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Monday 7 December 2015

Advent and the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Toronto

Advent 2                                                                                                                            STM  Dec. 6, 2015
With information about the Jubilee Year of Mercy

“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.  Put on the robe of the righteousness of God.” Baruch 5:1

Psalm 126 paints the picture of a road filled with freed captives on the road home to Jerusalem. They are rejoicing. It's a glorious picture of Israel's deliverance from exile in Babylon.

The scene is being recalled in a later moment of threat in the history of the people of Israel. The Psalmist – the writer – recalls the glory of God’s mercy in history.  

Remembering that  "the Lord has done great things" in the past, the writer is making an act of faith and hope, hope that God will come to Israel in its present need and that God will do even greater things in the future.

This is what the Advent readings are about: God's saving action in the history of Israel, in the coming of Jesus and in the second coming, judgement and the completion of salvation history. 

Remembering God’s mercy is meant to stir our faith, to fill us with hope, and move us to love in our actions. The Epistle puts it this way, "the One who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it" until Christ comes again in glory.

Each of us, the Liturgy teaches, is like Israel in her exile. We are led into captivity by our sin and so we are in need of restoration, conversion by the Word, by the Holy One of God (Baruch 5:5). The lessons of salvation history teach us that, as God again and again delivered Israel, in mercy, God will free us from the power of sin, forgive the contrite and even give us grace to eradicate the temporal effects of sin if we turn to the Lord in repentance.

That is the message of John the Baptist, introduced in today's Gospel as the last of the great prophets (compare Jeremiah 1:1-4,11).  John is greater than the all the prophets (Luke 7:27). He's preparing the way, not only for the redemption of Israel, but for the salvation of "all flesh" (Acts 28:28), for all who will respond in faith.

John quotes Isaiah (40:3) to tell us he's come to build a road home for us, a way out of the wilderness of sin and alienation from God. It's a road we'll follow Jesus down, a journey we'll make, as today's First Reading puts it, "rejoicing that [we're] remembered by God." 

What is the nature of the road home for us, the road to the Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem?  The Church has developed her doctrine with regard to the journey from sin back to God. This season of Advent along with the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on Tuesday – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception –  offer us fresh opportunity to be freed from the double effects of sin and to grow in grace and mercy.

The teachings of the Church are clear about how we do this.  First, of course, we must with true contrition confess our sins, receive sacramental absolution and come to the Lord in Holy Communion.

Too often we leave it there but the Holy Year of Mercy points us to ways of dealing with the temporal effects of sin which may continue to affect us, both individually and collectively after we are forgiven.

The Church teaches that all of us are connected and the consequences of our actions affect ourselves, others and the Church herself either for  good or for ill.

Pope Paul VI outlined the road which leads to full or plenary remission of all the effects of our sins, that though forgiven, have “knock-on” conseqences until these are extinguished by grace.  In his apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina written in 1967 at the height of other “indulgences” of all kinds in the West, the Holy Father refined the process for dealing with the lingering effects of sin. He wrote:

“The vestiges of sin may remain to be expiated or cleansed and . . . they in fact frequently do even after the remission of guilt . . . 
[This] is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory . . . . [where] the souls of those ‘who died in the charity of God and truly repentant . . . [but] before satisfying with worthy fruits of penance . . . .  [the effects of] sins committed are cleansed after death.’  

Cleansed, that is, through the prayers and actions of love and charity offered by the entire Church in her worship of God and service of humanity. Individually, we may  contribute and collectively open ourselves and others (both living and dead) to the limitless treasury of graces offered by Christ and his saints. 

These graces are entirely free to those who will, in faith and humility, ask for them with sincerity and in accordance with the conditions determined by the Holy See. These graces are available for the benefit of both the living and the dead. 

This process allows justice to be satisfied in terms of the road of repentance and restitution outlined by St. John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight.”

During this Jubilee of Year of Mercy, then, the Church urges us to turn our attention to the fourteen works of corporal and spiritual mercy. 

•  To feed the hungry
•  To give drink to the thirsty
•  To clothe the naked
•  To harbour the homeless
•  To visit the sick
•  To visit/ redeem prisoners
•  To bury the dead

•  To instruct the ignorant
•  To counsel the doubtful
•  To admonish sinners
•  To bear wrongs patiently
•  To forgive offences willingly
•  To comfort the afflicted
•  To pray for the living & the dead

The Church offers plenary indulgences during this year for those who participate in the 14 works of mercy and visit the designated shrines in Toronto and beyond for the Sacraments of Confession and Mass. -- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2447

This focus has two purposes i.e. to promote what Pope Paul called, first, “sincere conversion of the mind, in Greek, Metanoia.  

Secondly, and related to the community of faith, the Body of Christ, this metanoia or turning to God is, again as Paul VI says:  “not only that of helping the faithful to expiate the punishment due sin but also that of urging them to perform works of piety, penitence and charity particularly those which lead to growth in faith and which favour the common good.” (#9)

Plenary Indulgences are encouraged for both these purposes and during the Holy Year there are many opportunities to participate in this healing ministry for ourselves; for our loved ones and for the good of the entire Church Catholic.

“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.  Put on the robe of the righteousness of God.” Baruch 5:1

Holy Doors have been designated throughout 
The Archdiocese of Toronto 
The Jubilee Year of Mercy 

The Holy Doors of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Toronto open on Sunday, December 13, 2015.
Holy Door of St. Peter's, Rome

How to obtain the Jubilee Indulgence:
For those able to make a pilgrimage to one of the Jubilee churches in Rome, that is certainly an option. Otherwise, Cardinal Collins has designated seven churches within the Archdiocese of Toronto as Jubilee Churches, each with a Holy Door of Mercy. Going through one of these Holy Doors is a spiritual journey that shows, as the Holy Father said, "the deep desire for true conversion." 
Pope John Paul II opened the Jubilee Door for the Year A.D. 2000
In addition to passing through a Holy Door, each pilgrim is to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receive the Holy Eucharist while reflecting on God's great gift of mercy, make a profession of faith (recite either the Apostles' or the Nicene Creed), and pray for the Holy Father and for his intentions (an Our Father and a Hail Mary are recommended).
For those who are elderly, confined and the ill, Pope Francis said that they may obtain the indulgence by "living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial" and by receiving the Eucharist or by attending Mass and community prayer, "even through the various means of communication" (for instance, a Mass offered on television). For those in prison, they may obtain the indulgence in their prison chapels. 
Holy Door - St. Peter's Rome, Opened on Dec. 8, 2015
Indulgences may be obtained for the dead by the carrying out of these same acts by the Faithful with the intention of offering the indulgence for someone who is deceased. 
And finally, for all Catholics, this jubilee indulgence may also be obtained when a member of the Faithful personally performs a spiritual or corporal work of mercy. 
Holy Door at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Quebec

Designated churches for the Jubilee with 
a Holy Door of Mercy:

  • St. Paul's Basilica
    83 Power Street, Toronto
  • St. Patrick's Parish
    131 McCaul St., Toronto​
  • Merciful Redeemer Parish
    2775 Erin Centre Blvd., Mississauga
  • St. Anthony of Padua Parish
    940 North Park Dr., Bramalea
  • St. Patrick's Parish
    11873 The Gore Rd., Brampton
  • St. Theresa's Parish
    2559 Kingston Rd., Scarborough
  • The Martyrs' Shrine
    16163 Highway 12 West, Midland​
  • Marylake Shrine
    13760 Keele St., King City​
  • St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish (Chapel Doors)4260 Cawthra Rd., Mississauga​

Holy Door at St. Paul-without-the- Walls, Rome

Holy Door - Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

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