The Mystery of the Lost Jubilee: Part III – Roman Holiday

In part two of our series, we discussed the significance of the year 1967 to the Jewish people and Israel; that being the reunification of Jerusalem and its establishment as the eternal capital of Israel. We then added 49 and 50 years to that date, suggesting that 2016 and 2017 are critical years to watch closely.

But what about non-Jews?

Among all of Christianity, the Catholic Church has invested more energy and focus into the concept of Jubilee than anyone else. And the next Catholic Jubilee year begins on December 8th this year! How did that decision come about?

The first Jubilee year in Christianity has been generally regarded to be the year 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII declared that year to be the one when the church would be offering full pardon and forgiveness of sins to those who travel to Rome and confess their sins. While the word jubilee never appeared in the papal declaration (it used the term celebration), before long this year began to be referred to in writings of that era as the Jubilee Year.BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)

While the pope’s intention was that the next such year be a full one hundred years later, Pope Clement VI declared that the next Jubilee would occur in 1350. That celebration was so popular that new Jubilee dates began to be declared by the church in various years as follows.

– 1390 (40 years after 1350)

– 1400 (50 years after 1350)

– 1423 (33 years after 1390 in commemoration of the life of Christ)

– 1450 (because that was 50 years after 1400)

– 1475 (Jubilees now began to be declared every 25 years!)

The 25 year pattern continued until 1900, when things began to get complicated again.

– 1900

– 1933 (33 years after 1900)

– 1950 (50 years after 1900)

– 1966 (33 years after 1933)

– 1983 (Extraordinary)

However, in 1983, Pope John Paul II declared a Jubilee outside of the normal pattern, an extraordinary Jubilee called the Holy Year of Redemption. Since then, Jubilee years can be declared by the pope in addition to any regular interval, such as the regular Jubilee that occurred on the year 2000.

In April of this year, Pope Francis declared that an extraordinary Jubilee would begin on December 8, 2015, which marks the start of the Catholic Church’s yearly calendar. This year is to be celebrated as the Year of Mercy. The most talked about provision of this Year of Mercy within Catholic circles is the ability for Catholic priests to directly forgive the sin of abortion, without having to refer the matter to a church bishop.

Pope Francis said it was no accident that he decided that this Jubilee Year was to begin exactly 50 years from the closing of the Second Vatican council. Vatican II addressed the relationship between the Catholic Church and the modern world, including a brief statement rejecting anti-semitism. “Mercy,” said the pope, “relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes.” However, after the Paris attacks of November 13, additional work is underway to secure the large throngs of pilgrims in Rome from being attacked by radical Islamists.

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St. Peter’s Basilica. (Photo: Emilio Garcia, Wikicommons)

There is certainly no conscious connection between the pope’s declaration of the Catholic Year of Mercy, December 8, 2015 thru November 20, 2016, and our search for a Jubilee year that might be silently repeating throughout history. The pope can call a Jubilee whenever he wishes.

But what about the opposite argument? Might the selection of this year by the pope be evidence against its selection by God? This is a fair question, given that many Christians express great concern about the pope, seeing many of his actions in direct opposition to God.

We feel no need to weigh in on that matter here, because the answer doesn’t affect the outcome. Proverbs 21:1 gives us a clue:

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (KJV)

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So the question is not “what is the pope doing?” It is “what is God doing?”

Connect with Others

What do you say?

Is God sovereignly directing the events of the Catholic Church, such that Pope Francis declares a Jubilee year exactly 49 years from the Six-Day War in 1967 when Jerusalem was reunited to Israel?

Is God more likely to restore something important to Israel during a year that Catholics also are looking for mercy from God and declaring a Jubilee?

Put your comments below! If you are new to this series and want to jump in with us to help solve this mystery, just write “count me in” below.

Next Time

In the next installment in this series, we will look at the Jubilee from the perspective of non-Catholic Christianity. To do this we will travel from Rome to many other locations including the United States.