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The Year of Mercy

by Kerry Weber 12-03-2015
During an election year, the quality of mercy is sometimes strained.
Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

SHORTLY AFTER THE November mid-term elections, Pope Francis officially launched a campaign of his own—although one with a decidedly different tone than that of most politicians. Dec. 8 marked the start of the “year of mercy,” which in Francis’ words is a chance for the church to consider how it “can make more evident its mission of being a witness of mercy.”

This challenge is not one that seems to have taken root in our political conversation, and I’ve seen little evidence of it in the presidential candidate debates. In a year when we will democratically elect a leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world, how will mercy figure into the strategy?

Specially designated “jubilee years” are a Christian tradition that began in the early 14th century, based on the biblical mandate in Leviticus 25 and Jesus’ call for the “year of the Lord’s favor” in Luke 4. In the Catholic tradition, jubilee years serve as calls to grow in one’s relationship with God through prayer, blessings, and penance.

Of course, calling this time a year of mercy doesn’t mean that it’s the only year we are called to focus on mercy; rather it is an effort to get the church and the world to consider the quality of mercy more closely, more deeply, so it permeates our daily lives and influences our actions. (Like a New Year’s resolution that actually sticks!)