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Issues of Doctrines & Morals
15th JOS ARCHDIOCESAN GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Opening Mass 21st August 2017 St Louis 9:00am
Aug 14, 2017

OPENING MASS FOR THE 15TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY ...

ArchBishop's Message/Blog

Homily for the Year of Mercy: Fr James Davou

HOMILY FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY AND DIACONATE ORDINATION AT THE

Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral, JOS

ON SATURDAY 2/1/16

 BY FR. JAMES DAVOU

INTRODUCTION

Dearly beloved in Christ, we have gathered here today to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a family- the family of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos; and also to have these men, our brothers, ordained as deacons. We give all the glory and gratitude to God for His immeasurable blessings and mercies upon us as individuals and as a family. We appreciate our father in this family, His Grace the archbishop, for bringing us together under his shepherding care. I particularly thank him for even thinking of, let alone, asking me to share a few thoughts on this special occasion of grace; indeed I feel greatly humbled. May the grace of this year of mercy abide with us now and always.

EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY

The Catholic Church has a very rich history of celebrating jubilees; a history which has its roots in the scriptures. The tradition of jubilees is described extensively in different portions of the Bible but more precisely in the book of Leviticus 25:10-14. It reads thus: “You will declare this fiftieth year to be sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the country’s inhabitants. You will keep this as a jubilee: each of you will return to his ancestral property, each to his own clan. This fiftieth year will be a jubilee year for you; in it you will not sow, you will not harvest the grain that has come up on its own or in it gather grapes from your untrimmed vines. The jubilee will be a holy thing for you; during it you will eat whatever the fields produce. In this year of jubilee, each of you will return to his ancestral property. If you buy land from, or sell land to, your fellow country-man, neither of you may exploit the other.” From this we understand that in biblical times jubilees were ordinarily celebrated after fifty years.

The first recorded ordinary jubilee in our history as a Church was the one proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII in the year 1300. The Church maintained the biblical precepts of celebrating the ordinary jubilees after every fifty years until the one proclaimed by Pope Nicholas V in the year 1450. Since then, the Church began to celebrate the ordinary jubilees every 25 years. Now, apart from the ordinary jubilees, the Church, for special needs and reasons, also calls for extraordinary jubilees. An extraordinary jubilee is so called because, unlike the ordinary jubilee, it had not been predetermined long before. In all, the Church has celebrated about 27 jubilees with the current one as the 28th. Out of them 6, including this ongoing one, are extraordinary.

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was first announced by the Holy Father Pope Francis on 13th March, 2015. It was declared by the Pope on 11th April, 2015 in his papal bull of indiction Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy). This year is a period of prayer held from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December 2015 to the Feast of Christ the King on 20th November 2016. Like previous jubilees, it is seen by the Church as a period for the remission of sins and universal pardon, in this case, focusing particularly on God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Holy Father officially opened the Holy Door of Mercy for the universal Church in Rome on Tuesday 8/12/15; a symbolic date, not only because it was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary but also because it was the 50th anniversary of the end of the 2nd Vatican Council. The Pope wishes that the jubilee be celebrated not only in Rome but all over the world. So for the first time holy doors were opened in dioceses all around the world, either in the main cathedral or in local historical churches on the Third Sunday of Advent 13/12/15. We had ours here during the 8:30am Mass on that day, with the archbishop himself opening the main entrance of this cathedral.

The opening of holy doors in the Church has both a symbolic meaning and at the same time spiritual benefits for us as Catholics. When the holy door of mercy was opened, it was a physical and symbolic gesture of invitation by God the Father Himself to us His children to come, not only into His house, but also into His heart which is so full of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. This is at one and the same time, a foretaste of what we look forward to, in joyful hope, enjoy in the eternal kingdom where His mercy surpasses His justice. Spiritually, the faithful who pass through the door of mercy will obtain a Plenary Indulgence. A plenary indulgence is a total absolution of the temporal punishment for our sins. To obtain the plenary indulgence, one must be a baptized catholic and therefore freed from original sin. We must also go to confession, take part in Holy Communion within the period that the indulgence is granted and pray for the Pope’s intentions. Having fulfilled these conditions, we could obtain a Plenary Indulgence which frees us, as sinners, from the whole burden of the temporal punishments we deserve from our sins.

