Pope John Paul II has called upon Catholics throughout the world to celebrate a Year of Jubilee beginning on Christmas Eve of this year, 1999 until the Feast of Epiphany, in January, 2001.
Why keep a year of jubilee? Time is made holy by the actions of God in history and the Incarnation is one of those kairos moments which changed the meaning of time forever. Since Romans measured time from the birth of the city of Rome. Christians decided to count them from the birth of Jesus. The practice became the way to keep time throughout the Christian world. On 1 January 2000 we will mark two thousand years since the birth of Christ. For Christians this marks a year of jubilee, or what the church calls a holy year. This is a time set apart for making peace with God and with our neighbours, for forgiving the sins and debts of the past and turning once more toward a new life of love.
This idea for the holy year is actually adapted from the biblical practice of jubilee that is connected with the meaning of the Sabbath in the Book of Genesis in which YHWH told the Israelites to keep a day of rest each week. In the Book of Leviticus, God told the Chosen People not only to rest every seventh day, but to rest every seventh year and keep it as a year of sabbatical. During the time of rest slaves were to be set free, and debts were to be cancelled. The people were even to let the land rest by allowing fields to lay fallow.
Every 50th year was to be a year of jubilee. The jubilee year was a celebration of God's favour. This year was set aside to set captives free, to welcome home the lost, to redistribute wealth and take better care of the earth. With Christ's birth these attitudes became incarnated in his person. He became freedom for captives, a home for all those who felt lost, he became the real treasure of those who would follow him and he revealed his presence everywhere in the world.
Francis and Clare appreciated the significance of Christ's coming among us as a human person. They knew that the incarnate Christ is the way in which the saving goodness of God reaches us and that Christ becomes the very way we must travel following in his footsteps.
For this reason Clare and Francis clung to Christ and through him experienced an abundance of the Father's love. They knew interiorly that the liberation, forgiveness and restoration of the jubilee promise of YHWH was made present and fulfilled in Christ. They accepted Christ as the way and they followed him throughout their lives.
Besides being the Son of the Father, Christ is our Brother who knows all our needs and frailties because he bore them in his own flesh and because of this he is our compassionate intercessor before the Father, while all the time being Emmanuel, God-with-us. We are never alone, because Christ is always with us. God is not far away from us, a remote and reserved supreme being, but one of us who manifested himself in Christ. It is this mystery that we celebrate at Christmas and it is Christ message that we are called to make a reality especially during this year of jubilee.
The American bishops have asked people to make a Jubilee Pledge. It is not specific to the US because it is rooted in our responsibilities as the baptised. A suggested way of doing this is to have the local superior or fraternity president lead it with the community coming in with a response. We include it here for your use.
Leader: The Jubilee Pledge for Charity, Justice and Peace is a sign that each person who makes the pledge is renewing his or her commitment to take up Christ's mission of bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives and letting the oppressed go free. If you are willing to live out your baptismal promises by taking this pledge, respond to each question by saying, "We do."
Leader: As disciples of Jesus in the new millennium, do you promise to pray regularly for greater justice and peace?
Assembly: We do.
Leader: Do you promise to learn more about the call to protect human life, stand with the poor and care for creation?
Do you promise to reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity gender and disabling condition?
Do you promise to live justly at home, in school, at work, in the marketplace and in the political arena?
Do you promise to serve those who are poor and vulnerable, sharing your time and talent?
Do you promise to give generously to those in need, at home and abroad?
Do you promise to advocate for public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God's creation, and build peace?
As disciples of Jesus in the new millennium, do you promise to encourage others to work for greater charity, justice, and peace?
Leader: Together, we the baptised of (name of the community) we pledge to do these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May this pledge help us, during this jubilee year, to live with a greater sense of the riches of our Catholic heritage.
We congratulate Sr. Kerry Scanlon and her Council on their election to Provincial Leadership of the FMMs.
Fr. Sergius and I wish all of you an Advent rich in hope and a Christmas season filled with joy.
Contact: Sr Madge Karecki: phone and fax 011-614-7854 South Africa email@example.com