Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven
In the harmonious variety of its elements and goals, the Jubilee Year is centred above all on conversion of heart, metanoia, with which Jesus begins his public preaching in the Gospel (cf. Mk 1:15). Already in the Old Testament, salvation and life are promised to those who repent: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ez 18:23). The Great Jubilee, now close at hand, commemorates the end of the second millennium since the birth of Jesus, who at the moment of his unjust condemnation said to Pilate: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37). The truth to which Jesus bore witness is that he came to save the world, otherwise destined to be lost: “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10).
In the economy of the New Testament, the Lord wanted the Church to be a universal sacrament of salvation. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council teaches that “the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament” a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God” (Lumen gentium, n. 1). It is God’s will that the forgiveness of sins and the return to divine friendship should be mediated by the Church’s action: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19), Jesus solemnly said to Simon Peter, and in him to the Supreme Pontiffs, his successors. He also entrusted the same task to his Apostles and, in them, to the Bishops, their successors: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18). On the evening of the very day of the Resurrection, Jesus would make this power effective by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:23). Because of this mandate, the Apostles and their successors in priestly charity would henceforth be able to say with humility and truth: “I absolve you from your sins”...
...Thanks to the sacrament of Penance, then, the Jubilee Year should be a special year of great forgiveness and full reconciliation. But God, to whom we are grateful for having reconciled us, or with whom we hope to be reconciled, is our Father: my Father, the Father of all believers, the Father of all human beings. Therefore, reconciliation with God requires and entails reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, without which God’s forgiveness is not received, as Jesus taught us in the perfect prayer of the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. The sacrament of Penance presupposes and should foster a generous noble and active fraternal love.
Elevating this attitude to its greatest perfection, the Jubilee Year invites us to profound solidarity in a “marvellous exchange of spiritual gifts, in virtue of which the holiness of one benefits others in a way far exceeding the harm which the sin of one has inflicted upon others. There are people who leave in their wake a surfeit of love, of suffering borne well, of purity and truth, which involves and sustains others. This is the reality of “vicariousness”, upon which the entire mystery of Christ is founded” (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 10).
Reconciled through the sacrament of Penance and thus assimilated to Christ the Lord and Redeemer, we must let him draw us into his saving work and, in particular, into his Passion. This is said in the famous passage of the Letter to the Colossians: “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24) (ibid., n. 10)...
...Through the intercession of Blessed Mary, who gave the Word of God his Humanity as priest and victim, may we relive his saving mission, even in our littleness and poverty, with personal holiness and in exercising the ministry of Forgiveness, and, as God’s instruments, may we restore to sinners grace, joy of heart and the wedding garment which allows entry into eternal life.
Everything I have recalled in this conversation with you is expressed, in a short and marvellous synthesis, in the ritual formula of sacramental absolution: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace”.
May my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly impart to you, be an assurance of this peace for you and for all whom the Lord has entrusted or will entrust to your ministry.
Excerpted from an ADDRESS of JOHN PAUL II, Saturday, 13 March 1999.