Emma Hunter, Youth Speak News

Preparing for Year of Mercy

By  Emma Hunter, Youth Speak News
  • November 27, 2015

It’s that time again in the Catholic Church: the beginning of a new liturgical year and start of the season of Advent.

Although Advent has been celebrated throughout Church history, this year is different. Pope Francis has called for a Holy Year of Mercy, which will begin on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The Jubilee of Mercy calls us to think about God’s mercy in our own lives as we prepare for Christmas. The new liturgical year, the beginning of Advent and the inauguration of the Year of Mercy can be a fresh start and a new opportunity to be open to receiving God’s mercy. It’s a time we can start over and invite Jesus into our lives again in a deeper and more meaningful way.

How can we, especially as young Catholics, experience God’s mercy this Advent?

One way is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Going to confession is the clearest way that I have experienced God’s mercy in my own life. It wasn’t until I returned to confession a year ago, after almost six years of being away from the Church, that I personally experienced the depths of God’s mercy. This was a big part of my conversion.

At first, I was very apprehensive about going to confession for the first time in years. I was so nervous that my friend and I even did rock, paper, scissors to see who would go to confession first.

But it was in the confessional that I truly believed for the first time that God loves me, and now I know that there was nothing to be apprehensive about. After going to confession, I felt a strong sense of peace and gratitude.

St. John Paul II famously proclaimed, “Be not afraid!” We should not be afraid to open our hearts to mercy, but instead trust that God desires to give forgiveness to all those who ask.

This Advent, we can also live out God’s mercy by trying to be more forgiving towards our friends and family. It’s not always an easy task, but we are called to love and forgive those who have trespassed against us. And it is only through God’s mercy for us that we are able to be forgiving of others.

The Year of Mercy also invites us to forgive ourselves for our faults, failings and past sins. Sometimes, even after going to confession and receiving absolution, it’s hard to believe that our God is so good that He forgives all of our sins.

If God, who knows our hearts better than we do, can forgive us, then why can’t we forgive ourselves? To fully receive God’s mercy, we have to be open to this Grace to forgive ourselves.

One of the most wonderful things about God’s mercy is that once we have personally experienced it, we are able to share this beautiful gift of forgiveness with others in our lives.

(Hunter, 24, is a graduate student at Queen’s University where she studies Early Modern European and Canadian history.)

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