January 18, 2021

Advent I: A Holy Year of Mercy

Kyrie Sign

Advent I
A Holy Year of Mercy

We will be moving “Sundays with Michael Spencer” to Mondays this year so that we may follow the liturgical calendar with our Sunday posts.

On Sundays we will also emphasize “mercy,” following the lead of Pope Francis, who on December 8 will open the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (click link to go to the official website).

We do this, not because all of us here at Internet Monk are Roman Catholic, but because I think this emphasis on God’s mercy and showing mercy to others is timely and significant in these days of polarization, mistrust, fear, and violence. It would be good and salutary if all Christians everywhere would embrace this.

Here are the first three points from the Pope’s Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (April 11, 2015):

Jubilee-Mercy-Logo1. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.

2. 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.

3. 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. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.

Francis will open the Holy Door on December 8, which marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of Vatican II. When St. John XXIII opened that Council, he indicated the path the Church was poised to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity…”

As we enter this new liturgical year, a year of receiving and extending God’s mercy, may mercy triumph over judgment as Pope Francis’s dream is fulfilled: “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”

• • •


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 of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of
Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.



  1. CM,
    Small point of adjustment – the prayer you listed is authored by Pope Francis, not St. Francis.
    (at least he’s not a saint as of yet)

  2. Mercy, much MORE difficult to express than “righteous” living and correct doctrine.

  3. Thanks for this clear summary, and for reproducing the prayer — a good way to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

  4. Out of an infinite well … “his mercies are new every morning.” Thank you for this meditation, Chaplain Mike.

  5. Eckhart Trolle says

    Wow, they really DO have holy doors, just like in the movie “Dogma”! I guess that explains why they had to put “the Father” on their logo–Jesus would have drawn unwelcome comparisons to the Buddy Christ! (Huh–I thought he was Good Cop, and God was Bad Cop.)

    “It would be good and salutary if all Christians everywhere would embrace this.” You’re sounding pretty papal there, Mike! Keep it up, and you may have to hire an altarboy or two.

  6. ECKHART, you wrote “Huh–I thought he was Good Cop, and God was Bad Cop” and I thought you might have been raised in a fundamentalist Church that constantly drums ‘the Wrath of God’ to frighten its members . . . the strange fixation of the ‘evil, wrathful God, who smashes babies against rocks’ comes out of fundamentalist literal translations of the part of the sacred Scriptures known to us as ‘the Ban’, which are NEVER to be taken ‘literally’ . . .

    the only sharper contrast between Christ and the Father came from early heretics (Marcionists) who really did play the ‘good cop’ ‘bad cop’ scene,
    but the Church disowned that crowd LONG ago . . .

    I’m not assuming you were raised ‘fundamentalist’, no, but that phrase does point to that lot somewhat . . .

    • “Blessed the one who seizes your children
      and smashes them against the rocks.” Psalms 137: 9, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site:


      If ET grew up in a fundamentalist type of environment, it could as easily have been a Catholic as an evangelical one. Some things he’s said in other comments lead me to think it’s the former, unless he’s just having fun yanking our chain.

      • no chance . . . look at the footnote there . . . that explanation is consistent with ‘The Ban’ explanations . . .

        check this out from http://www.usccb.org/bible/joshua/0

        “Modern readers may be put off by the description of battles and their aftermath, the destruction of everyone and everything in the cities taken under the “ban” (herem). The ban was practiced in the ancient Near East, in Israel and elsewhere, but in Joshua the wholesale destruction of the Canaanites is an idealization of the deuteronomic idea that pagans are to be wiped out so they will not be an occasion for apostasy from the Lord (cf. Dt 7:1–6); note in particular the artificial, formalized description of destruction of towns in Jos 10:28–39. It should be remembered that by the time the book was written, the Canaanites were long gone. Progressive revelation throughout Israel’s history produced far more lofty ideals, as when the prophets see all the nations embracing faith in Yahweh, being joined to Israel, and living in peace with one another (Is 2:2–4; 19:23–25; 45:22–25; Zec 8:22–23), and the New Testament teaches us to love even our enemies (Mt 5:43–45).”

        Actually, when you look at someone taking ‘the ban’ literally in the East, they will seek to destroy ALL ‘infidels’, as is the case with ISIS right now . . . they kill men, women, and children, innocent civilians, and laborers . . . and they claim it is a part of their ‘religion’ that backs them up . . . but they, too, have taken their own heritage from the ancient Near East LITERALLY, and using their own texts, now seek to destroy all who do not accept their version of ‘the true faith’ . . .

