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Pilgrims of Hope

Fr Jan Nowotnik, Director of Mission and National Ecumenical Officer for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales will lead a series of articles, to run through the year, on helping Bible Alive readers prepare for the Jubilee 2025.

As many of us will be aware, Pope Francis has designated 2025 as a Jubilee year under the theme of “Pilgrims of Hope.” Jubilee years, since they were initiated by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, have been special times of great spiritual, ecclesial, and social significance. Traditionally a jubilee year has been a time of grace and forgiveness, a time to be aware of God’s love and mercy. They have been marked as a time of pilgrimage, when pilgrims have travelled to important shrines to pass through the Holy Door, symbolising the passing through into a refreshed life with the Lord and bearing witness to their faith in the life of the Church.

It is hoped that 2025 will be celebrated with the same spirit, and many of us will remember the great Jubilee that ushered in the new millennium in 2000, or the year of Mercy in 2015, when once again we were able to appreciate the Lord’s loving mercy. Pope Francis hopes that 2025 will bring a fresh experience of this sense of pilgrimage in the Church’s life. In a letter to Archbishop Fisichella announcing the Jubilee year Pope Francis speaks of how in the last two years all of us have been affected in some way by the Covid epidemic and that it has brought us close to tragedy and challenge, something that we are still coming to terms with. With this in mind, Pope Francis wants us to fan the flame of hope again so that, as he says, we can help ‘everyone to gain new strength and certainty by looking to the future with an open spirit, a trusting heart and far-sighted vision.’

I believe that the synodal process which we have embarked upon links very well to the preparation for a Jubilee year, as it not only gives us the chance to reflect on the challenges of living the Gospel in a post-pandemic world, but it has also provided us with an opportunity to look afresh at what the Lord is asking us to do. Perhaps it could be a good time for us to open the doors of our own hearts to the Lord and let him in more deeply so that we can appreciate his goodness and beauty, his truth and love. Now is the time to trust a little bit more in what the Lord is offering, and be open to the gifts he wants to give us.

The synodal process with its emphasis on discernment and accompaniment always begins with asking for the power of the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts, so that we can find ever new ways to know the Lord in our own lives, to deepen our knowledge of him through prayer and the sacramental life of the Church, especially when we receive his gift of forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation and when we receive him in the Eucharist. This, then challenges us to walk with each other in a new way, to learn how to share in each other’s joys and challenges. A year of Jubilee helps us to experience the Lord in a new way, and so pass on to others what we have received. Much of the synodal process has been based in prayer and spiritual conversations, and this I hope will continue and be part of how we live out the jubilee year. Sometimes, it is in those chance meetings and quiet conversations with another that the Lord reveals the depth of his love to us and offers us his encouragement and hope through another person.

In this spirit, it means that a Jubilee year and a more synodal view of the Church opens us to proclaim more faithfully the Church’s mission and to share the Good News. We can do this in 2025 by bringing the gift of hope to each other and pointing each other to the Lord’s mercy as we know we have received it ourselves. 2025 and the time leading up to it is a very special moment that we are living through in the Church’s life, and I invite us to be open to discerning what the Lord is offering us.

How might we be open to these gifts of the Lord? Certainly, we will want to dedicate more time to prayer, reading the Scriptures that speak so beautifully of his life, and being faithful to receiving the Lord in Holy Communion. Hopefully, we may take some time to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and make it a regular part of our spiritual lives. The more that we experience God’s mercy, the more easily we will be merciful to those around us, our families, and friends, and we will learn how to relieve their burdens. Recommitting ourselves to our spiritual life would be an excellent preparation for the Jubilee year, and there will be many opportunities coming our way for us to do that, so let’s be courageous in doing just that.

Pope Francis is very clear that this Jubilee year is not just about pilgrimages to Rome. At the heart of the Jubilee year is this sense of mission, based on a personal conversion that changes our hearts and minds. He is keen that the Jubilee year is celebrated in every diocese and every parish and that it is not just seen as about the big events, but that there is a real invitation to look to our own families and communities, and our parishes and the areas where we live and work.

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