By Most Reverend Gerald Barnes
Part of our Catholic faith tradition is to mark and celebrate specific periods of time according to their historical and/or spiritual significance. From Feast Days to Holy Week to liturgical seasons, these moments allow us to reflect on what it means to be Catholic and, hopefully, to recommit ourselves to living out the faith.
This month, we will enter the Season of Advent, a time of preparing ourselves for the arrival of the Lord Jesus. It is also the month that, according the proclamation of Pope Francis, we close the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that began last Advent.
It has truly been a blessed year. I extend my gratitude and my affirmation to the parishes, schools and ministries that, with inspiration from the Holy Spirit, answered this call to mercy and lived and celebrated it with great zeal. I have seen and heard so many stories of how the Jubilee has been observed by our different communities of faith.
We have learned; we have grown; we have strengthened our connection with God and with our brothers and sisters. Too bad this Year of Mercy only lasted a year, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to. And it shouldn’t.
Our understanding and our practice of God’s mercy has been awakened this year. This is a gift that continues in us! It doesn’t expire on November 20. Let us carry the transformation we have experienced in this Jubilee Year forward. There is a reason our second Diocesan liturgy on the Year of Mercy is not billed as a “Closing Mass.” We will celebrate the year with this great gathering and we will commit ourselves to continuing what we have started.
I believe it is important to emphasize the continuity of the Year of Mercy because as much as we love our Feast Days, holidays, liturgical seasons and so forth, we tend to view them as a finite experience. We immerse ourselves in them but when they are over we move on to the next thing, or back to the old thing. If we have been transformed by our experience of faith this past year, we cannot really move on, or go back, because it has changed us in some way.
This is my hope for you and for all of us who opened ourselves up again to receive God’s mercy and answered the call to share it with others.
Let us take this to our celebration of Thanksgiving and to our preparation for the birth of the Savior who, as Pope Francis reminds us, is God’s face of Mercy.
My prayers to you and yours for a blessed Advent Season as we wait in hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.