The logo and official hymn for the year of mercy already set us in the mood of what we are all called to. The official logo shows Jesus, personification of mercy, carrying on His shoulders a “lost man” who is a representation of each one of us. His eyes are merged with those of the carried man, emphasizing how deep the Savior touches us and humanity. The background is filled with three concentric ovals, with darker colors from inwards and lighter colors outwards; meaning that Jesus is carrying the man-and indeed each one of us- out of the darkness of sin into His own wonderful light. On one side the image is also joined by the official motto of the year: Misericordes Sicut Pater (Merciful Like the Father). This is derived from the gospel of Luke 6:36 “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.”It is an invitation to all of us to follow the example of the Father by loving and forgiving without limits. The official hymn is taken mostly from verses in the Gospels and Psalms that express the mercy and compassion of God and an invitation that we emulate Him.

The Holy Father shows us what we are called to in the bull of indiction when he says: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” Indeed this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a special time for us as a Church and as individuals; a time when our witness to the world might grow stronger and more effective. No wonder His Grace, the archbishop has gathered us here today as a shepherd gathers his flock, to charge us with that responsibility of witnessing in our archdiocesan family of Jos. Not only that, he has also beautified and enriched this special day with the ordination of these our brothers to the office of deacon; an office of witness and service. My dear brothers to be raised to the office of diaconate, you are blessed indeed.

THE OFFICE OF DEACON

These brothers of ours will receive the sacrament of Holy Orders in the order of deacons through the laying on of hands for the ministry. Strengthened by sacramental grace, they will serve the people of God, in the diakonia of liturgy, word and charity, in communion with the archbishop and his presbyterate. My dear brothers, you will become deacons of the Church of God. As such, you will be ordained to be signs and instruments of Christ who came, “not to be served but to serve”. Service is the highest calling of every Christian. Even the Pope-who is the highest figure in the hierarchy of the Church-is rightly called Servus servorum Dei (Servant of the servants of God). As ordained deacons, you are to inspire, to promote and to help coordinate the service that the whole Church must undertake in imitation of Christ. Your diakonia or service is threefold: service of the Word, service of the Eucharist, and service of Charity.

First of all as deacons, you have the duty of proclaiming the Gospel and helping the priests to explain the word of God. Today you will be entrusted with the book of the Gospels with these words: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.” You must always remember that it is His gospel, not yours; it is the word of God and not our own. As heralds, therefore, we must always speak in His name and not in our own. The Church is to live in the world but not to be of the world. Living in the world, we have a unique service to render to the world- it is the diakonia of the truth, the service of the truth. As ministers of the Church, you must understand that it is the truth that judges events and not vice versa, as often happens in our society today. By our faithful service to the gospel in its integrity- without compromise, accommodation, hesitation or fear- we must help the world to discover that truth that has a human face, the truth that is a person: Jesus Christ Himself.

Secondly, as deacons, you are the first co-workers of the priest in the celebration of the Eucharist. As co-workers of priests, you are also servers of the Mysterium Fidei, the great mystery of our faith. All Christ’s faithful can come to a fuller and deeper understanding of and participation in these mysteries if your service at the altar helps to underscore the sacredness of this sacrament encounter with the living Christ Himself. Hence, at the altar, your language, your demeanor must in no way be profane or given to an informal familiarity; for it is in this Holy Sacrifice that we meet our Lord and redeemer. Saint John Paul II reminded us in Ecclesia de Eucharistia that “The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift-however precious-among many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of Himself, of His person in His sacred humanity, as well as the gift of His saving work.” We are still in the season of the Nativity of the Lord who comes. Though He will come in glory at the end of time, He came among us first in humility, taking on our human nature when the eternal Word became our flesh in the poverty of Bethlehem. And He still comes to us today through Sacramental signs; thus bread becomes His flesh. Truly the Eucharist is God’s gift to us for the life of the world. Our communion with Christ in the Eucharist then must lead us to seek communion with our brothers and sisters. Nourished by the Eucharistic bread, and becoming more fully alive in Christ, we must all pay attention to the needs of others when we see their pain and suffering. By this, we shall become for the world witnesses of hope.

