Jubilee Year of Mercy

For several weeks I have been pondering an unusual little phrase that I came across in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel.’ The words just jumped off the page. He writes,

“Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with an aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. “ (#85)

I’ve never heard aggressive used to describe tenderness. How can tenderness be aggressive? Or how can one be aggressively tender? I was even wondering if this was a mistake in the translation. But the more I prayed about these two little words the more they seemed to be a mysterious summary of the essence of this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Unfortunately some people seem to think that this Year of Mercy is simply an invitation to increase our efforts to be ‘nice’ and ‘tolerant.’ However, the love that Jesus embodied is lightyears beyond a bland notion of tolerance.

Passionate! Powerful! Triumphant! The Father’s ardent love which stoops down to heal sinful, weak humanity! This is the mercy that we bask in during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. God’s tenderness is aggressive!

We see this most perfectly in Jesus’ resurrection. After the power of God’s love definitively conquered sin and death, Jesus sought out His disciples to offer them the peace of His mercy. Jesus came looking for them. He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The apostles were shocked as Jesus walked through locked doors to banish their fear and disbelief. Jesus could have sat outside the tomb and waited for the apostles to come to meet Him. But His love was eager; He took the initiative to go to meet them. He desired to comfort their frightened hearts and to forgive their guilty consciences. Jesus’ merciful love was missionary.

The Divine Mercy image beautifully depicts Jesus’ burning zeal to pour out His mercy upon humanity.   On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to St. Faustina and gave her a special mandate. In this vision He wore a white robe which was drawn slightly aside at the breast. From His Heart emanated red and white rays symbolizing the blood and water which gushed forth when, on the cross, His Heart was pierced by a lance. These rays represent His all-powerful love which is poured out upon the world.  Jesus requested that St. Faustina paint this image so that many people could draw grace from this picture.

In the past 85 years, the Divine Mercy image has become one of the most well-known images of Jesus. One of the most striking aspects of this devotion is that it captures the great movement of the Heart of God in our day. In this image we see that once again Jesus is drawing us, begging us to come to receive the love of His Heart. But this image also depicts Jesus walking toward us. Jesus is inviting us to receive His mercy but it seems that this invitation has a certain impatience and urgency. Perhaps Jesus knows we are too wounded, too heavy laden and too stuck in sin to come to Him in order to seek mercy. He is coming to us!

As we cross the threshold of this blessed Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us allow our hearts to be set ablaze with Jesus’ missionary zeal. Jesus wants to reach out to the lost, the frightened, the lonely, the hopeless and the broken. But He chooses to do so through us. He is calling us to be missionaries of His mercy. Let us bear the victorious banner of the cross with an aggressive tenderness as we go out against the assaults of evil in our world. God’s passionate and powerful mercy is on the move!