss the book and other resources for the jubilee with staff writer Michelle Martin.

Catholic New World: Who is this book for? Who should read this and pray with it?

Father Louis Cameli: It’s for a very wide audience. As I went through it, I was thinking that it would be for individuals who want to do what traditionally has been called lectio divina. In the monastic tradition, it’s a prayerful, slow reading of Scripture. This is a way of going through the Scriptures and slowing down to be able to savor the passages, again, all from the perspective of mercy.

I was also envisioning, in my parish where I was pastor, we had Bible study groups and prayer groups and so forth, so that people who come together in small groups may want to go through the Gospel together.

I’m also thinking of adult faith formation and religious education, not for young children, but adolescents, teens, college students. There’s a pretty wide audience. In many respects, it’s the same audience that’s invited to participate in the Jubilee of Mercy, so that’s really it. It’s not technical. It’s not a technical commentary. It’s not meant for specialists.

CNW: Who is the audience for the jubilee?

Deacon Keith Strohm: The Jubilee of Mercy is really for everyone, every person. Pope Francis called the church to celebrate the jubilee so that the church can be a sign of mercy. I think in particular, all the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago have an opportunity during this year to encounter the mercy of Jesus and to share the mercy of Jesus with others.

Cameli: It’s not only to receive that mercy into our lives, but to share it with others. There’s a receptive and an active dimension to this for everyone.

Strohm: You cannot give what you do not have. Until we have received the mercy of Christ, we cannot give it.

CNW: How does your commentary fit with the other resources available for the Jubilee of Mercy?

Cameli: This fits into the whole liturgical cycle, because this is the year of Luke, Year C, the third year of the lectionary. I don’t know if the pope planned this, but Luke’s Gospel is particularly strong on the themes of mercy.

The other resources we have would include things on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and I think this does give biblical foundations for those works of mercy. The Mercy Mondays and the stories of mercy are really a contemporary way of saying this is how the Gospel comes alive, so those resources of witnessing mercy are connected with the Gospel as well.

Strohm: There’s almost a varied intensity of engagement. There’s something as simple as the folded card with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, so someone can pull it out and be reminded that this is what I’m called to do and really live out throughout Lent and beyond into this Jubilee of Mercy, and even beyond that.

Then you can adopt a work of mercy, choosing one to do throughout the jubilee, and then with this you can reflect on the reality of mercy through Scripture. There’s something for people to fit into every part of their life, given their schedules.

Cameli: One of the interesting things for me since I’ve gotten involved in what I call this mercy business, is now, all of a sudden, I’m praying the Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the core of that would be the 150 psalms, and all of a sudden I’m seeing thatmercy comes up a lot. This is exactly what I think the Holy Father has in mind, that by inviting the church into the Jubilee of Mercy, we become aware, in the Mass, of the number of times mercy is mentioned.

From the beginning, “Lord, have mercy,” different invocations of mercy in the orations and the prefaces and all that. Now we’re alert in a new way to something that has always been there, but maybe could just float by — “Oh, mercy, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Now we’re seeing that mercy really is at the center of what God has accomplished for us. If this commentary and the other things that we’re doing can alert people to what’s pervasive, to what’s all over the Gospel, I think that would be a great, great thing.

CNW: Was there anything new that struck you as you went through the Gospel of Luke and focused on mercy? Did you make new connections?

Cameli: There were some things that I saw in a new way. For example, when people hear “the mercy of God,” they think, “Oh, that’s something nice.” Nice, and easy. But I realized in going through this Gospel that to really receive the mercy of God is not simple and it’s not easy. It comes to us as a gift.

As much as we like to get gifts, there’s also at times a kind of reluctance that we have. When somebody gives you a gift, absolutely free, because that’s what the grace of God is, and the mercy of God is grace, people say, “Well, you know what? Now I’m indebted. Now I’ve got to take responsibility. Now there’s maybe something else that this is going to summon from me.”

To really be committed to receiving the mercy of God is not a simple thing.

In Luke’s Gospel, there are many places you see this, but two in particular stand out. One is when Jesus heals the 10 lepers, but only one of them comes back to thank him. The mercy of God reached out to all 10, but only one was able in the faith to really take hold of it. What happened to the other nine? It’s not easy to just receive that gift.

The other thing is the parable of the prodigal son, the forgiving father and the elder brother. That story, especially when you get to the elder brother in the last part of the story, you begin to see, it’s not so simple, this question of mercy and forgiveness, to be open to receive it and to give it.

That came through in a newer way for me.

Luke’s Gospel has a lot of features because traditionally he was a physician and there’s healing in a special way. There’s poverty, there’s joy, there’s suffering and mercy.

The other thing that is very interesting in Luke’s Gospel is the place of women. Women are very prominent, beginning with Mary and Elizabeth, and women are frequently the people who are most attuned to the mercy of God and communicate that. It’s a pretty consistent pattern in the Gospel.

Also, a lot of people who are attuned to the Lord’s mercy are the poor.

CNW: How do the Days of Mercy relate to the Scripture reflections?

Cameli: For most Catholics, approaching the sacrament of reconciliation is one of the most personal things they do, personal to the point of being at times anonymous, and it’s considered very private.

The fact of the matter is, in focusing on these days, we recognize that we’re not just going to God one by one. This is about the people of God looking for a conversion of heart as a people.

The Scripture is helpful in that too. When we read the Scriptures and the call to conversion, it’s like Jonah speaking in Nineveh, John the Baptist speaking to the people, it’s a collective call. Of course the particular path of repentance and reconciliation is personal, and there’s personal sin, no question about it, but it really is the renewal of a whole people, and that’s what’s behind having a couple of days when we’re all looking to the mercy of God. The Scriptures help us to understand that collective sense.

For a lot of Catholics, when they think of confessing sin, it’s very much examining their conscience and looking at how they have failed to live up to their own ideal of themselves. That is not the story.

It’s not that we have failed ourselves. It’s that somehow we have fallen short of fully taking hold of God’s mercy in our lives and that relationship with God. I like to go back to Exodus, to the first commandment. God says, “I led you out of Egypt, I freed you from slavery, and therefore you shall not have false gods.” So it starts with the relationship. It’s not just a failure of observing a rule or a precept.

It really has to do with damaging a relationship that God has initiated, and then our failure to respond to that relationship.

So if people are going through the Scriptures, they’ll see that sin isn’t so much a non-observance of the rules as it is falling short in our relationship with God.

Strohm: This idea of relationship is covenantal. It’s not simply an informal relationship. It’s a marriage, a mutual self-giving. That’s a constant in Scripture, culminating in the self-giving of Jesus.

Cameli: If we enter into these days openly, it could be a very powerful experience, not just for us individually, but for us as a church, as a people of God.

CNW: Why did you write this commentary? Did you hear the announcement of the jubilee and make the connection that it was the year of the Gospel of Luke and say, “I must do this”?

Cameli: My doctorate is in theology with an emphasis on spirituality, but even more particularly, biblical spirituality, so that’s where I started. It’s always been a great love for me. I didn’t know if there would be a lot of resources out there, and I thought this was something I could add.

“Rejoicing In Mercy” sells for $10.95 and includes shipping. Discounts are available for orders over 10. For information, visit


  • scripture
  • devotion
  • jubilee of mercy
  • louis cameli

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