Now that the spirit of Christmas present is fading into the spirit of Christmas past and we start to ponder Christmas-yet-to-come what should the New Year look like? Especially in light of the fact that this is a Jubilee Year we should consider carefully how we will spend it. It is in a sense a year for our reclamation. We can change the shadows of Christmas-yet-to-come by changing our actions today.
Two things I would never do when my father was alive were to take my car to a car wash and pay for a shoeshine. Well actually more precisely I would never voluntarily tell him if I did so. Even today when I do those things I can still hear my father saying, "you could do that yourself, why pay for something you can do?" So to justify it I tell myself that I now live in Arizona and your car (and shoes) can't escape the dust. Then I remember that back east we had snow and snow meant salt and cinders rudely coating the car and shoes. Then there's the fact that a shoeshine at Nordstrom's is only $2.50 plus tip but every time I do it I walk away with a nice shine feeling lazy and oh so bourgeois.
One of the points of the Jubilee Year is to do something you would not normally do in other years. In the Bible that meant forgiving debts. That might be a good place to start. Maybe washing your own car or shining your own shoes? Maybe. Though I did go and buy some shoeshine polish. Doing something that you normally would not do helps keep the Jubilee Year front and center. So consider what that might be for you. The only limit is your imagination.
It could be fasting if you don't normally do that, perhaps one meal a week. Or consider voluntarily not eating meat on Fridays for the entire year not just Lent. Attending weekday Mass at least once a week, going to confession more frequently, keeping a spiritual journal for the year, cutting out one hour of TV or noise a day and using that as prayer or spiritual reading time. Studying our Faith more deeply will help you "instruct the ignorant" and "counsel the doubtful". Or how about when you drive by a cemetery praying for the dead or when passing a hospital praying for the sick. The practice is not meant to be a yearlong Lenten sacrifice but rather a change in routine that will be a constant reminder of our need for God's mercy and the availability of that same mercy.
The second aspect of the Jubilee Year is to set things aright. That may mean straightening out your finances, getting out of debt, making a commitment to trust God with your finances by the practice of tithing no matter what. It also means straightening out relationships. Forgiving those who have harmed you and praying for them. Or humbling yourself to ask for forgiveness and making proper amends for harm done.
The Jubilee Year was central to Jesus ministry. Remember when he stepped on the stage at the synagogue in Nazareth for the first time, He quoted from Isaiah the Prophet:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year [Jubilee Year] of the Lord." Luke 4:18
So the Jubilee Year is central to Christian service. Who is more blind than the angry atheist? Who is more oppressed than the habitual sinner or addict? Who is more captive than those trapped in the prison of their own egos?
A great way to start this Jubilee Year and gain a solid understanding of the authentic meaning of Mercy is to attend the production of "Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy" and learn more about the teaching of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina by Jesus. You will be touched and challenged. So hope to see you on Wednesday, January 6 at 7pm in the Church.
Happy Jubilee Year!
Love, Fr. John B.