Thirdly, while deacons serve at the altar, they are also primarily called to that service of the table referred to in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6; that is, care for the widows, orphans and indeed all the needy. As co-workers with the archbishop and his priests, you, my dear brothers, must be the living and working expression of the charity of the Church. To you, then, is entrusted in a special way the ministry of charity that is at the origin of the institution of the office of deacon. From the very origins of the diaconate, you have a special responsibility to identify to the Church those who are in need and particularly those who are without the power of voice at the very margins of our society. Among such people, the deacon is to speak about Christ and offer them the Church’s varied assistance. In the Church, the deacon is to speak about the needy, to articulate their needs and to inspire and mobilize the catholic community’s response. Imitate the early deacon of Rome, St. Lawrence who was martyred in the year 258. When ordered by the pagan emperor to hand over the treasures of the Church, he gathered together the poor and sick and said: “This is the treasure of the Church”.

Lastly, you must pray unceasingly. As this beautiful ordination ceremony so richly makes it clear, as deacons, you are born from the altar-from within the heart of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Hence you are born in prayer. Prayer and only prayer will sustain you and keep you faithful to your triple diakonia of Word, Eucharist and Charity. We all must follow the example of the Lord Himself. Just as He has done, so also should we do; namely, do God’s will from the heart; to serve others in love and joy as if we were serving the Lord himself. We can achieve this in certain practical ways.

MERCY AND SERVICE

The Church has laid out Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy that can help us all as a guide to becoming true witnesses of the gospel in our world today.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their everyday spiritual and emotional needs. They include:

1.    Instructing the Ignorant: We need to commit ourselves to learning about our Catholic faith and sharing our understanding of the faith with others. We can share our insights, knowledge and skills with others, especially friends, fellow students and co-workers. We may also need to take time and tutor those who are just beginning tasks. It is also important that we read good literature and encourage others to do same.

 

2.    Counsel the Doubtful: Be courageous yet compassionate in calling people and institutions to be faithful to the gospel values. We ought to intervene in situations in which people are clearly doing harm to themselves or others. We need to respond to negative and prejudicial comments with positive statements. There is need for each one of us to put an end to gossip by walking away. We all must be eager in setting a good example for others in all that we say and do.

 

3.    Admonish the Sinners: Let us all work at being optimistic and avoid cynicism; rather respond to cynicism, skepticism and doubt with hope. Be articulate about your own hopes and ask other people about their own hopes supporting them in trying to attain them.

 

4.    Comfort the Afflicted: Try to walk with others through their pains. Offer words of encouragement to those who seem discouraged. Offer positive words to fellow students or co-workers who are having a difficult time with their tasks. Be present to those who are struggling or are in emotional pain or despair. Offer sympathy and even empathy to those who are grieving.

 

5.    Forgive Sinners Willingly: Pray for those who have wronged you. Sometimes we hold on so tightly to grudges the way we hold on to our blankets on a very cold “harmatan” night. Forgiveness is a quality of the courageous not the feeble-hearted and weak. So pray for the courage to forgive. Also, have the humility to ask for forgiveness from others. Let go of grudges; go out of your way to be positive with someone you are having a difficult time with.

 

6.    Bearing Wrongs Patiently: Work at being less critical of others; overlooking minor flaws and mistakes and giving people the benefit of doubt. Sometimes we become so petty like cry babies. Assume that people who may have hurt you did so because they are enduring pain of their own or may not even have known that they hurt you. Always try to pray for those who have wronged you.

