Year of Mercy a historical route to God, says priest
By Anthony D. Alonzo
Northwest Indiana Catholic
SCHERERVILLE – Most practicing Catholics know the Year of Mercy is upon us. Yet the history of such a designation and, more importantly, what it means to the believer have many of the faithful looking to get up-to-speed.
Providing a historical perspective and reading from the recent words of Pope Francis, Father Martin Dobrzynski, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel, told dozens of faithful gathered at the Schererville church on Jan. 21 for a presentation about the Year of Mercy that there is a powerful simplicity to the jubilee.
The jubilee is designed to bring Christians closer to God.
“God intends us to be with him, that’s the intention God has,” Father Dobrzynski said, referencing Pope Francis’ remarks.
Father Dobrzynski continued “a Jubilee Year such as this is a way of making that really plain and clear to us.”
From Pope Boniface VIII’s convoking a Holy Year in 1300 with his bull "Antiquorum Habet Fida Relation" (For a Perpetual Remembrance of the Thing), to St. Pope John Paul II’s Great Jubilee for the year 2000 announced in his Apostolic Letter “Tertio Millennio Adveniente” (As the Third Millennium Approaches), the Holy Fathers generally declared jubilees at 25-, 33-, or 50-year intervals.
The year-long events hold the promise of “great remissions and indulgences for sins,” with the conditions including sincere contrition and a pilgrimage to Rome and to “the venerable basilica of the prince of the apostles,” or St. Peter’s Basilica. (For the current jubilee, local dioceses can designate pilgrimage churches, and other events.)
“There is some record of jubilee years in the Old Testament,” Father Dobrzynski said of the Jewish tradition. “In the Church that notion was not picked up immediately.”
So what is the significance of 2015-2016 that it should be designated as an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy?
Though there is no ecumenical council occurring and the years are not numerically significant, Father Dobrzynski said the year and its moto, “Merciful Like the Father” (Luke 6:36), is timely as it counters the “calamity” of today’s world.
Father Dobrzynski referenced the new book “The Name of God Is Mercy,” which was compiled from an interview Pope Francis completed with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli. The Schererville priest also cited “Misericordiae Vultus”, the bull announcing the Holy Year of Mercy.
“Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy – that’s the first line, that’s the theme,” Father Dobrzynski said about Misericordiae Vultus.
Father Dobrzynski prefaced the main part of his talk suggesting that “being good Catholics, we always have a lot “stuff” packed into small sentences.” So he paused and then said he would focus simply on the word ‘Jesus,’ “the one who came in the flesh – not some dusty myth… it is an historical event.”
Explaining that ‘Christ’ is a different term, a messianic word denoting the “one who is to come,” he said Jesus Christ came to “make real” the face of God, and his mercy and love, which “he willed to share.” God wishes to sustain us, “the pinnacle of his creation,” with his mercy.
Jesus is the “walking example of this,” Father Dobrzynski said, citing the account in Luke 7:11-17 of Jesus bringing back to life the dead child of the widow.
He read from Ezekiel 16, where “the sovereign Lord” is the one who calls his people, “though they have torn away from him, he will not tear away from them.”
Because our freedom given to us by God so we may return our “un-manipulated love” happens to also be a door to sin, or distance from God, humanity requires redemption. For that purpose, Jesus came as the good judge, the St. Michael pastor said.
“The point of the judgement is to redeem, just as with the woman caught in adultery, or the thief on the cross,” Father Dobrzynski said. “It’s not to condemn, or to say what you did was OK, but to bring back, to redeem. This is our great hope, that we will be judged for redemption.”
Believers must be on guard for the many pitfalls of today’s world. Moral relativism where “all is the same,” or a fatalistic “gloom-and-doom” thinking are two philosophies that can do harm. And Father Dobrzynski joked that even new films like “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies” give a dark, skewed view of creation.
Yet acting in compassion, the faithful can assist the physically injured and help lead others and themselves to a cure for an illness of mind and spirit through practicing works of mercy, he said.
Father Dobrzynski added that none of the works of mercy is a one-time deal.
“The Year of Mercy is going to come and go, but what the Holy Father is talking about is (something) to just get us started,” he said.
Instituted by Christ, Father Dobrzynski referenced the need for participation in the sacraments, especially Reconciliation, numerous times.
“Be courageous, go to confession,” the pope recently said. “Do not be afraid of confession.”
St. John the Evangelist parishioner Jim Biancotti of St. John said he was invited by a friend to the presentation.
“Probably the biggest thing (I learned) is to take the opportunity to look beyond the faults of someone and see a person,” said Biancotti.
Parishioners were appreciative for the insight given on some “heavy” theological matters.
“I wanted to understand what the Year of Mercy actually is,” said St. Michael parishioner Jill Udani. “(From the talk) I got a lot of wisdom and guidance from our pastor.”