Bishop Hying

Year of Mercy ends but calls us to continue the work of love and forgiveness

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on November 6, 2016


       Sunday, Nov. 20, the Feast of Christ the King, will mark the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Please join us that day for a special Mass at Holy Angels Cathedral at 2 p.m.  This blessed time has been a grace for Catholics around the world as we have focused on the mercy of God poured out through Jesus Christ, as the means of our salvation and reconciliation. 

       The Jubilee Year inspired many people to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation with greater frequency, depth, preparation, appreciation and gratitude. Many parishes preached, taught and made the sacrament more available and understood.  In confessing our sins, we come to realize our radical need for a Savior for mercy and forgiveness, for peace and healing in the world. I personally have come to appreciate this sacrament more this year, both as a sinner and a confessor.

       The Year of Mercy moved many people to live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with fervor, generosity and joy. Young people in North Lake Deanery had a Mercy Week this summer, doing a different service project every day.

       Our diocesan Justice and Peace Commission has organized two Saturday mornings this month to reflect and plan on how we can better live out the Gospel mandate to love and serve the poor and needy.  We will establish a Mercy Fund through the Catholic Foundation which will finance works of mercy in our diocese for many years to come, as a permanent legacy of this year. Thousands of people in our parishes have continued to respond to special collections, volunteer opportunities and needy individuals, all in the name of Christ and the focus of this year.

       Many Catholics went on pilgrimages to experience the special grace of this Jubilee. In October, I accompanied two groups to Rome and Assisi, as well as the World Youth Day pilgrims in July. In Rome, we visited all four major basilicas, entering the Holy Doors in each as we prayed and meditated on the mercy and love of God. Journeys to sacred places change us, as we experience the breadth and depth of our Catholic faith in very tangible ways, coming to know the lives of the saints and the power of prayer in new ways.

       I would hope that we were all inspired to reconcile conflicts, forgive past hurts, break down old walls, reach out to someone who needs love and attention and make the mercy of God real in all of our relationships. Maybe, our efforts were not all well received, maybe some people are not yet ready to move on or let go, but the Good News of the Gospel tells us that we can and should. As I get older, I realize more and more that life is just way too short and precious to even waste a minute being angry about little things that people say and do or upset about what we can do nothing about. When we truly forgive, the first people set free are ourselves.

       How will we keep up the good practices we have embraced in this Jubilee Year? How do we keep this time of grace alive and fresh in our spiritual practice, so that the changes we have effected will continue to flourish? 

       We do this by continuing to do what we have done; by making Scriptural reflection, Eucharist and confession regular encounters in our lives; striving to be peacemakers in all of our relationships and conversations; practicing the works of mercy in new and exciting ways; unconditionally loving the other, regardless of the response, will keep our faith from ever being routine or the Year of Mercy a pleasant but distant memory.

       Mercy is what love practices when it comes up against suffering and misery. In this context, we can view the whole Christ event as a rescue mission of mercy. God come in search of us, to seek and save what was lost, as Jesus says to Zacchaeus. How significant that we listened to Luke’s Gospel at Sunday Mass this liturgical year, that we heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the story of the Good Shepherd, Zacchaeus and the lost coin, the narrative of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee and the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. 

       All of these Gospels reinforced the central point of this special year -God loves us so much that he could not bear to watch us suffer the anguish of sin and death alone, so he sent his Son to us in human form to search us out wherever we have been hiding, to heal everything that is lost, broken and dead within us and to lead us as sons and daughters of the Father into the Kingdom of God. 

       I praise God for all of the grace, forgiveness, love, solidarity, service and joy that we have experienced in this Jubilee Year!  May it only continue to grow and flourish as we move through our diocesan synod process.    

       Praise God for his infinite and tender mercy!


       + Donald J. Hying


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