Do you remember the song from Fiddler on the Roof titled “Sunrise – Sunset?” As a father reflects on memories of his daughter growing up the song reminds him and us that “quickly go the years.” We are very near to the end of our calendar year and today marks the beginning of a new liturgical year with an extra focus. Pope Francis has proclaimed this liturgical year to be a jubilee year, a year of mercy.
This year we will be hearing from the gospel of Luke. I find this Interesting because Luke is the only gospel writer who has Jesus at the beginning of his ministry proclaiming the beginning of a jubilee year (Lk.4: 18:19). The jubilee year established by God (Lev.25) is to be one of total dependence on God, a year where what has been lost is restored, a year where forgiveness is mandated, a year where the blessings of God is poured out on all.
That is a quick summary of what God has always done and expects us to be doing during a jubilee year. If you read Leviticus 25 you will see the things God said to his people as he mandated the jubilee year. I would like you to see how jubilee principles apply to us today thousands of years removed from the time of Moses.
First the Israelites were not to plant any crops during the jubilee year. God tells them not to worry about how they will survive without planting because he will provide all they need. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Jesus said to us “don’t worry about what you will eat or drink – seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added.” This jubilee year invites us to trust in the promises and sacrifice of Christ. We as a people are so focused on trying to not fall from grace that we have missed receiving the grace so freely offered us by Christ’s death and resurrection.
The jubilee year invites us to walk by faith and not by sight. Do we believe that Christ was “offered up for us as a sacrifice” for us (EP.2:5) or not? If we do then daily we should be giving thanks for not only the sacrifice but that God loves us so much that he gave up his son so that we might live. Giving thanks should be the way we begin and end each day during this year of jubilee and mercy.
The jubilee year is one of liberty for the captives, freedom from the bondage to sin and patterns of living which lead us to sin. What is it in our life that dominates our thought and actions? What is it in our lives that keep us from depending completely on God for salvation, joy, peace, security, satisfaction or a dozen other things? The jubilee year invites us to stop depending on ourselves for all those things and accept that they are ours by God’s grace. We must believe what has been promised is ours and open ourselves to feel the love of God.
The mercy offered us by God is one that we fail to comprehend because it just does not fit into our concept of mercy. We easily identify with the brother of the prodigal son because he seems to be slighted for being obedient. His brother, the prodigal, did everything wrong and yet he is the one that the father was rejoicing over. We just find it hard to believe he was not at a minimum chastised.
The jubilee was established to show us how mercy works. What do we need to learn about mercy in order to feel it for ourselves? We should, at a minimum, understand what is offered to by God does not require us to grovel before him but to understand his heart longs to restore us. We also should at a minimum understand that what God has for us is for today not ours at some later date.
The jubilee year is one visible way God established to get us back into a mindset of trusting him instead of doing things on our own. The jubilee year also is one that demands that we extend the same blessings to others. It is time for us to forgive and set free those we hold in bondage by our unwillingness to forgive. It is time for us to let the world see that we do believe in a God who we will not ever deny or understate his love for us.
The jubilee year demands on the Israelites probably did not make sense to those who were satisfied with their lives. That is exactly the challenge to us this jubilee year because many of us are satisfied with our lives both spiritually and physically. God desired to show us that mercy is freely given to us and it will never be earned or justified.
Mercy calls us not to do things because they are right but because they are merciful and often mercy is not the sensible thing to do. God’s mercy will never make sense to us. The prodigal son is not punished but rewarded; the woman caught is adultery does not get punished but forgiven; the owner of the sheep would not praise the shepherd for leaving the flock to find one lost sheep. Yet God used those parables to show us how he gives mercy. The year of jubilee and mercy is not just for us to open ourselves to his mercy but for us as disciples to be ministers of mercy.