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TrumpetersJubilee years have a deep history in the Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Book of Leviticus (25:8-13), during a jubilee observed every 50 years, slaves and prisoners were freed, debts forgiven, land and possessions returned to their rightful owners. Perhaps most important, during such a year, the mercy of God would be manifested.
 
The word “jubilee” is based on the Hebrew yobel. The word described a “trumpet-blast of liberty” according to the Septuagint, the early translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.
 
Just as the ancient Hebrews forgave debts, so the Church today, in the words of Pope Francis, “has an endless desire to show mercy.”
The Holy Father states it clearly: “This is an opportune moment to change our lives.”
 
The custom of calling jubilee years in the Church dates back to the sixteenth century. Since then, there have been only 26 ordinary Holy Year celebrations. So the current celebration is something extraordinary.
 
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father calls on sinners to repent, reminding us that “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy” (The Joy of the Gospel, 3).
 
Our prayer today:
 

Dear Jesus,
give me the wisdom and courage
so that I may become an island of mercy
in the midst of a sea of indifference.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:41-45).

God is present to each of us in different ways. In the encounter described in this Gospel passage, Elizabeth was aware of the presence of God in Mary. We are challenged to become aware of the presence of God in our own lives. How is God present to you in the people with whom you live and work? Where is God present to you in nature? What about the person next to you on the train or plane?

Elizabeth shows us that when we see goodness, we should acknowledge it, both to the other person and to God. This gratitude creates more goodness, and naming it gives us appreciative and joyful hearts.

We live in a time and place very different from the first century Palestine of Mary and Elizabeth. But we and those holy women have some important things in common. Like Mary, we too discover God’s will for ourselves in prayer and reflection. Then, like Elizabeth, we too live it out as a prayer of praise and gratitude.

When you look over the past year of your life, for what or for whom are you grateful?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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MaryThe Jubilee Year of Mercy opened on December 8, the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of Second Vatican Council. On this date we also mark the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This liturgical feast day recalls God’s actions of mercy from the very beginning of humankind. This is why Pope St. John XXIII opened the council with the words: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy ….”
 
After Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience, God did not wish to leave humanity abandoned to the throes of evil. So he turned his merciful gaze on Mary, choosing her to be the mother of our Redeemer.
 
Here, then, is the reason Pope Francis chose to open the Jubilee on December 8: because on this day the Church remembers the moment God the Father poured out his mercy on humanity, through Mary.
 
On this day we say with Mary, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
 
During this Jubilee Year, the Church makes clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion—and ends on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Jesus, King of the Universe and the living face of the Father’s mercy.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Mary, Mother of Mercy,
turn your gaze toward us
and watch over our year-long penitential journey
to receive the mercy of your Son.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:15-18).

Many followers of John the Baptist believed that he was the Messiah. John wanted them to pay attention to their lives and to the coming of the Holy One. John told them that he baptized with water, but the one coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John also told them that nothing he did or said pointed to himself.

This is good advice for us, too. Like John the Baptist, we should not perform good works to point to ourselves. None of us is the one from whom these good things come. Our baptism in the Spirit is about trying to live a life of faith and good deeds.

But how do we live that out? John the Baptist said that it does not necessarily require momentous changes in our lifestyle. Keep doing what you do, he told the soldiers, citizens, and tax collectors, but be more generous with your extra coat and food, and be just in all of your actions.

What various roles do you play in your life? How do you serve others in each of these roles? In what way can you improve?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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Perhaps you and I cannot be in Rome on Tuesday when the Holy Father opens The Jubilee Year of Mercy by throwing open the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
 
But we can be there with him in spirit by offering the Jubilee Prayer Pope Francis wrote:
 

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew
from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us,
the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”
 
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved,
and forgiven by God.
 
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm,
may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
 
We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Amen.

 
Why not make a promise to say the pope’s prayer every morning to keep the Year of Mercy alive in our hearts?
 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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