 

7.    Pray for the Living and the Dead: We may not see the effects of our prayers for the dead but God sees. Not a single prayer raised to God from a sincere heart is wasted. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Prayers do good not only to those we pray for but also to ourselves.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their everyday material and physical needs. They include:

1.    Feeding the Hungry: see to the proper nutrition of your loved ones and educate yourself about world hunger; the figures are staggering. Let us all avoid wasting food by sharing our meals with others. We may need to carry along some extra change with us to hand out to people we encounter who are in need. That “little” gesture can be a life-saver for someone we may not know. Donate to charity especially when it has to do with the poor and needy.

 

2.    Give Drink to the Thirsty: our Lord says that a cup of cold water given in His name shall not go unrewarded (Mark 9:41). Giving medication to the sick belongs to this work of mercy. Those also who construct reservoirs and those who purify public drinking water or make water accessible to those in need are giving drink to the thirsty.

 

3.    Shelter the Homeless: let us help our neighbors care for their homes. Support or volunteer at a shelter for the homeless. Support or volunteer for charitable organizations that care for the homeless, build homes and provide support in the wake of natural disasters or crises such as we are facing in our country today. We must advocate for public policies and legislations that provide housing for low-income earners. Some of us may also consider becoming foster parents.

 

4.    Clothe the Naked: we may all need to go to our wardrobes and boxes and find good-condition clothes and shoes, not the torn and tattered ones, to donate to those our very nearby neighbors in need. They are actually not living in the moon or far away from us; they are often times our next door neighbors. Support and donate to hospitals in distressed areas and villages. Support the work of St. Vincent de Paul society.

 

5.    Visit the Sick: we need to spend quality time with those who are sick or homebound. Take some time to call, send a card or e-mail to someone who is sick. We can volunteer to take patients to meet up with their medical appointments and treatment facilities. You can volunteer at a health facility or assist those who are full-time caregivers. Cooking and delivering meals to the sick and homebound may not be a bad idea after all with the so many mouths to feed in our society today.

 

6.    Visit the Imprisoned: Let us support and participate in ministering to those who are incarcerated in prison or police cells. Support causes that advocate on behalf of those who are unjustly imprisoned. We need to support job-training and educational programs designed to rehabilitate prisoners. Let us all remember to pray for the families of inmates.

 

7.    Bury the Dead: We are encouraged to be faithful about attending wake keeps and visitations to the bereaved. We need to support widows and widowers. Take family and friends to visit the cemetery once in a while. Give support for burying the dead especially to families of those who can hardly afford to bury their dead. Try to offer daily prayers for those with terminal illnesses and for those who have died. Send consoling cards to families of those who have died.

CONCLUSION

We may not be able to achieve all that we have said in just one jubilee year but we can strive. Life is a journey and so also is the story of our salvation. We can take it one step at a time. We may falter in our struggles but God understands. This calls to mind the story of six year old Brandon who decided one Saturday morning to make pancakes for his parents. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove, (and he didn’t even know how the stove worked)! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pyjamas dirty. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon’s eyes. All he wanted to do was something good, but he had made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a smacking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pyjamas  dirty in the process. That is how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. A marriage could get all sticky or we insult a friend or we can’t stand our job or our health goes sour. We have good intentions for the year of mercy and wonderful new year resolutions each year that never seem to come to fruition. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. But just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” for God or for others. Sooner or later we will get it right, and then they will be glad we tried. We commit ourselves to the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary whose Motherhood we celebrated yesterday to intercede for all of us in our daily struggles. May we all “experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope” not only during this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy but also through our entire sojourn on earth through Christ our Lord.

 

REFERENCES

 

All You Need to know About Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy Announced by Pope Francis. KingdomNomics.com. 12/30/2015.

Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy: Rite of the Opening of the Door of Mercy in Local Churches, December 13, 2015. Third Sunday of Advent.

Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Retrieved from

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Extraordinary_Jubilee_of_Mercy&oldid=695229782.

The New Jerusalem Bible. Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd. 1985.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_Jubilee_of_Mercy. 12/30/2015.

 

 

 

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