AT the Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction released in April this year announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis already gave the reason why this Jubilee Year has to be opened on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The logic he gave was “its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church.” And by that he meant the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council which was closed on December 8.
He would look at Vatican II as another door where the world passed through fifty years ago. That passing through was an emergence of the Church “from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey. It was a resumption of a journey of encountering people where they are: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel, and the mercy and forgiveness of God.”
To look at Vatican II in that perspective is profound enough. But in his homily at the at the start of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s this December 8, he brings the theology of the Immaculate Conception even more deeply. He contemplates that the “Immaculate Conception is the grandeur of God’s love” in the sense that “in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.” According to him, “this is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves.”
He says that sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness. If sin is the only thing that mattered, man would be the most desperate of all creatures. But this is not so because “the promised triumph of Christ’s love unfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.” The Immaculate Conception is a testimony to this truth. Which is why, he says, “We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment will always be in the light of God’s mercy.”
Now one understands why Pope Francis, in his interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro of La Civilta Cattolica in 2013, compares the Church with a field hospital. Now one understands why in an in-flight interview from Rio de Janeiro after the World Youth Day he answered, “Who am I to judge?” Now one understands why in his flight back to Rome from Africa last month he dodges the condom issue while looking at bigger issues that world leaders seem to ignore.