        Mainline Muslim people abhor the murder of innocent people . . . they are not the ones who practice the ‘herem’ ban literally against people of other faiths, no. ISIS is a rogue fundamentalist cult that uses literal interpretation of their own scriptures to justify murder. Kind of like that ‘pastor’ who preaches that God wants us to ‘kill the gays’ . . . fundamentalism in ANY faith brings out the worst in people:

      • According to what Trolle has told me, he grew up in a completely non-religious household, and all religions invoke a merely sociological curiosity in him.

        I see no reason to doubt him.

        His most acerbic remarks are for the knowt-wielding Russian Orthodox.

        • Eckhart Trolle says

          I don’t recall saying anything of this kind to Mule. Nice try, guys, but if you want to play this game, you’ll need more than three guesses.

          Of all the Christian denominations, the Russian Orthodox should be voted “Most likely to commit genocide”, “Most likely to be anti-Semitic”, etc., with the Baptists a distant second.

      • I’m aware of the footnotes and explanatory annotations provided in the recent Catholic translations of the Bible, Christiane. Nevertheless, there have been “fundamentalist” Catholics who took such texts quite literally, and the God of wrath has often been met with in Catholic religious instruction, although more so in the past than in the present. It is feasible that ET grew up in a home, or was taught in a parochial school, where a graceless form of Catholicism was the norm, and a wrathful and judgmental god was the big stick used to enforce it; I’ve experienced such homes and parochial schools first-hand.

  7. I personally don’t have as much of a problem with Psalm 137 as I do with the part of Pope Francis’s prayer that goes “through the intercession of Mary”….

    I apologize to all convinced RCC folks, but the one I’m most surprised at is Chaplain Mike.

    • I can edit these things in my mind, Bob. I expect my readers to be wise enough to do the same.

    • Theology aside, I think it’s a great reminder of the community of saints. If Mary had an ultra close relationship with Jesus in life, why is it so strange that she would be close to him now? We pray for those departed, and very possibly they pray for us and act on our behalf.

      • Exactly this; I just edit “through” to “with”, and if the communion of saints means anything… boooom (drops microphone)

      • Damaris has a good chapter about the Communion of the Saints in her book The Between Time.

        Available by clicking the link to the right of this page…

  8. A beautiful prayer…but I have to edit and rewrite that last line. I’ll just ask this of Jesus directly, and trust that Mary and all the other saints in heaven and on earth are praying to him with the same intention.

    • But if I were to go back over to the RCC (with my wife), the way Pope Francis constructs this prayer is the way I would understand the invocation of the Saints: The Saints are able to hear and respond to our petitions because God hears us first, and enables them to intercede for us at our request. Notice how the Pope prays directly to Jesus, and simultaneously through the intercession of Mary, but not directly to Mary. Interesting.

  9. Probably at a high enough level, the attributes of God loses meaning, but in the meantime the attribute of mercy may well occupy central position. It may be time indeed in the sweep of events for this to come to the fore. I’m not clear how mercy is to be differentiated from love, but perhaps mercy is love in action. I’m facing the prospect tomorrow of seeking to have my favorite dog put to sleep. Lord have mercy.

  10. An update, tho obviously not a final report. After spending all weekend refusing to go out or eat, and all but destroying the carpet with multiple piss puddles, befuddled and barely responsive as if having suffered a stroke, this morning she is up with me, back to normal, went out with no problems other than her severe arthritis, so far no more puddles, where’s breakfast. I was fully prepared to call the vet and figure out how to get her there, had picked out the spot to bury her. I’m not strong enough to pick her up any more. Not strong enough to pull the trigger on her myself.

    Naturally all our stories come to an end here one way or another, and this is but a postponement, but as of now it would make no sense to cut things short for her out of mercy or practicality or anything else. I am her third rescue and she had a hard start in life. Trying to see this one out as best I can. She hangs out because she likes me. The other dog and my cat see me as the Food/Treat Guy and Door Man. Thanks, good people.

    • a blessed, if temporary, reprieve . . . sometimes I wonder who rescues whom when a dog is ‘rescued’ ( I think it’s an even draw sometimes) . . . glad to hear you have some more time with her now, Charles

    • I’m glad she’s feeling better. Thanks for the update, Charles.

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