“The Jubilee of Mercy” by Fr Dumisani Vilakati

    1. Extraordinary Jubilee of MercyOn the 17th March 2013, Pope Francis pronounced his first speech to the world when he appeared on his first Angelus. On that Sunday, he reflected on the Story of the woman caught in adultery as presented in John 8:1-11. Reflecting on this reading, the Holy Father placed a lot of emphasis on the behaviour of Jesus in relation to the woman. This was after some of the men of Jerusalem had accused the woman of adultery. The elders of Jerusalem had brought the woman to Jesus and informed him that according to the law of Moses she had had to be stoned to death (Lev 20:10). The response of Jesus was astonishing as he neither sided with the accusers nor with the woman on whether she had in fact committed the offence. On the contrary, Jesus focused on the need of the woman in front of him and how she could be saved.

    2. The focus of the Holy Father on that day was on the mercy of Jesus upon the woman. Jesus, rather than appeal to the law in Leviticus, appealed more to the nature of God himself. Notice the words of Jesus as he concludes the discourse: “Did anyone condemn you?” “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus places himself together with the accusers and does not see himself fit to condemn the woman. The elders of Jerusalem, who were initially intent on putting her to death, could not bring themselves to condemn her.

    3. The Holy Father at this stage underlined the fact that with God there is always mercy as was evident with Jesus’ approach to the accusation against woman. Pope Francis lamented the fact that we Christians are poor in requesting God’s mercy, yet God never fails us. As can be observed from John 8:1-11, the mercy of God reaches our door step even in the most dire of situations. From his appearance at his first Angelus in March 2013, it has been clear that mercy would be at the centre of his papacy. His main concern from the beginning has been to see a Church that is more merciful rather than condemning, especially when we speak of the poorest members of society. This merciful church should be seen in the way it is administered and its programs and more importantly in the penitential activity of the church.

    4. It was therefore not surprising indeed that the Pope would decide to proclaim an extra-ordinary Jubilee of mercy which began on the 8th December 2015. In this way, the Pope was inviting us to look at Jesus as the face of the Father’s mercy. At the same time he invites us to show a merciful face in all our dealings. But what is this mercy?